Plus, my simple, 7-step plan to tackle it head-on—and add healthy, vibrant years to your life
As a practicing physician in NYC, I hear a lot of complaints. But there’s one complaint in particular that I hear consistently…
My older patients—both men and women—complain about their saggy “bat arms.”
Now, this may sound like a cosmetic concern—and on the face of it, it is. But this is yet another example where the surface problem points to a much more serious underlying threat. And in this case, it’s a threat that your doctor should be talking with you about at every checkup…
Because while it may be a common side effect of aging, the consequences for your health are anything but “normal.”
Trouble starts by the time you hit 30
In case you haven’t guessed by now, I’m referring to sarcopenia.
Simply put, sarcopenia is a condition marked by losses in both muscle mass and muscle function. These declines happen gradually over time, and their end result is disability, steep drops in quality of life, and often times… death.
To make matters worse, declines in muscle mass strike earlier than you may expect. The elderly are at the highest risk for sarcopenia—but only because they have more years of muscle loss under their belts.
The scary truth is, muscle mass starts taking a nosedive as soon as you hit 30. And if you haven’t taken measures to preserve your muscles as you age, by the time you’re 70, you could be struggling with the fallout of sarcopenia on a daily basis.
You may suffer from a loss of bone mass, or suboptimal heart health (after all, the heart is your body’s most powerful muscle). But what you’ll really notice—and perhaps struggle the most with—is the inability to perform basic daily routines, from the moment you get out of bed in the morning until you climb back in at night.
That’s because weak muscles don’t protect your joints. This can lead to arthritis, gait changes (your ability to walk quickly and effectively), reduced activity, a higher fall risk, and overall fatigue. In short, many of the things that can make you feel older and frailer than you really are.
But there’s some good news here, too—and that’s the fact that muscle loss isn’t inevitable. In fact, preserving it is every bit as important as maintaining your cholesterol, your blood pressure, or your weight.
At the end of the day, lean muscle might be the most important factor that predicts whether you spend your golden years simply staying alive… or looking and feeling like a million bucks. And today, I’m going to lay out my foolproof protocol for the latter.
Muscle loss rockets your risk of death
Research tells us that the more muscle mass older Americans have, the less likely they are to die prematurely… period. (If that doesn’t catch your attention, I’m not sure what will!)
A recent study published in the American Journal of Medicine analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) III. Researchers looked at more than 3,500 subjects, including men over the age of 55 and women over the age of 65, to examine how subjects’ muscle mass correlated to their risk of premature death.
Data included assessments of both body mass index (BMI) and body composition.
Ultimately, results showed that risk of death from any cause was significantly lower among subjects with the highest muscle mass versus those with the lowest.1
And this isn’t the only research to come to that conclusion, either. Another study, published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research just last year, looked at more than 800 older Brazilian adults.
Researchers found that women with low muscle mass in their arms and legs suffered a 63-fold increase in mortality risk over the course of four years… while men saw a lower, but still catastrophic 11.4-fold increase in risk.2
Move more today—stall muscle loss tomorrow
These numbers are scary—no doubt. But the upside? It means that you can potentially tack years onto your lifespan simply by preserving your muscle mass. And you’ll be relieved to hear that it’s never too late to start repairing the damage. Even better: It’s not difficult to do.
In fact, the most effective muscle-saving strategies are way simpler than you might expect. And you probably already know the first one: exercise.
A sedentary lifestyle can rob up to 5 percent of your muscle mass every single year. So, as with most things, your first order of business is to get moving.
Depending on your current fitness level, there are a few specific things you can do. (None of which have to be difficult—just more than what you’re doing now.)
If you were one of my particularly frail patients, for example, I’d simply ask you to walk around your house, apartment building, or assisted living hallways, and go up and down the stairs (if you have them) once or twice a day. If you live near a park or have a nice yard, I always recommend a walk or two outside in nature, as much as possible.
The key is to increase repetitions as you get stronger. Go from one walk to two, and so forth.
Resistance is crucial
While general movement is critical, adding resistance training to your exercise regimen is, hands down, the best way to build and preserve muscle mass as you age.
I encourage all of my patients to have a small 5-pound bar, and to do even just one bicep curl or shoulder press daily. If you can’t do this, simply start with facing a wall and doing a push up against it, using your own weight for resistance, instead. And again, slowly increase your repetitions as you get stronger.
The goal is this: by the time you reach your final repetition, you should be struggling to finish. Once you’re able to complete sets comfortably, it’s time to move up to a heavier weight or a more challenging exercise.
If you have joint issues or injuries, exercises like yoga and Pilates are great alternatives to traditional weight lifting. They use the weight of your own body to increase muscle tone. You can even find online classes or videos to accommodate any range of abilities, from beginner to advanced.
No matter what, just start where you’re comfortable and work your way up from there. As always, consistency is the name of the game here. Which brings me to my second simple muscle-saving strategy to help ward off sarcopenia: diet.
Yes, you need more protein—a lot more
You can’t talk about diet and muscle mass without talking about protein. Protein is an essential source of amino acids, which your body needs to do virtually everything—including building muscle.
