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Dietary protein is often associated with lean mass, not only in older adults but also in people of all ages. Everybody knows that proteins are the building blocks of muscle. However, protein’s significance goes well beyond that. Protein is required for the vast majority of physiological processes within our body.
“The importance of dietary protein cannot be underestimated in the diets of older adults; inadequate protein intake contributes to a decrease in reserve capacity, increased skin fragility, decreased immune function, poorer healing, and longer recuperation from illness.” (Chernoff, R.)
You see, protein is a critical macronutrient and adequate intake is a must! For the older adult, the need may even be a bit higher.
Protein Need for Lean Body Mass and Bone Density
Proteins are the building blocks of muscle. Therefore, they’re also necessary to maintain current, existing muscle. If weight training is part of your routine, you should increase your protein intake. You must match the demand your body currently has (maintaining muscle) with the demand you are creating through resistance training to build new muscle.
Although further research is necessary to determine for sure that dietary protein could help prevent sarcopenia (loss of muscle tissue as a natural part of aging) in older adults, there is enough information to warrant an increase in protein intake in older adults.
Older adults who are also implementing resistance exercises into their routines may need even more protein. Personally, I’ve seen enough evidence that an increase protein intake will help improve bone density and prevent fractures, especially when combined with resistance training.
Importance of Protein Quality
Unlike carbs and fats, there are few ‘bad’ proteins. However, protein quality is important. It’s critical that you are consuming protein from complete protein sources. A complete protein source is one that contains all 8 essential amino acids (EAAs). These EAAs must come from food and are essential for all things protein related. They are a non-negotiable must.
Quality sources of protein would come from grass-fed beef and livestock, free-range and naturally fed chickens, wild-caught fish and whole eggs. You’ve probably heard the saying “You are what you eat!”
Well, that saying is not entirely true. The truth is:
“You are what you eat eats.”
The quality of the animals’ diet is directly related to the nutritional value derived from eating their meat. The nutrients the animal eats is stored in their tissues. If the animals are pumped full of hormones and antibiotics, the quality of the meat will greatly suffer.
If you don’t believe it, go to your local super market and look at the difference between a wild-caught and farm-raised salmon. Often times, they will not put them side-by-side in the case. This experiment alone may change the way you think about food forever.
One thing you might want to consider is supplementing your diet with a quality protein powder. There are many supplement companies out there taking advantage of the market for quality protein powders. That’s good news for you! There are many quality protein powders to choose from.
When choosing a protein powder, consider the following:
- Length of Ingredient List
- A good rule of thumb is the fewer ingredients, the better
- Type of Protein
- Whey protein isolate/hydrolsate are great sources
- Avoid soy protein, especially males. Females, soy protein doesn’t offer you a much better service, so it’s best to avoid it all together
Protein Intake and Kidney Function
Many people fear facing kidney problems when told to increase their protein intake. This fear is self-imposed and is not based in any type of factual evidence. Now, if you have an outstanding kidney problem, you’ll want to keep a closer eye on it but there’s still much conflicting data that directly correlates kidney problems with a higher intake of dietary protein. When in doubt, consult your doctor.
Determining Protein Intake
Recommended Daily Amount (RDA)
The RDA is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or 0.36 grams per pound of body weight. For a 200 lb. man, that would equate to 72 grams of protein. Even in a sedentary individual, that is an incredibly low recommendation. The RDA sides on the side of caution by providing such a conservative amount. Let’s break this down a bit further.
72g of protein = 288 calories
For the average 200 lb. male, their resting metabolic rate would be somewhere between 2,400-2,600 calories. That means that the recommended 72g of protein would comprise to about 8% of overall intake. That leaves 92% of the calories to come from fat and carbs.
That allows 46% of your diet to come from carbohydrates, which aren’t even 100% necessary for you to survive. You’re looking at 276-299g of carbohydrates per day. For a sedentary individual, I would consider that to be a bit high.
If forty-six percent of our example’s diet is coming from fats, you’re looking at 123-133g of fat. Now, a sure fire way to gain weight is a diet high in fat and carbs. One thing that’s very easy to do when consuming high-carb, high-fat diet is to over-eat.
For athletes, recommended protein intake is higher with ranges from 1.2-1.6g / kg/ day. This is much more realistic even for the sedentary individual. The same 200 lb. male we referenced earlier would now be consuming between 109-145.5g of protein per day.
For the older adult who is still very much active and training similar to an athlete, the demand of protein would be even higher. Personally, I like to measure macronutrients by percentages. Protein should be no less than 30% of your diet. In some cases, I wouldn’t be surprised if protein demand came close to the 50% mark.
