If you want to learn secrets to building muscle after menopause, this article will show you how you can use exercise and nutrition to increase muscle mass.
Did you know that we start to lose muscle mass after age 30? According to WebMD, people who live a sedentary lifestyle can lose 3 to 5 percent of their total muscle mass per decade, after 30.
Things actually get worse during and after menopause. The body undergoes hormonal changes that increase muscle loss and bone loss. And since menopause slows down metabolism, most women end up gaining weight.
The good news is you can reverse the effects of menopause and build muscle as you age. Below are actionable tips to help you build muscle after menopause.
Secrets to building muscle after menopause
1. Take vitamin D3 supplements
According to a study published by the North American Menopause Society, vitamin D3 supplementation can help women build muscle after menopause.
In the study, researchers found that women who took vitamin D for 9 months increased muscle strength by 25 percent while those who took placebo lost an average of 6.8 percent of muscle mass. What’s more interesting is that vitamin D supplementation can prevent muscle loss and enhance muscle growth 12+ years after menopause.
Getting enough sunlight exposure and eating eggs, fatty fish, beef liver, and foods fortified with vitamin D can also help retain muscle mass.
2. Do strength training
Doing strength training consistently is the key to building muscle after menopause. Not only does strength training increase muscle mass it also strengthens the bones.
Doing bodyweight training or weightlifting, 3 to 5 times a week can tone your muscles and boost metabolism.
Instead of doing single joint exercises, focus on compound exercises which activate many muscle groups at once. Some compound exercises you can do at home include lunges, squats, wall push-ups, and jumping jacks.
Here are tips to help you get the most out of your strength training workouts:
- Warm up: Women are prone to injuries after menopause so warm up for 5 minutes before a workout to avoid injuries.
- Challenge yourself: Don’t do exercises that are too easy. Muscles grow faster when they are strained.
- Don’t ignore legs: Training legs regularly will help increase muscle mass fast since they’re the biggest muscle group.
3. Lower your calorie intake
Did you know that you can gain weight after menopause if you continue to eat the same amount of food you ate before menopause? Reason for this is metabolism slows down after menopause. And the hormonal changes promote accumulation of fat, especially around the abdominal area.
Lower your calorie intake after menopause, but avoid eating too little since it may cause muscle loss. Get most of your calories from plant-based foods to avoid weight gain.
4. Work on your flexibility
Our muscles become stiff, as we grow older. Therefore, it’s important to stretch them regularly in order to improve range of motion and avoid injuries.
Doing yoga exercises, once or twice a week can keep you flexible and tone your muscles. I may also note that stretching lowers risk of back and knee pain. Make sure you stretch your hamstrings every week.
5. Eat more omega 3s
In recent years, people are eating more omega 6s and less omega 3s. This is bad because high intake of omega 6s increases inflammation. And when our bodies are inflamed, we age faster, become prone to diseases, and gain weight.
According to research, taking omega 3 fatty acids supplements increases protein synthesis in older people. Therefore, getting enough omega 3s can actually help you increase muscle mass.
6. Eat the right protein
Protein is essential for building muscle after menopause. But it’s not just quantity that matters, the type of protein you eat is also important.
As you may know, getting all essential amino acids is important for optimal muscle growth. In fact, research shows that the amino acid leucine helps prevent muscle loss. In one study, researchers found that leucine helped promote protein synthesis in younger and older people.
Good sources of leucine include milk and dairy products, poultry, beef, fish, and eggs.
Increase protein intake, especially if you’re doing strength training regularly. Other healthy protein sources include lentils, beans, whey protein, and yogurt.
It’s worth mentioning that eating protein before and after workouts can help your muscles recover faster, according to research.
7. Go easy on the cardio
Cardio is good for your heart but it isn’t very effective at building muscle. Additionally, overdoing cardio after menopause can cause overuse injuries. These types of injuries are caused by doing the same exercises repeatedly. They’re common among cyclists and runners.
High-intensity cardio isn’t safe either because it puts pressure on the joints. The best training approach is to combine strength training with minimal low-intensity cardio.
8. Eat more anti-inflammatory foods
Research shows that chronic inflammation promotes muscle loss as we age. Adding anti-inflammatory foods to your diet will help fight inflammation and as a result, prevent muscle loss.
Eating anti-inflammatory foods will also lower risk of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Eat foods with strong antioxidant properties like blueberries, pineapple, dark green veggies, turmeric, walnuts, and so on.
9. Reduce intake of pro-inflammatory foods
It goes without saying (even though I’m saying it) that you should avoid pro-inflammatory foods to fight inflammation. Most pro-inflammatory foods cause weight gain since they’re high in calories.
Simply avoid foods that contain sugar, trans fats, and corn syrup. Even better, stay away from all processed foods.
10. Go easy on alcohol and cigarettes
Heavy drinking doesn’t just cause weight gain, it can make your muscles weaker and prevent muscle growth. Research shows that excessive alcohol intake can cause muscle pain, cramps, and muscle weakness.
Drinking too much can also cause inflammation. Avoid alcohol altogether or drink occasionally.
Cigarettes have also been shown to promote muscle loss. Research shows that older women who smoke have less muscle mass compared to non-smokers. Note that electronic cigarettes aren’t safe either.
Building muscle after menopause isn’t impossible. You only need to focus on strength training and proper nutrition.
It’s advisable to consult with a health practitioner before you start a new workout routine, especially if you have health problems.
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