Unfortunately, however, mainstream dietary guidelines for protein—just like pretty much everything else—are ridiculously low.
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein is a measly 0.8 grams per kilogram (kg) of body weight. That’s less than 60 grams (g) daily for a 165-pound person. But you need a lot more than that to keep your muscle mass intact.
Here is the simplest way to get the right amount: Eat your body weight in grams of protein on the days you’re not exercising. And eat 1.5 times your body weight on the days that you do exercise. (For a 165 pound person, that’s 165 grams on non-exercise days, and about 250 grams on exercise days.)
Now, I know that may seem like a lot. But if you include protein with every meal (in the form of eggs, nuts, cheeses, and/or meats), you shouldn’t have too much trouble reaching this goal every day.
You can also bump up your protein intake by enjoying a whey protein shake once or twice a day. In fact, research shows that this tactic can have a significant impact in reversing sarcopenia… and restoring vitality from the inside out.
A muscle-saving supplement combo
Let’s take a look at one 2016 study in particular, which focused on whey protein combined with essential amino acids and vitamin D3.
This research found that people who took a whey/amino acid/vitamin D3 combo every day for 12 weeks benefited from greater handgrip strength, higher lean muscle mass, and lower body fat.
This combination also lowered their levels of c-reactive protein (CRP)—a notorious marker for inflammation. And unsurprisingly, subjects who supplemented with this trio reported better quality of life, too.3
Those are some serious benefits—in a relatively short period of time. And the recipe for achieving this kind of success at home couldn’t get easier.
To maximize your intake of a full range of essential amino acids, I always recommend my A-List Diet. This diet and nutrition plan harnesses the powers of amino acids to not only help you lose weight and keep it off, but to also help you feel like the best version of yourself, no matter what your age. (Order yourself a copy of my book here: www.AListDietBook.com.)
In addition, I always recommend taking a minimum of 2,000 to 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily. But most people will need more than that to reach optimal levels (between 80 to 90 ng/mL). I personally take 10,000 IU daily myself—year-round. And as long as your blood levels are screened regularly, that’s a perfectly safe dosage to get you where you need to be.
Finally, there are a lot of “protein shakes” out there on the market—and suffice it to say that they’re not all created equal. So let’s go over a key rule of thumb when finding a quality whey protein… look for one that has 8 grams or less of carbs per serving.
Then, be sure to only mix it with plain water. If you like a thicker consistency, you can add some ice cubes and mix it up in a blender. You can also add a tablespoon of macadamia nut oil for a healthy boost of monounsaturated fatty acids. (This little trick will help to keep you full longer, too.)
Get your growth hormone pumping
Now, in addition to weight training, eating plenty of protein, and incorporating amino acids and vitamin D into your daily diet, there’s one more supplement that can support your muscle-building efforts even further and pack a serious punch against sarcopenia: Alpha GPC.
Alpha GPC is a form of choline, which is a nutrient that’s usually grouped with the B-complex vitamins. Choline is an essential part of cell membranes—especially in the brain. And like so many other critical nutrients, choline levels tend to decline as you get older.
That’s what makes it one of the best nutritional supplements to slow down the aging process—and to help with the delay of sarcopenia, in particular.
Most notably, research shows that alpha GPC helps stimulate your pituitary gland to produce human growth hormone.4-5 And that alone can increase your lean muscle mass and help you get more out of the exercises you perform.
The average dosage in most studies is 800 mg to 1,000 mg per day. But lower doses can work just as well, especially as part of a combination formula featuring a spectrum of B vitamins.
The bottom line is, preserving and building muscle is one of the best ways to add vibrant, healthy years to your life. And the simple-yet-effective muscle-saving strategies outlined here will help you tackle sarcopenia head on. But there are also many more tools available to you that can help make your “golden” years the best ones yet.
In fact, I outline key strategies on how to “age younger”—and feel better—every day of your long, healthy life in my Ultimate Anti-Aging Protocol. To learn more about this comprehensive, online learning tool, or to enroll today, click here or call 1-866-747-9421 and ask for order code EOV3WB00.
- Srikanthan P, et al. “Muscle mass index as a predictor of longevity in older adults.” Am J Med. 2014 Jun;127(6):547-53.
- de Santana FM, et al. “Association of Appendicular Lean Mass, and Subcutaneous and Visceral Adipose Tissue With Mortality in Older Brazilians: The São Paulo Ageing & Health Study.” J Bone Miner Res. 2019 Jul;34(7):1264-1274.
- Rondanelli M, et al. “Whey protein, amino acids, and vitamin D supplementation with physical activity increases fat-free mass and strength, functionality, and quality of life and decreases inflammation in sarcopenic elderly.” Am J Clin Nutr. 2016 Mar;103(3):830-40.
- Ziegenfuss T, et al. “Acute supplementation with alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine augments growth hormone response to, and peak force production during, resistance exercise.” J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2008; 5(Suppl 1): P15.
- Kawamura T, et al. “Glycerophosphocholine enhances growth hormone secretion and fat oxidation in young adults.” Nutrition. 2012 Nov-Dec;28(11-12):1122-6.