Blood flow restriction training is not new to Flipping 50. This may be the third podcast in just a few short months. Yet, today’s guest barely needs an intro, he’s referred to as a household word by many of my clients and friends. And for good reason.
Dr. Mercola, is founder of Mercola.com that has been most visited natural health web site for the last 15 years even despite Google censoring him and removing him from the search engines in June of 2019.
Examples of protocols that are published:
Mentioned on the show:
Flipping 50 listeners: Visit BFR.mercola.com for free bonus
Then register! For the STRONGER program that is introducing it as an option if you’d rather do lighter than heavier (or need to)
Hurry! The window closes soon! January 5th is the last day!
You might also like:
I hope you haven’t skipped the assignment to create a vision of your own life at 75 before you listen.
I caught up with Dexter Yeats at Ironman Cozumel 2019. You may remember our interview two years ago when I had the good fortune to meet her at Cozumel Ironman 2016. Days before this year’s race we ran into each other at the hotel and began talking about mindset.
Listen in as we discuss her plans for next year, when she’ll turn 75. Here how she responded to my question about mindset and the placebo effect.
I’ll link to Dexter’s prior podcast with me and to the book that I began our conversation talking about.
Dexter’s home is undergoing remodeling right now, a new addition includes her personal workout room. It’ll be complete with a treadmill, a zero gravity treadmill, and a Wahoo trainer, with a beautiful view. (I’ll be sure to mention weights). That’s what she’s planning for her life at 75.
Age backwards and better with me … the CAFE membership is built for women in perimenopause, menopause and post menopause. It’s based on research featuring you, proven programming with women like you… and combines what you’d get with a personal trainer, nutritionist, life coach, and gym membership all in one place. It’s only open twice a year, though! Don’t miss it!
Other episodes you might like:
My interview with Dexter 2 years ago
Is your slow metabolism keeping you young? Is your effort to speed your metabolism accelerating aging?
My guest today is going to challenge your thinking.
Joel Fuhrman, M.D. is a board-certified family physician, nutritional researcher and six-time New York Times best-selling author. He serves as the President of the Nutritional Research Foundation. Dr. Fuhrman has authored numerous research articles published in medical journals and is on the faculty of Northern Arizona University, Health Science Division. His two most recent books are Eat to Live Quick and Easy Cookbook and Fast Food Genocide.
A few favorite quotes addressing the slow metabolism and longevity connection are sprinkled throughout the today’s transcript.
“Exercise is the only way to speed metabolism without accelerating aging.”
“We age at the rate of our metabolism”
Key Points from our podcast:
More frequent eating increases inflammatory markers.
Slowing your metabolism is the key to longevity.
“For longevity: Moderate caloric intake with micronutrient excellence.”
“We could wipe out cancer right now. The problem… people don’t like the answer.”
“Beans are THE most favorable carbohydrate source.”
“The more plant protein a person eats the longer and healthier they live.”
Nuts reduce the appestat, while oil does not.
It’s always better to get the food than the extracted oil from the food.
IGF-1 too high or too low (needing more protein) can accelerate cancer. (100-130 optimal).
Tell us about your retreat in California and what you do there.
How long do guests stay?
Dr. Fuhrman on Facebook: joel Fuhrman, M.D
Dr. Fuhrman on Twitter: @DrFuhrman
Dr. Fuhrman on Instagram: @joelfuhrmanmd
Do you know now much is enough? While most adults know protein is important a large percent polled randomly while grocery shopping don’t know if they’re getting enough protein.
We’re diving into high quality protein needs for flipping 50 on this episode. So whether you’re a vegan or love meat, whether you’re struggling to see tone and lose fat, or you want to avoid becoming frail as you age (or help parents do the same), this episode is for you.
~Dr. Gabrielle Lyon
Flipping 50 guest, Dr. Gabrielle Lyon is a functional medicine physician specializing in Muscle-Centric Medicine. She leverages evidence-based medicine with emerging cutting-edge science to restore metabolism, balance hormones, and optimize body composition.
Questions about quality protein we answered in this episode:
“When you’re younger your body is driven by hormones. When you’re older you’re driven by protein.”
~Dr. Gabrielle Lyon
Quality Protein Need Facts we review/myths we bust:
You’ll hear Dr. Gabrielle’s every-woman comment about the deeper value of muscle, protein, strength training, and inner strength:
Connect with Dr. Grabrielle Lyon here:
Follow her on Instagram!
Exclusive for Flipping 50 Podcast listeners!!
Exclusive Podcast Listener’s Promo Code: Propod
Boost Your Metabolism: Shop Now
Take 10% off your first order of protein (Your Whey*, or Paleo Power, or Plant Power)
*the most concentrated source of Essential Amino Acids
For the best results, pair your high quality protein with strength training twice a week.
Need help with strength training that increases muscle without injury or hours?
This after 50 smoothies guide answers all the questions I’ve fielded over my career as well as those I’ve personally had over 34 years as a female fitness professional, and athlete, and desk-bound entrepreneur. You may have resistance to smoothies or protein. I’ll share with you why I did, why you should and why I did a complete 180 after 30 years. You can decide how you too will benefit from smoothies and how to do it.
