4 Ways to Build Muscle No Matter Your Age

One of my older buddies, a 74-year-old, fitness-conscious fellow, when asked how he’s doing, often responds, “I’m keeping it tight,” which always gives people a laugh. Amusing as it is to hear the phrase coming out of a septuagenarian’s mouth, his goal of keeping trim, with as much muscle as possible, is a serious one – and one we all should shoot for, no matter what age we are.

The challenge with muscle mass is that after the age of 40, it starts to decline at roughly 1% a year. At 50, the decline picks up additional speed (yikes!). So, if you’re not starting with a lot of muscle to begin with, it’s easy to see how by the time you hit my buddy’s age, you may have lost as much as 50% or more of your muscle mass. Pretty alarming, eh? Though it certainly explains why Granny needs help carrying the groceries.

On the upside though, while Gran’s got her challenges, you’ve still got time to slow the muscle mass slide and even build muscle mass, and, as my buddy says, “keep it tight” for years to come. Here are a few steps to take right now:

1. Don’t just stand there – move it, lift it, work it.

Need one more reason to workout? To maintain muscle mass, exercise is job #1. To stave off sarcopenia, the age-related muscular deterioration that’s the muscular equivalent of osteoporosis, the best approach is a two-pronged exercise routine. Alternate resistance training to build and strengthen muscles, with aerobic work to increase blood flow to the capillaries, bringing more oxygen to the muscles and building endurance. If you’ve been out of the fitness loop for a while, consider hiring a trainer to develop a customized program for you and to help guide you through your workouts – but clear it with your doc before getting started. Make sure the trainer you choose has experience training the 40+ set, to help minimize your risk of injury from doing too much, too soon. You can also check out our Pinterest page for more great exercise ideas. Once you’re looking and feeling fit – don’t quit – this is a life-long commitment.

2. Eat protein, particularly if you’re getting on in years.

Though the perfect amount of high-quality protein you need to eat daily in order to maintain long-term muscle mass hasn’t been definitively established, you can roughly estimate your daily requirements based on the following equation: Take your body weight, divide it in half, subtract 10. The resulting number will give you the approximate amount of protein you should be eating every day. So, for example, if you weigh 160 lbs, then half of that is 80, minus 10 = 70 grams of protein spread over the course a day’s worth of meals. In short, to slow muscle deterioration, particularly for those heading into their 60’s and beyond, high-quality protein is your best weapon. NOTE: If you have renal issues, you should work with your doctor to determine an appropriate daily protein intake for you specific needs.

3. Make your protein count.

If you are going to eat meat, make sure it is grass fed beef or organic chicken. And if you eat eggs, look for organic pasture raised or free range eggs. While meat and poultry are helpful in building muscle, you can also get high-quality protein from non-meat sources. A few good sources of non-meat proteins include organic white beans, black beans, chickpeas, lentils and even leafy greens like kale, spinach, broccoli and asparagus. But my favorite source of protein for building muscle mass is Whey Protein from grass fed cows.  If you want to get a jump on your protein needs first thing in the morning, include one scoop of Be Well Whey Protein powder in your smoothie to add 24 grams of protein to your breakfast.

4. Supplement your strength.

While I believe you should get the majority of your nutrition from fresh, organic, non-GM veggies, grass fed meats, organic chicken and eggs, some legumes and some fruits, supplementation is an excellent way to support overall health and fill in the nutritional gaps, in middle age and even more so for older adults who may not be eating enough of the right foods. Among the supplements that have shown promise in preserving and supporting muscle mass, topping the list are Omega-3fatty acids; Vitamin D; L carnitine; Glutamine and B12/folic acid.

Bottom line: Consistent, strength training and aerobic exercise, smart dietary choices and strategic supplementation – they’re your ticket to a strong, healthy body – so the sooner you climb aboard, the better!

PIONEER IN FUNCTIONAL AND INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE

For Dr. Frank Lipman, health is more than just the absence of disease: it is a total state of physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social wellbeing. Dr. Lipman is a widely recognized trailblazer and leader in functional and integrative medicine, and he is a New York Times best-selling author of five books, How To Be Well, The New Health Rules, 10 Reasons You Feel Old and Get Fat, Revive and Total Renewal.

After his initial medical training in his native South Africa, Dr. Lipman spent 18 months working at clinics in the bush. He became familiar with the local traditional healers, called sangomas, which kindled his interest in non-Western healing modalities.

In 1984, Dr. Lipman immigrated to the United States, where he became the chief medical resident at Lincoln Hospital in Bronx, NY. While there, he became fascinated by the hospital’s addiction clinic, which used acupuncture and Chinese medicine to treat people suffering from heroin and crack addiction. Seeing the way these patients responded so positively to acupuncture made him even more aware of the potential of implementing non- Western medicine to promote holistic wellbeing. As a medical student, he was taught to focus on the disease rather than the patient, and now as a doctor he found himself treating symptoms rather than the root causes of illness. Frustrated by the constraints of his training, and the limitations in helping his patients regain true health, he began a journey of discovery to search for the path to meaningful long-term health and wellness.

He began studying nutrition, acupuncture, Chinese medicine, herbal medicine, functional medicine, biofeedback, meditation, and yoga. Dr. Lipman founded the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in 1992, where he combines the best of Western medicine and cutting edge nutritional science with age-old healing techniques from the East. As his patient chef Seamus Mullen told The New York Times, "If antibiotics are right, he'll try it. If it's an anti-inflammatory diet, he’ll do that. He’s looking at the body as a system rather than looking at isolated things."

In addition to his practice, Dr. Lipman is the creator of Be Well, an expanding lifestyle wellness brand he founded in 2010 to help people create, sustain and lead healthier lives.