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Muscle: The Organ of Longevity

Have you ever wondered why some people get to their 50s and look like they are 80, and some 80-year-olds are in the gym and look like they are 40? The secret is in the muscle. Are you surprised? So many people are, because we are not taught that it’s the muscle that keeps us healthy until the very old years.

Want to burn fat? Look leaner and sexier? Decrease your risk of heart disease and diabetes? What about increasing your mobility and energy levels? If that’s your goal, then it’s time to prioritize your largest organ and address all your vital needs.

Muscle is a vastly underestimated resource—one that burns fat, influences metabolism, protects against disease and so much more. Muscle is the body’s largest endocrine organ involved in body composition. When muscles contract, they release important proteins called myokines; these make our immune systems strong and decrease inflammation. This is particularly important now during this time when we need a strong immune system.

Now that I have your attention, you are probably wondering what you have to do to gain muscle and keep it. Muscle gains usually result from mutually reinforcing diet and workout habits. If one side of this equation is out of whack, your muscle mass may stay painfully stalled.

So, what do you have to do? 

Lift Adequate Weight

Lifting weights is no longer limited to bodybuilders and fitness fanatics. If you want to live a long and healthy life, weights and a protein-rich diet have to be a part of your life. We all know that as we age, we lose muscle mass. This is because when we’re young, our muscles are stimulated by our hormones (growth hormones, testosterone, and insulin). However, as we age, we produce less and less anabolic hormones and we rely mainly on muscle stimulation through exercise and diet.

But it’s not just lifting weights, it’s about the right rep range (usually 5-20 per set) to stimulate your hormones beneficial for muscle growth and straining your muscles in all the right ways. It’s about adding the weight progressively when you can. It’s about training your entire body, each muscle group intensely each week. And it’s about going through the full range of motion maintaining full joint mobility.

Eat Enough Protein

While strength training is essential, you need the right diet to complement the workouts and reap the rewards. First, you must have adequate calorie consumption. Count your protein, not just calories: one gram of protein for every pound of body weight. A minimum of 30-50 grams per meal (depending on your body weight) should be your goal. That’s much more protein than many people eat in a day.

If you are trying to stay lean and concerned about your consumption of carbohydrates, think about this: The body creates the carbohydrates we need through a process called “gluconeogenesis” in the liver.In this process, for every 100 grams of protein we consume, the body makes 60 grams of carbohydrates – without having to eat it.

My own experience:

I don’t like to think of myself as a senior, but I am. So, what’s my method of staying lean and muscular for the long run? I make sure I have adequate protein at each meal and good fats. My carbohydrate consumption has been low for many years. If I go up on carbs, even a little for a few days, so does the bodyfat on my midsection. While this isn’t everyone’s experience, I find it common in people over 50, especially women.

I have no problem, even on low carb, building muscle, being strong, and getting a pump when working out. I feel my best when just consuming protein, good fats, and insignificant carbs in the form of vegetables. I have less joint inflammation, stiffness, and pain. Feeling good is important to my continued success with muscle building and maintenance.

Drink Water

Stay hydrated, your muscles need water to function properly. And no alcohol, it’s been shown to impede muscle growth, even when drinkers eat healthy otherwise. Alcohol can inhibit protein synthesis and may even lower levels of muscle-friendly hormones like testosterone.

Treat your muscles right, and the results will astound you.

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