If you’re committed to changing the way you age and doing everything in your power to make that happen, congratulations! Committing to that is a big first step.
You need clarity about what it takes to do that. When you’re clear on what you need to do its easier to follow through even when it’s not convenient. We’ve all been derailed when we’re traveling, stressed, or tired. When you’re dealing with life’s challenges you’re going to be more likely to stick to habits that help you reach goals when you’re clear on why they help.
Whether you’re athletic or you’ve always been sedentary and not necessarily into exercise, you probably want to be healthy your whole life. I’ve never met someone who says they hope to get sick later in life. You can change your future health based on what you do now. If that’s you, then keep reading. After 50 smoothies are a part of doing that, deliciously.
Believe it to see it
If you believe you are destined for a certain kind of future associated with aging that includes weight gain, joint pain, sleepless nights, confused thinking or even disease, this blog, even this website or anything I have to offer probably won’t interest you. If you think you have to settle for and accept any of those symptoms if you’ve got them now, I disagree.
Academic reviews of research literature, over three decades of work with midlife and older adults, and coaching midlife women all over the world. I’ve been writing for over 30 years. I’ve been creating blogs dedicated to midlife and older adults, sometimes as many as five unique blogs and articles per week, for over four years. Each one required reference to research.
There are certain things that determine how well you age. Your environment, stress, and sleep matter. Your food quality, quantity, activity level and strength and endurance as we age matter. Muscle matters. At the center of your health and wellness is your ability to remain active and to live independently. Keeping lean muscle to avoid excess fat and disease is a must. Quality nutrition is a part of that. That is the heart of after 50 smoothies.
Smoothies for muscle loss prevention and increased fat burning
Sarcopenia, the term coined for significant muscle loss that occurs with age is completely avoidable. Active older adults don’t lose muscles mass the way sedentary older adults do.
Consuming adequate amounts of calories and protein with age helps enhance your lean muscle tissue.
There is a lot of confusion about even what a smoothie is and with the variety of smoothies you can find out there it’s no wonder. A quick Google search shows 41 million options for finding smoothies. Most of those use the word healthy in the title. Let’s dive into smoothies. Let’s ask, “who says”the next time someone labels anything “healthy.” Because in this after 50 smoothies guide we have more to consider than what may be an outdated look at food-for-all.
Three years ago I published The Protein Report. The epidemic of muscle loss we’ve seen in older adults in prior generations is preventable. The American College of Sports Medicine published a review of literature in the Health & Fitness Journal that stated adults over 50 reaped benefits to exercise similar to 20 year old counterparts when they were given protein supplements (smoothies) pre or post exercise that was closer to 40 grams of protein (provided it had adequate essential amino acids- specifically 2.3 gm leucine per meal). The 40 gm protein supplement in older adults resulted in benefits from exercise comparable to the 20 gm for younger subjects.
I have to share straight up with you my reason for helping you find smoothie ingredients that help you with the most common complaints I hear from women. I want you to feel great! I want you to feel like you look great! I want you to sleep great! I want you to feel like little bits of exercise I give you are working!
Because when you do… you will not be asking me how to get and stay motivated to exercise. Those things make you want to move more. Sit down for this next statement.
Exercise does not in itself lead to weight loss.
It does, however, lead to things that DO lead to weight loss. It reduces your likelihood of needing medications for conditions and disease. It reduces the chance you’ll need joint replacement due to injury or excess weight from inactivity. It enhances food choices. It enhances your quality of sleep. It boosts your mood –decreasing the incidence or severity of anxiety or depression. It decreases hot flashes and night sweats.
If you’re saying to yourself, not for me, those things haven’t happened for me, you have room to improve the type and the timing of exercise for your specific needs. Not all exercise is created equal for every individual. You’re not a cookie, so don’t follow a cookie-cutter exercise prescription. Hormone-balancing exercise is oh-so different. Not all smoothies are the same either.
Seemingly I’ve coined a term here. I’ve done it purposefully. We have less wiggle room. My definition is a powerful glass of protein, fiber, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory foods, and healthy fats that is ready in minutes and hard to replace with any other breakfast option. That’s an after 50 smoothie at it’s best.
Compare a smoothie to breakfast options like steel cut oats, Greek yogurt, eggs with veggies, chia pudding, or more traditional eggs and bacon, bowl of cereal (even high fiber), or toast, even avocado toast with an egg and you’ll find a smoothie comes out ahead in protein, healthy fat, fiber, and micronutrients. A smoothie is a delicious vessel of nutrition that provides a quick solution to the no-time-for-breakfast dilemma.
That’s pretty sexy for breakfast.#youstillgotitgirl and #hotnotbothered worthy
If you were going to dump all the ingredients out on to a plate that you put into a smoothie, you would never eat it all. A smoothie made right is an “eat real food” option. In fact it’s a way to eat more real food, more components that make a smoothie an age-defying start to your day.
The cost of making a smoothie at home varies drastically depending on the ingredients and where you shop. If you’re at Whole Foods buying a smoothie you could easily spend $8-12. The most costly item – and the one that most determines whether you’re having a “vitamin” or “poison” is the protein you add.
