Long gone is the idea that the one who spends their time getting all swoll in the gym or all svelte at the studio is wasting their time on frivolous and vain pursuits. Muscle is the organ of longevity. Muscle is like armor against the typical frailty of aging. And the science is definitive.
Some facts first. Per the CDC:
- Falls are now the leading cause of injury and death among older Americans.
- Reduced muscle strength, decreased activity, more severe chronic health conditions, and increased use of prescription medications are risk factors among older Americans.
- Fall injury rates are seven times higher for older adults with poor health than those with excellent health.
- Muscle loss is called sarcopenia and it begins as early as age 30.
Ok. Let’s call that the Bad and the Ugly. Onto the Good.
You can begin increasing your muscle mass today. Right now. I don’t care if you are 30, 50, or 90. Muscle is hot and it is time to light your flame!
You need two things to make muscle: protein and resistance training. I would like to assume that if you are still reading that you are a beginner or perhaps someone who once knew where their bicep was but may need some help finding it. Have no fear. I am talking to you.
Let’s start with protein. If you played along with some of my earlier columns, I asked you to begin bringing awareness or “mindfulness” to what you eat. This helps create a baseline. How is your protein intake? Now let’s improve upon that.
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of protein is a mere 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. But that is a minimum. For survival. Don’t know about you but I want to do a heck of a lot better than just “survive”. The problem is that many hone in on the RDA as if it is for optimal living or for what I like to call “vitality”. I am 51 and I want to out-dance everyone at pretty much every wedding to which I go. I don’t care if you are 20. Game on. That is going to require a lot more than .8 grams of protein per kg of my body weight if I am going to keep up.
I suggest to my clients that they aim for one gram of protein per pound of optimal body weight. This is backed by numerous functional medicine doctors and strength trainers. If this seems crazy to you at present, start more slowly. Health shifts take time.
How? Eat 30 to 50 grams of protein at every meal (or 20 to 30 grams as you are starting out). And please make your protein well-sourced. We don’t want to rob Peter to pay Paul.
Breakfast is absolutely the most important place to start. The average American eats dessert for breakfast. From a blood sugar perspective that includes any and all simple carbohydrates: bagels, muffins, danish, donuts, pancakes, cereal, etc. It is like taking a trip to the moon as far as your blood sugar is concerned. And that is the number one way to find yourself hearing the term “diabetes” from your health care practitioner. Jumping on a blood sugar rocket to the moon upon waking makes you entirely too hungry all day long. Your hunger hormones go out of balance. You feel fatigue and brain fog. And it does nothing to make you muscle. It assumes you need quick energy and if you don’t intend to go for a long run or dig ditches for the next few hours, it is stored as fat for when you do. Build your energy fire with logs (protein) not just kindling (carbohydrates).
Pastured organic eggs (remember…well-sourced food!!) are some of the most nutrient dense ways to start the day. Go for three!! There’s 18-24 grams right there. I like to add is some vegetables sautéed in ghee or pastured butter from last night’s dinner to go with it. Cue the fiber and fat. Now we are talking. Then I walk out the door with a protein shake of another 50 grams of protein to get me to where I want to be before lunch. My protein supplement of choice is whey and collagen protein from (you guessed it) pastured cattle. This gives me the essential amino acids I need to make my muscle as I head to the studio for my workout.
So we leave it with part one of making muscle: protein. Next time we talk about how to create a stimulus and use those raw ingredients to make sure that we are protecting our aging bodies with some armor of muscle. Whether it is avoiding a slip and fall or wanting to embarrass your kids on the dance floor, we have to take an active role in our lives to make it happen.