Body Age Buster
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Body Age Buster

Holy Mackerel! Researchers Confirm Walnuts Help Your Muscles Stay Stronger Helping Live Longer

Foods and supplements found to improve muscle growth and strength

Photo by Denis Agati on Unsplash

Muscle strength is one of the strongest predictors of future health status. Strength is most often measured via the grip strength test, which is a proxy for overall skeletal muscle.

Regular exercise is the obvious way to improve muscular strength. But is it possible that supplements might promote muscle strength?

The supplement industry would have us believe so. What is the evidence?​

Recent research ( December 2019 — a metastudy ), concluded:

In summary, despite their popularity, there is little evidence supporting the use of most supplements, and some of them have been even proven ineffective or potentially associated with adverse effects.

However, there were some exciting findings from that study, which validated specific claims.

Muscle strength has a protective effect on all-cause and cancer mortality, as well as people with hypertension and even people with heart failure. Meaning — muscle strength is associated with fewer health problems as we age.

It has also been inversely associated with age-related weight and body fat gains, and prevalence and incidence of the metabolic syndrome. That is, increased muscle strength reduces those outcomes.​

Aside: As a person with diabetes, I cannot emphasise to you enough the importance of controlling fat gains (adiposity). Fat gains in diabetics increase the risk of kidney failure — a disastrous outcome. The risk is reduced by regulating your weight and by building muscle strength.

What supplements are proven?

Few supplements are proven to promote muscle growth and strength gains or to prevent muscle wasting by aging or disuse.

Acute beneficial effects

There is sufficient evidence that caffeine and nitrate support “acute beneficial effects on muscle strength.

This supports the idea that you feel stronger at the gym if you have caffeine beforehand. It also gives some credence to the “beetroot juice” theories and various “nitrate” supplements.

The strength of this evidence in support of caffeine and nitrate is rated as Level A. Level A means that is proven and “supported for use in specific situations in sport using evidence-based best practice protocols” — Australian Institute of Sport.

Non-beneficial effects

In contrast to caffeine and nitrate supplements, most others were found to have inconclusive or unproven results.

Quote: Popular supplements including branched-chain amino acids, adenosine triphosphate, citrulline, β-Hydroxy-β-methylbutyrate, minerals, most vitamins, phosphatidic acid or arginine (evidence level B), weak or scarce evidence was found for conjugated linoleic acid, glutamine, resveratrol, tribulus terrestris or ursolic acid (evidence level C), and no evidence was found for other supplements such as ornithine or α-ketoglutarate (evidence D). ​

See here for descriptions of the Evidence Levels.

Foods and supplements found to improve muscle growth and strength

In addition to caffeine and nitrates, there was BIG news for some other supplements and foods. Namely — that the long-term consumption of creatine, protein and polyunsaturated fatty acids seems to consistently increase or preserve muscle mass and strength (evidence level A). ​

  1. I take creatine daily, along with a protein supplement (as a drink);
  2. I eat fish regularly, which has both protein and polyunsaturated fatty acids; and,
  3. I eat walnuts and flax seeds daily, which have good sources of polyunsaturated fatty acids (oils).

​I also eat half an avocado every day. Avocados have a small amount of polyunsaturated fat but are rich in monosaturated fat — good for your overall health.

Polyunsaturated fats are used to build cell membranes and the covering of nerves. They are needed for blood clotting, muscle movement, and inflammation.

Polyunsaturated fats also include omega-3 and omega-6 fats. Our bodies do not make essential fatty acids, so you can only get them from food.

What is so exciting about this research is that it found that by adding all the above to your diet you can increase or preserve muscle strength.

At the least, it seems that you would slow the rate of decline of muscle strength, compared to someone not eating these items.

Actions for your food plan

Add these to your regular foods and cooking:

  • Sunflower seeds;
  • Flax seeds or flax oil;
  • Fish, such as salmon, mackerel, herring, albacore tuna, and trout.

Add these to your eating habits:

  • Eat walnuts instead of cookies for a snack — in moderation;
  • Replace some meats with fish. Try eating at least 2 meals with fish per week;
  • Sprinkle ground flaxseed on your meal;
  • Add walnuts or sunflower seeds to salads;
  • Cook with corn or safflower oil instead of butter and solid fats.

​Also, search out a credible creatine product, and research whether you might want to take a protein supplement. I have a protein shake after exercise and for breakfast every day.

AND — enjoy caffeine or a nitrate boost for your strength training! PS Nitrates have also been shown to improve interval training performance.

​Good luck.

I’m Walter Adamson. I write about life, health, exercise, life and cognitive fitness to help men and women over 50 live longer better.

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Walter Adamson

Walter Adamson

Optimistically curious, 70+ trail runner; 2X cancer; diabetic; Click “FOLLOW” for living longer better tips | Weekly Newsletter 👉

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