If you were to order or make a breakfast that included health omega 3 fat, greens and cacao full of anti-oxidants, 21 gms of protein, and about 8 grams of fiber (a boost of fiber with chia seeds would be good here) it would be hard to do. It would be even harder to do in a minute or less time. If, like me you spend 10 minutes once or twice a month preparing baggies of your smoothie ingredients for the freezer, you can dump the frozen bag and the liquid ingredients into a Nutribullet and blend in seconds. The whole thing takes less than two minutes including rinsing the blender blade. I’ve started putting my Nutribullet into my carryon. A day of conference sessions that starts with a smoothie is so much better than a growling stomach, or gambling on the continental carb buffet.
The simple answer to that is: the ingredients. They make it either medicine or poison. What is healthy for you isn’t healthy for the next person.
If you don’t tolerate dairy, a smoothie made with Greek yogurt won’t work and neither will a whey or casein containing protein shake. A fruit-only smoothie may taste refreshing but it can also spike blood sugar and give you the one-two punch, right in the muffin top, of encouraging fat storage and halting fat burning due to insulin response. A smoothie full of chemical preservatives or artificial sweeteners will confuse your body and slow the metabolism. On the other hand, while you might not sit down to a salad for breakfast (but you could!), drinking a mixture of greens, cucumber, celery, and lime down with an apple or kiwi can start your day with
It’s almost a sure bet that if you’ve walked through a food court straight to the smoothie counter feeling virtuous you’ve fallen for marketing. That liquid lunch is probably even more devastating than the burger or taco might have been.
It’s not just what’s in your smoothie but what’s not in your smoothie that makes it healthy. Avoid any chemicals you can’t pronounce. Avoid all the pseudo names for sugar. Pass on protein options with over 5 grams of sugar per serving. Look for as few ingredients as possible. If it’s an animal product, make sure it’s grass-fed, hormone and antibiotic-free. If you’re taking a multivitamin and other supplements already added vitamins are not necessarily a good thing: your vitamins and those in the smoothie will compete and you absorb less.
Start with greens: kale, spinach, chard, romaine
Add healthy carb: ¾ cup frozen berries or medium orange, sweet potato, beet, beans
Or Add veggies: cucumber, celery and Lime or lemon juice
Add fat: avocado, nut butter, coconut oil
Add fiber: chia seeds, ground flax meal, Fiber Boost
Add liquid: pure filtered water, alternative milk
Add spices: cinnamon, turmeric
Add superfoods: maca, matcha, cacoa, goji berries
What’s Wrong with Many Smoothies?
Plenty. There is a definite difference between juicing and smoothies. There’s a difference between a smoothie made from a processed pre-packaged mix and a smoothie made from ingredients from your refrigerator like kale, spinach, berries, cucumber, nuts and seeds. There’s a difference between chemical-laden protein shake mixes and those with fewer than five ingredients made from carefully selected plants or grass-fed hormone free animals.
Start reading ingredients carefully. If you’re stopping at the top reading the macronutrients protein, fat, sugar and carbs, keep going from the first ingredient to the last. If you can pronounce it and you’d feed it to your child you’ve potentially got a good product. Below is a list of smoothie mistakes you want to avoid.
Inflammation causing ingredients:dairy*, sugar
Hormone & adrenal disrupting:Soy, fillers, chemicals, artificial sugars
Blood sugar spiking and fat storage:fructose, maltodextrin, fruit juice, excess fruit (dried or tropical), sucrose, sucralose, whey*
Too little protein: less than 20 gm per serving
Too little fat: less than1-2 servings fats
Too little fiber: means lack of fullness and rapid absorption of sugars
*Use of whey protein for those who don’t tolerate dairy or poor timing of whey protein even if you do tolerate it can increase blood sugar if you’re consuming it at times other than pre or post higher intensity exercise.
Because whey protein is so common if you’re just starting to use protein shake as a way to bump your protein content up, be sure to read about all possible options before you start your after 50 smoothie habit.
Ultimate After 50 Smoothies Guide to Ingredients
There are so many reasons why you may be drawn to a smoothie. Repeatedly I hear from private clients and women in my group programs (some of whom resisted at first!) that smoothies make it such an easy decision in the morning. It’s not different from the bowl of cereal that may have been our past, but it’s much better for you.
After 50 Smoothies Ingredients for Muscle loss prevention
After 50 Smoothies Ingredients for Fat Burning
After 50 Smoothies Ingredients for enhancing Satiety
After 50 Smoothies Ingredients for natural hormone balance
After 50 Smoothies Ingredients for brainpower
After 50 Smoothies Ingredients for natural detox (liver support – alkalinity helping hormones)
After 50 Smoothies Ingredients for Blood sugar balance
After 50 Smoothie Ingredients for Reduced inflammation
After 50 Smoothie Ingredients for digestion & gut
Smoothie Ingredients for reducing bloat
Smoothie Ingredients for enhancing skin
A recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed older adults who combined resistance training and protein supplements had superior results to adults who did resistance training only. Subjects across 17 studies who supplemented with protein had significantly more lean mass and leg strength compared to subjects who did resistance training alone.
Muscle preservation is important in longevity and quality of life. Improved metabolism through strength, endurance and active lifestyle decreases the risk of frailty and obesity both. You have to choose your health priorities and address them in order of importance. After 50 smoothies should be build around high quality protein.
