Want stronger muscles? You need to exercise AND follow a reduced-calorie diet

Regular trips to the gym are not enough if you want to have those rippling muscles that make you the envy of those who want to look fit. You have to think beyond exercise and work on a healthy diet as well.

This is the finding of a recent research on muscle performance in three groups of obese seniors around 70 years of age. Researchers from the Florida Hospital divided the volunteers into three groups: One group took a reduced-calorie diet to lose weight; the second followed a reduced-calorie diet and went on a supervised exercise program; while the control group went to health education classes but did not have any kind of diet or exercise program.

The scientists took samples of muscle fibers from each of the volunteers before and after the trial period of six months to measure the mitochondria’s ability to use oxygen and energize the cells. The process, known as mitochondrial respiratory capacity, usually tapers off with age, as some people become more sedentary and gain weight.

Giovanna Distefano, Ph.D., the study’s first author, said heightened mitochondrial capacity is desired as it promotes greater metabolic and muscular functions.

The researchers, who presented their findings at the American Physiological Society’s conference in San Diego, California, revealed that there was no change in the control and calorie-restricted groups’ mitochondrial respiration rates. The exercise-and-diet group, on the other hand, showed improved mitochondrial respiration rates and a greater capacity for exercise.

These findings suggest that adding an exercise regimen to a calorie restriction-induced weight loss program boosts mitochondrial capacity and gives the person extra energy to perform tasks.

What kinds of foods do you need to build the right muscle mass? Fitness trainer Mohammed Tufail Qureshi suggests taking a diet which consists of micro and macronutrients. Vitamins and minerals make up the micronutrients, while a combo of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats supplies the macronutrients you need.

Here’s a detailed guide to your nutrient requirements for stronger muscles:

  • Carbohydrates – It’s important to take carbohydrates in the morning and after every workout. Carbohydrates supply energy. But you should check your intake very closely. One gram of carbohydrates provides four calories. Some carbohydrates are used up as energy and the rest are stored in the body as fat. This is why you should limit your consumption of carbohydrates which you obtain from sugar.
  • Fats – Fats build healthy cells and help the intestines to absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K. Olive, peanuts, sunflower, fish, nuts, flaxseed and pumpkin seeds, soy products like tofu or soy milk contain fats.
  • Protein – On the average, a person needs one gram of protein per kilogram of his body weight for muscle mass, skin and hair maintenance. The requirement is different for someone who is into exercise, however. The physically active person must take almost 1.5 to two grams of protein per kilogram of body weight for muscle buildup. For instance, someone who weighs 150 pounds or 68 kilograms must consume between 150 and 225 grams of protein a day to gain muscles on a regular basis.
  •  Water – This important nutrient provides cushioning between joints and lubricates them. This is why people who exercise, bodybuilders, and strength athletes need lots of water in-between training. Water helps alleviate the pain that comes with regular physical training.

Next time you go to the gym, remember to mind your food intake as well. After all, exercise and a healthy diet make for stronger muscles.

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