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Fuel Your Strength Episode 415: Is Muscle Anti Aging

Is Muscle Anti-Aging?

Our Western society is, to put it frankly, obsessed with the idea of anti-aging and the fountain of youth. This multi-billion-dollar-a-year industry that is mainly targeted at women focuses on all of the products and things you can do to maintain the appearance of youth on the outside of your body. But what about what is going on in the inside?

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Key Takeaways

If You Are Interested in Using Muscle to Improve Your Aging, You Should:

  1. Start strength training now if you haven’t already
  2. Follow a plan that is progressive and will help you
  3. Outsource to a professional in order to take the next step

Preserving Your Muscle and Quality of Life

Muscle is the most critical topic that is missing from the majority of conversations around aging. Preserving our muscle mass as we get older is one of the best ways to maintain our quality of life and longevity as we transition through menopause and beyond. Developing and maintaining muscle not only makes you feel good but is a key factor in how you age.

The Unsung Hero of Anti-Aging

While you may not be able to prevent 100% of the muscle mass loss you may experience as you get older, strength training is the best action you can take to take steps in that direction. 

Muscle mass is the unsung hero of the anti-aging discussion, and is about so much more than vanity and appearances. If you want to preserve your quality of life and longevity as you age, maintaining your muscle is the first thing you need to think about.

How has strength training changed your approach to aging? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below.

In This Episode

  • Exploring what the term anti-aging really means in modern Western society (4:45)
  • Evidence-based statistics to help you understand the aging landscape (9:02)
  • Why you need to pay attention to strength training, especially during the menopause transition (13:21)
  • What you need to know about the relationship between estrogen and muscle (17:11)
  • Things you can do about your muscle mass as you age (25:02)

Quotes

“If there is one thing that gets missed over time and time and time again in the conversation about aging, it is the unsung hero, muscle.” (3:12)

“I don’t want to just live to be very old in terms of my years, but I also would like to have as much quality of life, and quality of health, as possible.” (8:29)

“No matter where on the spectrum you are, it is absolutely important and possible for you to start strength training now and reap some of these benefits.” (15:53)

“Not only does this affect performance in terms of sports and athletics and fitness, but also, life.” (21:48)

“This is all about your longevity, quality of programming, quality of life, and how strength training is going to serve you going forward.” (29:01)

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Related Episodes

FYS #411: Why You Need A Strength Training Program

FYS #408: Growth Mindset in Fitness

FYS #407: The Female Athlete Health Report with Kyniska Advocacy

Is Muscle Anti-Aging? Transcript

One doesn’t have to look very far before you realize that anti-aging is an obsession by most people, especially in the Western world. But we are missing one of the most critical topics in the conversation of aging. What is it? We’re going to talk about it on this episode of the podcast. If you’re an athletic 40, 40-something woman who loves lifting weights, challenging yourself, and doing hardship, the Fuel Your Strength podcast is for you. You’ll learn how to eat, train, and recover smarter. So you build strength and muscle, have more energy, and perform better in and out of the gym. I’m strength nutrition strategist and weightlifting coach Steph Gaudreau.

The Fuel Your Strength podcast dives into evidence-based strategies for nutrition training and recovery. And why once you’re approaching your 40s and beyond, you need to do things a little differently than you did in your 20s. We’re here to challenge the limiting industry narratives about what women can and should do in training and beyond. If that sounds good, hit subscribe on your favorite podcast app, and let’s go.

Before we dive in, if you listen to this episode, and you’re like, Okay, I am ready to get to work. I want to take my strength, muscle energy, and performance and take it up a notch. I want to take it to that next level. I want to feel like a badass but at the same time, do it in a way that works with my physiology as an athletic woman over 40 with coaching and community support. And go ahead and check out Strength Nutrition Unlocked.

This is my group program, we’re gonna lay out the framework for you and guide you as you implement and really customize it to all the things that you’re doing your preferences, your likes, and the places you want to go with it, then go ahead and get onboard, you can start your process by submitting an application at StephGaudreau.com/apply. We’d love to hear from you and see you inside the program.

Welcome back to the podcast. Thanks so much for being with me. Today, we are gonna get into it. Talking about anti-aging, longevity, and the fountain of youth. Our culture is obsessed with these topics and the industry around anti-aging is worth billions of dollars every single year, whether its products, its programs, or everything from snake oil to evidence-based practices about how we stem aging.

There is no shortage of conversation on this topic. But if there is one thing that gets missed over time and time and time again in the conversation about aging. It is the unsung hero and probably no surprise to anyone listening to this podcast muscle. In this episode, we’re going to go over some of the statistics about aging and muscle. Why do we really need to think about preserving our muscle mass, especially as we age?

