Muscle Mass and Bone Health

Osteoporosis is a bone disorder characterized by low bone mass and imbalanced bone metabolism contributing to bone fragility and increased risk of fractures.

There are many reasons which may increase the likelihood of developing osteoporosis. These may include age, sex, smoking status, hormonal changes, poor nutrition, and low physical activity. (123)

The chances of being diagnosed with osteoporosis increase with age. It is known as the “silent” disease because it is often not discovered until after you experience a fracture. This demonstrates the importance of taking preventative measures to reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis or experiencing a fracture. (45)

Research shows the more muscle you have the stronger your bones will be. In this article, we look at how muscle-building exercises and sufficient protein intake support bone quality.

How does muscle mass affect osteoporosis?

Muscle mass usually declines with age, this is known as sarcopenia. Having reduced muscle mass can put you at higher risk of falls and fractures, especially for people with osteoporosis. (67)

Fortunately, strength training and sufficient protein intake can strengthen and preserve the muscle mass that you have. The earlier you take control of your health the better the outcome in the long term. (89)

Does an ideal body composition exist?

Building muscle, also known as, lean muscle mass, is recommended to keep bones strong and protect against falls and fractures.

In a large study carried out on 1209 males over the age of 30, they showed that those with more muscle mass were positively associated with higher bone mineral content. (10)

Another study also showed that lean muscle mass in addition to fat mass was associated with a lower risk of osteoporosis in young women aged 20-25 years. (11)

However, lean mass had a greater effect on bone mineral density per kilogram compared to fat mass. (11) Fat mass is frequently associated with increased inflammation which we know also increases the likelihood of developing osteoporosis and fractures. 

Lean muscle mass can be gained by engaging in regular physical activity, particularly resistance training, and eating enough quality sources of protein.

Photo by Josh Gordon on Unsplash
Why should you move?

Photo by Josh Gordon on Unsplash

Regular physical activity in the form of strength, resistance, and high-impact training is beneficial in preserving muscle mass and promoting muscle growth. (8)

Some of these exercises may include running, squat jumps, push-ups, overhead presses, deadlifts, and bicep curls but programs can be customized based on age, risk and interest. (5)

In addition to muscle support, regular exercise is believed to preserve bone mineral density and promote the osteogenic effects of bone. 

Osteogenesis refers to the formation of bone tissue.

One study compared the effects of high-impact weight-bearing exercises such as jumping to moderate impact exercises and a control group that did not perform any exercises. (12)

The participants were men aged 50 years and older. The two exercise groups engaged in 60 minutes of supervised activity, four days a week, for 9 months. The main difference between the high and moderate impact groups is the number of repetitions performed of the same exercise. (12)

At nine months, the high-impact group had maintained their bone mineral density compared to the moderate impact and control group, who had a loss in bone mineral density. (12)

Another study showed a significant osteogenic potential when 55–70-year-old women and men, diagnosed with prediabetes, engaged in high-intensity physical activity. (13)

In the study, participants engaged in 30-60 minutes sessions of football training twice a week for 16 weeks. (13)

Bone mineral density increased by 2.5-3.9% and bone turnover markers increased by 23-52% after the 16-week intervention period in the football-trained group. (13)

According to the World Health Organization, the global recommendation is to engage in muscle-building exercises at least 2 -3 days a week. (1415)

For individuals with no prior experience, it is best to start slow and light, building up strength gradually. (14)

If you are unsure of what to do it is best to consult with a professional before beginning a new exercise plan to avoid injury. Optimal Human Health affiliate coaches are experts in this area. 

Protein – why do we need it and how much do we need?

Muscle mass and bone mineral breakdown increase at a faster rate with age. Therefore, doing the right exercises is important, but consuming enough protein is equally important to complement your physical efforts. (815)

Research proving that diets higher in protein may benefit muscle mass and bone health continues to grow. 

A diet high in protein improves muscle strength, increases the production of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), intestinal calcium absorption, and suppresses parathyroid hormone. Collectively, these support bone health. (16)

The minimum recommended dietary allowance (RDA) is 0.8g/kg/day. However, with regular physical activity and age-related muscle and bone breakdown, this woefully inadequate! (817)

Additionally, the aging population process protein less efficiently and can benefit from eating more protein to maintain muscle mass and strengthen bone health. (1518)

Higher protein intakes of at least 1.6g/kg of body weight/day have been linked to reduced incidence of hip fractures and increased muscle growth, particularly in the aging population. (17)

One article compared the results from 31 studies to show the link between protein intake and bone mineral density. (18)

Results showed consuming more protein than the current RDA may have a positive effect on preventing loss of bone mineral density and bone fractures. (18)

Ways to increase protein intake to support muscle and bone health include:

  • Incorporate protein in all meals of the day
  • Aim for 1g of protein/pound of body weight/ day (2.2g/kg of body weight/d)
  • Choose quality protein sources such as; eggs, chicken, red meat, and fish

You can read more about optimal protein intake here.

More than exercise and protein…

Peptides can promote muscle growth by triggering the release of specific muscle-producing hormones. This may be a beneficial form of therapy for people wanting to improve body composition and increase muscle strength. (1920)

Additionally, bone mass can also be supported through hormone optimization

Conclusion 

Osteoporosis is a bone disorder characterized by low bone mass and the continuous breakdown of bone tissue. 

A growing body of research has shown that maintaining strong muscles and bones is important to lower the risk of developing fractures, particularly for people living with osteoporosis.

Muscle and bone health can be strengthened by consuming enough protein (about 1g of protein/pound of body weight/day) and engaging in regular strength, resistance, and high-impact training (at least 2-3 days a week).

Furthermore, supplementing with specific peptides and hormone optimization can support muscle and bone mass, respectively.

Overall, healthy levels of muscle mass are necessary to support bone health. This can help prevent the onset of osteoporosis in the aging population.

At OHH we offer a personalized holistic approach to health. If you are ready to optimize your life or know someone that can benefit from the support we offer, visit our page http://optimalbonehealth.com/ to review our services and blog.

Doug Lucas
Author: Doug Lucas

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