Mumbai Guide: Expert tips on how to improve muscle health
Close to 2/3rd Indians have poor muscle health revealed a survey across eight cities. Here's an eat-move-sleep plan to set things right
For a country obsessed with stars with six-pack abs and athletes who spend hours on the field, Indians surely lack awareness when it comes to muscle health and the problems that stem from ignoring it. A recent research conducted by a health company and a French market research firm, which surveyed 1,243 people aged between 30 and 55 years from eight Indian cities, revealed that 71 per cent of the respondents suffered from poor muscle health. It also stated that most Indians are unaware of the overall impact of this on general health and wellness. Sixty-eight per cent were found to have lower body protein content than recommended.
The main causes of poor muscle health include an imbalanced diet, sedentary lifestyle and lack of sleep. "When your muscles don't function how they are supposed to, be it due to fat in the body or a sedentary lifestyle, their quality suffers," says Dr Vikrant Shah, physician. Poor muscle health is also a cause for a host of other health issues. "Bones are supported by muscles. And if muscles are in poor health, they will be unable to perform this function.
For example, if you have not developed the core muscles of your back, which are responsible for holding the spine, you will experience lower back pain, neck pain and stiffness of the back. You may develop cramps in the calf, which will affect the knees and result in knee pain.
A secondary cause [for poor muscle health] is a poor diet that leads to deficiency of important vitamins. This affects other organs such as the eyes, brain, liver and kidneys. So muscle health is also indirectly responsible for the functioning of other organs," says Shah. Nikhil Latey, physiotherapist and sports scientist, says that humans tend to be lazy, so we need to push our body to make our muscles stronger.
What to eat
Proteins are the biggest source for good muscle health. The rule of thumb is to consume a gram of protein for each kilo, so if you weigh 50kg, you need 50gm of protein. Low protein intake also brings down your immunity and increases the risk of infections. Food items rich in protein include soya milk, eggs, chicken, fish, quinoa and tofu.
Low levels of potassium also affect your muscles. Bananas, apricots, muskmelon, avocado, sweet potato, brown dry fruits such as raisins and dates are high in potassium. "You need to eat a pre- and post-workout meal, in order to maintain your energy to complete the workout and aid recovery. Loss of electrolytes also results in poor muscle health.
Stay hydrated through the day, with water and fruit juices. This will also stop your skin from sagging, which happens due to loss of muscles. If your diet is not nutritious, it leads to deficiency of vitamin D, calcium, vitamin E, b12, b2 and b6, all of which affect your muscles. So a balanced diet is crucial," says Raheela Hasan, health and nutrition specialist.
Get at least 50 hours of sleep a week, which is seven hours a night. If you are pushing your body hard, say for workouts or a marathon, you need more sleep. "When I worked with boxer Mary Kom for the London Olympics, she was training for one hour 10 minutes a day. The high intensity training required her to sleep as much as 12 hours a day to recover," explains Latey.
Even though we live in a sunny country, several Indians suffer from vitamin D deficiency, which affects muscle strength and recovery. "Check your vitamin D levels once a year. Since it is stored in the body, you can take supplements to bring the level up. A morning walk or run in the sun is your best bet.
Get as much sun exposure as you can. Wear shorts or sleeveless T-shirts preferably. Suryanamaskars can help too. However, in urban centres with high levels of pollution, dirt and dust in the air, you don't get enough sunlight," Latey points out. Do not crash-diet. When you lose weight rapidly, you also lose minerals, vitamins and protein, which weakens your muscles. Weight loss should be managed in a balanced style — it's the fat you need to lose, not the muscle.
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