Are you getting enough protein?
If you’re not active, you’re not off the hook. As unintuitive as it is, your protein need is greater. Active adults improve conditioning in a lot of ways, and one of them is that they synthesize protein better. So while an athlete or very active older adult may do well with 20 grams of protein per meal, a sedentary adult needs the higher range of protein – about 30 grams per meal – in order to prevent muscle loss. It’s easy to do that at most meals. A 4-6 oz serving of nearly any animal protein will fit that range. But at breakfast, more of us struggle. An egg has only 6 grams of protein. Toast with nut butter may give you 6 grams of protein. Even if you’re able to pull enough protein together, it’s a chore to add veggies, and fiber to those options.
See how an after 50 smoothie can make it easier to do the right thing?
Blood Sugar and Insulin
Blood Sugar and Insulin response to protein can be problematic for some older adults. If you have hyerinsulinemia resulting from a variety of metabolic diseases and conditions, you may respond differently to protein consumption. Your protein levels may be best kept lower than the recommended amount for preserving muscle losses. Essential amino acids in proteins can be associated with higher insulin response. Large studies exist showing both no negative response to insulin and negative response (insulin resistance). The answer for you is to test to know.
If you have a unique insulin response, you may do best with smoothies made with less protein than indicated. The addition of real food is key. A smoothie from an airport smoothie shop is likely to have processed foods and be high in sugars and chemicals. In your own kitchen, include greens, fresh low sugar high nutrient density fruits, health fats from nuts and seeds, and clean protein sources. Just about everyone can benefit from a daily addition of a micronutrient-rich smoothie.
Additional research shows improved insulin response in diabetics by using whey protein not just as a breakfast smoothie, but also as a drink before lunch and dinner. This is a factor of the rapid absorption rate of whey that helps to increase insulin response and maintain blood sugar levels.
Inflammation Reduction Smoothie
Make this creamier with coconut yogurt and enough pure filtered water to blend. This tropical tasting smoothie has a little kick. Tumeric has a strong taste so go easy on it if your taste buds are finicky! Any old smoothie can pack sugar after 50 smoothies should be selected based on goals and priorities for health. Most of us have some inflammation.
Bloat Reducing Smoothie
Seeing raw beets on the ingredients list may surprise you but they have more anti-oxidant power than cooked. Try it either way. Beets are great for anti-inflammation, improving blood flow and endurance, as well as detoxification for the blood and liver. The ultimate after 50 smoothies include beets because of these many health benefits.
This smoothie is my favorite way to refuel post-workout. It helps repair muscle after intense exercise, reduce inflammation, boost mood, and stabilize blood sugar. It’s a delicious flip.
You can see that the ingredients in this one are not dramatically different from other smoothies. Most smoothies feature both fiber and water that enhance elimination. But this one offers additional probiotics in live cultures from the either coconut yogurt, cashew-gurt, or Greek yogurt (if you can tolerate dairy). Continue to drink plenty of water when you add fiber like chia seeds. It takes both the liquid and the fiber together. I also add Fiber Boost to my smoothies.
Two, often overlooked, parts of elimination are (1) making sure you let yourself get hungry, and (2) make something that makes your mouth water. You need the right enzymes in your gut to digest well and looking forward to something that tastes good to you will help.
Constipation can be relieved with the right smoothie ingredients. At least 70% of the women who join the Flipping 50 28-Day Kickstart or private coaching tolerate constipation all the time or when they’re stressed or traveling. The longer food sits in your colon before it’s eliminated the more toxins may make you lethargic and sluggish.
Who feels like exercising when you feel like that? Even though exercise can help, it can be hard to get moving if things on the inside aren’t. More fiber and more water – both as liquid in smoothies – and in watery fruits and greens that are main ingredients in smoothies can help!
Q. Is adding “high protein” shakes dangerous?
A. For the most part, this is not a “high” protein diet. Most Americans don’t take in as much protein per meal as recommended to spare muscle loss though most online articles will show otherwise. If you change from low or no protein at breakfast to a protein-rich smoothie, it may feel like high protein but it’s only relative. The recommendations are well within RDA guidelines.
*If you have a renal (kidney) disorder or history of health issues you should always check with your doctor before making changes to your diet. For more information and my Protein Report click here.
Q. Do you lose fiber content when you drink it in a smoothie?
A. No. Juicing does remove the pulp and fiber from fruit and vegetables but blending does not, you’re still eating (or drinking) whole food – at least if you make your after 50 smoothie in your own kitchen.
Q. Can drinking smoothies spike your blood sugar or insulin?
A. If you’re not making your after 50 smoothie like you would a meal: including protein, fat, fiber, and healthy carbohydrates that sustain energy, there is potential that yes, you’ll have a spike in one or the other or both. Slow down and put healthy fats in your smoothie. Add fiber via oatmeal, flax, chia, and or avocado. If you are more prone to insulin or blood sugar issues, take extra care to do this. If a smoothie is a substitute for not eating, or for a carb-laden breakfast however you’re going to be better off!
