Your muscles attach to your bones. This connection is at the core of the most powerful means of building new bone: weight-bearing exercise. But to do that, you need muscles that can apply positive stress on your bones, triggering new growth.
During the COVID-19 stay-at-home measures, it's more important than ever to actively prevent muscle loss. Exercise is essential, of course, but diet also plays an important role.
Savers know that protein is necessary for building muscle, so today we'll look at six other nutrients that your muscles require to grow stronger.
Calcium is well known as the primary mineral for bone health, but did you know it's also essential for muscle building?
Calcium facilitates muscle contraction, so it's involved in every movement your body makes. And since exercise is what builds muscle, you need calcium to add muscle mass. This doubles up calcium's ability to build bone since muscle mass is necessary to trigger bone growth through weight-bearing exercise.1
The Save Institute recommends following the daily allowance range of 800 to 1200mg of organic, algae-derived calcium per day through a combination of food sources and supplements. Here are some bone-healthy sources of calcium:
- Sesame seeds*
- Poppy seeds
- Canned salmon*
- Collard greens*
Calcium is required for muscle contraction, making it essential for exercising for your bones. Additionally, you need calcium for your body to build new bone. Be sure to get from 800 to 1200mg of calcium daily, through a combination of supplementation and food sources.
2. Vitamin D
Studies have linked Vitamin D deficiency to poor muscle health and function.
A review of randomized controlled studies found that elderly participants treated with Vitamin D supplements suffered fewer falls. Observational studies positively correlated Vitamin D levels with muscle strength and postural stability.2 This makes Vitamin D critical for preventing fractures and living a long, full life. Additionally, it's well known that Vitamin D facilitates the absorption of calcium.
Vitamin D is difficult to acquire through diet alone, but fortunately, you have two highly effective ways to increase your levels: sun exposure and supplementation.
At the Save Institute, we recommend taking 2000 IU daily of oral Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), especially during the winter months, when there’s little opportunity to get out in the sun.
If you can, get out in the sun for twenty minutes a day in the summer, and at least 30 minutes in the spring, fall and winter — and if you have a darker skin tone, add ten minutes. Try to keep Vitamin D serum levels between 40 and 70 ng/mL.
Studies have positively correlated Vitamin D levels with muscle strength and postural stability and shown that supplementation leads to fewer falls in the elderly. Take 2000 IU daily, and if you can, get direct sun exposure every day.
Zinc is essential for the creation of new muscle tissue. It helps turn protein into muscle and regulates muscle-building hormones so that your workouts translate into new muscle mass.3
Additionally, zinc is an antioxidant that prevents cell damage, protecting your muscles, bones, and other body systems from oxidation caused by free radicals (also called reactive oxygen species or ROS). Zinc is also well known for supporting the immune system, making it a protective powerhouse.
Zinc also has an even more direct positive impact on your bones. It increases new bone formation by enhancing the proliferation of osteoblasts, the cells that create new bone.4
The Recommended Daily Allowance of zinc is 8mg for women and 11mg for men, but The Save Institute recommends daily supplementation of 25mg of amino acid chelated zinc and to consume foods that contain zinc.5
It’s crucial that zinc intake is balanced with copper, a mineral that is also important for bone health and overall wellbeing. Copper is necessary for the production of collagen, and it works with zinc, so the Save Institute recommends taking 2mg of amino acid chelated copper per day.
However, too much copper can undermine zinc levels and cause unpleasant symptoms. The right ratio is around 8:1, zinc to copper, but because copper is more prevalent than zinc (especially if you're eating an 80/20 pH-balanced diet) you should be sure to err on the side of increasing zinc intake.
Here are the foods that contain the most zinc, both animal and plant-based:
- Sesame seeds*
- Shitake mushrooms
- Garbanzo beans* (chickpeas)
- Green peas*
- Plain Yogurt*
- Pumpkin seeds*
- Beet greens
Zinc has powerful protective properties, helping to preserve muscle mass and good health. It also regulates hormones that are essential for building new muscle and promotes the creation of bone-building osteoblasts. We recommend consuming 25mg of zinc per day.
4. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that protects muscle cells from damaging free radicals. It also promotes the formation of collagen, which is essential for joint health. Since exercise requires movement, joint health is critical for a safe and productive workout.
Getting adequate levels of Vitamin C also helps reduce the muscle soreness caused by a workout. A study at The University Of North Carolina found that supplementation reduced DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) and prevented the oxidation of the antioxidant glutathione.6
These same antioxidizing powers make Vitamin C an important factor in bone health. Even more essential is its role in collagen production, since collagen is an important component of bone.
Vitamin C also boosts your immune system, helping to prevent disease.
The Save Institute recommends supplementing with a minimum of 500mg up to an ideal 2000 mg of ascorbic acid per day to ensure you're taking advantage of everything this Foundation Supplement has to offer. Additionally, all of these Foundation Foods are excellent sources of Vitamin C:
- Grapefruits *
- Brussel sprouts*
Vitamin C protects muscles from oxidative damage, and is instrumental for collagen production. Collagen is an important component of bone and of joints, making it essential for movement and exercise.
5. Vitamin B6
Vitamin B6 is essential for proper protein metabolism and a healthy nervous system. It works with the other B vitamins to promote healthy mental function. The RDA for Vitamin B6 is 1.5 mg for women and 1.7 mg for men
Vitamin B6 can be found in these foods:
6. Vitamin B12
Vitamins B6 and B12 both play direct roles in protein metabolism, allowing your body to use the protein in your diet to build new muscle.
They also support the production of red blood cells and immune cells, which aid muscle growth and repair, allowing your body to recover from your workouts, and turn the strain on your muscle into new muscle mass.7
Studies have linked Vitamin B12 deficiency to low bone density and increased fracture risk, particularly fractures of the hip.8,9 Additionally, B12 participates in DNA synthesis and nerve health and helps cells metabolize proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.
Adults need at least 2.4 micrograms of Vitamin B12 daily, but at the Save Institute, we recommend a minimum of 100 mcg a day of methylcobalamin (and not cyanocobalamin). Unfortunately, most of the dietary sources of B12 are acidifying. The one exception is plain yogurt, which can be supported by supplementation. A B-complex vitamin allows for the cooperative actions of the B vitamins to take effect.
Acidifying food sources of B12 should be balanced with alkalizing foods, in accordance with the 80/20 pH-balanced diet. Those sources of B12 include:
- Grass-fed beef
Vitamins B6 and B12 help your body to metabolize protein, allowing for the creation of new muscle mass. Additionally, they support the immune system and the production of red blood cells, both of which are critical for muscle repair and recovery. The RDA for Vitamin B6 is 1.5 mg for women and 1.7 mg for men. The RDA for B12 is 2.4 mcg per day. In addition to dietary sources, take a B-complex vitamin to ensure you're getting enough of these important micronutrients.
What This Means To You
Ensuring you get the above vitamins and minerals as part of your daily intake will allow you to continue to build muscle strength to strengthen your bones, prevent falls, and achieve optimum health.
Keep up your exercise routine during self-isolation. It's easy to become sedentary during these stressful times. If you aren't meeting your goals, or just want some more support and variation, you can try the Save Institute's digital video workout platform SaveTrainer.
Don't forget that your consistent workouts need the support of a healthy diet to provide the nutrients your muscles need to grow. Both actions lead to stronger, healthier bones.
Stay safe, eat well, exercise, and you'll keep building healthier bones!