You may have started exercising to help improve how you look on the outside, but it also helps improve how you look on the inside. Regular exercise, especially weight-bearing exercises like weight-lifting and jogging, not only strengthens your muscles but also strengthens your bones. Now that you have the exercise part down, it's time to work on a diet that can enhance your bone and muscle strength.
Protein is found in both bones and muscles, and is necessary for building and repairing tissue. Women need about 46 grams of protein a day to meet their body's daily needs. Even when trying to build muscle, you don't need to eat enormous amounts of protein, and most women already consume more than they need. Protein is found in a variety of foods, including meats, fish, grains, dairy foods, beans, nuts and seeds. To put it into perspective, a 3-ounce portion of meat has 21 grams of protein and 1 cup of milk has 8 grams. When it comes to meat, choose lean varieties such as poultry, seafood and pork tenderloin. Also, consume a variety of non-meat sources of protein in your weekly diet to vary your nutrient intake.
Low-Fat Dairy Foods
Not only are they a good source of protein, but dairy foods are also a good source of calcium, an important nutrient for bone health. Women need 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams of calcium a day. One glass of milk has about 300 milligrams of calcium. Yogurt and cheese are also good sources of calcium. To limit your intake of saturated fat, include mostly low-fat and non-fat dairy products in your diet. If you can't drink milk, try fortified soy milk instead.
If you want stronger muscles you need to eat your carbohydrates. Grains are a rich source of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates provide energy and spare the protein you eat for muscle building. To maximize nutrient intake, you should make most of your grain choices whole grain; these grains are good sources of B-vitamins, iron and fiber. Whole grains are also a plentiful source of magnesium, an important mineral for bone health. Good choices include oats, whole-wheat bread and pasta, quinoa, barley and brown rice.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are the mainstay of any healthy diet, and some contain nutrients that help strengthen your bones and muscles. Many fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamin C. Vitamin C promotes bone mass and helps keep bones strong. Red peppers, oranges, spinach, broccoli, strawberries and kiwi are good sources of vitamin C. Some vegetables also contain calcium for your bones. Calcium-rich vegetables include turnip greens, mustard greens, broccoli and Chinese cabbage.
- University of Arizona: Bone Builders
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Protein
- Helpguide.org: Calcium and Your Bones
- University of Illinois Extension: What is a Bone Healthy Diet?
- Office of Dietary Supplemnts: Vitamin C
- Baylor College of Medicine: Vitamin C Protects, Maintains Healthy Bone Mass
Jill Corleone is a registered dietitian and health coach who has been writing and lecturing on diet and health for more than 15 years. Her work has been featured on the Huffington Post, Diabetes Self-Management and in the book "Noninvasive Mechanical Ventilation," edited by John R. Bach, M.D. Corleone holds a Bachelor of Science in nutrition.