And of course, what can we do about this, there is good news, there is hope on the horizon. So definitely stick with me on this episode. Before we go any further. Make sure you ring the bell for more notifications if you’re watching here on YouTube. And of course, please subscribe to the channel. And if you’re listening on your favorite podcast app, please hit subscribe there as well. And if you love the show, please leave us a rating on your favorite podcast app.

Okay, let’s go ahead and get into this. And believe me, as I was even thinking about how I wanted to title this show, I was thinking very carefully about the words I wanted to use because there is a ton of debate about the words anti-aging, about even colloquial terms like fountain of youth. And aging is a really touchy subject for so many people. I think if we had to boil it down, it’s because we are afraid of death and dying generally speaking as human beings. I am one of those people who doesn’t like to talk about it, or think about it, because I like being alive and I love my people and I just can’t imagine. I can’t imagine all of that.

So, when we talk about the term anti-aging and just to set up this podcast, it really can create this narrative that says hey, aging is a bad thing. So we have to fight against it. I wanted to use the term pro aging but I also feel like It can be taken out of context to me, and how can we accelerate the aging process. Fountain of Youth, of course, is very focused on usefulness. And when we talk about these topics, especially with women and men, women are generally not allowed to age, according to society and culture, in the same way that men are. And so if you take a look at the lion’s share of anti-aging, products and services, and all of these things that exist in the world, they are, I would say, predominantly focused on women.

Now, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t men who are going in for procedures, cosmetic procedures, plastic surgery, who are using things, whether it’s hair dye, it’s Botox, I mean, you name it, there are probably I’m sure many men who are doing these things. But I would say the majority of people trying to stop the aging process are women and retain that usefulness. And at the same time, I think that a lot of what is being pursued is very, it’s truly on the level of the outside, it’s our outside container. It’s it’s skin deep. And so anyone who listens to this podcast knows that I have you meet me at a party and probably going to talk about two things, protein, and muscle, or lifting weights, and why these things are super, super important for us.

And it’s really the thing I’ve dedicated my professional life to helping women do is to address these things. So I just want to say that my personal approach to this is, I am not someone who is trying to turn back the hands of time and look 20. And I am somebody who is very much aware that now being in my mid-40s, I’m seeing my family, getting older family members, and I’m seeing quite honestly friends and peers get very ill or pass away. And it’s fuckin weird. And I don’t like it. I also realize how much making it to my mid-40s. And even being here on this planet doing this podcast and talking to all of you right now is a privilege and a gift to be here to have this opportunity to talk to you.

So I am very much somebody who’s going to come at this podcast from the scientific lens. I am, you know, we could talk all day about whether or not certain, say beauty standards or cosmetic, or plastic surgery procedures, like how this is shaping the world and all the ways in which it could be positive or negative. And that’s not what the purpose of this episode is. But it’s really to examine the unsung hero. In all of this discussion, the thing that very few people still if we take a look at the world at large, very few people are talking about which is muscles role in aging, longevity, and quality of life. So we’ve, in my opinion, I don’t want just to live to be very old in terms of my years.

But I also would like to have as much quality of life and quality of health as possible to the degree with which I can influence those things. So that’s how I’m coming at this podcast today. But I really want to leave you with a think piece, but also some statistics looking at some of the science behind this and really some of the evidence-based practice that comes out of it. So first things first, let’s get some general information out of the way since this is important for you to kind of understand how we’re framing this conversation. Once we hit the age of about 30.

We collectively, right? Begin to lose muscle mass. So we’re going to center our conversation mostly on muscle mass Today, we begin to lose three to 8% of our muscle per decade. Now, of course, that’s going to vary depending on the individual. And it’s also going to vary as our years progress, that loss is typically less or a smaller percentage as we’re younger, and then it begins to accelerate. And if we are a woman, we are somebody who had functioning ovaries at some point and we go through the menopause transition. We also have the fluctuation of hormones including estrogen during that time and then once we are postmenopausal our level of estrogen is very, very low.

And that has an impact and we start to see kind of Another decline in muscle mass around that time. So things may not proceed at the same rate. And I just want to be a little bit clearer there. Now, if we extrapolate those numbers out, and I’ve really struggled to find a clear answer, because I think, of course, at this point, we’re just using statistics and looking at populations, and so on.

