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The old saying вЂњuse it or lose itвЂќ certainly applies to muscles. Lack of exercise can lead to muscle atrophy, or the wasting away of muscles. Without training your body, people losing weight often lose some muscle mass as well, and it's common for people to lose some muscle mass as they age. Loss of muscle can lead to weight gain as well as lack of strength and endurance.
Engage in aerobic exercise regularly to build muscle and prevent muscle atrophy. Aerobic exercise includes just about anything that gets your heart rate up, including brisk walking, jogging, riding a bicycle or using a recumbent bike, using an elliptical machine, jumping rope, and dancing. MayoClinic.com recommends all adults get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily. If you haven't exercised in a while, though, you might need to start out exercising for a shorter period of time and work your way up to 30 minutes.
Alternating strength training with aerobic exercise to stop muscles from wasting away, suggest Dr. Wayne Westcott in a "Metrowest Daily News" article. Warm up with five minutes of recumbent cycling, followed by three sets of leg strengthening exercises. Return to cycling for five minutes, and follow it with three sets of exercises to strengthen the upper body. End with a cycling cooldown.
Eat enough protein. Muscles are primarily made from protein, and if you don't eat enough protein, your muscles will break down. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average adult woman needs approximately 46 grams of protein each day, while the average adult man needs approximately 56 grams of protein each day. Your individual protein needs might vary, though, based on your height and weight, level of activity, and any medical conditions you have. Talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian for more information about the amount of protein you need.
Get enough sleep, especially if you want to lose weight without losing muscle mass. According to Dr. Helen Kollias of Precision Nutrition, sleeping at least seven hours each night helps people lose weight by keeping their basal metabolic rate (BMR), or the number of calories burned at rest, up. This means they lose more fat and less muscle, while people that sleep for fewer than seven hours each night lose less weight overall and lose more muscle mass.
Get your testosterone level checked, especially if you're a man. Both men and women produce testosterone, a hormone that facilitates muscle growth. Men need much higher levels of testosterone than women, however. Symptoms of low testosterone in men include hair loss, loss of interest in sex, erectile dysfunction, loss of muscle mass, and osteoporosis (brittle bones). Symptoms of low testosterone in women include loss of interest in sex, hot flashes, irritability, loss of muscle mass, and osteoporosis.