The Battle for Muscle Mass as We Age

10.24.19 |

One of the core philosophies of the Habits of Health Transformational System is that exercise alone is not a reliable path to a sustainable healthy weight. Too many other factors contribute to our weight and the sum of those habits is too great to overcome through exercise alone. In other words, we can’t outrun or outlift a lifestyle riddled with Habits of Disease, so we look at the entirety of our health from how we move to how we fuel our bodies to how we sleep and how we manage stress.

That said, Habits of Healthy Motion are still important. The presence of muscle mass makes it easier for us to manage our energy, and, therefore, our weight.

Each pound of muscle mass consumes around 50 to 70 calories a day. That is energy burned even when you’re lying in bed in the morning, dreaming about sleeping in. Muscle burns energy. Fat, on the other hand, consumes much less energy, less than 10 percent of what muscle uses. That means that we can compound the momentum of our health journey as we get more active and build more muscle.

Here’s the kicker, though: Beginning at age 20, we lose about a pound of muscle each year. What replaces that muscle? You guessed it—fat cells. That means as we lose muscle over the years, our energy expenditure decreases. And when that energy expenditure decreases, our accumulation of fat increases.

This loss of muscle mass over time is known as sarcopenia of aging, and it’s linked to pre-obesity and obesity. Having weak, flabby muscles also plays a large part in our downward spiral to sickness and disease.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that this muscle deterioration is entirely reversible. 

Dr. A’s Habits of Health outlines how in Phase I we shed a whole bunch of those inefficient fat cells by decreasing your fat stores, especially around your vital organs. In Phase II, we focus on increasing your lean muscle mass and go to work on increasing the size of mitochondria in each cell, which means that your energy management becomes more efficient and more effective.

All of this sets the stage for long-term weight maintenance and permanent health. It’s not a crash diet or a bootcamp workout. It’s gradual, and it’s sustainable. 

You can pick up the book or talk to your coach to dive deeper into the system itself, but for this post, I want you to walk away with an understanding that losing muscle mass as you age is normal, and you can reverse it with the right habits. If you make those small choices to build Habits of Healthy Motion, you set yourself up for a lifetime of vibrant health.