As vital as protein is to many different physiological processes, it sure doesn’t get much respect from the RDA. Remember, that protein is far more important than simply building muscle. Countless physiological functions require adequate protein intake. You would be doing your physique and health a disservice to not fuel your body with the adequate amount of protein.
Chernoff, Ronni. “Protein and older adults.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 2004. Vol 23, Supplement 6, 627S-630S. doi:10.1080/07315724.2004.10719434
Phillips, Stuart M. “Dietary protein requirements and adaptive advantages.” British Journal of Nutrition, 2012. 108, S158-S167. doi:10.1017/S0007114512002516
There are few cardio exercises as effective and simple as running. It requires very little equipment (no treadmill necessary) you can do it anywhere, and there are lots of styles to choose from. Still, for all its simplicity, running is actually a bit bit more complicated activity to get started on than you might initially think. There are questions on what shoes to buy, how fast and far to run, what to eat and how to avoid injury. Read on for tips for running beginners (and maybe some vets) on how to safely get started running.
Make A Schedule
You don’t have to set aside hours for running as if you’re training for a marathon (unless you are starting with a marathon, in which case, good luck). But you should set aside thirty minutes three days a week to train.
When you do decide on a workout schedule, write it down! Put it in your calendar, planner or phone. Put your running schedule on the fridge or bathroom mirror. Make that time nonnegotiable. You’re way more likely to stick with it if you have a real plan than a vague notion to run a few times a week.
Get Good Shoes
If you want to invest in GPS watches, fitness trackers, or clothes with high-tech fabrics, that’s fine but not necessary. For the average jogger, any old t-shirts and athletic shorts will work. The only real piece of equipment you need is a good pair of running shoes. The right pair of shoes with the right fit will help prevent injury and make running more comfortable. There’s a lot to consider when choosing sneakers, like your height, weight, experience level, miles per week, arch height and pronation. If you’re not sure what to buy, head to a specialty running store to get outfitted for the right shoes.
If you’ve never run before, you’re not going to start with a three-mile jog. You could try, but you’d most likely become burnt out, exhausted or hurt and wind up quitting. When you first start out, know that you’re going to walk a lot, and that it’s okay. Even elite runners started somewhere.
Most coaches tell anyone who is just starting out, or coming back after a long time off, to ease into running by alternating periods of walking and running. When you know you can walk at a brisk pace for 30 minutes, start incorporating running into your walk. For example, running two minutes then walking four minutes. Repeat five times. As time goes on, you can increase your time running and decreasing your time walking until you can run for thirty straight minutes.
You also don’t need to start off sprinting or running at a competitive pace. When just starting out, you shouldn’t run so hard that you’re completely out of breath. You should be able to hold a conversation with only a little difficulty.
Building the strength and endurance to run can be discouraging, especially since it’s sometimes a long, slow or difficult process. Find ways to stay motivated to keep with it. If having runs in your calendar isn’t enough, try finding a running partner who will be left alone if you don’t show up. You can also train for a local 5K race. At 3.1 miles, it’s a great race distance for beginners, and most local races have lots of casual joggers and walkers participating. You can also use a preplanned beginners training schedule or app, which makes a plan for you and takes the guesswork out of it. Whatever you decide, stick with it and you’ll be running with ease before you know it.
A Stroke is a Game Changer
Recovery from a stroke can feel daunting. Retraining the brain to complete actions that it used to take for granted means intense rehabilitation in hospital, with a therapist, and at home. While strokes are game changers, they don’t have to be a life sentence. The brain is adaptive and resilient, and with a focused stroke recovery plan, there is hope.
It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint
Stroke rehab with a physical therapist is a well-supervised process, but rehab doesn’t end at discharge. Empowered independent rehab at home is a must to continue to improve mobility, strength and endurance to enhance the ability to perform activities of daily living (ADL).
High level goals of a post-stroke rehab program include improving functional ability, range of motion, balance, strength and cardiovascular endurance. Independent rehab training should be vetted and monitored by your medical team to ensure it is safe and effective given the effects of the stroke. That said, there is so much a stroke survivor can do at home to help their own recovery.
Set Realistic Goals and Set Yourself Up for Success
After setting stroke treatment goals with the health care team, some good options for post-stroke equipment include:
- A rubber ball
- Exercise bands or tubing
- A set of ankle weights or light hand weights
- A balance board
- Portable exercise cycle
Below are some ways to incorporate this equipment and common household items into your stroke recovery program.
Functional Ability: Repetition and Coordination
Similar to learning a musical instrument or learning to drive, practice and repetition strengthens the muscle-mind connection after a stroke. Repeated use and practice will help regain functional ability in the affected side.
