The loss of muscle mass is a process that is commonly associated with the progression of the years and that occurs almost imperceptibly, so much so that when we become slower and less agile is when we realize it.

Science has called this progressive loss of muscle mass as sarcopenia , a degenerative disease, caused by the aging of cells.

In the following article, we share all the necessary information about the loss of muscle mass and how you can prevent it.

What is loss of muscle mass?

As we age, the body loses certain regenerative capacities in bone and muscle structures. This, among other possible causes, happens because the composition of the body is changing due to aging. This condition or disease is called sarcopenia.

This disease produces a progressive degeneration of muscle mass and strength that implies a loss of autonomy, less mobility and a greater risk of mortality.

Note: An article in the journal “Hospital Nutrition” describes the clinical consequences of this disease, including loss of muscle mass. (1)

What are the causes of loss of muscle mass?

The loss of muscle mass, and with it strength, has a complex and multifactorial origin. Here are the main causes that produce it:

1. Aging

The aging process begins between 25 and 30 years of age, accentuating after 50 years, but it can be accelerated due to lifestyle and suffering from other pathologies.

In this sense, as the body ages, it loses certain natural regenerative capacities , such as the synthesis of proteins necessary to recover the loss of muscle mass, added to this the decreases related to growth hormone as age advances. .

Highlights: An article titled “Role of hormones in the pathogenesis and management of sarcopenia” indicates that there is strong evidence linking decreased growth hormone and loss of muscle mass. (two)

Likewise, the Revista Médica Clínica Las Condes describes the physiological changes associated with aging, including loss of muscle mass. (3)

2. Poor nutrition

The organism requires to carry out its vital functions, the supply of the necessary nutrients through the diet, in order to carry out its metabolic functions efficiently.

If this does not happen, the body’s metabolism works by producing less protein and hormones , in this case to keep our body’s muscles healthy and strong.

Note: In an article on “Nutrition and old age” , the impact of malnutrition on the loss of strength and muscle mass is explained. (4)

3. Sedentary lifestyle

The sedentary person has little or no physical activity and little caloric intake. In this condition, muscle mobility is minimal and one of the factors involved in maintaining strength and muscle mass is precisely that the muscles are in motion.

Note: The muscle due to little physical activity leads to muscle atrophy, losing the tone and strength of the muscles.

In a presentation of the “39th Argentine Congress of Pediatrics” , the evolution, consequences and treatment of a sedentary lifestyle are carefully described , and how it contributes to the loss of strength and muscle mass. (5)

4. Chronic and degenerative diseases

Chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, heart, respiratory , osteoarticular diseases, cancer among others, as well as degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and atherosclerosis , limit the mobility and physical activity of those who suffer from it. , affecting muscle development and strength.​​

Important: It is necessary, then, to implement special strategies to prevent the loss of muscle mass in these people, which limits their mobility.

5. Drugs

The consumption of drugs intended to suppress appetite, such as anorectics , affects the deterioration of muscle mass and strength. These drugs have the main objective of reducing anxiety about meals, thus limiting the consumption of nutrients and calories for the body.

This has its repercussions in terms of the reception of nutrients for the organism , and it is that it limits to a great extent the consumption of proteins, vitamins, minerals and polyunsaturated fatty oils from food, and whose function is to provide fuel for the cells and muscle tissues are nourished and perform their tasks.

What effects does the loss of muscle mass have?

With the loss of muscle mass, a loss of strength is also created, a factor that generates various consequences in humans. We describe some of them:

1. Lack of strength, endurance and physical balance

Factors such as poor nutrition, chronic and/or degenerative diseases, age and among others, directly affect muscle health, causing weakness in the execution of body movements, the main sign of loss of muscle mass.

2. Limited mobility

With a weakened muscular structure, mobility when walking, grasping objects, changing direction, jumping and reflexes are significantly affected to the point where movements become slower and less sure.

3. Fragile skin

The loss of muscle mass causes situations such as stretching of the skin in individuals due to the fact that the muscle that covers it has become smaller and additionally, this loss of muscle mass produces a progressive loss of mobility.

4. Slow healing

If the body has reduced its ability to regenerate tissue, the healing process of muscle tissue slows down, because the metabolic process to recover muscle tissue has also slowed down.

5. Poor quality of life

Over the years, undoubtedly the quality of life of people who suffer from the loss of muscle mass has a negative impact . The fact of not being able to fend for oneself causes psychological deterioration, even in extreme cases, to suffer from depressive states.

How to do to recover muscle mass?

Fortunately, for those people whose cause of loss of muscle mass does not come from complicated pathologies, various therapeutic strategies are available to them in order to mitigate its effects. We describe the most recommended below:

1. Maintain an adequate diet

It is necessary to adequately consume all those foods that contribute to supplying the body with the necessary nutrients.

These foods must contain proteins from lean meats, vitamins , minerals and polyunsaturated fatty acids, so that the cells of organs and tissues carry out their functions efficiently. Similarly, proper hydration is important to prevent loss of muscle mass.

2. Perform physical activity

Another important aspect to avoid the loss of muscle mass is the realization of a programmed and periodic exercise plan, especially resistance exercises.

Important: This exercise plan will help maintain muscle tone and strength, but at the same time, it must be complemented with the consumption of the necessary nutrients so that the body can carry out its repair function of the muscle fibers.

3. Consume nutritional supplements

When the body slows down its ability to synthesize certain types of proteins, especially proteins for muscle repair and recovery, it is appropriate to resort to nutritional supplementation, to facilitate the consumption and metabolization of the nutrients necessary for muscle recovery.

In this regard, an article on “Protein supplements in the treatment and prevention of sarcopenia in the elderly. Systematic review” , describes the importance of protein supplementation to mitigate the effects of loss of muscle mass. (6)

Important: The consumption of nutritional supplements must be supervised by a nutrition specialist.

Key Findings

  • Loss of muscle mass in sedentary people and older adults is called sarcopenia and is an involuntary degenerative process.
  • The loss of muscle mass affects the autonomous life of the individual, leading to muscle atrophy and depressive psychological states.
  • This condition is treatable through a healthy life , both in nutrition and physical activity.
  • Balanced nutrition is key in preventing loss of muscle mass.

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