When you think of foods that build muscle protein-packed choices like meat or eggs may come to mind. But an interesting Tufts University study has found that fruits and veggies play a key role in keeping you toned, and too much protein can actually cause you to lose muscle!
In the study the Tufts researchers looked at the diets of nearly 400 men and women who were part of a three-year intervention. Their physical activity levels, heights, weights, and percentages of lean body mass were all measured at the beginning and end of the study. The researchers concluded that the adults with the highest potassium intakes, primarily obtained from fruits and veggies, would retain 3.6 more pounds of lean muscle mass.
That extra muscle means more strength, a boost in metabolism (because muscle burns calories just being on the body, even at rest) and it can mean a reduced risk of injuries, which is especially important as we age.
So here’s the deal: eating too much protein can create a slightly acidic environment in the body. Muscle tends to weaken in an acidic environment and this acidic state also triggers calcium, a base, to get pulled out of bones to neutralize the acid. In other words excess protein is a double whammy as it can weaken both muscle and bone. That’s where potassium comes in. One of its many “jobs” is to buffer acids in the body to protect muscle and bone.
The recommended amount is 4,700 mg per day, and most of us fall far short of this amount. Unfortunately, unlike sodium, the mg of potassium are not required to appear on food labels, so tracking how much you’re taking in can be tricky.
The best way to be sure you’re getting enough is to eat more fruits and vegetables, which are rich sources and if you’re an omnivore watch your portion sizes of meat, seafood and dairy products.
Come back tomorrow – I’ll explain more about why too much protein may work against you, share 7 fruits and veggies highest in potassium, and a simple strategy for staying in balance.