November 29, 2022

Harnessing the power of nutrition for healthy, strong muscles

Staff Reporter –

Having healthy muscles is generally likened to what is visible outwards such as cosmetic appearances like a ripped body or washboard abs. But that isn’t wholly true. Having healthy muscles is more than skin deep and their significance is even deeper.

Healthy muscles are essential in maintaining strength and the ability to do everyday activities that make life meaningful and fulfilling. Poor muscle health can slowly affect a person’s ability to continue doing even the smallest of daily activities that are taken for granted, such as walking or even breathing.[i]

When it comes to keeping your muscles strong and healthy, nutrition and exercise are the two foundation pillars. Dr. Irfan Shaikh, Head, Medical & Scientific Affairs at Abbott’s Nutrition business shares more about the relationship between muscle health and nutrition and why even the most robust of exercise regimes will be ineffective if not supported with the correct nutritional intake.

Muscles are never at rest

Muscles are always working and supporting our body in terms of mobility, balance, posture as well as strength and energy. Through these activities there is a natural process of regeneration occurring – both muscle protein breakdown and muscle protein building, are happening in the body throughout the day. The objective is to ensure that breakdown isn’t happening faster than building.

While younger people are typically able to offset natural breakdown, the balance can shift with age. We lose about 8% of our muscle mass per decade starting as early as 40 years.[ii] Typical symptoms of decline in muscle health include fatigue, loss of  strength and energy,  poor mobility and a weaker immunity shield.

Nutrition to feed your muscles

Losing muscle is natural, but its rate of progression and negative effects don’t have to be. Nutrition and muscle health go hand in hand. After all, it’s food that fuels every cell in your body and supports your muscles for strength. Adequate nutrition and maintaining a balanced diet are great ways to support your muscle health. But no single food provides all the nutrients needed for good health, so it’s important to eat a variety of foods. Here are some ways in which you can be more mindful of your nutrition intake and build and protect muscles:

  • Make breakfast a priority  

Breakfast is the most common meal to miss given scarcity of time but this is the powerhouse of nutrition that your body needs to take on day ahead. Eating a well-rounded meal in the morning with nutrient-dense foods like eggs, dairy, whole grains and fruit can help fill you up while also keeping energy levels high. Food options like cottage cheese, tuna, lentils and almonds are other great alternatives to consider.

  • Make time in your daily schedule for physical activity

Regular physical activity can go a long way in making muscles stronger. You can begin by including simple activities like walking, swimming, cycling, jogging, weightlifting, recreational sports or even climbing stairs in your daily routine. Just an hour of physical activity daily can contribute tremendously in muscle strength and health. 

  • Ensure you meet your daily protein needs

Consuming up to 25 to 30 grams of protein per meal (along with physical activity) can help your body optimize the use of protein for muscle building and repair throughout the day. Getting the recommended intake of protein each day can be achieved by eating a variety of foods, including meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, tofu and beans.

  • Learn more about a lesser-known ingredient – HMB

Several studies have demonstrated the benefits of beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate (HMB) supplementation, alone or in combination with exercise for maintaining and restoring lean body mass, muscle strength and function in adults.[iii] HMB acts as a gateway to help keep your muscles in balance by slowing muscle breakdown or loss and is naturally produced in small amounts when your body breaks down leucine, an essential amino acid that you can get through eating protein foods. As scientific as that sounds HMB has been part of your diet for a long time without you even knowing about it in foods like avocado, grapefruit and cauliflower. Specialized nutrition supplements featuring HMB are good supporting add-ons to ensure that you get the adequate amount of HMB needed to support muscle health.  

As adults age, muscle loss and slower recovery times might seem daunting. Incorporating the right nutritional supplements into their diet can help avoid the so-called downfalls of ageing and build muscle mass to retain mobility, strength and energy levels as we age.

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