But I did find a couple of references where the supposition is that by the time you’re in your 80s, you could potentially face losing up to 1/3 of your muscle mass if you choose to do nothing to address this. So just kind of keep that in the back of your mind. And we’re not just talking about vanity here. Again, I think this is going to be a theme of this episode a lot of the anti-aging quote-unquote, things that people want to do are for the exterior of their bodies, their skin, their hair, and how they present themselves. And really, I want to talk about the things that a lot of people don’t want to talk about, which is what’s going on on the inside.

And then frankly, how that affects things like health and quality of life. So just keep that statistic in the back of your mind here. And why this really matters, again, is not just a vanity or an outward thing and saying, Hey, you used to look jacked when you were in your 30s. And now you don’t, you know people are very concerned with their skin and skin laxity and how that changes. And the bottom line is, is that as we experience that loss of muscle, we also begin to have a loss of function, a loss of function. So sarcopenia is the condition that we have a risk factor for when we begin to lose more and more muscle mass. And sarcopenia is really defined as the loss of strength along with the loss of mass. So muscle mass and strength are two different things.

But of course, they are linked and related. And so the concern is, is that as we continue on, if we do nothing to intervene, we put ourselves at an increased risk of sarcopenia. And that has a negative impact on our functionality. And also things like our strength. And then of course, we can extrapolate that out to longevity and quality of life. Of course, there are also other aspects here, for example, bone health, bone density, and bone strength, which we’re not going to touch really On this episode, but just know that they are playing a role as well, in that.

So again, I think the good news is, is that there is something we can do to mitigate this. And that’s what we’re going to talk about kind of in part two of this episode. But I want to go back to this idea of the menopause transition, or what some people call the menopause spectrum, which is really that Peri menopausal period, the one day technically of menopause, and then life post-menopausal. So again, menopause is technically one, it’s the day that marks when you have had a lack of a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months.

As you can imagine, again, hormonal fluctuations during perimenopause mean that not only can people feel and feel different in strange unpredictable, and unsettling ways. But that fluctuation is really going up and down. Hence, some of the unpredictability in things like complaints, symptoms, and things that folks are experiencing are very unpleasant. And frankly, it can run the gamut from mild to severe. So it’s, again, going to depend on the person, but then we are post-menopause after that one day.

And that’s where we will live the rest of our lives in a postmenopausal period. So a couple of things here, and I’m going to be speaking in more general terms. And I also want to be clear that the science on some of this stuff is still being worked out. So I would expect that in the future as there is more of a call to include women in the research more that we may see some of these details being elucidated. Maybe some of the details will change. So I just want to connect the dots a bit for anyone listening to this and thinking, why is it important, especially if we are in the menopause transition? We’re along the menopause spectrum, even if we’re pre-menopausal.

Why do we need to pay attention to strength training muscle mass, and so on? And I’ll also say if you are pre-menopausal and you’re not yet in perimenopause, then if you’re starting on strength training now, that is awesome. If you are in perimenopause, and you’re like holy shit, I need to start strength training now. Great, if you’re postmenopausal, and you’re just now realizing that strength training is very important. Excellent.

You know, we always say the best time to start something was probably 15 or 20 years ago, but the next best time is fucking today, it is now it is, there’s no more time to waste. So just know that no matter where on that spectrum you are, it is absolutely important and possible for you to start strength training now and reap some of these benefits, and perhaps make up some of the tissue that you’ve lost.

Now, I will say also, before we go into some of the roles of estrogen in muscle, that we may not be able to preserve all of the muscle mass we potentially could lose. So even if we’re strength training, we may still see a decline in our muscle mass, we have some things to overcome here, right? If our rate of muscle protein breakdown, on the whole, is going to exceed the rate of muscle protein synthesis, we start to become in that negative muscle protein state where we’re starting to lose mass, we may also see punctuated periods of our lives potentially marked by an injury and illness, a surgery a very stressful event, where we were doing pretty good in terms of maintaining the muscle that we had, or maybe we had put some back on, and boom, that event happens.

And we have a significant decline. And now we’re trying to work our way back up. So things can vary, we may not be able to prevent 100% of the muscle loss that we finally end up experiencing. But we can go a long way by taking the right action. So when it comes to estrogen and muscle, right, just to kind of give you some broad stroke brushstroke bullet points. So as we go through the menopause transition, and we end up in post menopause, we have to understand that estrogen appears to play a role in maintaining muscle mass. And it does this in part by promoting muscle protein synthesis and preventing muscle protein breakdown. And I just spoke about those two things.

