Losing muscle mass is common for most people as they get older, and for some, it leads to disability.
This can, however, be avoided. Exercise is the obvious recommendation to avoid losing muscle, but there is also something else you can do, and this is a lot less strenuous.
If this appeals to you, keep on reading. I would of course, still recommend exercising since that provides a lot of benefits, and should be a part of a healthy lifestyle.
First, we are not going to build muscles as easy when we are 70 years old as we did when we were 20 years old. It is, however, possible to maintain most of the muscle mass as we get older by exercise effectively and implement some additional strategies.
This is, however, going to show you research you can implement that works even without exercising.
Sixty healthy 60-85-year-old men and women took either omega 3 fatty acids or corn oil as a control for 6 months (Smith GI, et.al., 2015). They were evaluated for thigh muscle volume, handgrip strength, one-repetition maximum (1-RM), lower- and upper body strength and average power before they started and after 6 months.
This is what the researchers found.
When compared with the control group the omega 3 fatty acid group increased thigh muscle volume by 3.6%.
They increased handgrip strength with 2.3 kg.
They increased 1-RM muscle strength by 4%.
They increased average power by 5.6%.
This was from only taking 1.86 g of EPA and 1.50 G of DHA from fish oil daily.
EPA and DHA are the active ingredients in omega 3 fatty acids.
How easy can it be, I think that is amazing, and there are other studies showing that omega 3 fatty acids increase the rate of muscle protein synthesis (building of muscles) (Di Girolamo FG, et.al., 2014, Smith GI, et.al., 2011).
Another interesting study showed that patients who ingested 3.4 g per day of EPA and DHA from fish oil 2-3 weeks before having heart surgery showed increased mitochondrial respiration in the atrial myocardium (Anderson EJ, et.al., 2014).
The patients that took the omega 3 fatty acids also had a greater activity of key antioxidant/anti-inflammatory enzymes.
Sometimes you can get a lot of benefits from doing very little.
Just be sure that you take a high-quality fish oil supplement., since the contaminants in fish can prevent the benefits from fish oil.
Anderson EJ, Thayne KA, Harris M, Shaikh SR, Darden TM, Lark DS, Williams JM, Chitwood WR, Kypson AP, Rodriguez E. Do fish oil omega-3 fatty acids enhance antioxidant capacity and mitochondrial fatty acid oxidation in human atrial myocardium via PPARÎ³ activation? Antioxid Redox Signal. 2014 Sep 10;21(8):1156-63.
Di Girolamo FG, Situlin R, Mazzucco S, Valentini R, Toigo G, Biolo G. Omega-3 fatty acids and protein metabolism: enhancement of anabolic interventions for sarcopenia. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2014 Mar;17(2):145-50.
Smith GI, Julliand S, Reeds DN, Sinacore DR, Klein S, Mittendofer B Fish oil-derived n-3 PUFA therapy increases muscle mass and function in healthy older adults. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Jul;102(1):115-22.
Smith GI, Atherton P, Reeds DN, Mohammed BS, Rankin D, Rennie MJ, Mittendorfer B. Dietary omega-3 fatty acid supplementation increases the rate of muscle protein synthesis in older adults: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Feb;93(2):402-12.
The anti-inflammatory effects of Omega 3 fatty acids are well known. Most people that eat a western diet can benefit from increasing the intake of Omega 3 fatty acid since their diet usually contains too much Omega 6 from vegetable oils and saturated fat from dairy and other animal sources.