If you are working really hard on that treadmill, pushing really firmly on the elliptical and kicking your butt on that stationary bike daily and still find yourself pulling your hair out with the mush of muscle that won’t tighten up. Yes! Protein – that is what you really need now.
No matter how many times I work with a client, male or female, I still find it important to remind them of the need for tweaking their diet and nutrition to support their fitness efforts.
Muscle will not build itself on its own. Women, in particular, women aged 50-70 years old (i.e., post-menopausal women) that want to lose the extra weight we tend to gain during this cycle of life, cannot and will not make it happen by performing cardio training alone.
You cannot build muscle by burning it all up with hours and hours of aerobic conditioning. You will not create lean muscle mass in your desire to achieve weight and fat loss without training the muscle of your body. And, if you train muscle, you need protein to feed it.
The July 2008 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association researchers reported, the association between dietary protein intake and loss of lean mass during weight loss in postmenopausal women through a retrospective analysis of a 20-week randomized, controlled diet and exercise intervention.
Weight loss was achieved by differing levels of caloric restriction and exercise. The diet-only group reduced caloric intake by 2,800 kcal/week, and the exercise groups reduced caloric intake by 2,400 kcal/week and expended <400 kcal/week through aerobic exercise. Average weight loss was 10.8±4.0 kg, with an average of 32% of total weight lost as lean mass. Protein intake averaged 0.62 g/kg body weight/day (range=0.47 to 0.8 g/kg body weight/day).
However, the participants who consumed higher amounts of dietary protein lost
less lean mass and appendicular lean mass (r=0.3, P=0.01 and r=0.41, <0.001, respectively). These associations remained significant after adjusting for intervention group and body size.
The study concluded, therefore, inadequate protein intake during caloric restriction may be associated with adverse body-composition changes in postmenopausal women.
Translated loosely…. to lose weight and retain lean muscle, women need to consume higher amounts of quality, dietary protein.
The Universal Truths
- Consume 5-6 small meals – Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner are generally understood. However, I have met hundreds of people that always skip breakfast, sometimes lunch and then grab a candy bar to make it through the afternoon to have dinner late at night followed by a couple of glasses of wine or beer.
The other two meals during the day are clearly snacks. So depending on your size and activity level, 2-3 of the meals will be snacks; an apple with peanut butter, handful of nuts, leaf of lettuce with a scoop of fish salad, protein smoothie. Candy bars, ice cream, cookies, cake, pretzels or chips are universally excluded as “snacks” if you want lean, long length in your muscle.
- Enjoy a healthy protein with every meal – this includes the snack meals as well.
- Consume fresh fruit and vegetables – Fresh, brightly colored fruits and vegetables are the best and highly recommended. Canned fruits and vegetables are processed and will generally have salt and other preservatives added that are unnecessary and easily avoided.
- Hydrate frequently with water – My father provided a great example to my brother and sisters and I while growing up, a good example that I must admit we ignored as children. He always drank at least 1-2 glasses of water after his meal, (morning or evening). I remember seeing it at the table but never remember drinking it then. But you should believe I do now!
If your mouth is dry, or you notice a lot of muscle cramping while moving or exercising, your body is giving you a signal of its level of dehydration. Drink pure, clean water; not the flavored sugar waters that are the rage of the day. I suggest trying to flavor the water with a slice of citrus fruit. Your skin will enjoy the antioxidants as well.
- Minimize (or completely eliminate) soda and sugar soft drinks – This should be obvious given the point above, but bears repeating for emphasis.
Suggested Anti-Aging Options to support increasing your protein intake:
- Start with eggs in the morning; egg whites for less clogged arteries; season with herbs and spices.
- Enjoy a salad or steamed veggies with chicken, beef or fish for lunch and/or dinner.
- Munch on nuts and berries for an afternoon snack.
- Consider a protein drink as a mid-morning or late evening snack.