So you might think of them like a seesaw. And when those two things break down in synthesis. synthesis means to make when the breakdown or when the balance, excuse me between breakdown in and synthesis is about the same, then we’re at net zero, but when breakdown starts to exceed the amount we’re making, now we get into that muscle loss state potentially. So when estrogen levels decline, during and after menopause, that balance is thrown off. So there’s more breakdown than there is synthesis. And that can lead to that loss of muscle mass over time, you might even see that when you’re in Peri or post-menopause, things were kind of humming along, okay, maybe you weren’t doing any strength training or any resistance training and it was fine. And then you’re I hear this a ton.

Boom, I woke up and I realized that a lot of the muscle had sort of slipped slide it off my body and what happened. Perhaps that rate of breakdown is even further accelerated based on what you were experiencing before. Also, when it comes to estrogen, we are looking at a decline in muscle strength strength is the ability to exert force on an external object and move that object if we’re speaking in very general terms here. Again, I’m not a physical exercise physiologist or an exercise scientist, but I’m just trying to give it to you and layman’s terms here to understand. So a decline in estrogen can result in a reduction in muscle strength. So strength is the ability to exert force on an object and move something. And power.

Power is our ability to move quickly. So power has to do with speed applied to that situation. So can we move heavy? And can we move quickly those two things take a hit as we go through this transitional period. And that’s important because this is where the what do we do about this comes into play. So this can make it more challenging for us as we go through the menopause transition to retain strength and retain speed and how Our and you might think cool stuff like, I don’t care, I’m not jumping around and doing all these things. But anytime you need to engage your muscle fibers quickly and get them to fire fast, it could even be something like you stub your toe as you’re walking, and you start to pitch forward. And I’ve told this story before about a lady we saw, stumble in slow motion.

And it was terrifying because she was on the concrete and going facedown in an intersection. And she just couldn’t catch herself, right, because I’m assuming here, right, she just couldn’t move her feet fast enough to get her feet back under her. And so she fell. And this happens much more frequently as we age. And of course, falls are a huge risk factor in fractures. And so we have to think about that, as well. There is also some evidence to potentially suggest, although it appears to be from what I understand slightly unclear at this point, that some studies suggest that the loss of estrogen could potentially influence changes in muscle fiber composition.

So again, to put it in general layman’s terms, we have a slow twitch type of muscle fiber, and we have a fast twitch type of muscle fiber, of which there are a couple of different varieties. The bottom line here is we may see more of a shift toward that slower twitch muscle fiber. And again, that leads to that loss of power production, the last loss of strength and force to be able to move loads. And that not only does that affect performance in terms of sports and athletics and fitness, but also life. So we want to be able to move quickly and move heavy loads, we want to be able to get our balance of muscle protein synthesis to break downshifted to as much synthesis as we can. And training plays a major role in that. So I also want to say here that it is not the only thing that matters.

And time and time and time again, I hear this confusion slash complaint of I’m trying to lift I’m trying to shift my training because I know that I need to also challenge my muscles more. And I’m still not seeing a lot of change. Why is that happening? And when we dig a little bit into the nutritional aspect, and of course sleep and recovery, and overall stress levels. Oftentimes, what I see with folks is their nutrition is just not where it needs to be. So we can’t build muscle tissue out of thin air, we have to also provide all of the nutrients we have to give our body the right raw materials along with the stimulus of our training to then be able to trigger muscle protein synthesis, to carry it out and to add muscle tissue. And of course, the training is a stimulus for that.

But we need to provide the raw materials, it’s like showing up at a construction site to build the house and all the workers are there. But there’s no lumber there are there’s no concrete, there’s no rebar, there’s no tools, there’s nothing with which to construct. And we may also be experiencing more anabolic resistance, which is this general idea that it is just that much harder to build tissue, we may need even more protein. Research seems to suggest that that is the case for women especially, but also for older men is that we need more protein intake as we get older due to this anabolic resistance. That’s a story and a topic for another day. We’ll also need to see adequate calories. Again, another story for another day.

Although we’ve done many, many podcasts, about energy levels, caloric intake, and avoiding low energy availability. We’ve talked about protein, we’ve talked about carbs. So go back and listen to those episodes if you need a refresher, but I’m sure we’ll bring them back up as we tie a nice bow on some of these episodes that I’m going to be doing going forward which are centered on why muscle mass is so key for us as we are aging. Let’s move into the very last part of this podcast which is what do we do about this I’m going to give you what I just told you why I’m going to give you what and I want to say here too if you need help with the how which is actually getting a lifting plan.

