To Preserve Muscle: Eat Regular Meals. No Fasting.

Remember I wondered if intermittent fasting could exacerbate sarcopenia (muscle loss)? Here’s some evidence that it could:

Distribution But Not Amount Of Protein Intake Is Associated With Frailty: A Cross-Sectional Investigation In The Region Of Nürnberg, Nutrition Journal, 2013

Background:To preserve muscle mass and therefore limit the risk of disability in older adults protein intake is seen as important factor. Besides the amount of protein, its distribution over the day is thought to affect protein anabolism.

Conclusions: In this sample of healthy older persons, amount of protein intake was not associated with frailty, but distribution of protein intake was significantly different between frail, pre-frail and non-frail participants.

Everyone ate about the same amount of protein in a day. But while healthy non-frail participants distributed their protein throughout the day (a little at each meal), frail participants consumed the bulk of their protein during one meal, the midday meal.

Also, this:

There was no significant difference in the amount of protein ingested between frailty groups and we found no reduced risk for frailty in the quartiles with a higher protein intake compared to the lowest quartile.

Eating enough protein is important, but eating a lot of protein doesn’t necessarily prevent muscle loss. See: Eating More Protein Is Not the Answer To Preventing Sarcopenia (Age-Related Muscle Loss)

Eat regular meals. Don’t skip (or skimp on) meals. And try to get some plant-based, protein-rich foods in all your meals. (Remember, animal-based protein promotes sarcopenia.)

5 thoughts on “To Preserve Muscle: Eat Regular Meals. No Fasting.

  1. Bix Post author

    Some thoughts…

    A lot of the science is conducted with young and often healthy participants. Results are often, and mistakenly, applied to other groups, like older people who aren’t so healthy, who take multiple drugs, who cope with disabilities – mental and physical. Fasting? It just doesn’t make sense for people in their 60s, 70s, 80s, and older. I mean … people are already dealing with so many issues surrounding nutrition … chewing, swallowing, dementia, appetite, getting food, cooking food. Show me, convince me that fasting helps these people! People who are losing weight already without trying, people who are underweight….

    Here’s the thing … If you want to lose weight, you better do it before you hit old age. Because … there’s a rule of thumb in nutrition that about 25% of weight loss is muscle loss (“fat-free mass”), no matter the diet used to lose weight. And that muscle is just not going to be made up again by the time you hit 70. And you will be dealing with sarcopenia on top of it!


  2. Marj

    So true and I can personally attest to that. Already being old and having fallen early this year which resulted in weight loss, I’m now in a rush to gain back loss of muscle. One can ill afford to lose it as one ages. So will repeat, “lose weight before hitting old age.”


  3. lisa

    Wow! This is such a stereotype! ” Old people” are capable of healing, building muscle, fasting etc. Dr. McDougall observed folks in their 90s still working in the sugar chain fields. I’m in my 60s and after only ten years on a strictly starch based diet, I’m in better shape than i was in my 20s. I have a physically demanding job and out perform my young coworkers who are astounded by many strength and agility. Please don’t believe the myth that it’s ” too late” because you’re over 60 or 70 or 80. That’s just a


    1. Bix Post author

      Hi Lisa,

      I don’t think that it’s ever too late to improve. But … People in their 60s, 70s, and 80s are not the same as people in their 20s. I’ve written over the years about how to maintain muscle, bone, and overall health … because as people age they gradually lose it. People’s hair turns grey and falls out. People’s vision, hearing, taste, appetite all diminish. And people lose muscle as they age, no matter how active they are.

      In fact, sarcopenia is as much the cause of inactivity as inactivity is the cause of sarcopenia. Each promomotes the other.

      From WebMD:

      Although sarcopenia is seen mostly in people who are inactive, the fact that it also occurs in people who stay physically active suggests there are other factors in its development. Researchers believe these include:

      – Reduction in nerve cells responsible for sending signals from the brain to the muscles to start movement
      – Lower concentrations of some hormones, including growth hormone, testosterone, and insulin-like growth factor
      – A decrease in the ability to turn protein into energy
      – Not getting enough calories or protein each day to sustain muscle mass

      By the way, I think Dr. McDougall’s diet is one of the best. If there’s a diet that would promote healing and preservation of muscle mass, it’s his. I would venture most people don’t eat it though.



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