- Shannon Crocker MSc RD
Want to Stay Stronger Longer? Do This!
If there was something you could do to stay strong and slow down the body's aging process, would you do it?
UM...is that even a question?!
The past few years I've watched a few older adults in my life age and lose their strength in what seems like rapid fashion. Really, it's not rapid, it's just that it seems that way to someone not living with it every day. I've noticed their change in mobility and ability to do daily tasks. The loss of strength impacts their quality of life, dramatically.
It makes me really want to fight to stay strong as long as I can.
I don't know about you, but I want to be that vibrant lady who's climbing mountains well into old age. I want to live my best life for as long as I can!
What's the Deal with Natural Muscle Strength Loss
An age-related loss of muscle mass, function and strength is called sarcopenia. And while it's often associated with seniors, it is a natural, and fairly gradual, process that starts younger than you think.
You actually start to lose muscle mass probably somewhere in your forties.
That's right. Your muscle health starts going down hill slowly well before you even think of being "old".
And the "so what" here is that a greater loss of muscle mass, strength and function not only impacts mobility and quality of life, but it's also linked with reduced longevity and disease such as type 2 diabetes.
Sarcopenia affects more women than men. So what's a gal to do?
Two Tips to Stay Stronger Longer
1. Get Active and Strength Train
When it comes to staying strong and healthy as you age, there is good evidence that being physically active is key. In particular, strength training is important.
It doesn't have to be complicated or take hours in the gym. I can't prescribe what that should look like for you because:
1. I'm not a physical activity expert.
2. Every body is unique. What's right for me, won't necessarily be right for you.
3. It's not just about how often you weight train, there's a bunch of variables to consider (e.g. intensity and rest).
Some research I've read suggests that you should do strength training 3 times a week to be beneficial. I aim for that. And have a program that I worked on with a strength training coach.
When it comes to overall health, just do whatever moves you! (I love HIIT workouts -- I'm still dreaming of the beach boot camp workouts in did I Hawaii!).
Walk briskly -- walking has been shown to have benefits too. Climb stairs. Do some pushups before you go to bed. See a personal trainer you trust for a simple workout designed just for you.
2. Eat more protein.
Along with regular physical exercise, promising emerging evidence shows that combining exercise with higher intakes of high quality protein is even more beneficial.
Exercise and protein are like the dynamic duo of healthy aging.
For muscle-boosting benefits, aim for about 20-30 grams of protein at each meal. Most of us get more than enough at dinner, but breakfast is another story. It's the meal short-changed for protein and a good place to start.
Protein at breakfast also helps you to stay energized and satisfied for longer, so you can tackle your morning and manage the munchies. That, in turn, may help with managing a healthy weight.
So how do you get 20-30 grams of protein at breakfast?
It's tough to get enough protein at breakfast from just one protein food. It's easier if you include a couple of different high protein foods. Try:
Eggs + cheese in an mushroom omelette
Black beans + scrambled tofu in a breakfast burrito with leftover roasted veg
Cottage cheese + nuts in a breakfast bowl with fruit or veggies
Greek yogurt + peanut butter + milk in a peanut butter banana smoothie
10 Protein-Containing Breakfast Foods
Here's a list of some of the foods I typically choose from to enjoy at breakfast.
1. 3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt - 17 grams protein
2. 1/2 cup of cottage cheese - 15 grams protein
3. 1 cup of milk - 8 grams (latte anyone?) (soy beverage is a good plant-based choices and has 7grams)
4. 50 grams cheese - 12 grams protein
5. 150 grams tofu - 12 grams protein (have you tried tofu scramble?)
6. 3/4 cup of black beans (think breakfast burrito bowl) - 12 grams protein
7. 2 eggs -- 12 grams protein
8. 2 tbsp natural peanut butter - 8 grams protein
9. 1/4 cup powdered peanut butter - 10 grams protein
10. 1/4 cup almonds - 8 grams protein
Not sure where to start? Check out these protein-packed breakfast recipes:
Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Overnight Oats
Raspberry Lemon Overnight Oats
Peanut Butter and Banana Smoothie
One of the keys to making sure that you get enough protein is to keep your kitchen stocked with nutritious choices and do a little planning ahead. For example, I'll make and keep a couple of Overnight Oats jars in the fridge so I've got a breakfast ready to go. And I make my coffee a latte (so there's a 8 grams just in my morning java!).
Stay strong friends!
Cruz-Jentoft AJ et al. Sarcopenia: European Consensus on Definition and Diagnosis. Report of the European Working Group on Sarcopenia in Older People. Age Ageing. 2010 Jul; 39(4): 412–423.
Borde R et al. Dose-Response Relationships of Resistance Training in Healthy Old Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.Sports Med. 2015 Dec;45(12):1693-720.
Phillips S. Nutritional supplements in support of resistance exercise to counter age-related sarcopenia. Adv Nutr. 2015;6:452–60
Phillips S. and Martinson W. Nutrient-rich, high-quality, protein-containing dairy foods in combination with exercise in aging persons to mitigate sarcopenia.Nutr Rev. 2019 Apr 1;77(4):216-229
Health Canada. Canadian Nutrient File v 2015
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