Then I want you to go to my website and check out either Dynamic Dumbbells or Strong with Steph. Outsource this, take it off your plate. Y’all are busy. Most of you are not coaches, you don’t have experience in programming. And even though you have the best of intentions. You’re not following a plan that’s progressive enough you’re not working in the right ranges. In terms of strength, you just need help. Let me help me help you. So go check those out, you can see those options dynamic dumbbells are better for ultra beginners, you don’t have any experience at all.

Strongest stuff is better if you have at least three months of lifting or looking for a 12-month progressive strength plan templated plan that is purpose-built for women over 40 and it’s in an app hallelujah, we love that so go check those out. And we’ll link all of that in the show notes. So what do we do about this is we strength train, we work our muscles in order to prompt them to gain strength, which is that ability to contract and have force production.

We also can’t forget about muscle-building ranges. And that’s important in my opinion, I still want to see my folks doing some amount of work in the hypertrophy ranges. Even though I do not have bodybuilding programs, this is not a bodybuilding program that I offer. But you’re still gonna see, frankly, some of you need a little bit more help in adding that muscle mass back or just gaining a little bit more muscle mass because you’ve lost some. So I also will include that. And that’s important, what is the difference, generally speaking, is going to be the load.

So strength ranges in terms of strength lifting is going to be higher loads, fewer repetitions, and more muscle-building ranges are going to vary muscle building ranges are quite wide. But broad brushstrokes here, we’re gonna see moderate weights, moderate repetitions, this is where accessory work is fucking fantastic for this. And I put those together in strong with stuff, that is how the program works, we also want to see power production. So we want to challenge ourselves to move quickly.

This does not always mean plyometrics. We will probably talk about plyometrics and power exercise at some point on this podcast in the future but suffice to say, we want to challenge our bodies to move quickly. Now, that could also be stuff like sprinting, for example, sprint intervals. But we can also accomplish that in the gym as well in terms of lifting weights or moving quickly in terms of plyometrics and other types of power-generating exercises. So that’s what I would say there, right, again, I just gave you the why, and the what.

And I would also encourage you now to go and seek out a strength program, if you don’t currently have one, let a professional, do that heavy lifting of designing the program, writing the program, and turning it into the app, all that stuff. Let us do that for you. And then it’s amazing. I have heard from so many of the women who are lifting in my program who say, okay, the idea that I could just open the app, I see my workouts, I see the exercise demo videos, I see all of it reps, sets, exercise selection, RPE, or intensity, I see tempo, I see exercise substitutions, if I need them, like holy shit, this has taken so much pressure off of me and so much, it’s opened up so much brain space for me because I don’t have to think about that part, I can just show up and implement.

And that’s improved my consistency. I’ve also heard things like I would not have been doing any balanced training or any plyometrics. I wasn’t sure how to get started with plyometrics and power and weaving that in, I had no idea how to begin lifting heavier weights lifting more challenging loads. And we will progress you through that. So you have a really strong foundation. And we’re not just throwing you under a mega-heavy barbell on week one. This is all about your longevity, quality of programming quality of life, and how strength train is going to serve you going forward.

All right, that does it for this episode of the podcast. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Are you currently strength training? What do you love about it? If not, what’s holding you back? Either one of those two questions, whichever one applies, let me know in the comments here, or send me a direct message on Instagram. And let me know. I was so curious. And I would love to see if I have a resource potentially that can help you take that next step. Make sure you also subscribe on YouTube here hit the bell for more notifications. And of course, please hit subscribe on your favorite podcast app.

Very last thing if you’re looking for a system to put everything together we mentioned strength training and the options I have for you there. But if you’re looking for the entire framework, Fuel Your Strength framework that I teach my students along with the accountability, weekly coaching, and support to put all of this into practice the fueling and nutrition Element training element recovery aspects I’m stress management, then I would love to encourage you to check out Strength Nutrition Unlocked.

This is my signature program where I walk my students through the exact steps and the implementation so you can build muscle, and improve your strength, and your performance both in and out of the gym. You can find out more and apply at StephGaudreau.com/apply. Thanks so much for being with me. Stay tuned for future episodes, where we dive into other elements of muscle and strength. I can’t wait to share that with you. It’s so important and I’m so glad that you’re with me on this episode. Until then, stay strong.

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Steph Gaudreau

Hi, I'm Steph Gaudreau (CISSN, NASM-CPT)!

Nutrition and fitness coach for women, Lord of the Rings nerd, and depending on who you ask, crazy cat lady. My mission is to help you fuel for more: bigger muscles, strength, energy, and possibilities. We’ll do it with my signature blend of science, strategy…and a little bit of sass.

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