Some examples for upper body include:
- Rolling a ball back and forth on a table with the affected arm
- Gripping a door or drawer handle and opening it repeatedly
- Squeezing a tube of toothpaste with the affected hand while holding your toothbrush with the unaffected hand
- Turning on and off a light switch with the affected hand
Be aware of avoidance patterns! In other words, don’t stop using the affected side – practice to improve.
Range of Motion (ROM)
Prior to incorporating resistance training into the stroke rehab program, active range of motion exercises will improve joint flexibility, strengthening and increased muscular endurance.
Examples of lower body ROM include:
- Heel slides laying on your back or sitting in a chair
- Wrist and ankle circles
- Toe raises using a chair with or without weight
- Assisted or passive stretching of warm muscles and joints
Balance training is paramount to a post-stroke rehab program to improve unassisted mobility and reduce the risk of falls.
Balance training may include:
- Supporting oneself against or near a counter, wall or walker for stability and lifting one foot off the ground and holding for 20 seconds.
- For more advanced stroke recovery, try standing with two feet on a balance board in between a doorframe, bracing the doorframe for stability. Keep the board level, balanced and still; remove one hand; and then the other.
Strength: Resistance Training
Preventing secondary weakness due to inactivity is important in any rehab program, particularly post-stroke. Adding in resistance training 3-5 days a week will improve strength, reduce atrophy and promote recovery.
Resistance training can be incorporated at home using resistance bands or tubing, light hand or ankle weights, or by simply performing body weight exercises like squats, hip bridges or wall push-ups.
Fine motor skills can benefit from grip strength training. Try squeezing a rubber or stress ball with your affected hand for 15 reps a few times a day.
At the gym, weight machines or pulleys that isolate specific muscles are good options for strengthening and conditioning.
To begin the rehab resistance training program, choose a weight or resistance that allows for 6 to 15 repetitions with good form and will challenge the muscle without overtaxing the recovering muscular and nervous system.
Start with one set, eventually working up to three sets with a 15 – 60 second rest period between sets. During the rest period, it’s important to listen to the body and check in. While challenging recovering muscles is important, resting when needed is more important to avoid injury or overuse.
While functional training to improve ADLs is primary to recovery, preventing recurrent strokes through improved cardiovascular function is also important to long-term health and quality of life.
When coordination and function have improved enough to explore cardiovascular training, some options include:
- Walking (assisted or unassisted) on solid ground
- Supervised swimming (possibly with floatation support)
- Indoor cycling with a portable exercise cycle (it rests on the floor or tabletop to allow for pedaling with either legs or arms while sitting safely in a chair) or on a recumbent bike.
Set small, realistic cardiovascular goals. For example, walking with or without a walker to the end of the driveway and back or doing 5 minutes on the portable exercise cycle, adding more time as you continue to improve.
No One Size Fits All Program for Stroke Recovery
Ultimately there is no one size fits all rehab protocol for stroke recovery as the variables are individual, but please consider that some movement, exercise or training is better than none at all.
While post-stroke rehab may be tiring or frustrating at times for the stroke survivor, by taking action every day in the journey to recovery, improved health, fitness and functional ability is within reach.
When most people think about core strength, they picture six-pack abs and millions of sit-ups. But the core is made up of more than just abs, and core strength is about more than having a toned stomach or looking good. The core is exactly that—it’s the core of your body. And building those muscles will benefit you for the rest of your life, no six-pack required.
Your core is made up of more than just the abdominal muscles, the muscles in your stomach referred to as abs. The core also includes your obliques (the muscles in your sides), pelvic floor muscles, glutes and all the muscles in your back.
The muscles that make up the core play a central role in everything you do. Every movement you make stems from your core, since every muscle in your body is connected to the ones in the core. From everyday tasks like tying your shoes and cleaning to heavy lifting and athletic activities, you use the muscles in your core.
A strong core is also vital to balance and stability. Every time you walk on uneven ground or stand in one place, you use your core muscles to keep you there. The stronger those muscles are, the less likely you are to fall over.
Strong core muscles will also help improve your posture. If your core is weak, you’re more likely to slouch over, since it’s harder to keep yourself upright. That good posture is better for your spine, prevents and alleviates lower back pain, and allows you to breathe easier.
And, at the end of the day, a strong core will help you look slimmer, as well. Even if you never get six-pack abs, a strong core will help you stand taller and straighter, making you look instantly slimmer. The inner muscles of the core help tighten your stomach and give you a smaller waistline.
