There are many factors that contribute to loss of muscle mass, or muscle atrophy, including age, sleep, diet and exercise.
Muscle atrophy due to age
As we age, our muscles slowly begin to lose mass and strength. This is called sarcopenia.
Ageing is something that as yet, cannot be avoided. However studies have shown that the process of sarcopenia can be delayed through consistent exercise starting from a young age. It won't stop it all together, but it will help prolong your muscles vitality and strength.
Muscle atrophy due to lack of sleep
Another contributing factor is one that often gets overlooked. Sleep is an integral part of muscle growth and repair.
Ensuring that you allow your muscles a full recovery after working out is almost as important as the workout itself.
If you are constantly getting an inadequate amount of sleep, then you are building up a ‘sleep debt’ that will inhibit the muscle development and repairing process.
Muscle atrophy due to your diet
Diet is another factor that cannot be overlooked if you are hoping to avoid muscle atrophy.
Having a nutritious, balanced diet, high in protein, complex carbs, good fats, vitamins and minerals is essential to not only provide your body with the materials needed to build and repair damaged muscles, but also maintain it.
Having a nutritious diet also provides your body with the fuel that is needed to give you the energy to workout. The better your fuel supply, the harder you can work and for longer periods.
On the flip side to this, recent studies have shown that as you age, unless you are exercising regularly, a lower calorie intake actually helps preserve existing muscles for longer periods of time.
So as you get older, you need fewer calories than before to support your muscles optimal performance.
However, if you are regularly exercising to maintain and gain muscle mass, then you need to increase your overall calorie intake to support this growth, just like at any other age.
Muscle atrophy due to a lack of exercise
Exercise is of course the number one most important factor, because if you aren't using it, you’re losing it!
Yes, you need to workout to gain those defined arms and abs that you desire, but once you achieve your ideal body, you need to workout to maintain it.
The workout routine you do to maintain your body, will be different to the routine you underwent to achieve it, but it is crucial to the maintenance of muscle mass and strength.
Remember the stronger your muscles are, and the more mass you have, the longer it will take for them to disappear with age.
So to avoid muscle atrophy, you should maintain a consistent exercise routine and keep at it!
To avoid muscle atrophy you need to ensure that you are getting enough sleep, as well as recovery periods between intense training.
You also need to ensure that your diet is healthy, balanced and appropriate to the amount of exercise you are doing, while also making sure you continue to workout to maintain your muscle definition, mass and strength.