Have you recently flexed a bicep muscle in the mirror? Well, there are bigger reasons to keep your muscles as you age that go beyond looking good in a t-shirt and avoiding those flabby bat wings. Studies show that the loss of this metabolically active muscle tissue over decades is associated with chronic health problems, including insulin resistance, diabetes and heart disease, in addition to frailty, fatigue and falls. The scientific term for age-related loss of skeletal muscle and strength is sarcopenia; it usually starts in the 40s.
Fortunately, sarcopenia can be prevented and even reversed in older adults as well as middle-aged people who are just beginning to notice loss of muscle mass. Strength training is obviously a big part of the solution, but pumping iron won’t build muscle without the right fuel. Adopting some key eating habits will fuel your workouts and help your resistance training build new muscle as you age.
According to a certified strength and conditioning specialist and sports chiropractor Dr. Matt Tanneberg, CSCSregaining muscle through exercise requires three main habits: consuming enough calories, consuming enough quality protein, and getting these nutrients throughout the day and especially before and after workouts.
“Muscle growth is directly related to nutrition and has a negative impact when your nutrition doesn’t properly supplement your body,” Tanneberg said. Eat this, not that!
To effectively rebuild muscle, try repeating the following eating habits in your bodybuilding routine.
People trying to get in shape often limit the number of calories they eat. However, this can backfire if you’re looking to add muscle because you need fuel to fuel resistance exercises and stimulate muscle growth. Don’t starve yourself or deprive yourself of any of the three macronutrients.
“It’s important to get enough calories in your diet, and actually a calorie surplus, if you’re looking to gain muscle weight,” says Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSDmember of our medical expert board who also served as a sports dietitian for the Dallas Cowboys.
While many may feel like protein alone is the key to building muscle, experts say a well-balanced meal is actually a more reliable recipe for success and advise diversifying your diet.
“Although protein is the fuel for muscle, you still need to eat a balanced diet with enough carbohydrates and fats to optimize your nutrition for muscle growth,” says Tanneberg.
“Most people eat most of their protein at dinner, but research suggests it’s easier to build muscle tissue when protein intake is spread throughout the day,” says Neighborhood Elizabeth, MS, RDNan award-winning nutrition communicator, recipe developer, writer and co-author of The Menopause Diet, A Natural Guide to Hormones, Health and Happiness.
Ward recommends getting between 1.2 and 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight each day. So for a person weighing 160 pounds, that would equate to about 88 to 117 grams of protein.
“Lean animal foods, such as eggs, lean beef, poultry, and seafood, and low-fat dairy products, such as cottage cheese, milk, and Greek yogurt, are recommended. great sources of complete protein. [This] means they contain all the amino acids the body needs to build muscle,” says Ward. “Plus, animal foods are rich in leucine, an amino acid that triggers the production of muscle cells.
Plants also contain proteins used to build muscle. Soy foods, such as tofu, edamame, and unsweetened soymilk are foods that, like animal foods, provide complete protein. Other plant foods that contain protein are beans, such as chickpeas and black beans, quinoa, lentils, peanuts, almonds, pistachios, and walnuts.
Carbohydrates, such as whole grains and legumes, as well as certain dairy products, fruits and vegetables, are important for muscle growth. As the body’s preferred source of energy, carbohydrates provide a range of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. In addition, carbohydrates release proteins.
“When you restrict carbohydrates from your diet, you deplete the glycogen or sugars stored in your body for energy,” explains Johna Bordeaux, DR. “Restricting carbs will lead to muscle loss. Having no carbs for energy means your body has to start breaking down its own muscle for energy.”
Nutrient timing plays an important role in optimizing your efforts to recover muscle.
“You should always eat a pre-workout snack or meal about an hour before you begin resistance training. It should include adequate amounts of carbohydrates, your body’s main source of energy,” says Tanneberg. “Post-workout is when you should be consuming more protein to replenish muscles that are in the healing phase.”
“Ideally, you have a whey protein shake or equivalent source of protein within 15 to 30 minutes after your workout,” Tanneberg continues. “Chocolate milk is great post-workout because it has the perfect balance of carbohydrates, fats and proteins for muscle recovery.”
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