Are you a runner who assumes that the more you train, the more energy you have? 

But have you noticed a decrease in your ability to perform like you did before? 

Then, you might be encountering Sarcopenia. 

Sarcopenia is a condition that causes loss of muscle mass and strength as we age. It affects many older adults and can lead to a decline in physical function, an increased risk of falls, and a loss of independence.

In this article, we will provide you with everything you need to know about this condition. Read on to understand what it is, how to prevent it, and how to get back to your training peak.

What is Sarcopenia?

Sarcopenia refers to the gradual loss of muscle mass, strength, and function that typically occurs as part of the natural aging process. 

As you get older, your body’s ability to build and maintain muscle tissue declines, which can lead to a variety of physical problems, including weakness, fatigue, and difficulty with activities of daily living. 

While sarcopenia is most commonly associated with older adults, it can also affect individuals of any age who engage in prolonged periods of inactivity or have certain medical conditions that affect muscle function. 

In addition, athletes who have been training for an extended period of time may also be at risk of developing sarcopenia due to the wear and tear on their muscles. Fortunately, several strategies can help prevent or slow the progression of sarcopenia, including regular exercise, a balanced and nutritious diet, and certain medications or supplements.

Who Does Sarcopenia Affect?

Sarcopenia is most commonly observed in individuals aged 60 and older, with the prevalence increasing as age advances. Both men and women are equally affected, although studies on specific ethnicities yield inconsistent results. 

The occurrence of sarcopenia tends to rise in individuals with chronic diseases.

How Common Is Sarcopenia?

Sarcopenia is a prevalent health condition that impacts millions of individuals globally, especially those above the age of 50. Unfortunately, a significant number of people may remain undiagnosed or untreated, leading to various health complications.

Sarcopenia has varying prevalence across the world, which is influenced by a range of factors such as geographic location, diagnostic criteria, and the method employed to measure muscle mass. According to estimates, the overall occurrence of sarcopenia in individuals aged 60 years and above is approximately 10% for both genders.

What Effects Does Sarcopenia Have On My Body?

Sarcopenia results from a reduction in both the quantity and size of muscle fibres, leading to muscle thinning (muscle atrophy).

Muscle atrophy refers to the reduction in muscle mass and function, which can lead to weakness, fatigue, and loss of power. These symptoms can significantly impact your performance, leading to a decline in your ability to achieve your physical goals. 

The aging process introduces changes that contribute significantly to the development of sarcopenia. For example, the diminished production of proteins necessary for muscle growth is a key factor. This reduction in protein availability causes a decrease in the size of muscle cells.

Moreover, hormonal changes associated with aging, such as alterations in testosterone and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), impact muscle fibers and contribute to the onset of sarcopenia.

What Are The Symptoms Of Sarcopenia?

The primary symptom of sarcopenia is muscle weakness. Additional symptoms may include:

  1. Decrease in muscle size.
  2. Trouble climbing stairs.
  3. Difficulty performing daily activities.
  4. Walking slowly.
  5. Poor balance and an increased risk of falls.
  6. Loss of stamina.

What Are The Major Causes Of Sarcopenia 

The primary cause of sarcopenia is the natural aging process. You start losing muscle mass and strength gradually in your 30s or 40s, with this process accelerating between the ages of 65 and 80. 

While not necessarily sarcopenia, I recently noticed a large drop in my own strength when I tried to get a box down from the attic that I have always been able to put away and take down as required. I slid it out and was almost crushed under the weight. A not so gentle reminder of losing strength as I age.

Rates can vary, but individuals with sarcopenia may experience a loss of up to 8% of muscle mass each decade. While everyone loses muscle mass with age, those with sarcopenia tend to lose it more rapidly.

In addition to aging, researchers have identified other potential risk factors for sarcopenia, including:

  1. Obesity.
  2. Rheumatoid arthritis.
  3. Insulin resistance.
  4. Physical inactivity.
  5. Malnutrition or inadequate protein intake.
  6. The decline in the number of nerve cells that send messages from your brain to your muscles instructing them to move.
  7. Chronic diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), kidney disease, diabetes, cancer, and HIV.
  8. Reduction in hormone levels.
  9. Decreased ability to convert protein to energy.

How Can You Prevent Sarcopenia?

Preventing muscle loss as we age is significant. Here are some top strategies to help you fight sarcopenia:

  1. Prioritize Protein Intake

One of the most important factors in preventing sarcopenia is maintaining a steady supply of dietary protein. 

Experts recommend that adults aim to consume 1.6-1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. It’s important to note that not all sources of protein are created equal. High-quality sources of protein, such as lean meats, eggs, and dairy products, are ideal. 

These sources contain all the essential amino acids that your body needs to build and repair muscles. If you struggle to get enough protein from your diet, consider adding a high-quality protein supplement to your daily routine. 

  1. Spread Your Protein Intake Throughout The Day

To effectively build and maintain muscle, it’s important to understand that your body requires a consistent supply of amino acids throughout the day. 

Simply consuming a large amount of protein in one sitting may not be sufficient to support muscle growth and repair. 

To ensure that your muscles receive a steady stream of amino acids, aim to consume at least 0.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per meal. 

Alternatively, you can aim for at least 5-6 grams of leucine, an essential amino acid, per meal. Leucine is particularly important because it stimulates muscle protein synthesis and helps to prevent muscle breakdown. 

  1. Maintain a positive energy balance

To build muscle, it’s important to maintain a positive energy balance. This means that you need to consume more calories than you burn. 

