As we shed more clothes during the summer, one of the body’s most valuable assets is exposed: muscle. Having toned muscles is much more than a vanity issue. Turns out those who have more muscle stand to be healthier in the long run. Mounting research suggests that the amount of muscle on your frame is a leading indicator of health and longevity, with one recent study suggesting that the amount of lean muscle mass outperforms the body mass index (BMI) in determining health and mortality risk.1
Most people over age 30 will likely notice that maintaining a fit physique becomes a more challenging endeavor with each decade of life. In our teens and 20s, there is a relative equilibrium in the rate at which our body builds and breaks down muscle. However, once we hit age 30 we slowly start to lose muscle.2 By the time that milestone 50th birthday happens, we start to lose between one and two percent of muscle per year.3 And after the age of 70, muscle loss ranges from 13 to 24 percent per decade.4
This age-related muscle loss is known as sarcopenia and it can be likened to the process that occurs in the bones, known as osteoporosis. However, unlike osteoporosis, there are no pharmaceutical treatments that can combat muscle loss.
Those who are inactive or on bed rest experience accelerated muscle loss and weakness. According to one recent study it just takes two weeks of inactivity for those who are physically fit to lose a significant amount of their muscle strength (25 to 30 percent).5
Keeping your muscles healthy as you age not only keeps you healthier, but it will also benefit your bones, help stabilize blood sugar, improve your endurance and allow you to enjoy a better quality of life as you age.
Here Are Seven Summer Strengthening Secrets To Improve Your Muscle Health:
1. Go Easy on Cardio: Cardiovascular exercises such as walking, cycling, and swimming, are great for the heart and mind but overdoing it doesn’t allow time for muscle recovery and regeneration and it can take time away from strengthening exercises, which are also needed. If resistance training is not part of your routine, the muscle loss that occurs daily from natural muscle protein turnover will not give the muscle the opportunity to rebuild. Resistance exercises will give you the greatest benefit for your muscles, boosting muscle protein synthesis; the process by which your body builds new muscle.6
2. Start Stretching: Stretching may seem boring, but spending a few minutes stretching before and after workouts offers significant benefits for your muscles. Stretching before a workout helps to increase blood flow to the muscles and after a workout, it helps speed recovery, increase range of motion and makes room for muscle fibers to grow.
3. Eat Frequently and After Workouts: Sporadic eating is almost as bad as not eating at all. Going for more than three hours without food can throw your body into starvation mode. This causes your metabolism to slow down and your body to hold onto fat to meet future caloric needs in the event that you skip another meal. Refueling after workouts is also important as this helps start the recovery process, replenishing lost glycogen (your muscles’ energy stores) and providing the nutrients your body needs in order to repair muscle and grow more of it.
4. Switch Up Your Routine: Doing the same exercises over and over is not only boring but it can limit your ability to build muscle. To encourage new muscle growth switch up your workout routine, try new exercises and gradually increase the number of weights you use. The muscles want to be challenged, or they will become stagnant. Adding some variety to your workouts will improve your gains and enjoyment.
5. Pump up the Protein: Since muscles are made from protein, it is important to ensure your body has adequate amounts of this key dietary nutrient. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. However, a growing body of evidence suggests that the RDA is inadequate for older adults because it does not take into account physiologic changes that occur with aging and the fact that older adults need about 67 percent more protein per meal to stimulate muscle protein synthesis7 and support good health, promote recovery from illnesses and maintain functionality. Recent studies suggest that 25–30 grams of a high-quality protein per meal is necessary to reach the threshold for maximal stimulation of muscle protein synthesis in older adults.8
6. Add Amino Acids: Studies suggest that supplementing with a particular blend of essential amino acids, called Rejuvenate, can help prevent muscle loss and rebuild lost muscle. This patented formula was found to increase muscle protein synthesis by 57 percent with noticeable muscle mass improvement within 30 days.10 Rejuvenate is backed by 25 peer-reviewed published studies demonstrating its safety and efficacy. Rejuvenate can be mixed with water or incorporated into your morning smoothie or favorite beverage. Each serving contains only five calories, is low in fat and sugar, and free of dairy and gluten.
