Boost the power of your muscles with our simple suggestions
From around the age of 30, muscle mass and function begins to deteriorate naturally – this process is known as sarcopenia. It is particularly noticeable for those who remain inactive – they can lose as much as three to five per cent of their muscle mass every decade after the age of 30. No matter how active you are, muscle loss cannot be escaped, but exercise will prevent the worst excesses of wastage. Sarcopenia usually speeds up at around the age of 75, but it can occur faster from as early as 65 – it is a factor in frailty and increases the likelihood of falls and fractures. Symptoms include feeling weak with a loss of stamina, leading to a decrease in physical activity. Unfortunately this leads to a vicious circle, as exercise is the main way of combating sarcopenia. Strengthening exercises such as resistance training is good prevention, but there are also dietary changes you can make to improve the condition of your muscles.
Eat high-quality protein
This food group provides the body with amino acids such as leucine – these form the basis for creating muscle. Dairy products that are high in whey protein, such as Greek yoghurt and milk, are particularly good sources of this amino acid. You can also find leucine in edamame beans, tofu, soy products, fish and lean meat.
Increase your omega-3 intake
It has been established that omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial for your mood and heart health, but new research also suggests that they maintain the quality of muscles. Inflammation can cause them to break down, but omega-3 fatty acids operate as anti-inflammatory agents. Foods such as salmon, walnuts and eggs provide you with omega-3 in addition to amino acids, giving your muscles a real boost. Flaxseeds are also a great source of omega-3, so consider snacking on these if you feel peckish between meals. You could combine the benefits of walnuts and flaxseeds by making your own simple granola, ideal for breakfasts.
Boost your Vitamin D levels
Studies have started to uncover the role vitamin D plays in muscle protein synthesis and combating inflammation. Receiving adequate levels of this nutrient aids both of these processes, leading to better muscle strength. As you age, it becomes harder for the body to make vitamin D through sun exposure alone, so consider increasing your intake of items rich in this vitamin such as tuna, salmon, mackerel, eggs and cheese.
Eat more anti-inflammatory foods
Following a Mediterranean diet is a brilliant way of increasing your intake of fresh produce that contributes to an anti-inflammatory effect. This moves away from the typical Western diet of over-processed foods, and instead puts emphasis on high amounts of extra virgin olive oil, vegetables, fresh fruit, cereals, nuts and legumes. The Mediterranean diet also includes a moderate intake of fish, seafood, poultry, dairy products and red wine, with low amounts of red meat, eggs and processed items.
Keep your stamina and energy levels up
Decent stamina is necessary for maintaining the strength of your muscles, so boost your energy with slow-burning carbohydrates. Wholegrain or wholemeal varieties of bread, cereals and pasta release energy gradually, keeping you pepped for longer. Bear in mind that sugar only gives you a momentary rush of energy which wears off quickly and can leave you feeling drained, so consider cutting down on items with added sugar. Fatigue can also be prevented by consuming iron-rich foods such as green vegetables, red meat and fortified breakfast cereals.