Q. Do you lose nutrition when food is blended?
A. Some of the food is partially broken down, releasing enzymes that you can more easily digest making absorption of nutrients easier. For adults over 50 the stomach acids that need to be present to digest foods are reduced. Breaking down foods by blending can be helpful. In Flipping 50 programs I suggest a Betaine HCL support can also help this. You’ll feel the difference when you both 1) put more veggies in 2) absorb more of the nutrition from those veggies.
Q. What about collagen protein?
A. Collagen protein is a great addition for hair, skin, joints, and gut health. It doesn’t have the essential amino acids (EAA) you need for muscle loss prevention however. So you can do both, but don’t want to only do collagen if you’re aiming to sustain or gain lean muscle. I add collagen to many of my smoothies or alternately I sip bone broth like tea or like others drink wine before a meal. An after 50 smoothie is a start to good habits. Keep picking up small easy habits to make your day healthy.
Q. How do I make my smoothies?
What are your after 50 smoothie questions?
I’d love to hear from you.
Are you confused about protein muscle, and their relationship to longevity? You’re not alone. How much protein do you need? Where should it come from? Is all protein created equal? Do you get enough?
The first question isn’t whether you get “enough” protein.
The first question is how much protein you think is “enough.”
The question is how the protein is measured, the quality, and it’s impact on you long term. That’s about muscle.
That is about body fat, obesity, frailty, and the combination of frailty and obesity that is most deadly.
You can make changes in your diet from low protein to higher (within recommended amounts) and feel great. You can also go from animal to plant-based diets or plant to animal and report feeling great. Changes (with good health in mind) often act like a natural detox. It makes sense if you’re putting something in your body had been lacking you’ll feel better. The same is true if you remove what your body didn’t need. If processed food, wine, too much coffee comes out and real whole food goes in there’s going to be some positive impact.
What about the whole picture?
“I feel great” is about right now.
What about long term?
That’s really the question about any diet or lifestyle. Science studies adults at the end of life to look back and see what happened. By then however, life has changed. We’re looking back at those long-living adults from the Blue Zones and finding many of them have had plant-based diets, for instance. They’ve lived with lower weight, less obesity, and disease. Thus, they’re qualified as living healthier for longer.
There are a few things we need to dig into before we base changes in 2018 to what worked in another time (and in another lifestyle). They didn’t live with technology. They don’t live in an age where activity has to be sought and planned. They don’t live in an age when food is delivered in boxes to your door or made in Instant Pots, microwaves, or enjoyed with wine as a way to calm down. Family life was different – often consolidated under one roof – and there weren’t common single-parenting situations if even due to work-life balance needs.
They didn’t live with the same depleted soil, same farming techniques, pesticides, hormone-injected livestock, or same water and air quality.
It makes it hard to compare oldest of old now in isolated areas of the world with the mid-life way we now live and assume that if we ate what they ate we too will age better.
It might be true. But it’s a bit of a gamble to assume it would be so.
We’ve taken more prescription medications, more hormones, been exposed to more toxins than generations before us and will continue to be. What are the effects on our health and ability to thrive?
We don’t know unless we test.
It’s attractive though. Especially if you’re a woman who has struggled with weight or you’ve settled into eating energy bars, drinking wine, enjoying coffee, and looking for answers to balance the flip flop between healthy and convenience foods for years.
Changing your diet in any way temporarily – that is you haven’t taken on a mindset your done with dieting and the long term route actually IS the short cut – can be a detox. That is so long as you’ve gotten wise to the toxic sugar-free fat free approach that can actually make your body store more fat.
I’d love to hear if you’ve done a vegan diet. More importantly, if you’ve done it and measured your health changes and body composition over a long term basis.
Vegan or vegetarianism still includes eating with health-minded muscle maintenance in mind. If you cut out foods, you’ll lose weight. More plants in your daily diet can feel great. And if you’ve given your body a break from digesting animal protein, you will feel good for a while, maybe long term and maybe just for a few months. You eliminate consumption of some hormones (from eating other animals) that could be effecting your own. Most vegans eat an increased number of carbs and fat in order to take in protein. (That, by the way is not judgement: just fact).
There are those that do it very responsibly and consciously. It’s not a “diet.” It didn’t start out being a diet to lose weight though it may have been in response to health markers. Successful doctors, athletes, including endurance athletes have done it. Eating the same thing repeatedly can put a vegan who has fewer choices to begin with (if she’s attempting to ingest protein at recommended levels) at greater risk for gut issues as a result of food sensitivities.
Maybe you too can do it.
I couldn’t. Much as I would like to, I showed signs of weakness and fatigue even as I diligently included protein and carefully tended to micronutrients during my three-month stint. Month one began as a challenge to make changes in habits that had been 49 years in the making. But by the end of month one and certainly two, I was in. It felt good. I hadn’t decided to do three months, but at the end of each month I assessed and decided. Near the end of month two I began to feel weaker and workouts suffered. The same weight was heavy, the same cardio was more breathless.
How did I look? Thin, lean, muscular, but I was losing muscle as a high proportion to any weight changes. I got lots of compliments. We’re that kind of society. Thin is good. Even though you’re weak and have less energy or you might be at risk for frailty as you age, you look great! We have to be careful not to be caught in that trap.
