As we age, our body’s ability to stimulate muscle growth and repair damage declines. As a result, our strength and physical abilities also reduce and we may find it more challenging to do the things we’re used to.
Amino acids are essential for maintaining muscle mass and strength, as well as helping to build new tissue, especially as we age. In this article, we take a look at why amino acids are so important for active ageing, and how you can ensure you’re getting enough in your diet.
What is active ageing?
For centuries, humans have pursued longer lives, but in recent years we’ve realised that living longer isn’t that much fun without our health. And so our focus has shifted towards ageing healthily.
This approach is known as ‘active ageing’ and is described as the process of optimising opportunities for health and maintaining quality of life as we age.
Retaining muscle mass and avoiding age-related muscle loss is key for active ageing because it allows us to remain independent, protecting us from falls and associated injuries as we get older.
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What happens when we age?
As we get older, our bodies start to experience a natural process of declining skeletal muscle mass called 'Sarcopenia'. Essentially, the balance between muscle synthesis and muscle breakdown naturally shifts towards the latter as we age.
In fact, we lose up to 40% of our muscle mass between the ages of 20 and 60. After the age of 50, around 3% of muscle mass is lost every year. Importantly, this process is immune to exercise alone, and those who workout find they cannot maintain their strength, and find muscle mass hard to sustain and repair.
If unchecked, sarcopenia can stop you from doing all the things you used to do when you were younger, from sports to everyday activities. Sarcopenia also increases the risk of broken bones from falls or other impacts.
How can amino acids help?
In order to remain healthy, we need 21 different kinds of amino acids, many of which can be produced by our bodies. However, there are 9 that our bodies cannot synthesise, known as essential amino acids (EAAs). These have to be consumed through our diets and supplements, such as Amino RECOVERY.
READ: Top 10 benefits of essential amino acids
The body uses amino acids to make proteins that perform a variety of roles, from breaking down food to repairing tissue, including muscle. Amino acids can also be used as a source of energy.
Recent research has also shown that amino acids help restore immune response – with elderly people who received cystine and theanine after being vaccinated showing a significantly improved immune response compared to those who did not.
How can we reduce the impact of sarcopenia?
It is no great surprise that good nutrition and regular exercise are important for fighting sarcopenia as we get older. But for those of us with rigorous and strenuous workout regimes – and who want to maintain those regimes as we get older – it is particularly important to ensure we supplement our routines to maintain the optimum balance of protein synthesis and breakdown.
In fact, researchers have found that consuming essential amino acids, particularly leucine, is effective in preventing sarcopenia. Their data shows a link between their consumption and exercise, resulting in an increase in muscle mass and strength in older adults. It also shows that a 2% increase in leucine per meal was beneficial.
It therefore goes without saying that a healthy diet, supplemented by leucine, and exercise are vital to active ageing and quality of life as we get older.
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