The Importance of Muscle for Healthy Aging

As we age, muscle loss becomes increasingly common, leading to a host of health issues. However, many are unaware that muscle plays a critical role in supporting metabolism, mobility, hormone regulation, and more. Eating adequate protein and strength training can help maintain muscle mass into older adulthood.

In this article, we will explore the impacts of sarcopenia (muscle loss), why protein intake recommendations increase with age, the differences between plant and animal proteins, and how to promote muscle growth through diet and exercise.

The Effects of Sarcopenia

What is Sarcopenia?

Sarcopenia refers to the degenerative loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength that occurs with aging. After age 40, adults lose on average 3-5% of their muscle mass per decade. This accelerates after age 60, with losses of 1-2% per year. Sarcopenia is directly linked to reduced strength, impaired mobility, increased falls and fractures, and physical disability.

Impact on Metabolism

Skeletal muscle is a key regulator of metabolism. It serves as the body’s largest site for absorbing and storing glucose, making it a “metabolic currency.” Sarcopenia therefore impairs glucose regulation, increasing insulin resistance and diabetes risk. Muscle contraction also releases beneficial hormones called myokines that reduce inflammation, which underlies nearly all chronic diseases. With less muscle, harmful inflammation rises.

Increased Disease Vulnerability

Sarcopenia is associated with a 3-4 fold increase in overall mortality. Loss of muscle mass and strength makes older adults susceptible to falls, injuries, impaired immune function, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, cancer, and more. Sarcopenia also causes hormone imbalances like reduced testosterone, growth hormone, and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). This accelerates bone loss and muscle wasting. In essence, muscle supports overall vitality and resilience.

Importance of Protein for Muscle Retention

Higher Protein Needs with Age

Starting around age 40, anabolic resistance makes it harder to turn protein into muscle. More protein is needed to stimulate muscle growth as hormone levels drop. 30% or more of calories from protein is optimal for retaining muscle past midlife. Without adequate protein intake, sarcopenia accelerates.

Impact on Amino Acid Levels

Dietary protein provides amino acids, which are the building blocks of muscle. With age, higher protein intake is required to maintain sufficient levels of amino acids like leucine that trigger muscle growth. Older adults should aim for at least 25-30g of high-quality protein per meal. Consuming adequate protein enhances the body’s ability to synthesize muscle even into advanced age.

Supports Strength Training Response

Resistance exercise powerfully stimulates muscle growth. However, the training response diminishes without enough protein to supply muscles with amino acids to rebuild. Higher protein intake augments the muscle-building effects of strength training. This synergistic combination is critical for combating sarcopenia.

Animal vs. Plant Protein

Animal Protein Has More Essential Amino Acids

Animal proteins like meat, eggs, fish and dairy provide all nine essential amino acids required to form new muscle. Plant proteins are typically low in one or more essential amino acids. For example, grains lack lysine, while beans and legumes lack methionine. This makes animal protein superior for supporting muscle growth.

Higher Leucine Content

The branched-chain amino acid leucine plays a unique role in muscle protein synthesis. Animal foods contain much more leucine than plants. Just 2.5 ounces of chicken contains over 1 gram of leucine, compared to just .75 grams in a cup of beans or lentils. Higher leucine intake maximizes muscle growth, making animal protein more effective.

Better Absorbed by Muscles

Animal proteins are efficiently digested and absorbed, providing muscles with more amino acids compared to plant proteins. About 90% of the protein in eggs, dairy and meat can be used for muscle-building, versus just 50-70% from plant sources. The lower bioavailability of plant proteins limits their anabolic effects.

Strategies to Build Muscle with Diet and Exercise

To stimulate muscle growth, aim to eat 25-30 grams of protein per meal. Getting this amount 3 times a day provides the amino acids needed to combat sarcopenia. Animal foods, dairy and protein supplements can help meet these higher protein needs.

Those following plant-based diets can combine proteins sources, such as grains with beans/legumes, to get a full spectrum of essential amino acids. Adding a vegan protein powder provides extra leucine for optimal muscle protein synthesis.

Time Protein Intake Around Exercise

Consuming protein within 1 hour before or after strength training allows muscles to utilize amino acids for growth during the post-workout recovery phase. Top priorities are a pre/post workout protein shake and high-protein meal afterward.

Perform Regular Strength Training

Resistance exercise provides the mechanical stimulation needed for maintaining and building muscle mass. Aim for 2-3 strength sessions per week targeting all major muscle groups. Compound lifts like squats, deadlifts and bench press are highly effective.

Try Eccentric Training

Lowering weight slowly places muscles under constant tension, creating greater damage that stimulates growth. This “eccentric” or negative training forces muscles to adapt. Regularly performing eccentric reps builds strength and size.

Get More Steps

Simply staying active promotes muscle growth. Aim for 10,000+ steps per day through activities like walking, gardening, housework etc. Lower-impact activities help maintain muscle mass between strength workouts.

Preserving Skeletal Muscle Should Be a Top Priority as We Age

Consuming more high-quality protein, combined with regular strength training, provides the essential stimuli needed to maintain and build muscle mass. Supporting muscle growth into older adulthood is crucial for healthy metabolism, hormone balance, disease resilience and an active lifestyle. Taking steps to reduce sarcopenia can keep us strong, energetic and independent as we age.

