Does this sound too good to be true? It kind of does but here are the cool facts. These three nutrients can be used to make your body stronger, as well as make your brain perform better. Both of these characteristics are super important for healthy aging. I’m going to break down how it works and how you can improve your brain capacity as well as your muscle strength. Simply by adding a few ingredients to your daily routine. A stronger body will give you more independence. Better brain health will give you faster thinking and better memory.
Let’s start by looking at potassium and how it can help you maintain strength and lean body mass. Now, this is not about being as muscular as possible. It’s simply about maintaining your functionality and making sure that you can effectively perform the tasks that you have to perform on a daily/weekly basis.
A group of researchers at Tufts University wanted to see if they could find a common factor between older individuals that kept more muscle compared to those who lost more muscle. It’s very common for older individuals to slowly lose strength and muscle which increases the risk for disease and falling. The researchers measured the amount of potassium that the participants were excreting in the urine. The subjects were 380 men and women that were all over 65 years of age. The trial lasted for three years. Those individuals that secreted (through urine) the most amount of potassium throughout the day also had the most amount of muscle mass. Meaning that those who ate the most amount of fruit and vegetables which are high in potassium also kept the most amount of muscle strength and functionality. The average intake of potassium for the group was around 3.5 g per day which is about the average of the regular American. That amount is however only half of what we should consume on a daily basis. Increasing your potassium intake seems to correlate with a higher lean body mass in older individuals. This highly suggests that incorporating foods that are high in potassium will be beneficial for your body composition health and independence.
Foods that are high in potassium are vegetables and fruits. Here’s a list of some of the highest potassium containing food items that you should be eating on a daily and weekly basis:
-Beet greens, yam, cooked beans, spinach, Swiss chard, potatoes, kale, sweet potato, mushrooms, artichokes, fennel, brussels sprouts, parsnips, bok choi, artichokes, arugula, squash, broccoli, pumpkin, watercress, beets, snap beans, carrots, broccoli, rutabagas, cauliflower, okra, corn, avocados, bananas, passion fruit, kiwi, cantaloupe, apricot, pomegranate, honeydew melon, cherries, nectarines, grapes, oranges, clementines, blackberries, strawberries, and etc.
Another nutrient that could be beneficial for strength is creatine. This is a very common supplement among athletes, bodybuilders, and recreational gym goers. This substance is highly researched and it has a ton of beneficial effects. Creatine naturally occurs in animal products such as beef, however, eating enough beef to reach the desired dosage of 5g is not sustainable. That is why supplementing with creatine could be beneficial for the elderly population as well as the younger athletic population. It is stored in your muscles and it is used as fuel for shorter and more intense activities.
In a study with 15 older individuals (age 64 to 86), they received the supplement for 14 days. 5g a day improved their overall strength. Their grip strength increased as well as their sit to stand test which measures leg strength. These two characteristics are great indicators for a stronger and more healthy upper body as well as lower body. Only 5g a day for 14 days gave them significant increases in strength. This should be considered to be used for any older individual who wants to increase and maintain their strength for healthy aging.
Now that’s the effects of creatine on strength in older individuals. There have also been studies done on the cognitive performance benefits from creatine in older individuals. It has been shown that the same supplementation of 5 g per day of creatine can improve the cognitive function. Meaning that the brain was able to work faster and more accurately. The individuals in the study were tested on forward and backward number recall. They saw significant improvement in memory function which is something that really benefits all individuals. This could improve the quality of life by holding onto dear memories as well as being able to avoid smaller nuisances such as, “ Did I forget to turn the stove off?”.
The benefits of taking creatine were significant and very positive. Another food item that might help assist in healthy brain aging is beets. Exercise has been proven to increase the neuroplastic effects on the brain. Neuroplasticity refers to the maintenance and repair of the brain. The better it is the faster you are you’re able to learn, think, and pick up new skills. Exercise improves the neuroplastic effects by increasing the blood flow to the brain. Beets have been shown to increase the circulation of blood to the brain. In a study on older individuals with an average age of 65 years. Those who exercised saw better brain health and those who exercised and took a beetroot juice saw an even bigger improvement from exercise. This could potentially be a great food item to eat along with exercise to help maintain cognitive function. These small changes can help you maintain your strength and brain health for better aging.
Potassium and lean mass – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18326605
Creatine and strength – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17985060
Creatine and cognitive function – https://www.researchgate.net/publication/6011270_Creatine_Supplementation_and_Cognitive_Performance_in_Elderly_Individuals
B.S. Exercise Science from Lindenwood University
Started CrossFit in 2010.
Favorite thing about what I do:
To help and see people improve their fitness and confidence
Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist by the National Strength and Conditioning Association
CF L1 Coach
CF L2 Coach
USAW Sports Performance Coach & club coach