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Breakthrough Strategy to Preserve Strength and Muscle Mass Muscle as You Age

by Dr. Jamesh Meschino on

December 11, 2023 in

Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (February 2018)
Nutrition / Natural Medicine Update (March 15, 2018)

You know what they say, “little things make the big difference”. This is true once again with the research I am citing today. A study in the February 2018 edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has helped to verify that a specific amino acid found in dairy products is a key factor in preserving muscle mass and strength as we age. This is an important breakthrough finding, as most people slowly lose muscle mass and strength after the age of 40. By age 60, 70, 80 there can be substantial loss of muscle mass and strength, which can make you less steady on your feet and prone to falling, less able to perform routine daily tasks, and loss of muscle mass, which also slows down your metabolism leading to weight gain, pre-diabetes, or type 2 diabetes and all its complications.

We tend to lose muscle mass as we age because the secretion muscle-building hormones declines in the aging process. These hormones include Growth Hormone, Testosterone, Estrogen, Progesterone, Insulin-like Growth Factor-1. They all decline as we age and thus, allow our muscle mass to be broken down. However, there is an amino acid in dairy products known as Leucine that has been proven to turn on muscle protein synthesis, even in older persons, reversing age-related muscle loss. Even in people who don’t exercise the ability of Leucine to turn on the mTOR pathway in muscle cells stimulates muscle protein synthesis to occur, reversing the loss of muscle mass and increasing strength. Of course, if you add resistance training to the intake of Leucine the results will be much better.

So, how much Leucine do you need each day and where should you get it? Well, first let’s understand the problem that exists with sub-optimal Leucine intake across the population. As people age, they tend to ingest less and less protein, and less and less Leucine, often having only one meal a day that contains a meaningful amount of protein and Leucine (usually dinner).  The study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that by simply ingesting 3-4 gm of Leucine at breakfast and lunch it increased muscle mass and strength in older subjects, even in those not performing resistance exercise. The average older person has been shown to ingest less than 2 gm of Leucine at breakfast and lunch. The goal is to get that number up to 4 gm if possible. The simplest way to do this, in my opinion, is to add 4 oz (half a cup) of non-fat Greek yogurt to your breakfast and lunch. This provides the missing 2 gm of Leucine and adds a total of 8-9 gm of total protein. The other way to add Leucine that I really like is to ingest a whey protein shake each day. Whey protein is very high in Leucine and contains the other amino acids that best support muscle protein synthesis. One scoop or 25 gm of a whey protein shake powder mixed in a blender with water and ice cubes (to prevent the ingestion of excess calories) is a sure-fire way to get the missing Leucine into your daily diet. These seem like small things to do, but over time they can help preserve your strength and muscle mass, and to a large degree, your quality of life.

I have included a link to the research in the text below


1.American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Feb 2018)


2. Leucine in Greek Yogurt


Eat Smart, Live Well, Look Great

Dr. Meschino

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