Trying to stay in shape in general is tough, but once passing 50, the odds can seem like they’re stacked against us. Sarcopenia, a condition in which the body starts to naturally lose muscle tissue as we age, can seem unavoidable and a little scary. But there are a few ways to fight muscle loss and maintain strength — including eating the right types of nutrients.
When we are younger, the body’s mechanisms for tissue teardown versus growth are balanced. But as time goes by, the body becomes more resistant to growth and experiences more teardown from things like living a sedentary lifestyle, inflammation, stress, and an unbalanced diet. This is when people start losing muscle mass.
However, eating certain nutrients can help you supplement the cells and tissues in your body, so they are repaired quickly instead of permanently damaged. This way, you can stay your strongest and healthiest self at 50, and beyond. Check out the list below for the nutrients (and foods) that fight muscle loss.
1. Foods High in Vitamin D
Some research suggests there is a link between postmenopausal women with sarcopenia and vitamin D deficiency, so it's a good idea to include more vitamin D-rich foods in your diet. Vitamin D supplementation has been linked to improving muscle strength, increasing bone density, and warding off diseases like cancer. To increase your levels of vitamin D, eat foods like cod liver oil, free-range eggs, swordfish, mushrooms, and fortified foods like organic milk.
2. Foods High in Protein
Since protein is the main muscle fiber you lose from sarcopenia, it’s important to supplement your diet with a substantial amount of it. Some foods to include are eggs, lean meats like chicken, turkey, and beef, salmon, tuna, almonds, greek yogurt, lentils, kidney beans, chickpeas, and ezekiel bread.
3. Foods high in Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Research indicates that women who take omega-3 supplements show increases in muscle strength, and also experience benefits like improved cholesterol, heart, and brain health. While supplements are always an option (be sure to consult your doctor first!), you can start with foods that are rich in omega-3’s to improve your strength naturally. These include omega-3-enriched eggs, flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, fatty fish like salmon and mackerel, anchovies, and oysters.
And while eating the right nutrients to support your body’s needs is important, resistance training and exercise are additional ways to make you stronger and healthier overall. If you’re looking to start getting some more movement into your days, take a few minutes to try this gentle beginner yoga routine that uses just your body weight.