It’s a sad fact of life that everyday things like losing weight and aging can cause you to lose lean muscle mass. In fact, according to Compass by WebMD, many individuals experience a 3% to 5% decrease in their lean muscle supply every 10 years after turning 30. If you haven’t noticed, listen in to find out five signs you’re losing muscle mass and don’t even realize it. And next, don’t miss the 5 Exercises Men Should Avoid To Restore Muscle, Experts Say.
Dieting, inactivity, chronic disease, and aging can all cause a decrease in muscle mass.
Mike Bohl, MD, MPH, ALMDirector of Medical Content and Education at Ro, certified personal trainer and member of our Board of Physicians, tells Eat This, Not That!, “People often have the goal of losing weight, but this can come with a less than desirable side effect: losing muscle mass as well.” Your body needs a certain level of energy to function effectively every day. If you are dieting and consuming fewer calories, your body lacks the energy it needs to run.
“[When dieting,] the hope is that your body will then burn fat for excess energy—which it mostly does—but, to a lesser extent, your body will also burn protein (especially if you’re on an extreme diet and your body is looking everywhere. can for energy sources),” says Dr. Bohl. “But dieting isn’t the only time you might lose muscle mass. Certain chronic diseases can cause loss of muscle mass, everyone naturally loses some muscle mass as they age, and even just living a sedentary lifestyle can cause a loss of muscle mass.”
If you realize this may be happening, you can be proactive by taking the right steps to change the situation and maintain your independence and ability to function. Read on for signs you may be losing muscle.
1. You lose weight too quickly.
Losing weight quickly is a sign you’re losing muscle, too. Dr. Bohl warns, “This may seem like a good thing at first, if your goal is to lose weight and you see the number on the scale dropping day by day. But it can also be a sign that you’re exercising too hard or dieting you overdo it and your body becomes malnourished, resulting in fat and muscle loss.”
Typically, losing one to two pounds per week is a healthy plan, or four to eight pounds per month. A rate faster than that can result in muscle loss.
2. You’re not progressing, or your workouts are getting harder.
Another indicator of muscle loss is that your fitness routine may feel more challenging, or that your progress has stalled. Dr. Bohl suggests, “If you’re feeling weaker, having difficulty performing tasks you used to be able to do, or not seeing any improvement in strength in the gym over time, your muscles may need more attention.”
3. You are more tired than usual.
If you’ve been feeling more tired recently, it’s a good sign you’re losing muscle. Dr. Bohl says, “If you feel sluggish or lack energy, it may mean your body is not getting enough nutrition, and it may be using burned-out muscles.”
4. You may look less muscular.
You may notice a difference in your appearance, but it can take time to really notice. Be careful with how your clothes look, especially where you’re usually more muscular. Dr. Bohl gives an example, saying, “If your arms are usually tight around your biceps or your shirt is usually tight around your chest but suddenly everything feels looser, it’s probably muscle mass you’re losing and not just fat.”
5. You lose a pound, but your composition is the same.
Finally, if you’re losing weight, but your body composition hasn’t changed, you’re likely losing muscle as well as fat. Dr, Bohl points out, “There are several different ways to measure body composition, including with calipers or bioelectrical impedance analysis (which passes a weak electric current through the body). So if your weight is down but your body fat percentage is the same. , this means fat isn’t the only thing you’ve lost. Tools to measure body composition can be purchased (for example, many modern scales now include bioelectrical impedance analysis) and are also often available for use at the gym.”
Now that you know what’s causing you to lose muscle, let’s talk about what you can do to combat it.
When it comes to preventing the loss of lean muscle mass and gaining it back, it’s important to know the cause. If you’re on an aggressive diet that’s causing you to lose muscle, it’s time to reevaluate your plan. If your muscle loss is the result of a chronic condition, it is important to contact your doctor to find out the best way to achieve a healthy body composition.
If a sedentary lifestyle is causing muscle mass loss, it may be time to start an exercise regimen as soon as possible. Dr. Bohl recommends, “Even something small, like going for a walk every day, is a step in the right direction.”
Once you’ve tackled the muscle loss route, it’s time to shift your efforts to strength training and protein intake. Dr. Bohl tells us, “It’s simple, but training your muscles is the best thing you can do to maintain and grow them. You can do this with structured exercise—like going to the gym and working out with machines, free weights, or bands—or exercise. unstructured—like yard work and other manual tasks.”
He shared that the amount of protein that should be taken daily to build and maintain muscle mass is between 1.4 to 2.0 grams per kilogram of body weight.