By Dr. Meghana Pasi
Eating right keeps you healthy. Everybody knows this and yet the most we do about trying to eat healthy is adding a fruit to our diet. Maybe a banana before work, or an apple at lunch. But is this really enough? Let’s start by talking about why it’s important to have healthy muscles and why you need a proper protein intake for it.
Like all other body parts and organs, muscles play a major role in helping us maintain a healthy life and their benefits are numerous. Healthy muscles let you move freely and keep your body strong. They allow you to carry out every activity of your day, whether it’s more action-based like sports and working out, or just something as simple as walking and holding objects. Strengthening our muscles also help keep our joints in good shape. If the muscles around our knee or shoulder are weak, we may be more likely to injure that part.
Having stronger muscles also helps to keep our balance, so you are less likely to slip or fall. This further reduces the risk of osteoporosis and other bone aliments. Besides the added physical ability, adequate muscle mass also helps to keep the additional weight under control.
But the question still remains, how do we build healthy muscles?
Mother always told us that drinking milk makes your bones stronger, and it’s true! But a diet that includes only a few proteins in a random quantities without exercise does not help you at all. The mantra to having a strong and healthy muscle mass is a protein-rich diet with exercise and physical activity. Any one in isolation will not work. Simply eating more protein doesn’t mean you’ll gain muscle mass.
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You also need to exercise and weight train. When you exercise and lift weights, you create tiny micro tears in your muscles and when you eat proteins, your body breaks it down and uses those amino acids to repair the tears. Then they surround and fill the tear and make it bigger and stronger.
Ever thought of the amount of proteins you get from your food every day?
Protein requirements depend on age, gender, physiological status and activity level. The average recommendation for a healthy adult is 1gm protein per kg of body weight. This means that, if I am a 30-year old healthy woman living a sedentary lifestyle and weighing 55kgs then I need 55gms of proteins every day in my diet.
However, if I participate in a sport or exercise or go to the gym, then my protein requirements are higher to promote better muscle tissue growth and repair.
For strength and endurance athletes, protein requirements are increased to around 1.2-1.8g /kg of bodyweight per day.
For the working individual, here’s what you need to know:
1. Spread your protein over the day, with three main meals and two protein-rich snacks.
2. Spreading protein intake will optimise amino acid levels in the blood and promote muscle repair and growth. To start you off, have a variety of proteins in your meals like milk, meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, pulses, milk products, soya and whole grains.
So, do you need extra protein to build muscle?
It is a common myth that consuming extra protein gives people bigger muscles. High protein intake without exercising and strength training does not lead to muscle building.
A healthy, balanced diet, with the incorporation of some extra good quality proteins after exercise is important for building new muscle tissues and repairing the damaged ones. Any more protein than this will not be used for muscle building and is just used as energy! Which is why knowing about your diet really helps you utilize everything that you eat.
(Dr. Meghana Pasi is Nutrition Consultant, Arogya World India Trust. Views expressed are the author’s own.)