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If you’re over 40, you’re fighting an uphill battle to preserve your muscle mass. That’s because you’re slowly losing muscle to sarcopenia, muscle loss caused by the aging process.
Sarcopenia starts in your 30s, but by the time you get into your 40s your muscles are shrinking by as much as one percent per year. That may not sound like a lot, but that means you’ve lost at least 10 percent of your muscle mass in just one decade of your life.
Then, when you get into your 60s and 70s, your muscle loss really speeds up. You start losing three percent of your muscle mass per year. And if you don’t put a stop to it, you’ll end up weak and frail. You’ll also be more prone to falls and fractures, which will make it impossible to live an active, independent life.
There are a lot of effective ways to solve the problem of sarcopenia. Fitness expert Debra Atkinson, for example, recently wrote about how a combination of exercise and protein can help you save muscle mass in middle age. She recommends that you do muscle-building resistance exercises, while also upping your protein intake to 35 grams at breakfast and 25-30 grams at lunch and dinner.
If you follow Debra’s advice, you’ll certainly stay strong and independent as you age. But there’s one more simple thing you can do to stave of sarcopenia…
Take an omega-3 supplement.
A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that older women who do resistance training and take omega-3 supplements have greater muscle function after 18 weeks than women who do resistance training alone.
In fact, taking a 3 gram omega-3 supplement daily more than doubled the amount of strength these women gained from exercise. Women who took the supplement were 34 percent stronger after 18 weeks, while women who didn’t take the supplement were only 16 percent stronger.
Unfortunately, this muscle-fix appears to discriminate somewhat against men: in this study, omega-3s didn’t provide men with the same muscle-boosting benefits that it did for the ladies. But that doesn’t mean omega-3s don’t help men prevent age-related muscle loss…
A 2015 study showed that taking a fish oil supplement slowed the loss of muscle mass and function in older men and women. And a 2011 study showed that omega-3s enhanced muscle protein synthesis (the bodily process that helps muscles grow) in older men and women.
Slow sarcopenia with supplements
In the study, women took 3 grams of fish oil supplements daily. That provides about 900 milligrams of omega-3. You should know, taking more than 3 grams (3,000 milligrams) of omega-3 per day may put you at a greater risk for hemorrhagic stroke, a deadly condition where an artery in your brain leaks or ruptures. So it’s probably a good idea to work with a trusted health professional if you want to take omega-3s in large doses.
Your best bet is to get a high quality liquid fish oil, krill oil or flaxseed oil supplement. Liquid supplements are easier for your body to absorb than capsules. Look for a supplement that gives you at least 500 milligrams of the fatty acids EPA and DHA per day. Or if you’re searching for a flaxseed oil supplement, look for one that gives you at least 5,000 milligrams of the fatty acid ALA.
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“5 Surprising Reasons Your Muscle Tone Is Disappearing—And How To Stop It.” Prevention. http://www.prevention.com. Retrieved November 17, 2016.
“Protein key to preventing age-related muscle loss.” The Chicago Tribune. http://articles.chicagotribune.com. Retrieved November 17, 2016.
Da Boit, et al. “Sex differences in the effect of fish oil supplementation on the adaptive response to resistance exercise training in older people: a randomized control trial.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2016).
“Fish oil-derived n-3 PUFA therapy increases muscle mass and function in healthy older adults.” American Journal Clinical Nutrition. Jul 2015;102(1):115-22.
“Dietary omega-3 fatty acid supplementation increases the rate of muscle protein synthesis in older adults: a randomized controlled trial.” American Journal Clinical Nutrition. Feb 2011;93(2):402-12.
“Omega-3 fatty acids.” University of Maryland Medical Center. http://umm.edu. Retrieved November 17, 2016.
“How to Choose a Fish Oil Supplement.” U.S. News & World Report. http://health.usnews.com. Retrieved November 17, 2016.