How you can build muscle at any age
Building and maintaining muscle mass is critical for your health at every age. Muscle mass not only contributes to overall health and well-being, but longevity … and yeah, it looks pretty good too! Even if you’ve come to accept that you’ll never have 6-pack abs, maintaining muscle mass is essential for much more than good looks.
“Higher muscle mass is related to survival – it helps in preventing injury and everyday function.”
And more muscle mass also means better metabolic control which helps manage insulin levels and weight. Unfortunately, it is true that we lose muscle mass as a natural part of aging. Generally speaking, adults lose 1% muscle mass every year starting at age 40.
Though it’s normal to lose some muscle as we age, evidence shows that people of all ages can build muscle by following some basic principles:
• Eat enough food: you must meet your basic calorie needs, even if you are trying to lose weight. Without enough fuel, the body cannot build muscle.
• Eat enough protein: About 1/2 gram protein per pound of body weight is enough, or somewhere between 12-15% of your total calorie intake. For those who really want to build mass, this can be increased up to 1 gram per pound body weight or 25% of total calories.
• Eat protein throughout the day: Most people eat too much protein at dinner but not nearly enough at breakfast; it’s better to balance your protein intake across the day. For example, if you need 90 grams protein per day, try to eat about 30 grams at each meals: breakfast, lunch and dinner. Curious how which foods have how much protein in them? Check out this website.
As the saying goes, “use it or lose it!” If the muscles have no reason to grow, they won’t. It doesn’t matter how much protein you consume. You must use your muscles, challenging them to grow with regular consistent resistance exercise, or you’ll lose muscle mass. Studies show that even older adults develop increased muscle mass in as little as two weeks of strength training. If you’re just starting a resistance training program, check out Nerd Fitness (it’s really pretty cool and straight forward).
Regular, uninterrupted sleep is ESSENTIAL for muscle repair and growth and for appetite control. Those individuals who sleep less than 6 hours per day lose more muscle mass and have more body fat than those who getting 7-9 hours per day of good sleep. Don’t waste your hard workouts by skimping on sleep!
-by Dietitian Rana Parker