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5 FOODS TO MAXIMIZE YOUR MUSCLE POWER
Want tighter abs or bigger biceps? You need more than a workout program
There is a strong connection between muscle mass and good health, says Robert Wolfe, director of Translational Research in Aging and Longevity at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. “As we age, we tend to lose muscle, especially if we are not using it,” says Wolfe. “These losses eventually affect quality of life, our balance, strength and ability to recover from an illness or accident.”
In fact, muscles do everything from help you move and digest your food, to — in the case of your heart muscle — pump nutrients throughout your body. “Our heart, brain, skin and other organs are in a constant state of remodeling with tissue being built and broken down,” says Nancy Rodriguez, a registered dietitian and director of sports nutrition programs at the University of Connecticut in Storrs. “Muscles offer a significant supply of amino acids to ensure these vital parts stay strong.”
Active muscles not only help cut your risk of developing diabetes or osteoporosis, but the more muscle mass you have, the more calories your body can burn.
To keep your muscles strong and healthy you need the right kind of diet.
Especially fish rich in omega-3 fats such as salmon, tuna, halibut, rainbow trout and canned sardines.
Why: Lean fish contains all the essential amino acids the body needs to make muscles and provide the building materials for creating and repairing other tissues.
Muscle mass is built based on the amount of protein (amino acids) consumed. While Americans typically get more than enough protein to feed their muscles, many older adults do not. An estimated one in every three people over the age of 60 loses so much muscle, partly because they don’t get enough protein to stave off breakdown of muscle tissue, that it affects their ability to function. According to some studies, the omega-3 fats found in fish may help slow the breakdown of muscle mass.
It’s recommended that you eat at least 2-3 meals of fish high in omega-3 fats per week.
Sweet potatoes are a terrific source of potassium and antioxidants, which are good for building muscles.
Why: “Anyone who is exercising and working their muscles will be creating free radicals,” says Tara Gidus, a sports dietitian and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. “Antioxidants can help disarm free radicals and help repair muscle tissue as it breaks down and rebuilds.”
Potassium-rich foods such as sweet potatoes can also help counteract the effects of eating too many acid-producing foods, such as meats, some dairy products and highly-processed items, which can speed the loss of muscle mass.
Other foods loaded with potassium and antioxidants include lettuces, peppers, kiwi, melon and oranges. Ideally, you should eat 5-9 servings of vegetables and produce a day with 3 servings of potassium-rich foods.
Low-fat yogurt is rich in protein, potassium, calcium and vitamin D, all which work together to keep your muscles functioning properly.
Why: Studies suggest that Vitamin D binds to receptors in muscle which then promote growth and strength. Too little vitamin D is linked with muscle weakness.
Select a yogurt brand fortified with vitamin D, which can give you nearly a quarter of your daily requirement in one serving. A daily serving of 6-8 ounces should help keep your muscles primed.
Quinoa (keen-wah), an ancient grain from South America, is full of good carbohydrates -- the body’s preferred source of energy -- as well as high-quality protein, potassium and iron.
Why: Carbs are critical to help you pack on muscle. Too few carbs means the proteins in your body will be used for energy, instead of creating new tissue.
So, while eating protein-rich foods is important for gaining muscle, don’t load up at the expense of wholesome carbohydrates. Quinoa contains all the essential amino acids your body needs for building muscle proteins and other tissues.
Quinoa is also a good source of potassium and contains several minerals including iron, which, as Popeye knows, is needed to help you stay strong.
Enjoy a half-cup of quinoa for breakfast with dried fruits and nuts stirred in, as a side dish mixed with beans and other vegetables, or add the mild, light flavor of quinoa to soups, casseroles or salads. Quinoa can also be found in some ready-to-eat cereals and prepared breads.
Pumpkin seeds are loaded with magnesium, manganese, iron and copper.
Why: The minerals in the body are a fairly well-connected group — they play off one another and work together to build tissue, form enzymes for bodily functions and support communication between cells. They also help maximize muscle mass. Magnesium helps build protein for muscle function. It also helps relax muscles after they’ve contracted. Manganese is needed to form protein and is a component of enzymes that act as antioxidants which help repair damaged muscle tissue. Iron is good for building endurance.
One ounce of pumpkin seeds (a small handful) contains nearly half the manganese you need in a day.