Muscle is harder to build and maintain as men reach adulthood.
This is due to lower testosterone levels, the hormone that helps build muscle. A male’s testosterone level peaks between ages 16 and 18 and evens out when he is in his 20s. For adult men, regular resistance training exercises are key to building and keeping muscle. Results can be seen quickly after starting to strength train; the activation of new muscle fibers makes muscles look bigger in no time.
Good nutrition supports strength building. A calorie-controlled meal plan of five to six small meals per day fuels muscle growth: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, low-fat or fat-free dairy products, beans, nuts, fish, vegetable oils and plenty of water. Protein, carbohydrates and fat play a major role, as does getting enough calories throughout the day. Men wanting to add muscle mass need at least 200 extra calories per day.
Protein and Muscle Building
The belief that more protein is better for muscle building is not necessarily true. When building muscle, protein needs go up to 1.4 to 1.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day (or 15 percent to 20 percent of your daily calories). But research shows eating more protein than this amount doesn’t have a benefit.
Keeping muscle mass requires a lot less protein than building new muscle. For an adult male to keep muscle mass, he needs between 0.5 to 1.0 grams per kilogram of body weight per day; this is within the same range as the needs of a sedentary adult (0.8 grams per kg body weight per day).
Protein levels of common foods include:
• 1 large egg = 6 grams
• 1 cup low-fat milk = 8 grams
• 1 cup low-fat yogurt = 12.8 grams
• ½ cup of low-fat cottage cheese = 14 grams
• 3 ounces of lean ground beef = 21 grams
• 3 ounces of chicken breast = 27 grams
• 2 Tbsp peanut butter = 8 grams.
Carbohydrates and Muscle Building
Carbohydrates fuel muscles and are needed for your body to store extra energy. Adult men who are strength-training at least twice a week need at least half of their calories (about 130 grams) from carbohydrates per day.
A serving (15 grams) of carbohydrates equals:
• 1 slice of whole-grain bread
• ⅓ cup of whole grain pasta, cooked
• ⅓ cup of brown rice, cooked
• ½ cup of cooked oats
• 1 small apple
• ¼ of a large bagel
• 3 cups of popcorn, popped
• ½ cup of ice cream.
Fat and Muscle Building
You need fat in your daily diet. It supplies energy to muscles during activity. How much fat a person needs depends upon his or her activity level. As a general guideline, fat should make up 20 percent to 35 percent of your total calories with less than 10 percent coming from unhealthy, saturated fats.
Fats to focus on for overall health and muscle strength include:
• Extra-virgin olive oil
• Canola oil
• Fatty fish like salmon, halibut, mackerel, sardines and trout.
Fat contains twice the number of calories as carbohydrates and protein, so it is important to monitor serving sizes. For example, 1 tablespoon of olive oil equals 120 calories and 1 ounce of walnuts (about 14) equals 180 calories. If possible, measure and count before eating.
Strength Training and Health
Strength training is an important piece of the fitness equation. All adults should participate in muscle strengthening activities that work the major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders and arms) at least two times each week. Examples of strength training include lifting weights, using resistance bands and doing push-ups, pull-ups and sit-ups. Some everyday activities strengthen muscles like lifting heavy boxes, digging and hoeing.