Lose Weight Fast with Berberine

Berberine is an emerging weight loss supplement that is gaining popularity due to its powerful effects on insulin, muscle mass, and an enzyme called AMPK. Research shows berberine can potentially help with weight loss through these mechanisms. Its effects are so profound that berberine has been compared to the prescription diabetes medication metformin.

While berberine is not a magic cure for weight loss, it does have several research-backed benefits that can support weight loss when combined with diet and exercise. This article will explore the top 5 ways berberine can help with losing weight.

Berberine Helps Reverse Insulin Resistance

One of the most significant benefits of berberine is its effect on insulin. High insulin levels promote obesity by disrupting the breakdown of fat tissue. In other words, your body stores fat instead of burning it.

Berberine may improve insulin sensitivity through activating the enzyme AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK). Studies show berberine activates AMPK, triggering beneficial effects like:

  • Stimulating metabolism
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Improving muscle performance

In one study, berberine had an equal effect on blood sugar as metformin. Like berberine, metformin activates AMPK, likely explaining their comparable effects. The only difference is metformin requires a prescription, while berberine is available over-the-counter.

In addition to activating AMPK, berberine has also been shown to:

Berberine Increases Mitochondria in Muscle Cells

Muscle mass largely determines basal metabolic rate – how many calories you burn daily. Losing muscle mass causes metabolism to decline, making it easier to gain weight.

To lose weight, maintaining lean muscle mass is critical. Muscle health depends partly on energy production capabilities, which is governed by mitochondria in muscle cells. More mitochondria mean more energy capability.

Berberine has been shown to increase mitochondria density in muscle cells. This benefits weight loss in two key ways:

  1. Improves metabolism – High sugar and fat diets impair mitochondrial function in muscles. More mitochondria improve metabolism.
  2. Increases energy – More energy means easier exercising and burning more calories because your muscles work more efficiently.

Berberine Activates Brown Fat

Typically, fat cells are seen negatively, however some fat is healthy. There are two types of fat:

  • White fat – stores energy
  • Brown fat – regulates metabolism and heat production

Animal studies show berberine increases brown fat, which helps regulate metabolism. Human research reveals just one month of berberine boosts brown fat activity and levels.

For weight loss, browning white fat or increasing brown fat is advantageous. Brown fat burns more calories, so higher levels support a healthy metabolism.

Berberine Reduces Inflammation

Chronic inflammation impedes weight loss and promotes weight gain. It disrupts hormone balance, decreases thyroid function, and causes  inflammation and damage to fat cells. Fat cells produce the hormone leptin, which regulates weight. Inflammation causes leptin resistance.

Berberine may prevent or solve leptin resistance by lowering inflammation. It exhibits anti-inflammatory effects by inhibiting NF-kB and COX-2 pathways.

Berberine Improves Gut Health

Gut health and microbiome impact your ability to stay lean. Therefore, addressing gut problems that disrupt your microbiome aids weight loss.

Berberine has antimicrobial effects, acting as an antibacterial and antifungal agent. This helps clean up gut issues like SIBO and SIFO. Improving gut health facilitates easier weight loss.

Berberine Dosage for Weight Loss

The optimal berberine dosage for weight loss is 500-2000 mg per day. Most people need 1000 mg daily, split into two 500 mg doses, morning and evening.

Those with diabetes or insulin resistance may require 2000 mg per day, also split into two doses. Always combine berberine with diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes for best results.

Berberine Weight Loss Results

Studies evaluating berberine for weight loss have found promising results:

  • A 12-week study in obese participants found 500 mg of berberine taken 3 times per day caused an average of 5 pounds of weight loss.
  • Another study compared berberine to the drug Orlistat in obese patients. After 12 weeks, the berberine group lost slightly more weight than the Orlistat group.
  • Research in 37 men and women with metabolic syndrome found 300 mg of berberine 3 times per day for 3 months resulted in an average weight loss of 5 pounds.
  • A 3-month study in obese individuals with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease compared berberine and lifestyle intervention to lifestyle intervention alone. The berberine group lost significantly more body fat.
  • So the research indicates berberine can support anywhere from 5-12 pounds of weight loss over a 3 month period, especially for those with obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes or fatty liver disease.

Berberine Side Effects

Berberine is generally well tolerated with minimal side effects. Potential side effects can include:

  • Digestive upset – Constipation, diarrhea, flatulence, nausea
  • Low blood sugar – Berberine lowers blood sugar so monitor levels if diabetic.
  • Drug interactions – Berberine may interact with medications like cyclosporine, metformin and others.
  • Always speak to your doctor before taking berberine, especially if you take any medications or have any medical conditions. Start with a low dose and build up slowly to assess tolerance.

Berberine As an Effective Weight Loss Aid

Research supports berberine as an effective weight loss aid due to its effects on insulin, muscle, metabolism, inflammation and gut health. Studies suggest it may spur weight loss of 5 pounds or more over 3 months. Berberine is especially useful for those with obesity, diabetes/insulin resistance or fatty liver disease. While not magical, berberine is one of the top natural supplements for supporting your weight loss efforts.

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