Even if you’re not a bodybuilder / weightlifter, and if you have no aspirations to be one, but just want to be healthy, give some consideration to the following. Doing the things bodybuilders do and taking the supplements they take can retard aging and give you the muscles and the mitochondria of a much younger person. (And for the ladies, this goes for you too.)
Skeletal muscle mass declines with age (i.e., sarcopenia) resulting in muscle weakness and functional limitations. Sarcopenia has been associated with physiological changes in muscle morphology, protein and hormonal kinetics, insulin resistance, inflammation, and oxidative stress. The purpose of this review is to highlight how exercise and nutritional intervention strategies may benefit aging muscle. It is well known that resistance exercise training increases muscle strength and size and evidence also suggests that resistance training can increase mitochondrial content and decrease oxidative stress in older adults. Recent findings suggest that fast-velocity resistance exercise may be an effective intervention for older adults to enhance muscle power and functional capacity. Aerobic exercise training may also benefit aging skeletal muscle by enhancing mitochondrial bioenergetics, improving insulin sensitivity, and/or decreasing oxidative stress. In addition to exercise, creatine monohydrate, milk-based proteins, and essential fatty acids all have biological effects which could enhance some of the physiological adaptations from exercise training in older adults. Additional research is needed to determine whether skeletal muscle adaptations to increased activity in older adults are further enhanced with effective nutritional interventions and whether this is due to enhanced muscle protein synthesis, improved mitochondrial function, and/or a reduced inflammatory response.
So, in addition to resistance training, the authors mention creatine, whey protein (“milk-based proteins”), and omega-3 fats from fish oil (“essential fatty acids”). All of these have anabolic effects and can fight against sarcopenia. Yet these supplements are thought of as for bodybuilders and other athletes only. Nope.
By the way, how serious is sarcopenia? According to this, “A gradual loss of muscle fibres begins at approximately 50 years of age and continues such that by 80 years of age, approximately 50% of the fibres are lost from the limb muscles that have been studied…. ‘Master athletes’ maintain a high level of fitness throughout their lifespan. Even among master athletes, performance of marathon runners and weight lifters declines after approximately 40 years of age, with peak levels of performance decreased by approximately 50% by 80 years of age.”
As for increase in mitochondrial dysfunction and decrease in mitochondrial number, this is thought to be a key component of aging. Exercise and appropriate supplements keep mitochondria in well-tuned state and cause an increase or prevent a decrease in their numbers. As far as feeling healthy and energetic, keeping mitochondria well-functioning may be one of the best things you can do.
So, after the age of 40, you need to be doing something about aging in general and loss of muscle mass in particular. Supplements that are thought of as being for bodybuilders and other strength athletes – whey and creatine – as well as another one that has anabolic properties – fish oil – are in fact healthy supplements for anyone who’s aging (Which is about everybody.) And the exercise that bodybuilders use, weightlifting, is also one of the best things anyone can do for their health.
PS: If you got some value from this post, I discuss this at greater length in my recent book.