Some new research, led by Kristen Beavers, an assistant professor of health and exercise science at Wake Forest University, sheds some light on two important and interlinked issues that concern Silver Grey athletes - keeping a healthily low body weight while maintaining adequate muscle mass for both your sports and for your health and quality of life.
This new study suggests the way to go is to combine weight training with a calorie-controlled diet and in this way to preserve lean muscle mass which can be lost through aerobic workouts.
In this 18-month study of 249 adults in their 60s who were overweight or obese, participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups: a weight-loss-only group, who followed a calorie-restricted diet with no exercise regimen; a weight loss with cardio (i.e., walking) group; and a weight loss with weight-training group. Restricting calories combined with resistance training in the form of weight-machine workouts resulted in less muscle loss, but significant fat loss, when compared to weight loss in combination with walking or weight loss alone.
Losing weight is generally recommended for those with obesity, but preserving muscle – while losing fat – is particularly important for older adults in order to maximize functional benefit, Beavers said. “Surprisingly, we found that cardio workouts may actually cause older adults with obesity to lose more muscle mass than dieting alone.”
As seen in previous articles, loss of lean muscle mass could have important negative consequences such as loss of function in daily life, increased likelihood of injury and most importantly to Silver Grey athletes loss of sporting capabilities.
The findings of the research were as follows:-
- Total fat loss was much greater when participants combined diet with walking - about 16 pounds - and diet with weight training (about 17 pounds). Diet alone resulted in about 10 pounds of fat lost over 18 months.
- Muscle mass loss was greatest with diet plus walking - about 4 pounds - compared with diet alone or diet plus weight training - each about 2 pounds. Put another way, the percentage of weight loss coming from muscle mass was 20% in the weight loss plus walking group, 16% in the weight loss alone group, but only 10% in the weight loss plus weight training group.
At SGSC we absolutely believe in the potential of adults of all ages to build muscle, but given that we do accept that it is harder work the older you get it's self-evident that if you are trying to get your body weight down to a healthier figure it makes sense to preserve what muscle you have even if it is as a precursor to building more.
You can read more about the research here