Don't Miss
Now offering online orders with Grab-n-Go in-car pickup

Optimum Performance: Maintaining lean muscle mass

Grey-haired main lifting handweights

Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. – No matter if you’re a pro athlete, weekend warrior, or just someone interested in a better health status, preservation of lean muscle mass (fat free tissue) should be a primary objective of your eating and exercise strategy, especially as you age to help offset sarcopenia.

Sarcopenia, according to the National Institutes of Health, is a term utilized to define the loss of muscle mass and strength that occurs with aging. It is believed to play a major role in the pathogenesis of frailty and functional impairment that occurs with old age.

In a 2012 Chicago Tribune article, Roger Fielding Ph.D, director of the Nutrition, Exercise Physiology, and Sarcopenia Laboratory at Tufts University says, “in your early 60s, we start to see that this loss (muscle mass) may begin to affect physical ability. This makes sense, given muscle strength declines at an average of 3 percent per year after 60, and by our 70s, we’ve lost an estimated 20 to 40 percent of our strength.”

As we age, our ability to utilize dietary protein to support and synthesize (make) muscle can be compromised. The recommended dietary allowance of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram (2.2lbs) of body weight per day (g/kg/d) for older individuals may need to be questioned.

Research published in The Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends a range of protein intake of 1-1.6 g/kg/day for older adults, while Fielding believes the amount to be 1-1.2 g/kg/d, with emphasis on the essential amino acid leucine – the anabolic amino acid. For a 154 pound man, Fielding’s range would be 70-84 grams of daily protein versus 56 protein grams under the standard formula.

Notes Fielding, “Leucine (a branch chain amino acid) has a potent effect on stimulating muscle protein synthesis. If you consume protein foods that are rich in leucine, they seem to stimulate muscle protein synthesis more than other comparable protein foods.” Leucine sources include milk, whey, tuna, beef, chicken, soy, peanuts, and eggs.

Clinical hospital dietitians, who play a major role as member of a critical care patient’s team, make every effort to support lean muscle preservation in very ill, immobilized patients by supplementing their diet, when required, with leucine.

“Leucine, in combination with other amino acids,” according to Leigh Anne Kamerman-Burns, a registered dietitian and nutritionist specializing in Oncology and HIV at the LSU Health Sciences Center, ” has been found useful in patients having or at risk for muscle wasting such as post-op, trauma, cancer, and HIV.”

From both an athletic participation and fat loss strategy, I have taken a different tact relative to the formulas used to determine daily protein requirements. It is based on 40 years of work helping professional athletes and individuals attempting to lose unwanted body fat and preserve lean muscle tissue.

I use a Dual X-ray Absorptiometry Scan (DXA), which was developed primarily to measure bone mineral density, to assess regional tissue in terms of fat percentage, total mass, lean mass, bone mineral content and total fat-free content (sum of lean tissue and bone mineral content).

(DXA), according to a New York Times article, “separates the lean mass on the right and left sides of the body and highlights the difference between the two. Total fat is broken down for the left and right arms to the hundredth of a pound.” In other words, I can see exactly how much lean muscle an individual has down to the gram.

This data is provided to my sports and lifestyle dietitian, who can determine appropriate protein requirements based on an exact amount of lean muscle and not on a kilogram of scale weight.

This approach has not taken hold since the DXA Scan does not have an insurance reimbursement code, to my knowledge, for body composition testing – even though it is now considered by many to be the “gold standard” for body composition determination. I was able to make it cost effective at a price of $65.

Turning 63 on March 16th, I plan on holding on to all the muscle that I can. And I will.

Mackie Shilstone, a regular contributor to | The Times-Picayune, has been involved in the wellness sports performance industry for nearly 40 years. He is currently the fitness coach for Serena Williams and has trained numerous other professional athletes and consulted a litany of professional sports franchises. Contact him at

Source link