Whether your goal is growing your muscles from lifting weights in the gym or being able to carry around your grandchildren when getting older, it is important to focus on keeping your muscles healthy and fit.
Our bodies contain more than 600 different muscles helping us with tasks ranging from moving around to pumping blood through our system. Each of these muscles needs proper care and maintenance to stay healthy and fit. Our bodies do most of the work themselves, but it is crucial that we provide them with the right building blocks and stimuli to keep the processes going.
To keep your muscles healthy and fit, there are two things you should keep in mind. Exercise regularly and make sure to get your nutrition right.
By exercising regularly, you tell the muscles that they are still relevant. People build muscles at different rates depending on their age and sex, but muscle development significantly increases if exercises are done consistently and in the long-term, while always ensuring enough rest in between the sessions.
The best exercises to stimulate the muscles are resistance training in the form of strength training and body weight exercises. Some examples of strength exercises include:
- Body-weight exercises, such as squats or pushups
- Resistance band exercises
Get your nutrition right
When getting your nutrition right, you provide the body with the right building blocks needed for muscle maintenance and growth. A balanced and healthy diet is sufficient for most people. However, there are a few things to focus on when eating for healthy and strong muscles:
- Make sure to get protein. When protein is digested in our stomach it releases amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of the muscle fibers making up each muscle. Great sources of protein are lean meat, fish, eggs, nuts, and beans.
- Eat carbs. By eating carbohydrates, such as bread, pasta, and vegetables, you provide the fuel needed to perform physical activities stimulating the muscles. Furthermore, carbs also stimulate the release of insulin, which enhances muscle growth.
- Don’t forget your vitamins. Vitamins and minerals are needed to facilitate the processes behind muscle maintenance and growth.
In the following, we dive deeper into the specific vitamins and minerals your body needs for optimal muscle function and health.
Important vitamins and minerals for muscle health
Vitamin D is mainly known for its importance to bone health, where it helps regulate the uptake of calcium in the bones. However, research has shown that vitamin D also plays an essential role in muscle strength and that a deficiency can lead to loss of muscle mass, also known as muscle atrophy, as stated by the European Journal of Applied Physiology.
Vitamin D is produced when our skin is exposed to sunlight. However, hitting the recommended daily target of vitamin D can be hard when spending most hours indoors. Also, getting too much sunlight exposes our bodies to unhealthy UV radiation. One should therefore consider getting Vitamin D from the diet (fatty fish, soy milk and cheese) or by taking supplements.
Vitamin B, or B-complex, is a group of vitamins with interdependence. The group consists of eight types of B vitamins playing an essential role in a variety of the body’s processes. The most important for muscle health are:
- Vitamin B1, also known as Thiamin, is important in energy production by helping the cells convert carbohydrates to energy and thereby facilitate activities stimulating the muscles. The vitamin is also associated with the conduction of nerve signals and muscle contraction.
- Vitamin B2, also known as Riboflavin, plays a vital role in breaking down proteins, carbohydrates and fats and is therefore ensuring the body’s energy supply.
- Vitamin B6, also known as Pyridoxine, is very important in helping your digestive system process and break down the protein you eat.
- Vitamin B9, also known as Folate or Folic acid. In accordance with the International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research, folic acid is integrally involved in the development of red blood cells and therefore important in the delivery of oxygen to the muscles.
- Vitamin B12, known as Cobalamin, works as a cofactor with vitamin B9 to produce red blood cells and is therefore also important in delivering oxygen to the muscles.
As the above list shows, vitamin B-complex is a powerful player in muscle maintenance and growth. You should therefore make sure to get this from your daily diet – with foods such as salmon, eggs, beef, liver, leafy greens, and milk - or from using supplements.
Vitamin C is mainly known for its ability in boosting the function of the immune system. However, vitamin C also helps in the formation of collagen, which is an essential structural component of the muscle.
Vitamin C can be found in many fruits and vegetables.
Magnesium is a mineral playing an important role in the contraction of the muscles and acts as a muscle relaxant. Despite no clear evidence of the association, magnesium reduces the susceptibility to muscle cramps. Furthermore, magnesium is required for energy production and also supports the function of the nerves.
Magnesium is obtained from foods like dark chocolate, avocados and nuts. Depending on the availability of these foods, one can consider adding magnesium as a supplement to the daily diet.
Inappropriate use of supplements can be harmful to the body. Therefore, before adding new supplements to your diet, enlist your doctor’s help to identify any deficiencies and to make sure you stay within the recommended daily vitamin and mineral dosages.
If you are looking for supplements to help improve muscle health, go check out the collection of vitamins and minerals at DESEJR®.