7. Get More/Better Sleep:During sleep our body is in a state of repairing and rebuilding. Critical muscle-building chemicals such as growth hormone are produced and muscle protein synthesis occurs, as long as protein is consumed prior to sleep. Studies suggest that poor sleep quality and short sleep duration is associated with an increased risk for muscle mass reduction.11 If you are getting less than six hours of sleep a day you are limiting your body’s ability to naturally produce crucial muscle-building chemicals like growth hormone.
A great way to add more protein is by adding a protein-rich snack such as Greek yogurt (25 grams per cup), nuts (peanuts provide 20.5 grams per half cup and almonds 16.5 grams per half cup), edamame (8.5 grams per half cup) and chickpeas (7.25 grams per half cup). Having a light protein-rich snack before bed will also help provide your muscles with the necessary element to allow for muscle protein synthesis.9
- Lee DH, Keum N, Hu FB, et al. Predicted lean body mass, fat mass, and all cause and cause specific mortality in men: prospective US cohort study. BMJ 2018; 362: k2575.
- Keller K and Engelhardt H. Strength and muscle mass loss with aging process. Age and strength loss. Muscles Ligaments Tendons J 2013 Oct-Dec; 3(4): 346—350.
- Hughes V, Frontera W, Roubenoff W, et al. Longitudinal changes in body composition in older men and women: role of body weight change and physical activity. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2002 Aug;76(2):473—81.
- Filippin L, Teixeira V, da Silva M, et al. Sarcopenia: a predictor of mortality and the need for early diagnosis and intervention. Aging Clinical and Experimental Research 2015 Jun;27(3):249—54.
- Vigelso A, Gram M, Wiuff C, et al. Six weeks 'aerobic retraining after two weeks' immobilization restores leg lean mass and aerobic capacity but does not fully rehabilitate leg strength in young and older men. J Rehabil Med. 2015. Accessed online, June 24, 2019. https://www.medicaljournals.se/jrm/content/html/10.2340/16501977—1961
- Tipton KD and Wolfe R. Exercise, protein metabolism, and muscle growth. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 2001 Mar;11(1):109—32.
- Moore DR, Churchward-Venne TA, Witard O et al. Protein ingestion to stimulate myofibrillar protein synthesis requires greater relative protein intakes in healthy older versus younger men. J Gerontol A Biol Med Sci 2015 Jan;70(1):57—62.
- Deer RR and Volpi E. Protein Intake and Muscle Function in Older Adults. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2015 May; 18(3): 248—253.
- Snijders T, Trommelen J, Kouw IW et al. The Impact of Pre-sleep Protein Ingestion on the Skeletal Muscle Adaptive Response to Exercise in Humans: An Update. Front. Nutr., 06 March 2019. Accessed online June 24, 2019. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2019.00017
- Church DD, Fernando AA , Wolfe RR. Improved Muscle Protein Syntheses with 3.6g of Free Form Essential Amino Acid Ingestion in the Elderly. JiSSN, (Abstract) June 2019.
- Chen Y, Cui Y, Wu Z. Relationship between sleep and muscular strength among Chinese university students: a cross-sectional study. J Musculoskelet Neuronal Interact 2017 Dec; 17(4): 327—33.
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Sherry Torkos, B.Sc.Phm., R.Ph.
Sherry Torkos, B.Sc.Phm., R.Ph., is a registered pharmacist, author and health enthusiast with a passion for prevention. She graduated with honors from the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science in 1992. Since then, she has been practicing pharmacy using an integrative approach, combining conventional and complementary therapies to optimize health and prevent disease. Torkos has won several national pharmacy awards for providing excellence in patient care.
As a leading health expert, she has delivered hundreds of lectures and is frequently interviewed by radio and TV talk shows throughout North America and abroad.
Sherry has authored 18 books and booklets, including The Canadian Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine., Saving Women’s Hearts, and The Glycemic Index Made Simple.