Maybe you're wondering why you need to gain muscle mass. The truth is that it has many benefits that were not known before and also serves to prolong our longevity.
Before continuing, I would like to add that even for me, it was difficult to understand that I needed to build my muscle mass.
But after months of researching and reading I discovered that as we age, muscles are more important to our health.
Why should you focus on gaining lean muscle mass?
Many women seek to develop muscle mass to have a toned body, but they should know that the benefits of doing so go much further:
The older we get, the more vital that muscle mass is for us. We live longer and healthier by having more muscle mass. Sometime in our 30s, we begin to lose muscle mass and function (grip strength, for example). The cause is age-related sarcopenia or sarcopenia with aging.
But what is sarcopenia?
According to the clinical definition published in the US National Institutes of Health, "Sarcopenia is a syndrome characterized by the progressive and widespread loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength and is strictly correlated with physical disability, poor quality of life and death."
Risk factors for sarcopenia include age, sex, and physical activity level. In conditions such as malignancy (presence of cancer cells), rheumatoid arthritis, and aging, lean body mass is lost while fat mass may be preserved or even increased.
Important fact: Physically inactive people can lose 3% to 5% of their muscle mass each decade after age 30. Even if you are active, you will still have some muscle loss. Any loss of muscle is important because it decreases strength and mobility.
Muscles not only help with longevity, but they also protect our bone density, tendons, ligaments, and joints to prevent sarcopenia and protect us when we fall.
When we suffer falls we can fracture easily. But if we have solid muscle mass, we are less prone to injuries.
Just running is not going to be enough. If you read my previous articles , you will understand why I emphasize this topic.
You may also be interested in: Learn ways to do exercises to tone yourself, if weights are not your thing
The ideal formula to gain muscle mass with the support of nutrition
It is essential that you challenge your body through physical activity. However, without proper nutritional support, progress will stop.
Both nutrition and exercise are a crucial part of this formula for maintaining and gaining lean muscle mass.
First, you need to make sure you're getting enough calories and grams of protein each day. The formula is based on height, weight, age, stress (catabolic/inflammation) and activity levels.
This formula determines how much and when you need to consume the appropriate amount of calories from protein.
My rule of thumb is to try to consume between 10 and 20 grams of protein at each meal. Some women need only 50 to 60 grams of protein per day, while others need up to 90 grams daily.
Additionally, you should make sure to consume additional calories weekly to help build lean muscle mass. You can find basic formulas in certain apps like myfitnesspal and Fitbit.
It is recommended that you visit a registered dietitian to tailor your nutrient needs. Many of us have other factors that can divert us from maintaining and/or gaining muscle mass. Among them, metabolic problems, digestion, medical conditions, etc.
If your health is your priority, try buying grass-fed meats, such as beef, pork tenderloin, bison, organic poultry, pasteurized eggs, wild salmon, tuna, shrimp (they have the amino acid leucine which helps with muscle development ) tilapia, scallops, soy, Greek yogurt and cottage cheese.
For example, consuming 3 ounces of eggs, fish, chicken breast/turkey breast, contain between 17 and 27 grams of protein and the added benefit of vitamin B for energy production.
1/2 cup of raw tofu contains 10 grams of protein, 6 grams of fat and 2 grams of carbohydrates. Tofu is also a good source of calcium, which is important for proper muscle function and bone health.
Soy protein, found in foods such as tofu and soybeans, is considered one of the highest quality plant proteins for vegans/vegetarians.
- 1 cup of beans (black, pinto, and kidney) contains about 15 grams of protein per cup.
- 1 cup of edamame contains 8 grams of fiber and 17 grams of protein.
- Quinoa contains approximately 40 grams of carbohydrates per cup, along with 8 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber, and abundant amounts of magnesium and phosphorus.
- 1 cup of chickpeas contains about 12 grams of protein and 50 grams of carbohydrates, including 10 grams of fiber.
- 1/2 cup of buckwheat flour contains about 8 grams of protein, plus plenty of fiber and other carbohydrates.
- 1 cup of brown rice contains only 5 grams of protein, but it is mainly used as energy for physical activities.
- Fiber is also found in vegetables and fruits. Aim for 3-5 cups a day for your daily dose of micronutrients.
Research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids can slow the loss of muscle mass and strength that occurs with age.
- 1/2 cup of blanched almonds contains 16 grams of protein and large amounts of vitamin E, magnesium and phosphorus.
- Peanuts have the amino acid leucine and are high in calories. Contains 73% fat, 11% carbs, 17% protein. If you're struggling to get enough calories to build muscle, eating peanuts and almonds could be a good way to get additional nutrients. The recommended serving of nuts per day is 30 grams.