Every body is unique. We all have muscles, bones, and hormones. We all have needs for food that fortifies and movement that strengthens, and rest that restores. Many women in midlife and beyond have similar needs but even in this group, you’re unique.
You have a unique body type that suggests your need for weight training is unique, your ideal cardio is unique, and your ideal combination of mobility and stability is unique.
You have a unique gut biome that suggests certain foods right now will be tolerated better or worse.
You have hormones that are changing daily, weekly, and monthly even after menopause. Those changes are based on food you eat, movement you do, and stressors that influence you.
If we isolate the focus on protein for muscle maintenance this conversation is not complete unless you know your body composition. As soon as a young adult begins exercise the body composition assessment should be mandatory. Unfortunately, it’s not. If it was, it would help athletes, individuals with disordered eating, middle-aged adults, moms, corporate athletes, older adults, and frail oldest of old. There is not one individual for whom this is not a “must know” measure.
Registered dietitians, nutritionists, personal trainers, health coaches, hormone experts, and physicians, should all be assessing or requesting and tracking body composition.
So often a plant-based diet chases a series of other diets. Have you tried them? Whole30, intermittent fasting, Bone Broth diet, or the Atkins, the Mediterranean, and the basic low carb, low fat, low sugar diets are a significant part of most women’s lives.
It makes sense. Structure provides freedom. So you generally feel good going on a diet. You have a plan! Plant-based diets increase the amount of plant food you eat! That’s a good thing. If we could all eat 6-9 cups of plant food a day (from a variety of 3 categories) we’d be better off. Some of us don’t or can’t without shifting to entirely plant-based food.
We’re choosing plants for different reasons. Spirituality, animal cruelty, and a fear of health risks are a few. But underlying reasons for plant-based nutrition for many is a desire for weight loss. The motivation to seek change was weight loss. The motivation to stay on it is weight loss. That’s dangerous. Just like an Atkins or Keto diet isn’t good for many people long term, choosing veganism for weight loss purposes without giving attention to collective micronutrient need leaves room to wonder about overall health goals.
If you believe RDAs you believe it’s 10-35% of your total diet. That diet is based on a calorie allotment for the day. That’s a broad range, 10-35%.
But not all proteins are the same.
Essential amino acids are the building blocks of muscle. Though you can find all the essential amino acids in plant foods, you can’t find them in the optimal distributions. Leucine, for example, is key in the muscle maintenance process. If you’re an adult near or beyond 50 who hasn’t been doing resistance training and or been particularly conscientious about protein intake chances your lean muscle mass is below where it could be.
If you believe research widely published since 2008, much of which was done on older adults, the recommended amount of protein is per meal. The most important concept is the amount of essential amino acids (EAA). Consuming 20-30 grams of protein (higher in the range for sedentary individuals) is the equivalent of about 14 grams EAA. All essential amino acids are not created equal. Leucine is a key EAA that needs to be present to prevent muscle loss. It’s hard to find leucine in the amount required (about 2.3 per meal) in plant-only meals.
Muscle leaves clues to the quality and quantity of protein intake. Muscle loss prevention has been linked to protein consumption levels at 20-30 grams of protein at each of three meals.(With no adverse side-effects reported: though anyone with renal disease should consult a physician). For older adults there’s proof that an even higher level of protein intake, particularly around exercise can offer significant gains in muscle. Protein for muscle loss prevention becomes increasingly important – or it has. What if we didn’t skid into older adulthood having lost muscle?
It’s a choice.
I felt great, too. For about two months on a vegan diet. I did accomplishing the 20-30 gram per meal goal. The problem with doing so was twofold, the quality of what I was “counting” as grams of protein included things like bean chips. I was consuming a lot of the same foods over and over again. Beans, and quinoa, and during that time, some soy products made up the staples. Realizing soy was not a girl’s best friend, when I eliminated it I nearly had to have beans daily. Plant protein shakes supported my meals.
If you’re not vegan and are unfamiliar with the diet, let me clarify that there are no eggs, no yogurt, and no whey protein. When you realize not all “plant” foods are created equal – soy for instance – it becomes a major challenge to not consume a lot of nuts, nut butter, beans, and quinoa over and over.
Having a “plant-based” diet is not as simple as just eating plants. Not if you’re going to remain healthy. A concern is that consumption of the same foods over and over again leads to food sensitivity and gut issues.
Whether you believe you just need “some protein” or you follow research suggesting that muscle loss with age is directly correlated to:
And the least of those is age. In the past, it was accepted that muscle loss, strength and stamina losses were a natural part of the aging process. We now know that muscle loss is related to inactivity, and insufficient calories and specifically protein.
Body composition is one of the biggest reasons muscle mass matters to you during peri-menopause and those years just after. There’s a strong chance that you’re going to notice dissatisfaction with your shape and tone first. We don’t necessarily have urgency about our health longevity at 50 as we do at 70.
We’re still toying with the idea of bathing suits and shorts we’ve not given up looking great in. At 70 we may still be there (let’s hope) but we’ve potentially also lost parents and watched a decline that may have included weakness, falls, injury or illness resulting in bed rest. Those things had the potential to spiral quickly into less activity and more weakness.
