Loss of strength, a greater concern that loss of muscle.
Late last month I ended up getting emergency abdominal surgery, in the matter of hours my world turned upside down. Thankfully all turned out ok but what was interesting to me was how much muscle I lost in just 2 weeks. I am a rare breed amongst women. I have always been able to build muscle and after I retired from competing I couldn’t lose the muscle if I tried (and I really tried). It took a decade to bring my physique down to a size I felt more comfortable with.
So now 2 weeks post surgery and I love lost about 10 pounds, and all of it muscle. I put on my stretch jeans and they didn’t need to stretch. I was shaving my legs and I could pull the skin of my legs to that it didn’t bunch up !! Never, never have I experienced this!! Mad at myself, because this was totally avoidable (see the last post on BCAA) I could have forced down some amino acid supplements instead of living off Halo Top ice cream or a fortnight.
I’m not too concerned because if there is one thing I know how to do well, it is build muscle. I just didn’t think I would have to make it a priority again.
The lose skin was a bummer but what really threw me was my loss of strength. This week I got back into the gym. My husband built me the most amazing dream gym in our new house and all I have been able to do is look at it, so I was really excited to actually get to use it! I go under the squat bar and nearly dropped to my knees. I have never been super strong on quads but on any given day I can put 150 on my back for reps. This week I got 6 reps with 65lb AND I was huffing and puffing. Moving on to some chest and my usual 25 pushups had dropped to 2 very dubious reps. In 2 weeks my strength has dropped by at least 60% and this for me in a total head game.
I am a pretty vain woman. Working in gyms all my life, with walls of mirrors all day makes you a little self critial, but this was interesting because it wasnt the visual loss iof muscle which concerned me most, it was the total loss of strength,
So in this blog post lets discuss DYNAPENIA. Srcopenia is well documented as the loss of muscle mass that occurs, especiallty when we age but Dynapenia is the loss of strength and the two dont always go exactly hand in hand as you might expect. Credit for the details of this post go to Dr Jurgelwicz of Designs by Health
Having weak muscles and poor strength can affect people of any age, but it may be particularly devastating for older people. Quality of life in older age is intimately tied to one’s degree of mobility, range of motion, and movement without pain. Independent living depends on being able to conduct everyday activities that require a certain degree of muscle strength, such as carrying heavy grocery bags from the car into the house, walking up or down stairs, and getting up out of a chair easily and without a struggle.
. According to one study a staggering 16% to 18% of women and 8% to 10% of men in the U.S. over age 65 cannot lift 10 pounds or stoop or kneel down. Forget that gym workout, now we are talking about just getting out of a car or carryig a shopping bad
The age-related loss of muscle strength is not fully and directly correlated with the loss of muscle mass. According to studies, muscle strength is lost at a substantially higher rate than muscle mass, and gaining muscle mass does not necessarily prevent a decline in muscle strength.
For example, in a small cohort of men over age 69 with low IGF-1 levels but who were otherwise healthy, growth hormone treatment for six months resulted in increased lean tissue mass and decreased fat mass, but no improvements in functional ability. And while both sarcopenia and dynapenia are risk factors for functional limitation in older adults, dynapenia seems to have a slight edge over sarcopenia in contributing to these outcomes.
Precise diagnostic criteria for identifying dynapenia are lacking, but two commonly used determinants are grip strength and knee extensor strength. And if muscle size isn’t the main issue in dynapenia, then what is? Researchers believe the loss of strength is closely related to neurological deficits that affect muscle activation and intrinsic force generation. There may be a loss of ability to recruit and fully engage motor neurons and muscle fibers, which may occur regardless of the size of a muscle.
Data indicates that individuals over age 65 show as much as a 43% volume decrease in premotor cortex neuron cell body size compared to younger people, and it has been observed that older adults have maximal motor unit firing rates 35% to 40% lower than those of younger adults.
Not much is known about the role of nutrition in dynapenia, except that the same healthy diet and lifestyle habits that promote general health and wellness might help stave off the neurodegeneration underlying dynapenia. (And to whatever extent dynapenia may be at least somewhat influenced by sarcopenia, protein requirements for older people are likely significantly higher than general dietary guidelines suggest.) That being said, with the goal of delaying this, what holds true of so many other things in life—use it or lose it—likely applies.
To whatever extent possible, people should continue to engage in muscle-strengthening activities as they age. A walk or jog along a scenic outdoor path is great, but for healthy aging, lifting heavy things once in a while might be just as important as a good diet.
This information came to me at just the right time, as I start to hit the gym again, my focus is back to lifting big and basic. It is fun for me because lifting big things was always fun for me. Following my competitive years, it had been a struggle to lose the mass so I deliberately didn’t train to my strength max but today I find myself full circle and going back the basics of heavy lifting. Watch this space as my focus for the rest of 2017 is to fill out this skin and get the muscle back that I have taken for granted for so long. Ho hum life will throw you some lemons, time to make some lemonade 🙂