Maximum Muscle for Better Health and Longevity

Marie Spano MS, RD, CSCS, CSSD

Adults who are stronger may live longer, healthier lives. Greater muscle strength means you can do more. Instead of sitting on the sidelines of life, you’ll be in the game. Imagine canoeing, hiking, spending long days at amusement parks and swimming in the ocean through your later years of life. Greater strength can also keep you independent in your older years and therefore in your own home for a longer period of time.

Maintaining Muscle with Movement

The best way to maintain muscle is by using it. If you don’t use it, you lose it. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention physical activity guidelines for adults suggest doing resistance training 2 or more times per week. If you are finding it tough to fit in any exercise, don’t let these recommendations alarm you. You don’t need fancy equipment to fit exercise in throughout the day. Also, many daily activities can give your muscles a workout.

One of the best ways to get physically and mentally energized is to fit in exercise breaks during the day. Ten minutes of climbing stairs, wall squats, exercise with resistance bands, pushups (on the floor or against a wall) or any other type of exercise will benefit your health. Try resistance training in 10 – 15 minute increments throughout the day. If you work in a dress and heels, carve out time during your lunch break. Or, keep small weights at your desk and do arm curls and tricep kickbacks.

In addition to working out, there are many activities in daily living that can double as resistance training. Using a vacuum, garden tillers or other large equipment can certainly give your body a workout. Moving furniture, lifting boxes and cleaning your car can also support muscle health. The most important thing is to get moving and stay moving. Look for opportunities to add physical activity every day.

Protein for Muscle

In addition to moving, dietary habits matter when it comes to muscle. Protein intake and total daily calories are the two most important considerations. While the general recommendation for protein intake is around 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight daily, adults who are active need approximately 1.2 – 1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day to maximize muscle growth and repair.[i] The amount of protein consumed per meal is also important. Studies have found adults generally need 25 – 30 grams of high-quality protein per meal. Some adults who have more muscle may need more than this per meal or more than 3 meals to meet total daily protein needs.[ii] High-quality protein is easily digestible and contains all essential amino acids (all are needed to maximally stimulate muscle growth). Most animal-based proteins, including dairy, beef, poultry and eggs, contain all the essential amino acids. Soy is one of the only vegetarian protein sources that contains all the essential amino acids and therefore, for maximum muscle growth, other plant proteins need to be combined to make up for any missing essential amino acids.

Related Article:  Pea Protein as a Vegan Protein Powder Option

Many people, especially those who crash diet, will lose muscle when they lose weight. To prevent this, it is important to consume greater amounts of protein to prevent the breakdown of muscle during weight loss. Muscle can be broken down and the amino acids used as a source of energy to make up for a lack of calories. Anyone on a diet may need up to 2.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.[iii], [IV]

Why is Muscle Recovery so Important?

Training hard will give you results. However, if you push yourself during training, you may end up tired, sore and with a decrease in strength in the days after you train. Excess muscle soreness can interfere with movement. Your running motion may be off or it may be tough to completely bend or straighten your arm. Soreness, strength loss and changes in movement can get in the way of your workouts. Check out the Life Extension Exercise Enhancement Protocol  for more information on how to help maximize the health and longevity benefits of exercise.

Recovery nutrition refers to what you eat in the hours after you train. Paying attention to recovery nutrition can help you make the most of your training sessions, minimize muscle soreness, restore strength and keep your energy high. Everyone, regardless of their fitness level, should pay attention to recovery nutrition to ensure they get the most from every training session.

As a professional sports dietitian, I find athletes feel much better if they eat or take a protein shake soon after training. They have more energy the next day and they are not as sore. Post-training carbohydrates are used as energy to build and repair muscle and restore glycogen levels – your fuel tank of energy stored in muscle. More glycogen in muscle means improved endurance during your next bout of training.

In addition to carbohydrates, it is important to get a good serving of protein within 2 hours after training. After you train you are breaking down more muscle than you are building. A good amount of protein can flip this to greater muscle building.

Protein Supplements: What to Look For

Protein supplements are great for recovery because they are convenient and offer the amino acids you need. If you are in a rush or don't feel like eating, a protein supplement can help fill a nutrition gap. Protein supplements can also help you re-hydrate.

Related Article: How Whey Protein Fights Aging

Protein supplements come in powder form, ready to drink (RTD, liquid), gummies and bars. Powder protein supplements are typically the most cost effective. Gummies and bars have a lower protein content per serving than a powder or RTD. However, all are viable options. If you haven’t eaten in 4-5 hours and are about to work out, it is a good idea to consume protein pre-workout. Consuming protein at this time helps ensure you are getting regular servings of protein to up-regulate muscle growth. Otherwise, it is not necessary to consume protein before a workout. Instead, consume protein from food or a supplement within 2 hours after training.

In addition to zoning in on protein and carbohydrate after training, antioxidant compounds called anthocyanins can support recovery. Return to our blog tomorrow to read the research behind how antioxidants from tart cherries can support muscle recovery!

About the Author: Marie A. Spano, MS, RD, CSCS, CSSD,is a nutrition communications expert and one of the country’s leading sports nutritionists. She enjoys the challenge of communicating scientific information in an approachable, understandable format to a variety of audiences. Spano has appeared on NBC, ABC, Fox and CBS affiliates, and authored hundreds of magazine articles and trade publication articles, written book chapters, marketing materials and web copy on a variety of topics ranging from novel food ingredients to preventing sarcopenia. She is the lead author of the college textbook Nutrition for Sport, Exercise and Health and co-editor of the NSCA’s Guide to Exercise and Sport Nutrition (Human Kinetics Publishers). A three-sport collegiate athlete, Spano earned her master’s in nutrition from the University of Georgia and her bachelor’s degree in exercise and sports science from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro (UNCG). Spano is a member of the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND).


[i] Phillips SM1, Van Loon LJ. Dietary protein for athletes: from requirements to optimum adaptation. J Sports Sci 2011;29 Suppl 1:S29-38.

[ii] Lonnie M, Hooker E, Brunstrom JM, Corfe BM, Green MA, Watson AW, Williams EA, Stevenson EJ, Penson S, Johnstone AM. Protein for Life: Review of Optimal Protein Intake, Sustainable Dietary Sources and the Effect on Appetite in Ageing Adults. Nutrients 2018; 10(3): 360.

[iii] Phillips SM. A Brief Review of Higher Dietary Protein Diets in Weight Loss: A Focus on Athletes. Sports Med 2014; 44(Suppl 2): 149–153.

[iv] Pasiakos SM, Cao JJ, Margolis LM, Sauter ER, Whigham LD, McClung JP, Rood JC, Carbone JW, Combs GF Jr, Young AJ. Effects of high-protein diets on fat-free mass and muscle protein synthesis following weight loss: a randomized controlled trial. FASEB J 2013;27(9):3837-47.


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