- Omega 3 fatty acids found in 3 oz of salmon/tuna, 1/4 of avocado, a handful of walnuts, almonds or 2 tablespoons of nut butter, olive oil, 1-2 fish oil capsules.
Supplements are needed to get an extra boost, if diet alone is not enough.
We cannot escape our biological age that causes us to lose muscle, but it is possible to prevent further muscle loss with the help of supplementation.
Gain muscle mass with the support of exercise
You've probably heard that you should lift weights in your exercise routine, which can be much more intimidating than walking or jogging around the neighborhood.
However, it is true that the main treatment for sarcopenia is exercise, specifically resistance or strength training. These activities increase muscle strength and endurance using weights or bands.
It seems obvious, but it is about training that helps you with tolerance to physical effort, that is, to resist. It is the type of exercises that helps you increase your respiratory functional capacity.
It is primarily practiced with resistance band and bodyweight movements, such as Pilates, yoga, push-ups, squats, and lunges.
Resistance training can help your neuromuscular system and hormones. It also improves the ability to convert protein into energy in just two weeks.
The appropriate number, intensity, and frequency of resistance exercises are important to obtain the greatest benefit with the least risk of injury. You should work with a physical therapist or experienced trainer to develop an exercise plan.
You should always start with a 5 to 10 minute aerobic warm-up to warm up the body and avoid injuries. To lift, start light with 1 or 2 pound weights if necessary.
Lifting too much weight too soon is the perfect recipe for injury. That said, if you don't challenge your muscles, you won't see gains.
It takes 20 to 30 minutes, 2-3 times a week to see results. You can start low and gradually increase over time as your body begins to build tolerance.
A good guideline is to select a weight that will tire your muscles after 12 repetitions. When you discover that a weight no longer tires you, try increasing it to the next level.
Even a single set of 12 repetitions with a heavy enough weight can help you build muscle compared to 3 sets with a lighter weight.
Remember that patience is a virtue when it comes to building lean muscle mass. You should try to target all of your major muscle groups at least twice during your weekly workouts.
While you may not see results right away, even just one strength training session can help you promote muscle growth.
Exercise stimulates what is called protein synthesis in the 2 to 4 hours after finishing the workout. Your levels can remain elevated for up to an entire day.
Try using free weights, kettlebells, stationary weight machines as leg extensions. When lifting weights, you should aim to do between 8-12 repetitions in a row. You wait a minute between sets to rest. Then complete another set of the same length.
It takes approximately 3 seconds to lift or push the weight into place. Then, hold that position for a full second and take another 3 slower seconds to lower the weight.
Pro tip: Don't train the same muscle group two days in a row. Rest with a day in between.
Rest and muscle recovery
Days of sleep and rest are crucial. If you have followed my posts, you will understand why I constantly repeat the importance of rest and recovery.
Rest days are as important as training days. When you rest, your body recovers and uses nutrients from your diet to speed up the process of muscle fibers. That is why your diet should be the same even on your rest days.
I know trainers say that on your rest days your macro changes. Well, research lately shows that you need to maintain the same protein intake to recover.
When you are training, your body is using the previous or current day's intake. Rest days need new storage for recovery.
The body also uses carbohydrates while we sleep. It uses approximately 60% of muscle glycogen storage for sleep. Therefore, carbohydrates not only serve as fuel during the day, but also help with sleep waves.
For example, how do you know if you are consuming enough carbohydrates? If you have interrupted your sleep, it is an indicator of low glycogen storage.
Just eating a few bites of carbohydrates at dinner will easily improve your quality of sleep. Athletes tend to increase their carbohydrate intake a little because they don't need more than 300 grams of carbohydrates per day. Your muscle glycogen can only store between 150 and 300 grams, depending on the person.
Additional Tips You Should Follow
Seek the help of a dietitian and personal trainer on ways to optimize your energy production for muscle growth. You can also hire or follow a trainer virtually or in person at any local gym or fitness studio.
Many gyms offer a free session as part of a membership promotion. A personal trainer can help you master proper form when using weights, weight machines, and more.
Exercising properly is key to avoiding injuries. Incorporate cardio into your exercise routine. Aerobic exercise, such as running, can help you build muscle if you do it with intensity, duration, and frequency.
Eat a healthy diet that has a good dose of protein. These foods will contribute to training and help you build muscle through certain amino acids such as leucine. Animal sources have the most protein, but plant sources are also sufficient.
Once you start lifting weights, don't worry about soreness and some muscle fatigue that lasts a few days. If you feel very sore and exhausted, you may be using too much weight or adopting the wrong posture.
Exercise shouldn't cause you pain, so take some time off if you feel like you're going beyond your limits.
And always remember to talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise routine, especially if you have a health problem.