When it comes to building and maintaining muscle mass, I’ve now got two things working against me: 1) I’m over 50, and 2) I’m a vegetarian.
Typically, starting in your 40s, you start to experience a slower metabolism and a decrease in muscle mass. And the two trends are related: more muscle mass produces a higher metabolism.
About 15 years ago, I switched to a vegetarian food diet. I’m not vegan: I still eat dairy and eggs. However, I don’t eat meat, and that includes not eating fish…and eating meat appears to be the most efficient way to acquire the building blocks for growing & maintaining muscle.
Since I turned 50 (I’m now 52+), I’ve noticed my muscle “bulk” is down; I still have a good amount of muscle (due to regularly working out), but it’s not what it used to be. My muscles don’t grow as much in response to weightlifting as they used to.
I started thinking I could just go for keeping my body fat % down and muscles well-defined, which is certainly also healthy and attractive. But it’s really the amount of muscle that keeps your metabolism up and leads to other positive attributes (like strength and resistance to certain diseases, like diabetes).
This has led me to start experimenting with supplements.
The first one I tried was Creatine.
Creatine basically increases your body’s ability to produce energy quickly, thereby allowing you to work out more intensely and/or with heavier weights. It also causes your muscles to absorb more water (which, of course, makes them look larger). It’s really the first feature (giving you more workout energy) that allows you to truly gain muscle bulk because you can train harder.
After a 7-10 days of using creatine, I was lifting heavier weights and seeing my muscles grow noticeably. The stuff works. I’ve read that it may not help as much after I get into my 60s. But for now in my 50s, it looks to be quite effective.
Since experiencing the success of this supplement, I ordered two others which I’ll be using and reporting back on in the next couple of weeks: Carnosine and Vitamin D3.
Carnosine reportedly reduces muscle fatigue and at least partially reduces various degenerative processes (so it’s considered to promote “anti-aging”). It’s the reduction of muscle fatigue (which should also help the intensity of my workouts) I’m primarily interested in; the anti-aging aspect isn’t bad either…;-).
Vitamin D3 has been linked with muscle mass and function and is usually found in fish and fish oil (which I’m not getting in my non-meat diet). Vitamin D3 can also be gotten from the sun, but I live in one of the cloudiest places in the country (especially in the Winter); not to mention that I need to keep my exposure to the sun somewhat low because my skin has shown some vulnerability to skin cancer (fortunately, not melanoma so far).
The other thing I think I need to do is simply make sure I get more protein in my diet from dairy (esp yogurt & cottage cheese), eggs, and nuts. I think I just haven’t been including enough protein in my vegetarian diet, especially considering the intensity and regularity of my workouts.
So, I have entered a stage of my fitness program where I’m trying to see if dietary changes and supplements can help me achieve the results I’m looking for. So far, so good; but I’ll report back as I add carnosine and vitamin D3 into the mix, as well as upping my protein through the vegetarian sources most available to me that seem to have the best chance of making an impact (i.e., dairy, eggs, and nuts).