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The key to a healthy muscular system is a healthy diet. This is true for everyone, whether you're a juvenile or an active adult, or are elderly, athletic or a couch potato. Your body requires adequate amounts of calcium, potassium, protein, Vitamin C and essential nutrients daily to build, support and maintain healthy muscle cells. Proper nutrition also provides your muscular system with overall strength and mobility, as well as the ability to repair itself.
Calcium helps muscles contract and relax properly. It's also essential for healthy bones and teeth. Citrus fruits, soybeans, tofu, salmon and sardines are naturally high in calcium. While dark green, leafy vegetables like kale and broccoli are good sources, Swiss chard and spinach reduce absorption rates. Dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt are excellent calcium choices that also provide Vitamin D, which is necessary for the body to use calcium properly. Sunshine is another source of Vitamin D. Men should consume between 1,000 and 1,200 milligrams daily, while women should get 1,200.
Potassium is essential for sending nerve impulses to the muscles, allowing them to stretch and relax as needed. Good food choices include meats, dairy products, grains, vegetables, fruits and legumes. Men and women should consume 4,700 milligrams of potassium daily.
Protein builds, maintains and repairs muscle tissues. It produces energy and stamina, and it enables muscles to contract properly. A common misconception is that athletes need significantly more protein than nonathletes do. The athlete's protein requirement is only slightly higher, since training is responsible for developing muscle size, bulk, shape and strength. Good protein foods include chicken, beef, fish, milk, eggs and most other animal products. Men and women can satisfy their protein requirements by consuming two to three servings of lean meats or meat alternatives daily. Vegetarian alternatives include legumes, seeds, nuts, grains, dark leafy greens and dairy products.
Vitamin C is essential for producing collagen, which is the connective tissue necessary for muscle health. It's readily available in most fruits -- particularly citrus, bell peppers, berries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, potatoes, spinach and tomatoes. Men should consume 90 milligrams of Vitamin C daily; women need 75 milligrams.
Iron, Thiamin, Magnesium, Sodium and Iodine
Iron helps the red blood cells oxygenate your muscles. It's present in poultry, red meats, eggs, green vegetables, fruits and fortified grain products. Men and women under the age of 51 should consume 8 milligrams daily; women over 51 should have 18 milligrams daily.
Thiamin (Vitamin B1) helps the body convert foods into the energy needed to produce healthy muscles. Good sources include ham and pork chops, soy milk, acorn squash and watermelon. Men should consume 1.2 milligrams of thiamin daily, and women should have 1.1 milligrams.
Magnesium works with calcium to normalize muscle contraction. Good dietary sources include halibut, milk, green vegetables like broccoli and spinach, cashews, legumes, sunflower and other seeds and whole-wheat bread. Men should consume 420 milligrams daily, while women should taken in 320 milligrams.
Sodium and iodine are also essential to muscle health and are present in more than sufficient amounts in most commercially processed foods today.