Don't waste your workout! One of my 50-something clients, who lost twenty pounds with a few “Diet Simple” tricks, increased pedometer steps, and weight training, confided in me that she feels sexy for the first time in years! On the tennis court, she performs better, is more flexible, stronger and quicker. Who could ask for more in your 40s, 50s, 60s – or even older?
My clients regularly ask me, "How do I maximize my workouts to gain muscle as quickly and effectively as possible?"
My answer: "What you eat and when you eat it profoundly improves your ability to build muscle mass and strength, and new surprising studies show an ancient beverage and a simple stretching routine can make a huge difference, too. Let me explain..."
1. Your Workout
While nutrition is important, the quality of your strength training workout is a key factor for building muscle mass. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends strength training all of your major muscle groups at least two times a week. I encourage all my clients to get some kind of strength training so that when they lose weight, they not only look more toned and have more strength (who wants to be a flabby skinny person?), they're healthier. This can be accomplished by working with a skilled trainer, but also through vigorous yoga and pilates - whenever there is resistance and you work your muscles to exhaustion - that is, you can't do just one more pushup - you're building muscle.
It's also important to build muscle because the more lean muscle you have, the more calories your body burns because muscle mass increases metabolism. That’s why a man who weighs the same as a woman can eat so much more, and will lose weight more easily. He has relatively more muscle so he burns more calories, even at rest!
Studies of 80-year-olds show muscular strength can mean the difference between independence and a nursing home... it improves balance, walking, and reduces falls.
But it's not easy to build muscle for a variety of reasons.
First, muscle mass declines as you age, starting in your mid 30s. An average person will lose five to seven pounds of muscle between age 35 to age 50 due to disuse. For every pound of muscle lost, you lose the capacity to burn 35 to 50 calories per day. That means if you’ve lost seven pounds of muscle by the age of 50, at 50 calories per muscle, that’s 350 calories you can’t eat just to prevent weight gain, let alone lose weight.
Second, weight loss causes muscle loss. When you lose weight, about half of what you lose is muscle -though you can minimize muscle loss by eating right (so read on!). This makes it even harder to keep the weight off because you’re reducing your muscle and therefore your metabolism as you lose pounds.
This brings us to the obvious: Building muscle as you age, eating the right kinds of foods to make that happen - and to minimize muscle loss as you lose weight - is essential to keeping lean.
Now for the nutrition...
Protein is essential for healthy living. It is one of the most important nutrients in the human body, second only to water. Bone health, muscle function, muscle strength, muscle mass and immune function -- all are impaired with a low protein intake. But how much protein do we need?
New research has found that eating the right amount of protein - and at the right times - is essential not only for your health, but also for effective muscle gain and weight loss. Eating enough protein while losing weight is more likely to minimize muscle loss and maximize fat loss. Keeping muscle stores high is critical as losing muscle decreases resting metabolic rate, making it harder to maintain a healthy weight and lose body fat.
The National Academy of Sciences, in a recent report, recommended Americans eat at least 15% of their calories as protein but never exceed 35 percent, as that may be when adverse symptoms begin to appear (Low carb diets are often as high as 80% protein, and have many adverse health consequences).
If you're losing weight or are worried about muscle or bone loss, consider increasing your protein.
3. Timing is Everything!
Eat a food or beverage high in protein 20 minutes before, and again, immediately after your strength training workout or after a vigorous cardiovascular workout, such as tennis, swimming, or kayaking, or even just a long walk. When you work out, you break down your muscles. Taking in protein when your muscles are being broken down and are metabolically active will build your muscle mass and strength more effectively. You also need to make sure you hydrate yourself properly!
My personal regimen includes drinking some skim milk before my workout - all you need is about 1/2 cup - and eating yogurt immediately after my workout or after yoga. If I forget the yogurt, I'll run to the nearest coffee shop after my workout and buy a skim latte for my protein, which contains milk, or soy milk. But, I like yogurt the best: It contains important probiotics which keep your gastrointestinal tract healthy. It also contains high quality protein, carbohydrate, calcium, potassium and magnesium - important nutrients which you need to replenish your muscles. Eating immediately after your workout could have other benefits: It prevents the "extreme hungries" some people feel after heavy exercise, and it could prevent muscle cramps, according to a client who used to have muscle cramps regularly until she started eating yogurt after her exercise.
Any time you experience major life change, like leaving home for college, getting married, a new job, even experiencing a serious illness, you're at risk for gaining unwanted pounds. Change in your life - even when it's a positive change - means change in your daily routin. Being aware of how your new life affects your eating and exercise habits is critical for maintaining your health and ideal weight.
