With over 600 muscles in your body, think of the tremendous power you possess! But there’s a lot of potential for something to go wrong, too. Many of us well know the feelings of stiffness and soreness that come from working our muscles to excess. Fortunately, in most cases they recover quickly from mild overuse. In fact, to build muscle, dormant cells on the outer surface of the muscle fibers must be stimulated to activity by resistance exercise overload, also known as hypertrophy, and essentially this is trauma to the muscle. The goal is to avoid harming them permanently, and one of the best ways to do this is by providing the nutrition muscles require on a daily basis. What does that include?
Three macro minerals are absolutely essential to muscles that are full of energy and function properly. They are known as electrolytes because they transmit electrical signals throughout the body, which enable muscles to contract. They also help maintain the right balance of fluids in the muscles. Minerals move between the blood, muscles and bones while you sleep, so nutritionists recommend taking a mineral supplement before bed if your muscles are prone to twitching or cramping during the night.
- Calcium—Healthy muscles depend on sufficient amounts of calcium. Unless you eat plenty of dairy foods, you likely do not consume enough of this important mineral. You’ll notice a big difference in how you feel when you get at least 1000 mg per day.
- Magnesium—Magnesium is a prerequisite for muscles to function, and athletes require extra amounts of it for endurance. Due to mineral depleted soils in which our fruits and vegetables grow, many individuals fall short of the recommended 400 mg per day, and the deficit quickly shows up in the muscles.
- Potassium—Potassium levels are one of the first things to check when your muscles feel “off.” Eat a banana or apple, which both provide over 400 mg of potassium per serving.
Muscles are made from protein so it stands to reason that adequate amounts of protein are necessary to maintain their health. (After all, we are what we eat.) Whey protein powder is the preferred form of protein because it provides all essential amino acids with absolutely no saturated fat whatsoever. Unlike red meat, it is easily digested and assimilated by the cells of the body. In fact, whey powder is so quickly absorbed that you can literally feel the nutrients entering your body as your energy level rises shortly after drinking it.
Also your body makes creatine from three amino acids found in protein—L-methionine, glycine, and L-arginine. The body converts creatine to phosphocreatine, a form of stored energy used by muscles. The more phosphocreatine in your muscles, the more capable they are of performing on demand. If you eat enough high quality protein, your body will make all the creatine it needs. Some serious athletes also find that creatine supplements help them gain energy in the muscles.
- Chlorella—The diverse nutrient profile in chlorella—including protein and bioavailable minerals—helps maintain muscle strength and tone.
- Hydrochloric Acid—Many people do not produce sufficient amounts of hydrochloric acid (HCl) for complete digestion so the minerals in food are unavailable to the muscles. In spite of all your hard efforts to eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, you may still be missing their important minerals. HCl supplements replace what the body may be unable to manufacture for one reason or another.
- Malic Acid—The body synthesizes malic acid during the process of converting carbohydrates to energy. If the body is short of malic acid, the muscles will sense it immediately.
Water, Warmth and Working Out
Dehydrated muscles can quickly cramp up -- usually at the worst times -- so it’s a good idea to drink the recommended eight glasses of water a day to keep your body hydrated and working at peak efficiency. Good, clean bottled water is one option, although filtered tap water is most often just as good. Another great option, especially for athletes, is a sports or energy drink that provides electrolytes. Also, keep an eye on your caffeine intake. While it can provide a short-term energy boost, it’s a diuretic and will deplete your muscles of the water they need to stay loose and flexible.
Muscles don’t like being cold, either, so warm them with a heating pad or a warming rub like Better Than Blue or Tiger Balm. And by all means warm up your muscles with five to ten minutes of slow stretching exercises before and after a workout.