Healthy muscles enable you to move freely, keep your joints in good shape, help you keep your balance to reduce your risk of injury, and since muscles burn the most calories, maintaining and/or building muscle mass will help increase your metabolism to burn more calories more efficiently in order to keep you looking great, getting strong and being healthy. Exercise and good nutrition will help keep your muscles healthy.
Exercise is the only way to build muscles, but nutrition plays a critical role in building muscle mass while you’re not at the gym in between your workout sessions. Sugar is the number one ‘bad boy’ on the list. Whether you are trying to lose weight, tone your muscles, strengthen, or rehabilitate from an injury, sugar gets in the way! Sugar and processed foods cause inflammation, disrupt hormone balance and damages your metabolism. A high intake of sugar prompts a spike in blood sugar along with triggering an increased amount of the stress hormone cortisol. This impedes the body’s healing and repair ability whether for rehabilitation or getting fit and strong. Proteins however, in their natural and ‘clean form’ (no hormones and antibiotics added) stabilize blood sugar and provide essential ‘raw materials’ for muscle, joint and bone tissue repair. Your body needs protein to not only build muscles, but to maintain the muscles you have already developed.
In my 35 years of consulting with patients nutritionally, contrary to popular belief, most people don’t eat adequate amounts of protein equally throughout the day. There are different theories on what adequate amounts of protein are, but a safe recommendation is to eat 50% of your body weight in grams of protein spread out over 3 or 4 meals per day. And some may find that they do better with even a bit more protein. Use the formula in this example to determine your estimated amount of protein intake per meal:
Your weight (150 pounds) × .5 = 75 grams of protein per day
75 grams ÷ 3 meals = 25 grams of protein per meal
Eating adequate amounts of protein and a low carbohydrate diet can help build muscles and change your metabolism, enabling your body to burn its own fat for fuel instead of using sugars and starches for energy. Plus, the only way to show off those muscles is to get rid of the fat covering them.
Being monitored by a healthcare provider who specializes in nutrition will ensure your long-term healthwhile you lose weight and build muscles so that your efforts aren’t putting you at risk for other health related issues. For example:
- Low Carb. Diets: Eliminating carbohydrates from your diet is not healthy. Carbohydrates, primarily from vegetables and fruit, are a great source of vitamins, fiber and antioxidants that your body needs to help prevent disease.
- High Protein Diets: Eating protein is essential, as mentioned above, but those proteins high in saturated fat (processed meat, bacon, hot dogs, lunchmeat) can increase the risk of cardiovascular / heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer. For long term health, the adequate amount of protein along with the quality of protein is important. Choose lean meat, poultry, fish, beans and nuts which contain high amounts of protein and healthy fats.
Fad diets may deliver the results you are looking for in the short term but may be detrimental to your long term health and wellness. To optimize your results, concurrently develop these healthy nutrition habits along with your rehab or fitness program. And do know that quality rehabilitation demands a program that combines proficient manual therapies and specifically targeted therapeutic exercise. At NMR we look to encompass all aspects that are important for regaining and maintaining one’s health particularly as it relates to nutrition.
About the author: Dr. Vince Sferra
Dr. Vince Sferra is the founder and Clinic Director of Natural Medicine & Rehabilitation. He is Board Certified in Chiropractic Medicine and Chiropractic Neurology, a Certified Clinical Nutritionist and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist certified by the National Strength & Conditioning Association. He has been in practice and providing educational health and wellness programs in the community since 1986.