Friday, February 25

Diet and strength training
By Sharon Howard R.D., M.S., C.D.E. FADA

Men are doing it. Grandmothers are doing it. The entire girls' basketball team is doing it.

Everyone can benefit from strength training! No longer just the interest of body builders, strength training has brought power, balance and youthful energy to many adults.

After age 35, the body loses about half a pound of muscle a year, and replaces it with about 1.5 pounds of fat. By age 80, the body can lose one-third of its age-40 muscle mass. Muscle loss is a part of aging, but research shows that strengthening exercises can stop and even reverse this trend toward fatigue and weakness as we get older. If you don't use it, you lose it!

Loss of muscle is an important factor in weight gain as we get older. Muscle tissue demands eight times the calories that fat requires. So, if we lose muscle mass, we lower our metabolism. This is one reason why men, who have a third more muscle than women, can eat more calories. Muscles need to be fed.

So, rather than just diet, start strength training and make a significant increase in your metabolism. As you build muscle and moderately control your food intake, you will be losing body fat.

A study conducted by Wayne Wescott, Ph.D, fitness director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, Mass., put 70 people on a 20-percent low-fat diet while testing out the effects of exercise. The group that did both endurance and strength training lost twice the amount of weight as the group that did endurance exercise alone. More importantly, the group that did not do strength training lost half a pound of muscle in two months, while the other group gained two pounds of muscle. It appears that a weight-loss program without strength training will cause muscle loss and a subsequent reduction of metabolism. Ultimately, the dieter cannot sustain the lower calorie intake and thus slowly gains the weight back.

What are other benefits of strength training? Strength training stimulates muscle cell growth, improves nerve cell coordination for balance, assists in aerobic exercise and therefore heart health, relieves arthritic symptoms, and increases bone density. People of any age can learn it and benefit. A book by Miriam Nelson, "Strong Women Stay Young", outlines the research and programs developed at Tufts University in Medford, Mass., that brought youthful vigor to older women.

How can your diet play a role in your goal to increase muscle mass with weightlifting? The average person requires about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. Research shows that during a weight-training program, a slight increase in protein intake can assist muscle development. Surprisingly, endurance athletes, not body builders, require the greatest protein intake. An intake of 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of weight per day is optimal for those attempting to increase muscle by weight training. Women only need the lower range; men can opt for the higher. For example, if you are 150 pounds (68 kilograms), you need about 55 grams of protein a day. When you start weight training, you could increase your protein to 68 grams to 100 grams a day. If 1 ounce of protein-rich food contains 7 grams of protein, then 2 more ounces of meat in a sandwich or a snack with a glass of milk and 1 ounce of cheese can add 13 grams of protein to make up the increase. Excessive protein is unnecessary and will be burned off as energy or stored as fat.

Extra protein is most easily obtained by increasing your portions of meat, chicken or fish. Some people add protein powder to beverages to increase protein intake. The many products on the market are convenient, but expensive, ways to increase protein. Use products that provide complete protein, such as milk, egg or soy protein. The body needs the full complement of amino acids to build tissue.

If you are trying to reduce weight, decrease your fat and carbohydrate intake slightly to make up for the increase of protein calories. Carbohydrates are the fuel that your muscles need to perform exercise, so your diet should be 50 percent to 60 percent carbohydrate. Protein should take up 15 percent to 20 percent of your calories, with fat taking up the remaining 20 percent to 25 percent.

A balanced diet is still the smart way to eat while trying to get leaner and stronger. Extreme diets can be unhealthy, hard to sustain and even dangerous. So, in order to keep and build muscle mass, pay a little extra attention to adequate protein intake as you weight train.

The information, including opinions and recommendations, contained in this website is for educational purposes only. Such information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. No one should act upon any information provided in this website without first seeking medical advice from a qualified medical physician.

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