By 50 you could have lost a significant amount of muscle mass (.5 pounds a year starting at about age 30) by the time we’re 50. Let’s say that’s at worst. Your losses may not have been so noticeable. It’s potentially just that your clothes aren’t fitting the way you’d like them to or you’re noticing a softness that didn’t used to describe you.
Losses that occur over time lead to what might seem minute muscle loss you don’t feel. You may simply have that additional fat weight as you age. You may on the other hand appear frail.
If you have the misfortune of a health risk that puts you at bed rest or requires you to be less active for a period of time, your muscle loss will accelerate. It’s inevitable. The less you have in the bank the more quickly noticeable losses will occur.
When bed rest happens in your teens, you’re weak for a few days and then you’re back to running laps around the track or playing ball for hours. When it happens at 50 you may take months or a year to feel fully yourself. At 70, you may not get back that high energy you.
The stronger you are if you have to do down, the faster you’ll get back up.
Looking good and feeling good are big motivators for changing behavior. A weight lifting program that is only about cosmetic results won’t necessarily keep you from injury. Form follows function, however. If you are doing the things that make you healthy for now and for your future, you will also reap the rewards of loving the clothes on your body as much as you did putting them in the closet.
Protein muscle longevity: they go together, they’re not separate.
The right strength training requires muscle. Muscles require protein for building blocks. Your body can’t make protein out of thin air. You’ve got to give it a full profile of essential amino acids to build muscle.
If you’re not doing resistance training, you don’t need protein less. Your need for protein is increased if you’re more sedentary.
What about vegan strength trained athletes? What about vegan or plant-based long distance athletes?
Clearly the body can adapt. They’ve proven it. For now.
Body composition doesn’t lie.
This isn’t a matter of right or wrong. It’s not a plant or animal protein battle. It’s just a matter of health, quality of life now and later.
Someone recently said, “I know you’re a proponent of protein.”
More accurately, I’m a proponent of muscle and sparing muscle loss.
The way I’ve been able to do it for myself and for thousands of clients is a combination of two pillars: the right type and timing of strength training and protein intake. Those supported with some specific daily habits have increased lean and decreased body fat in adults 20-90 during my 34 years. The methods I use have been skewed toward animal protein since 2008 but not without testing a vegan lifestyle in 2013 for three months.
Like hormone balance would be the goal, and bio-identical hormones are simply an option, muscle mass maintenance/gain is the goal and animal protein or plant-based diets are both options.
The question returns to how much protein do you need?
Research suggests and most recently even more clinical dietitians are finally on board with recommending a user-friendly 20-30 grams of protein per meal target.
The secondary question is, does the quality of your protein reach the goals for the research establishing these recommendations.
There are individuals who raise children on plants I suppose. I don’t know any. If we agree animal protein is something important at the beginning of the lifespan for development of muscle, why would we shift to thinking at the opposite end of the lifespan when we’re losing muscle easier (since it peaks at age 25), our needs should change? The protein for muscle debate isn’t likely to end any time soon. It’s good to be a critical thinker and assess what’s working for you and what’s not.
I don’t have all the answers. I don’t have them for you. I am looking forward to your comments and respect all opinions, especially those based on long term trial of a lifestyle way of eating.
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We grey. We wrinkle. We gain weight and lose strength. We die. But do we have to gain weight and lose strength? And can we not just increase longevity but increase the quality of the longer life? There’s plenty of emerging evidence that the right exercise slows your aging process. From bones, to muscles, and it begins with the expression of your genes. In this post I’ll share several study results that suggest your genes don’t have to determine your jeans.
You are in control.
Even a moderate amount of exercise changes the way your DNA methylation occurs. If you’re unfamiliar, that means you have far more optimal health and reduced risk of disease. OK, so that’s long term. What happens short term? We’re into immediate gratification, right? How much better does your butt look in those jeans?
Plenty. (In case no one mentioned it yet today, you still got it girl!)
Early studies featured healthy young men. You know as I mention regularly, you need to ask, “so what, I’m not 20 and not a young man?” What about me?? Well, I’m glad you asked. Follow up studies featuring older adults show several things happen with the right dose of exercise:
Mitochondria production is renewed. These are your powerhouses of energy. It was until fairly recently accepted that deterioration and decline of mitochondria was a natural part of the aging process. As I shared in a recent presentation, there’s more to that statement. First, it’s not a natural part of the aging process. It only happens if you don’t do anything to prevent it from happening. You don’t lose muscle and cause sarcopenia (significant loss of muscle that can occur with age) unless you let yourself lose muscle and get sarcopenia by avoiding exercise and having inadequate caloric intake, including specific amounts of protein at the right time.
Which kind of exercise helps most? Both aerobic and anaerobic exercise, that is, both the type that gets you breathing heavy and resistance training should be a part of your exercise program. I’ve added examples of interval training exercise toward the bottom of this post.
Regular exercise reduces oxidative stress-related disease. Exercise is stress, just to be clear. However, performing a progressive exercise program that includes both adequate stimulation and adequate recovery (nutrition and time between exercise) increases your overall resilience. Inflammatory markers are reduced in regular exercisers.
You can reset your circadian clock. There’s a positive association between physical activity and genes that affect your circadian clock. If you’re not sleeping well such that you’re too tired to exercise, don’t wait for a good night’s sleep to start. Start the exercise to improve the sleep.
Do change your exercise after a poor night’s sleep. Instead of your high intensity intervals try a short and lower intensity session, outdoors, if possible. Instead of high-load strength training, substitute yoga (not something that challenges balance) or stretching. You will elevate your core temperature with exercise, and increase melatonin production with exposure to sunlight. Both play a part in resetting your clock and increase the likelihood you’ll sleep better the next night.
Boost youthful muscle tissue. Studies show there’s an altered gene expression after acute exercise in both young and older adults after high-load resistance exercise. Older adults in fact respond even better as you’ll read in the next paragraph. The combination of adequate energy, protein, and resistance training increases immune function and repair in skeletal muscle.
Reverse cellular damage that has occurred from aging. Getting breathless with interval training changed the activity level in 274 genes of younger subjects. In older adults almost 400 genes were improved. There were positive changes from moderate exercise and from weight training as well but the interval training wins by a landslide in the change in gene expression.
That means moderate exercise is still your foundation. Don’t go dumping it completely. You build fitness on a foundation. Establish the following habits so that exercise slows your aging process without causing injury:
Are you performing strength training to fatigue twice a week? This is not about time. It’s a matter of quality. Reaching fatigue doing three exercises is better than stimulating 8-10 exercises with light or moderate weight training. The change in cellular activity of the muscles has to be great enough to influence gene expression. It’s relative to you. What’s light is something you can lift up to 28 times, what’s moderate you could lift 15-ish times, and what’s heavy you can lift 10 or fewer times. Exercise slows your aging process most if you pay attention to quality.
Are you performing interval training 1-2 times a week?
This is a matter of less time and higher intensity. Interval lengths of 20 seconds to two minutes will reap the greatest rewards provided they occur such that you need (and allow) recovery between them. Below are three sample Interval Training workouts.
Hard Interval Recovery Interval* Repeats
0:30 1:00- 1:30 8x
1:00 1:00- 2:00 5x
2:00 3:00- 4:00 4x
An interval is an all out effort. Just doing two different intensities isn’t enough. Your work interval has to be high enough intensity exercise for changes to occur. You should earn your recovery. *Recovery range means if you need longer take it! Don’t reduce it. Naturally, the longer the interval the lower the relative intensity will be. Your speed for instance would be reduced in order to run for two minutes compared to an all-out sprint for 30 seconds. [Substitute any mode of “sprint” for running including biking, elliptical, swimming, etc.]
Q: What about walking?
A: It’s the most often recommended exercise by doctors and physical activity guidelines. In recent studies supporting the fact exercise slows your aging process, beyond longevity, walking isn’t a feature. It’s a wonderful foundation. You can use it for intervals mixing in speed and hills or you can use walking for those moderate days. It definitely has a place but daily walks at the same pace same distance won’t improve your fitness and have yet to be associated with changed gene expression.
Q: What about the total amount of steps per day?
A: Your total number of daily steps is a good measure of your Non Exercise Activity Time, or N.E.A.T. It’s definitely associated more closely with obesity and overweight than is a formal “workout” of 30 to 60 minutes. That single hour will never overcome 23 hours of inactivity. So use it, but let that be a part of your whole program. Keep in mind there’s living longer, and living better during those years. Seek intervals and heavy weight training with a scientific connection to how exercise slows your aging process.
Q: What about the total amount of minutes of exercise per week?
A: The sliding scale recommending 150 minutes of activity a week or 75 of more vigorous activity don’t fully cover the type of exercise that changes gene expression. These are a good and basic beginning. These are foundational exercise goals. It’s more than a total of time; it’s a specific type and intensity of that exercise that is proving to turn back your clock. Exercise at a foundation level to decrease risk of disease and improve measures of health. Further improve your measures of health with higher intensity exercise.
Dial in if you truly want to live longer feeling younger.
Q: What if you like to do more exercise?
A: Two studies in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) compared doing the minimum recommended 150 minutes with doing more. Subjects in one study who did 3x the minimum, that is 450 minutes per week, mostly walking, gained significantly more longevity. That’s where benefits plateaued, but for those exercise lovers who did 10x the recommended 150 per week, there was no increased risk. In other words, more exercise slows your aging process only up to a point and then it won’t harm you. As a reminder however, listen to your signs and symptoms right now.
If you’re a female at midlife (subjects were both men and women ages 21-98) going through stress or changes, dialing exercise right now may not be the right time. Know that if “more” is your happy place, it can work! If you feel your best there, love your energy and life, you aren’t getting “more” benefits, but you are not putting yourself at risk or reducing benefits either.
The second JAMA study that looked at moderate to vigorous activity in middle-aged and older adults showed that those who engaged in higher intensity exercise about 30% of their weekly exercise time had reduced mortality. That’s about right where 1-2 short interval training sessions, and 10 or 20 minutes of weight training twice a week fit into your week of moderate and lower level activity.
Want SUPPORT for your stronger, older, lifestyle? Everything you need for exercise, mindset, and exercise nutrition after 50. It’s different, but it works. It’s never too late. This is how exercise slows your aging process.