How to Eat for Healthy Muscles

June 1, 2021 9:33 am

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Remember Popeye? He would pop open a can of spinach and gobble the contents, and his biceps would quickly bulge, giving him the strength to pummel his opponent.

Consuming spinach or any other vegetable is good but there are lots of other foods you should eat to boost your muscle health. Research suggests that nitrate, a substance found in spinach, can help the body regulate blood pressure and improve blood flow.

Spinach may be a miracle food but you also need to consume an adequate amount of protein at every meal and snack because the amino acids in protein help promote healthy muscles and allow them to repair after a vigorous workout. Carbohydrates need to be included in your diet as they are your muscles’ essential fuel source, in the form of non-starchy vegetables and tuberous vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and legumes. Eating right, combined with weightlifting and other strength training, can help you build and maintain strong muscles.

Different types of food contribute to muscle health in various ways. If you’re physically active eating a healthy, diverse diet is particularly important. To build and maintaining healthy muscle, it’s important to have a balance between lean proteins, carbohydrates and fats. If you work out, eating enough healthy high-fiber, high-nutrient carbohydrates is a good way to replenish glycogen muscle fibers that are depleted after vigorous workouts.

To boost your body’s ability to develop and maintain strong muscles, in conjunction with exercise, consider these strategies:

1. Power up with lean protein. Consuming protein is essential when trying to build muscle because the amino acids in protein, in combination with weightlifting or strength exercises, allow your muscles to grow and repair. Lean protein sources include fish, poultry, lean meat, beans, eggs, legumes and low-fat dairy products. Complete protein sources, ones that deliver all of the essential amino acids include pork and poultry; fish and shellfish; and dairy products: milk, yogurt, cheese and cottage cheese and eggs.

2. Get carbohydrates from healthy sources. Your body needs carbohydrates to fuel exercise. Focus on eating fruits, non-starchy vegetables, leafy greens, tuberous root vegetables (sweet potatoes and yams), as well as whole grains (quinoa and brown rice). Whole grains are full of fiber and are slowly digested by your body.

3. Drink plenty of water. Your muscles need the proper amount of water to stay hydrated to keep functioning properly. Consuming enough water is particularly important before, during and after exercise. The amount you need varies from person to person. People who exercise vigorously and perspire typically need more water than a sedentary person. Eating plenty of fresh whole fruits and vegetables, high in water content, can contribute to meeting your body’s need for hydration.

4. Eat foods rich in Magnesium. Magnesium is the fourth most-abundant mineral in the body and aids in muscle contraction. Magnesium is critical in the functioning of our muscular and cardiovascular systems including the heart, which in turn supports normal rhythm and blood pressure. Foods that contain magnesium include leafy green vegetables, almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, tofu, avocados, beans, salmon, halibut and mackerel.

5. Avoid foods that are bad for your heart. Eating right can help keep the heart healthy so it can pump blood throughout your body. Reducing consumption of foods that are high in saturated and trans-fat means cutting back on fatty meats, such as burgers and sausage, and avoid whole-fat dairy products such as cheese, items with refined carbohydrates like white flour and sugary soft drinks. Instead load up on heart-healthy choices such as whole grains, beans, legumes, berries and green vegetables, including broccoli, kale and, of course, spinach.

Eat Local! The Salem Farmer’s Market opens June 24, 2021 at the Bentley School, 25 Memorial Drive, Salem, Ma. For more information:

Grown Local! The Mack Park Food Farm supplies local pantries and Salem Residents with fresh produce.

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