Muscle is the “organ of longevity.” Loss of muscle mass is one of the leading causes of debilitation and dependency. As you get older, a conscious effort must be made to maintain or increase muscle mass. However, waiting until you’re an elderly person to worry about the condition of your muscles would be a big mistake.
Muscle mass determines how safely and effectively you can navigate through your surroundings. Do you have trouble getting up off the floor? Do you have poor posture resulting in back pain? Can you carry your groceries into the house? Do you fall often and are you at high risk for injury? Muscle mass plays a huge role in all of these circumstances.
Muscle strength, stamina, and endurance isn’t just a concern for athletes and bodybuilders. Weakness and frailty increases mortality risk and it’s not just a problem for the elderly. Ideally, muscle mass should be prioritized throughout the lifespan, but definitely by middle age. In addition, muscle is metabolically active tissue. If weight loss is your goal, increasing muscle mass will help to facilitate that.
So what do you need to do to improve muscle mass throughout your lifespan? Consistency is key!
– Adequate protein intake. Most people under-eat protein. They think that protein intake is only important for bodybuilders but proper protein intake is a crucial part of overall health and wellness. In regards to muscle mass, protein will provide the muscles with the components needed to build and repair itself. Regular consumption throughout the day will allow your muscles to function optimally. Whole food sources like meat and eggs are superior. Plant proteins are best utilized when paired with animal proteins. Protein shakes and supplements should be reserved for people that have trouble of meeting their daily protein needs.
0.7 to 1.2 g of protein per kilogram of ideal body weight is often recommended. I tend to lean on the higher side and try to simplify this by suggesting up to 1 g per pound of ideal body weight. (Ideal body weight calculators are available online.) Try spreading it out every 3 to 4 hours with at least 20 to 30 g per meal.
For example, a 150 lb person can aim for up to 150 g of protein per day, depending on activity level. They should try to get about 30-50 g of protein, 3-5 x day.
– Resistance training will give your muscles the stimulus needed to preserve muscle mass. “If you don’t use it, you lose it,” has never been more true than with muscle mass. However, how you use it can make a big difference in the quality of muscle mass you retain. The most effective approach is progressive overload. This will challenge the muscles overtime. Slowly increasing the weight lifted will stimulate the muscles to grow in strength and endurance to meet the demands of the increased load. Don’t be afraid to lift heavy ladies. You will not look like Arnold. Bodybuilders have very specific training regimens and diets, along with years of dedication to achieve that look. It won’t happen overnight or by accident because you decided to lift weights one day.
Learning to lift weights, safely, with proper form and technique will be one of the best investment you can make in yourself.
This week let’s try to research and plan how we can implement weightlifting into our exercise routine and make a conscious effort in optimizing our daily protein intake.
* If you have access to weights and need a beginner weightlifting program, consider the StrongLifts app (no affiliation). This app is a great resource. Not only does it provide a great weight lifting program, but it also demonstrates the exercises if you do not have anyone to teach you. The app also implements progressive overload so you don’t have to figure it out.