Close
  • Shop
  •  Loading... Please wait...
    SAVE 10% ON YOUR FIRST ORDER WITH CODE 'FUEL33' – SHOP NOW >>

    Muscle mass loss over 40: true or false?

    Posted by Team 33Shake on

    Muscle mass loss over 40: true or false?

    There’s a popular notion in sports nutrition that muscle simply falls off our bodies as we age and turns to wobbly fat, starting as early as our 30s if you believe some sources and with the real tipping point happening beyond 40 years old. From here it is - apparently - an inevitable downhill fast-track to wizened, zimmerframe-assisted shuffling. Only huge protein intake and a punishing training regime can ward off the dreaded muscle mass loss over 40, according to many sources.

    Sounds pretty scary, right? Hell, even the medical name for all this sounds sinister. It’s called sarcopenia and it’s the ‘degenerative loss of skeletal muscle mass, quality and strength associated with ageing’. Ouch.

    But here’s the funny thing.

    The main focus of many studies and most media coverage on this subject focuses on 40 as the age when the wheels start really coming off. Conveniently this is also the age when mid-life crises are most likely to strike, and if you were a protein company looking to expand sales from 25-35 year-old gym goers into 35-50 year olds, stoking this fear would be a great way to do it.

    But who’s actually being studied here?

    Muscle mass loss over 40

    Mountain runners: not the core study group in muscle mass loss research

    It's the average population, and with our increasingly sedentary and junk-food filled lives among Western societies, a loss of muscle mass with ageing is guaranteed. People who have spent their life on the sofa munching turkey twizzlers and cake and whose idea of exercise involves lifting seven pints every Friday are not going to be putting on muscle. Ever. They are going to be running to fat from the get go, and by 40 will be well into the zone where further blimping out requires little more than looking at a pie shop.

    We don’t need science to tell us muscle wastage as we age is a thing.

    For athletes however, muscle mass loss over 40 is basically not a thing at all

    The reason is simple: when you stress a muscle, you break it down and, with a good diet and recovery protocol, it will then rebuild stronger again. This is basic human biology and is as true at 75 as it is at 25.

    Muscle mass loss over 40

    Well what do you know: folks who keep exercising keep muscle mass easily. Pow! Take that sarcopenia

    One of the worst side effects of the ‘muscle mass loss over 40’ hype, is that people believe it. So much so, it is accepted wisdom. 

    This has a powerful placebo effect which manifests as people believe it so much it actually happens even more. They reduce their training or stop altogether because they believe staving off sarcopenia is impossible.

    The stories we believe in our minds have the most powerful effects on our lives. 

    As Henry Ford said: "whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right"

    Which is why the right story matters so much here, and the right story is this:

    Muscle mass loss over 40 is reserved for lazy buggers with shoddy diets. It is optional and wholly avoidable with nothing more than good diet and regular exercise. We all have the ability to get stronger as we get older and the only performance limits that exist are the ones in our minds.

    The only minor exception here is elite top level athletesIf you've taken your body and performance to its absolute finite performance limit in your 20s and 30s then this limit will drop off slightly with age. 

    There are no 60 year-olds running two hour marathons. Yet. Maybe with the right mental story however, future generations can prove this one wrong too.

    Related content

    Recovery nutrition for endurance athletes

    How to become fat adapted

    What is the best protein for endurance performance?

    ©33Shake, Fueling limitless performance since 2012