Four Ways to Fuel Muscle
Boost Muscle With Healthy Foods and High-Quality Protein
Want to boost metabolism and body composition? Eating healthy food is a powerful way to start. That combined with a cardio and strength training routine is the way to keep your body humming like a well-oiled machine.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends, “Adequate food and fluid should be consumed before, during, and after exercise to help maintain blood glucose concentration during exercise, maximize exercise performance, and improve recovery time.”
Here are four ways to fuel your muscles:
- Eat High-Quality Protein
In the bestselling book, Choosing the StrongPath, co-authors Fred Bartlit and Steven Droullard say that protein is a key nutrient that sends signals to the body “to build new structures and tissues, including muscle.” Protein helps maintain and gain lean muscle, as well as prevent sarcopenia. But not all protein is created equal. We need to pay attention to the kind we are consuming.
Most of your protein should come from whole-food sources. Protein sources like grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds can provide substantial amounts of protein but tend to lack one or more essential amino acids. Our bodies produce amino acids to help it function properly, but not essential amino acids. We get those from animal proteins like meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy products.
Whey protein isolate or soy protein isolate have all the essential amino acids you need and are easy to find in grocery stores or health food stores, but these are quick fixes.
- Best Time to Take Protein?
Douglas Paddon-Jones, Ph.D., professor of nutrition and metabolism at The University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston recommends protein intake be spread out throughout the day for maximum benefits. A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition agrees. Researchers looked at a group of healthy, older adults for more than three years, assessing their strength and mobility. For many, muscle strength declined. However, those who spread their protein out throughout the day had greater muscle strength at both the beginning and the end of the study.
The current Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) calls for a minimum of 0.8 grams of protein for every 2.2 pounds of body weight. For a man weighing 175 pounds that would be 64 grams of protein.
Multiple studies, including one published in the American Journal of Physiology, recommend that everyone over 60 should double the amount of protein they consume each day. More protein, the study argues, speeds up the rate of muscle protein synthesis.
Dr. Paddon-Jones said equal amounts at all three meals—20 to 35 grams or so is a reasonable, moderate serving to fuel muscles. “If you’re a tiny person, you aim for the low-side. If you’re an athlete you need more of everything.”
- Stay Hydrated
To avoid dehydration, it’s important to take in enough fluids before, during, and after exercise. The amount you need and what you choose to drink depends on how intensely you are working out on a given day. Drinking water usually does the trick but if you’re noticing salt stains on your skin and workout clothes or getting lots of muscle cramps then it may be worthwhile experimenting with drinks that help replenish lost sodium.
- Healthy Food Makes a Big Difference
You can’t starve your way to health, and you can’t exercise away bad eating habits. If you severely restrict calories the body starts to break down muscle to produce the energy needed to function. When you lose muscle, your health is not improving. To get the best results, a healthy diet and exercise have to work together. Fueling your body with whole foods boosts performance and is a critical part of the equation for getting fit. Be sure to eat high-quality food that incorporates high-quality protein, carbohydrates, whole grains, fruits and vegetables.