Does your weight loss plan prevent you from loosing muscle as you lose weight? Did you know that muscle loss begins around age 40? After age 50, there is an average half-pound muscle loss and a 1-lb. fat gain per year. This means that for the average person by age 70, they will have lost 10 pounds of muscle and gained 20 pounds of fat. (this is a major reason why elderly people fall down and break their hips). According to the Journal of Nutrition in 1997, “no decline with age is as dramatic or potentially more significant than the decline in lean body mass.”
If your weight loss plan talks only about weight loss then you are probably losing muscle in the process and you will be more likely to gain weight back. Why is muscle important? “Muscle is the major source of protein for functions such as antibody production, wound healing, and white blood cell production during illness. If the body’s protein reserves are already depleted by sarcopenia, there is less to mobilize for illness,” according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. Sarcopenia is the loss of muscle mass that occurs as people age. When you see frail elderly people i.e. “little old ladies” (and men) they have sarcopenia.
So what are the benefits of healthy weight loss (fat loss) in your weight loss plan?
- Decreased cardiovascular risk
- Decreased blood sugar and insulin levels
- Decreased blood pressure
- Decreased LDL cholesterol and triglycerides
- Increased HDL cholesterol
- Decreased severity of sleep apnea
- Reduced symptoms of arthritis
- Improved gynecological conditions
So how do you build muscle but lose the fat? You must have adequate protein, approximately .8-1.2 grams per kg depending upon physical activity level. So for a 160 pound woman (160/2.2kg=73kg), this would be 58-88 grams of protein per day. Most people get less than half the amount of daily protein they need and as a result they will gradually lose muscle mass starting at age 40. Your weight loss plan also needs to incorporate some type of resistance exercise to give muscles something to do. (Hint to women: now days some degree of muscle definition is considered to be attractive).