Four Steps for Strengthening Muscle and Bone: Some Surprises!
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.