Why men should maintain muscle mass to preserve heart health

It’s no secret that beginning in the mid-30’s everyone, including men, will experience losing muscle mass. With each decade that passes, a decline of about 3% can be expected.  While that may not sound like much, as years go by, loss of muscle mass can result in greater weakness, less mobility, increased weight gain and now a new observational study has found an association with increased heart attack/stroke risk. 

This new study wanted to see if men and women who lose muscle mass, especially during middle age, would harm long-term heart health in people without heart disease. Over 1,000 men and women, aged 45 and older, were followed for 10 years.  Throughout the study, 272 participants developed heart disease, including stroke and minor stroke.

The interesting finding from the study was that participants, who had maintained their muscle mass, were 81% less likely to develop heart disease than those who had lost more significant muscle mass. In addition, those individuals who had preserved their muscle mass also had lower rates of high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity.

But for men, maintaining muscle mass was especially important for reducing risk of heart disease. Men in middle age with good muscle mass had significantly lower risk of heart disease than women who had maintained muscle mass.

While the study cannot establish a cause and effect since it was observational, the results still emphasize the importance of preserving skeletal muscle mass to protect against cardiovascular disease.

Plan for building muscle mass

For men to build and maintain muscle mass, having a plan helps achieve, maintain, and preserve muscle mass for better heart health. Here’s how:

  1. Fuel muscles to grow

To grow muscle, fuel your body with the right kind of food.  Consuming pop tarts for breakfast, white bread with bologna for lunch and a greasy hamburger and fries for dinner won’t cut it.  Instead, men need nutrient-rich foods supplying their body with the right blend of vitamins, minerals, and protein to help repair muscle tissue in conjunction with lifting weights to sculpt their physique into a lean, strong muscle bound machine.

 Part of this plan for growing muscle mass is protein.  A good plan is to consume 25-30 grams of protein at breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Distributing protein throughout the day means amino acids, the building blocks of protein, are available whenever the body needs them. Every day men should choose protein-rich foods such as lean beef, skinless poultry, fatty fish such as tuna, mackerel or salmon, nuts, eggs, and low-fat dairy.  A good eating plan for sufficient protein at each meal might look like this:

Breakfast – 1 cup of plain Greek yogurt (some brands can have as much as 24 grams of protein per serving or one cup) with fruit and nuts mixed in.

Lunch – 3-4 ounces of sliced turkey or chicken in a sandwich, salad, and fruit.

Dinner – 4-6 ounce of lean beef, chicken or fish, vegetables and oven-roasted potatoes.

  1. Focus on large muscle groups

Lifting weights is critical to building muscle mass. Beginners should choose a weight lifting routine intense enough to increase protein synthesis. Men familiar with weight lifting, should add compound lifts like squats, deadlifts, pullups, bent-over rows, bench presses, dips, and military presses.

The idea is to jumpstart hypertrophy, the cellular process that spurs muscle growth. Research has found the best way to begin this process is to perform two to three sets of an exercise for six to 12 repetitions, with about 30 to 60 seconds’ rest between sets. This damages the muscle which allows protein then to come in and help build bigger muscles.  

While aerobic or cardio exercise is great for heart health, men who run daily will have a hard time putting on muscle mass. To avoid this, cut back a day or two on aerobic exercise or only run on days when weights are not lifted.

  1. Make use of whey protein powder before working out

Research has found that men who drink a shake containing amino acids and carbohydrates before working out increased their protein synthesis more than lifters who drank the same shake after exercising.  The shake used contained 6 grams of protein and 35 grams of carbohydrates. 

This is a good idea for building muscle mass because exercise increase blood flow to the working tissues.  In addition, drinking a protein-carbohydrate mixture before the workout can lead to greater uptake of amino acids in the muscles.  Mix one scoop of whey protein powder (about 20 grams of protein) in one cup (8 ounces) of milk.  

  1. Rest for gains in muscle mass

Men may be motivated to want to lift weights daily to see a faster muscle mass growth. However, muscles grow when a person rests, not when working out. The best plan for seeing increases in muscle mass is to rest a full day after a full-body workout.  Studies show that a challenging resistance training workout increases protein synthesis for up to 48 hours immediately after an exercise session. 

  1. Combine a carb/protein snack before bedtime

Before bedtime, eat a combination of carbohydrates and protein.  The carb/protein combination will reduce muscle breakdown while sleeping. Good examples of healthy carb/protein combos could be cottage cheese, nuts or Greek yogurt with fruit, peanut butter on whole wheat crackers or hummus with cut-up vegetables.    


Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy.  Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncology and prostate cancer 911. 

0/50 ratings