So now that you know why strengthening your core is so important, it’s time to learn how. While sit-ups are a great exercise for building abdominal strength, they don’t effectively work every muscle in your core. The good news about core exercises is that you don’t need fancy equipment, or even a gym, to do them. You can build a strong middle just using your own body weight. Try the exercises below to get started.
This modified sit up works your entire from. Lie face down with your arms and legs outstretched. Keeping your legs and arms straight, lift your body into a v-shape, reaching your fingers as close to your toes as you can.
Sit up with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor in front of you. Lean back at a 45-degree angle, keeping your back straight. Using your muscles, slowly twist to each side as far as you can. For an added challenge, hold a weight in your hands as you twist.
Lie flat on your stomach with your arms and legs outstretched, palms toward the ground and toes pointed. Simultaneously lift your arms, legs and chest off the floor, then slowly return to the ground. Look at a spot on the floor in front of you so you don’t strain your neck.
On the floor, place your hands on the ground under your shoulders as if you’re going to do push ups. Pull your stomach in and engage your muscles, keeping your whole body in a straight line. Hold as long as possible.
After you hit 40, you might begin to wonder what this means for your workout program. What are the best workouts for those in their 40’s and beyond? How should your workout change compared to that of someone half your age?
There’s no question that you do need to adapt your workout over time due to the changing needs of your body, but contrary to what many women might believe, it doesn’t need to change that much.
The Best Workout For Women Over 40
Hands down, the single best workout option for women in their 40’s is going to be a good resistance training program. It’s incredibly important for women at this age to start with a strength training workout if they have not yet already because at this age, you are at a higher risk of losing lean muscle mass. It’s the old principle ‘use it or lose it.’ If you aren’t putting sufficient stress on your muscles as the weeks pass by, slowly you’ll grow weaker, which can make everyday activities harder to perform.
Likewise, your lean muscle mass is the most metabolically active tissue in the body, so the more muscle you lose, the slower your resting metabolic rate will become, which can contribute to weight gain.
One of the biggest reasons why women start to gain weight into their 40’s and 50’s is because they are losing the lean muscle that helped keep their daily calorie burn higher. If you aren’t adjusting your food intake to account for this loss of muscle mass, it will result in weight gain.
Additionally, if you are in your 40’s and really looking to transform your body, weight lifting is the way to do it. While cardio training may help you burn fat, weight lifting will help you reshape your physique, adding curves and muscle in all the right places.
Finally, weight lifting is a great choice if you want to combat stress. Between a demanding career and family obligations, life can get stressful. A good weight lifting session will release a nice dose of endorphins, helping calm your body and combat that stress.
Getting Started With Resistance Training
So how can you get started? First, you’ll want to select the best exercises to make the most of your time in the gym. Chances are, you’re busy and don’t have hours to train, so you’ll want to get the most ‘bang for your buck.’
Compound exercises will work multiple muscle groups at once, help you gain functional strength, and burn the most calories per session. They should be your focus. These include moves such as bench pressing or push-ups, bent over rows, shoulder presses, squats, lunges, deadlifts and pull-ups (or pull-downs).
Focus on these first and foremost, then you can add other exercises such as bicep curls, tricep extensions, lateral raises, leg extensions, and hamstring curls if you’d like.
You should focus on lifting a heavy enough weight that you are fully fatigued by the time you finish around 8-10 reps without losing proper form. This will give you both the strength-training stimulus to help generate more lean muscle mass while keeping your metabolic rate and calorie burn higher.
Finally, rest for around 30-60 seconds between sets. You don’t want to rest too long or you’ll lose some of the metabolic boosting effects this workout provides. At the same time, don’t rest so little that you can’t challenge yourself with a heavy weight.
To help give you an idea how to implement this, let’s examine at what a full body workout for those over 40 would look like. Always begin with a brief five to ten minute warm-up and finish up with some light stretching at the end.
Full Body Workout For Women Over 40:
- Squats – 3 sets of 8 reps
- Bench Press – 3 sets of 8 reps
- Bent Over Rows – 3 sets of 8 reps
- Leg Press – 3 sets of 10 reps
- Shoulder Press – 3 sets of 10 reps
- Walking Lunges – 2 sets of 12 reps
- Superset* Bicep Curls with Tricep Extensions – 2 sets of 15 reps
- Superset* Lateral Raises with Front Raises – 2 sets of 15 reps
*Note that a superset is performing all the reps of one exercise and then directly moving to the next exercise, doing all the reps of it before taking a rest.
So if you have not yet started with resistance training, lean towards this style of exercise as you formulate your workout plan. It’ll serve you very well both in your 40’s as well as in the years beyond.