However, it’s important to note that this doesn’t necessarily mean that you should go all out when it comes to calorie consumption. Rather, you should be mindful of your energy intake and make sure that you’re consuming enough to support muscle growth, without overdoing it. 

At the same time, it’s important to avoid undereating, as this can prevent your muscles from getting the nutrients they need to grow and recover properly. 

So, it’s important to strike the right balance between calorie consumption and energy expenditure, while also paying attention to the quality of the nutrients you’re consuming.

  1. Take Care Of Your Gut Health

Maintaining a healthy gut is crucial not only for digestive health but also for muscle function and overall well-being. 

The microorganisms in our digestive tract, collectively known as the gut microbiome, are essential to our health. They help us absorb nutrients from food, regulate our immune system, and prevent harmful pathogens from growing.

To keep your gut microbiome healthy, consuming a variety of foods in your diet is essential. Incorporating a wide range of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fermented foods like yogurt and kefir can help you achieve this.

Fermented foods are particularly beneficial as they contain probiotics, which are live microorganisms that can improve the balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut.

In addition to diet, taking a high-quality probiotic supplement can also help maintain a healthy gut microbiome. Probiotics are available in various forms, including capsules, powders, and liquids. When selecting a probiotic supplement, look for one that contains a diverse range of bacterial strains, and make sure to follow the dosage instructions carefully.

  1. Control inflammation

Chronic inflammation is a condition where your body’s immune system triggers an inflammatory response even when there is no apparent threat.

This prolonged inflammation can contribute to muscle loss and sarcopenia, which is characterized by a loss of muscle mass and strength. Therefore, it is crucial to keep inflammation in check to maintain healthy muscle mass.

One effective way to combat inflammation is to consume anti-inflammatory foods. Foods that are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, like fatty fish such as salmon and tuna, can help reduce inflammation. 

Additionally, nuts, especially almonds and walnuts, contain high levels of anti-inflammatory compounds and are a great source of protein. Leafy greens such as spinach, kale, and collard greens are also rich in antioxidants and can help fight inflammation.

On the other hand, it’s essential to limit your intake of processed foods and refined sugars, which can trigger inflammation. Such foods can cause a spike in blood sugar levels, leading to inflammation, oxidative stress, and insulin resistance. Therefore, it’s essential to opt for whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, to reduce inflammation.

Regular exercise is another effective way to reduce inflammation. Moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, like brisk walking, cycling, or swimming, has been shown to reduce inflammation in the body. It can also help improve muscle mass and strength, which can further protect against sarcopenia.

  1. Stay active

Regular exercise is key to maintaining muscle mass and preventing sarcopenia. Aiming to get at least 10,000 steps per day is a great start, but it’s also important to incorporate resistance training into your routine at least twice per week. 

This type of exercise can help keep your muscles strong and healthy, as it promotes the growth and repair of muscle tissue. In addition to that, resistance training can improve your overall cardiovascular health and reduce your risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis.

  1. Resistance Training: 

Incorporating resistance training (RT) into your workout routine, at least twice a week, can significantly help in building and maintaining muscle mass. 

It is essential to focus on exercises that work on all the major muscle groups, including the chest, back, legs, arms, and shoulders, to achieve optimal results. 

Compound exercises such as squats, bench presses, and deadlifts can help target multiple muscle groups simultaneously, leading to more efficient muscle growth. 

I can also happily report that a six-month concerted strength plan has returned my ability to remove and pack away boxes in the attic. So the effects are reversible.

Additionally, performing isolation exercises such as bicep curls, tricep extensions, and leg curls can help isolate specific muscles, leading to more targeted muscle growth. 

Here at Coach Parry, we’re massive advocates of strength training. We’ve put together this free strength training plan for runners that you can do once a week, at home and with no expensive equipment needed.  You can access it by clicking here

What Is The Most Effective Way To Treat Sarcopenia And Stay Healthy as You Age?

In the treatment of sarcopenia, lifestyle changes are typically recommended, including:

  • Physical activity

Including progressive resistance-based strength training in your physical activity routine can have numerous benefits. Not only does it improve your overall strength, but it can also help reverse muscle loss that may have occurred due to aging or inactivity. 

Progressive resistance-based training involves gradually increasing the weight or resistance used during your exercises over time, which helps to challenge your muscles and promote growth. 

  • Healthy diet

Adopting a nutritious diet, especially one rich in protein, can complement regular exercise and contribute to reversing the effects of sarcopenia. This may involve increasing protein intake through food or supplements. By doing so, individuals can maintain their muscle mass and function, leading to better overall health and quality of life.

All in all, sarcopenia is a naturally occurring condition that can cause muscle loss and weakness. Whether you are an athlete or not, taking care of your body is essential for optimal performance and healthy aging. 

Sarcopenia treatment requires establishing healthy habits, such as exercise, nutrition, and adequate rest. Prevention is also key. So, keep your muscles strong, stay active, and eat a balanced diet to prevent sarcopenia and its associated symptoms. Take care of your body and reap the rewards of a long, healthy, and productive life.


With a passion for high performance sport – Lindsey Parry is one of South Africa’s most widely recognised coaches. Having led a team to the London, Rio and Tokyo Olympic Games as well as the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, the Gold Coast & Birmingham, and coached both triathletes and runners onto podiums of some of the world’s most illustrious races, Lindsey has a unique ability to understand what it takes to succeed at any level and thrives on coaching, motivating and inspiring others to do the same – whether it’s on the track, on stage or behind a mic.

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