One of the unique things about this particular blog is that it is intended for the more mature among us. Although it is completely true that many of the benefits and lessons we can draw from the Keto movement apply to people of a wide range of ages and situations, I want to look at Keto from the point of view of a man of relatively advanced years. With this in mind, today we are going to look at sarcopenia.
Point No. 1 – What is Sarcopenia?
To start with, I think we would do well to define exactly what sarcopenia is. Sarcopenia is ‘the loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength as a result of ageing’ according to Oxford Languages. That seems to me to be a pretty simple and accurate description of the problem. Essentially, as we age, there is a tendency for the human body to lose strength and muscle tone. If allowed to continue over the course of years it can result in a completely debilitating and all-encompassing weakness.
It is reckoned that we lose muscle mass at about the rate of about 1% per year from the age of 30 onwards. By that somewhat frightening calculation, I would have lost around 36% by my current age, 66. Unfortunately, I would guess that the figure is not very wide of the mark in my own particular case. Fortunately, I still do seem to have pretty good heart and lung fitness and can happily cycle for hours at a time. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for my muscle tone and general levels of strength.
Point No. 2 – What Can We Do About It?
Enough of the bad news though! With the right approach these problems can be meaningfully addressed and even solved, or at least considerably ameliorated. It will take commitment and work along the way though. As we get older the nature of the exercise required to keep us in the best possible condition changes. Whereas long-distance running or cycling may be the most relevant form of exercise in our twenties, as we get older the greater problems are flexibility and muscle wastage. Practices like Tai Chi or Yoga can address the first, but for the second we need to think far more in terms of resistance training than heart and lung or endurance.
Point No. 3 – What Has This To Do With Keto?
Also, as far as keto is concerned, one often reads on blogs or posts on the internet that you need to be careful with consuming too many proteins. Whilst generally true, I would suggest this is less the case as one grows older. For most youngsters coming into keto the main concern is weight loss. On the other hand, the more mature are often attracted by the physical and energetic benefits or, like myself, because it may help address underlying inflammatory problems.
As we grow older the issues we need to address are not merely weight or cosmetic, but general health and frailty. One’s quality of life is clearly closely related to these issues. With increasing frailty comes increasing problems of all sorts. These issues are not just physical either, the effects of sarcopenia can also be psychologically damaging, both directly and indirectly. Adopting an appropriate diet as we age is key in helping us to combat the effects of sarcopenia and aging in general. Key to this is getting sufficient protein for the muscles of the body to respond to demand and have the ability to repair themselves. With the right kind of resistance training they may even grow stronger (I favour resistance bands myself, they are both economic and effective). My own diet, although broadly ketogenic in nature, has increasingly veered towards the carnivore end of the scale in recent times. I do this to ensure that my body can cope with the sometimes challenging demands of resistance training.
Point No. 4 – Sarcopenia and Lifestyle
The next issue is lifestyle. The way of life for many people in the Western World already lends itself to a sedentary approach. We spend vast amounts of time sitting in cars, gazing at screens, or doing other physically undemanding activities. This situation, debilitating as it is already, has a tendency to worsen as we get older.
There is a social expectation of ‘slowing down’ or ‘taking it easy’. If you wish to remain healthy late into life then these are exactly the wrong attitudes to adopt. Instead, the mature person needs to reject the comfortable and the easy, the energy-sapping notion that we should settle to a comfortable passivity with the passing of the years. Instead, I would encourage people to embrace and revel in active and positive lifestyle choices. Buy a bike, go regularly to the pool or simply take brisk walks, all these can be incorporated into your daily lifestyle.
Beyond the above, resistance training in any of its many forms should be indulged in. Weight lifting in a gym would be an obvious example. If the gym is inconvenient or too expensive, then one can adopt a calisthenics training problem. These days, many people use inexpensive and very effective resistance bands to stimulate similar effects to weight training but without the need to join a gym or buy lots of expensive equipment.
Point No.5 – Sarcopenia – The Message
Muscle wastage, especially the effects that come with increasing age, is a formidable threat to our health and well being. With the right attitudes and the right actions, it can be defeated, however. Simple measures such as a protein-rich diet, physical activity, the spurning of sedentary options, and embracing some form of resistance training will arrest and reverse these effects as long as one is both consistent and persistent in one’s approach.
A quick scour through YouTube will demonstrate the success stories of many people in their sixties, seventies, and eighties (or even older) who have refused to conform to society’s expectation and instead embraced the measures required to keep their muscles toned, strong, and healthy. It’s very much our choice as we age. Do we wish our boundaries to remain essentially unlimited as we go forward? Or would we rather go from shuffling, to sticks, to frames and so forth as we age? I know where I would rather be!