Melissa is 19 years old and spent her first year at college gaining about 15 pounds. She was pretty miserable when I first met her in June. But, thankfully, we spent the summer working together to lose the weight and she's exactly where she wants to be before returning. At 5 foot 1, she now weighs in at a very reasonable 115 pounds. Melissa is thrilled with her new body. She feels more confident, more energetic, and happier than she did before—and she can finally wear skinny jeans!
But Melissa's weight gain is not unusual. A 2003 Cornell University study found that college freshmen gain an average of 4 pounds in just the first 12 weeks. Some contributing factors include: all-you-can-eat buffets for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; late-night study sessions, which beget late-night snack fests; alcohol—and lots of it; a heavy course load that leaves little time for physical activity; and on and on.
Some factors adding to this weight gain are…
- Being faced with all-you-can-eat buffets at breakfast, lunch and dinner,
- Late-night studying – and the snacking and eating late which inevitably goes along with it… fattening take-out dinners of pizza or Chinese food,
- Alcohol- and lots of it,
- Pressure to take too many classes so precluding physical activity in the regular routine,
- Skipping breakfast or lunch time, then overeating between meals and later in the day and into the night.
I understand the struggle: I've been there. My weight gain occurred during my sophomore year—my first year away from home. I ate all my favorite foods any time I wanted (ice cream, pastrami sandwiches, chocolate chip bars, chips). And I went from being very physically active in high school—cheerleading, dancing, and more—to doing virtually nothing in college. I was getting flabby—and fast. I distinctly remember complaining to my grandmother how tired I felt. Her unsympathetic admonition,"You're too young to feel this tired!" shocked me into action and I immediately started changing my ways.
For Melissa and other students going back to school this fall, the temptation to return to unhealthy habits will arise. You're up to the challenge. Try these tips:
• Figure out when to fit in a healthy breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Skipping meals can promote overeating.
• Determine when you can be physically active. For instance, will you be able to get your physical activity by walking to and from classes on certain days? Will you need to hit the gym on others?
• Wear a pedometer to ensure you're getting at least the daily 10,000 steps it takes to maintain your weight—and more if you want to lose weight.
• Sign up for an exercise class for credit. During my later college years, I took scuba diving, rescue diving, deep diving, tennis, fencing—basically, anything that allowed me to get credit for staying active and learning a new and interesting sport. This is also a way to meet other people with similar interests.
• Schedule your routine so that you are not hungry at night. If you must study late into the night, drink diet sodas or green tea (my favorite is Jasmine scented), and munch on fruits and veggies.
• Dump friends (subtly, of course) who push you to overindulge.
• Cultivate friendships with healthier folks who share your commitment to staying in shape.
You don't have to undo your hard-earned summer results.
College weight gain is not inevitable!
Girlfriends Give Back, an event organized and founded by WUSA-9's popular anchor, Lesli Foster, supports small charities that make huge contributions in the community. This year, Girlfriends Give Back is supporting The Homeless Children's Playtime Project. It provides children without homes to call their own, the basic right every child should have: the ability to just play and just BE. But, The Homeless Children's Playtime Project is much more than just a play space. HCPP provides weekly programs for children, offers a chance for them to learn through art, imaginative play and provides parent support, clothing, food drives, and field trips. It even advocates for affordable housing and safe shelters for all families.
"I am so personally moved by their mission," said Lesli Foster.
This Girlfriends Give Back Event is about harnessing the power of small donations - to make an impact. It started with an idea. What if you could take what you spend on lunch for a day, a week or a month - and give it to a small charity. What if you had a reason to "opt in" to giving as opposed to "opting out." By attending or supporting this event with a donation - it costs only $25, you can be certain that by "opting in" all the proceeds will benefit HCPP. Plus, you'll have a great girls night out - complete with light hors de oeuvres, cupcakes, Girlfriendtini's, free parking, and bunch of fun surprises!
"I hope you'll take a peek at the invitation below," said Lesli. "And, if you find this speaks to the hearts of other girlfriends, please feel free to pass it on! I'm so grateful for your time, consideration and support."
NEIMAN MARCUS MAZZA GALLERIE,
LESLI FOSTER AND MAUREEN BRYANT
INVITE YOU TO A FUN AND FABULOUS EVENING
JOIN US FOR A NIGHT OF MANICURES AND MINI MAKEOVERS FEATURING THE TRENDIEST NEW COLORS
FOR A FRESH FALL FACE
ENJOY SIPS, BITES, AND BEATS
5300 WISCONSIN AVE, NW
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 10
6PM TO 8PM
COSMETICS, LEVEL ONE
100% OF PROCEEDS WILL SUPPORT
THE HOMELESS CHILDREN’S PLAYTIME PROJECT
TO PURCHASE YOUR TICKET AND RESERVE YOUR SPACE: