Keeping muscle mass and function is very important as you age. Typically as a muscle ages, it not only diminishes in size and strength, it also loses its aerobic capacity. This impacts on mobility and therefore, the ability to stay independent.
The biological role of your muscles goes far beyond mobility. Your muscles are also responsible for keeping your metabolic system intact. Maintaining muscle mass helps protect against metabolic decline, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. All and all, it is pretty important to make sure your muscles stay in tip top shape.
So along with exercising what else can you do?
Eating the right things helps tremendously.
Now you might be thinking you need to increase the amount of protein rich foods in your diet like red meat, chicken and eggs to help maintain muscle. However, there are many findings that indicate that this is not the right tactic. Eating too much protein can be hazardous to your health. For example, a 2014 study published in the journal Cell Metabolism found that people between the ages of 50-65 who consumed large amounts of protein had a 75% increase in overall mortality and a 4-fold increase in cancer death risk during the following 18 years.
So what is the answer?
Turns out veggies do a pretty good job of protecting your muscles. In a 2015 study published in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society, women who consumed the recommended amount of vegetables were found to cut their odds of having low muscle mass basically in half. And in study of women aged 18 through 79 years old, a more plant-based diet was associated positively with muscle mass.
Why do vegetables protect your muscles?
Vegetables have an alkalizing effect, which may neutralize the acidosis that occurs with age — and when you eat an acid-promoting diet, meaning a diet high in fish, pork, chicken, and cheese, and low in fruits and vegetables. Beans and other legumes are actually the only major source of protein that are not acid-forming.
This means that exercise and eating more plant-based proteins may be the best way to maintain and even expand your strength through the years.