Hey, Wolverines! In this edition of Food Savvy Friday, we’re talking all about muscles. From their physiology, the roles of exercise and diet in muscle maintenance, and the importance of recovery—we’ve got you covered.
Before we discuss muscle maintenance, let’s familiarize ourselves with our muscles. Everyday our muscles contract and relax, allowing us to move, chew, blink, digest, and live. Without muscles we would literally be skin and bones. That is why it is so important for us to maintain our body’s muscle mass!
Here are some healthy ways to keep your muscles moving and your body functioning:
When it comes to muscle maintenance, regular exercise is a great place to start. According to recommendations put out by the American Heart Association, a person should participate in at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week for optimal health. Depending on your goals, the types of exercise you choose can vary from a brisk walk to a heavy lift; nevertheless, regular exercise prevents muscle atrophy—or muscle loss—and preserves both your skeletal and muscle tissues.
Diet is one of the most important contributors to muscle maintenance. For starters, you need food to protect your muscles. Without an adequate amount of food, your muscles will break down at a faster rate than they can be rebuilt. Also, what you eat significantly impacts your body’s ability to preserve muscle. In fact, research has shown that protein consumption is super important to maintain your muscle mass. This is because protein provides amino acids, which are the building blocks for new cells and tissues. Without the presence of amino acids, muscle tissue would deteriorate fast. While our bodies are incredibly self-sufficient, we cannot synthesize all twenty essential amino acids without the help of dietary protein. For this reason, it is critical that we consume sufficient amounts of protein to maintain our muscle mass.
Now that we understand the importance of protein, let’s talk about how much we need. The current Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for an average person is 0.8 g/kg of body weight. To find your personal daily protein goal, simply convert your body weight into kilograms and multiply that by 0.8! And if you regularly participate in resistance training exercises, research suggests that a slight increase in protein intake may be beneficial.
Nevertheless, there’s no need to overdo it. In fact, overconsumption of protein can cause us to under consume the other macronutrients, which are needed for other important bodily functions. At the end of the day, get enough protein, but strike a balance.
Rest and Recovery
Without proper rest and recovery, muscle maintenance can be tricky. This is because the critical process of muscle repair usually occurs overnight while you sleep. For this reason, it is also important to give your body time to recover in between training sessions. Depending on the intensity of your training, rest periods will vary. For instance, your legs may require 72 hours of rest following a weight-heavy leg day, whereas a bodyweight-only leg day may only require 24 hours of rest in between sessions. Consult a personal trainer for professional advice on optimal rest periods following a workout. Despite this exercise variable, one thing is certain: it’s critical to rest adequately to allow muscles time to recover.
The bottom line: Frequent exercise paired with adequate protein intake and proper rest are the best ways to ensure your muscles stay well nourished and ready to take on all the tasks we need them to perform.