Small Shifts for a Strong, Lean Body
If you’re a woman over 40 struggling to hold onto (or achieve) a strong, lean physique, this episode is for you.
You may know that you can’t do the same things now that worked in your 20s, so what should you do instead?
At this age, optimizing your nutrition is mission-critical for building muscle and burning fat. And there are a handful of specific nutrients you must incorporate every day if you’re serious about your body-composition goals.
I’m naming each one and explaining what they do, how they support your body, and why they’re more important for you now than they’ve ever been.
00:01:27 – The right nutrition for building muscle and burning fat
00:03:42 – This has been shown to improve strength, exercise capacity, and bone density
00:06:57 – What you’re really eating protein for
00:09:28 – Healthy, clean protein sources
00:11:52 – A benefit of fish oil I didn’t know about
00:14:48 – Do this 30 minutes before a meal
00:17:53 – The lab test that is rarely optimal without supplementation
00:20:09 – How much should you be drinking?
Resources Mentioned in this episode
Try my protein calculator
Get grass-fed beef, free-range organic chicken & more delivered directly to your door from Butcherbox
Get fish and seafood protein from Vital Choice
Study: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Fish oil–derived n–3 PUFA therapy increases muscle mass and function in healthy older adults
YourLabWork Find the Vitamin D test under Nutrient Panel
ATHE_Transcript_Ep 590_Eat These Nutrients Daily to Build Muscle & Burn Fat Over 40
JJ Virgin: [00:00:00] I'm JJ Virgin, PhD dropout, sorry mom, turned four time New York Times best selling author. Yes, I'm a certified nutrition specialist, fitness hall of famer, and I speak at health conferences and trainings around the globe. But I'm driven by my insatiable curiosity and love of science to keep asking questions, digging for answers, and sharing the information I uncover with as many people as I can.
And that's why I created the Well Beyond 40 podcast to synthesize and simplify the science of health into actionable strategies to help you thrive. In each episode, we'll talk about what's working in the world of wellness, from personalized nutrition and healing your metabolism, to healthy aging and prescriptive fitness.
Join me on the journey to better health, so you can love how you look and feel right now, and have the energy to play full out at 100.[00:01:00]
Your body definitely starts to change after 40, but crossing that milestone doesn't mean you're automatically signed up for weight struggles that have you rushing out to get an entirely new wardrobe. Maintaining a strong, lean physique after 40 could seem like a bit of an uphill battle, but you know what you're probably trying to do?
That same thing that worked in your 20s, and guess what? Things are a wee bit different now. And what you need to do is also different. So I'm gonna show you how the right nutrition can help you build muscle and finally get rid of that stubborn fat. So when you do spend money on new clothes, it's cause you feel so comfortable and confident in your body that you wanna show it off.
I'm going to share the top nutrients that I want you to incorporate every day that support your needs, especially as a woman, so you can easily reach your body composition goals. Now, some of these are foods and some are supplements, and guess what? They're all important. And I'm going to start [00:02:00] with my number one.
And I got to bust a myth here too, because I've been getting all sorts of stuff on my Instagram channel about this. I'm talking about creatine. I think creatine is the single most important supplement for body composition for women. Yes, that is a crazy, bold statement, but I'm saying it because I'm getting a bunch of blowback on Instagram from women going, I'm afraid of creatine.
So. Let's talk about it. Creatine is not just for bodybuilders. Again, it is so mission critical for us, 40 plus, as we're starting to lose that muscle, lose that strength, lose that power. We don't have to, by the way. So what is creatine? It's an amino acid and it's located mainly in your body's muscles and also in your brain.
Now, we'll get creatine through animal products, through seafood, through red meat, and especially in the muscle parts of like fillets, right? But we are not getting the level that we need, the [00:03:00] level that you would get in a creatine supplement. And we also make creatine. We make it in our liver, our pancreas and kidneys, but we're making like A gram of creatine a day.
Here's the thing. Women have way less creatine than men, like 80 to 90% lower creatine than men. And if you're a vegan or a vegetarian, you're going to need even more because you're not getting any of it in your diet. Here's why this is important. Using creatine has consistently shown, and by the way, it is one of the longest studied supplements in history.
It is absolutely safe. And it has consistently demonstrated improvements in muscle and in brain phosphatidylcreatine levels, which has been shown to result in improvements in strength and exercise capacity. When you take creatine and you do resistance training, then it's going to further improve your body composition and bone mineral density.
And this especially is important. In postmenopausal women, when you really [00:04:00] look at creatine, muscle mass, bone mineral density, brain health, hello, think about the things that start to happen as first of all, we age 40 plus, but then especially postmenopausal, these are massive. I hear this and I go, I want every single woman 40 plus on creatine.
And yet I'm hearing this blowback of people going, Oh no, I don't want to take creatine. And full disclosure. I thought this way too. I was afraid to take creatine at first because I thought I would gain weight or get bloated. So what happens when you take creatine? I'm going to tell you exactly what I want you to take too.
When you take creatine, it's going to help your muscles hold more water in the cells. This is awesome. It's going to also help you build more muscle. So yes, your weight may go up, but it's not fat weight. It's muscle weight. We want that. That is why you've got to be using a bio impedance scale. You've got to be able to see what your weight's made up of to know if what you're doing is actually improving your body [00:05:00] composition.
You could weigh exactly the same, put on muscle, lose fat, and have entirely better body composition. But if you weren't doing bio impedance, you wouldn't know. You may have a little bit of weight gain. It's the right weight that you want to gain. Now, that water that you're holding is in your muscles. It will make you look better, right?
The only issue with creatine can be it can cause a little GI upset if you're doing the loading doses. And so here's how you dose creatine. The basic dose is three to five grams a day. Or if you want to get scientific 0. 06 grams per kilogram. Of body weight, which is how I would prefer to do it. You want to use it every single day.
Doesn't matter when, because you're just maintaining what's called tissue saturation of it. So it doesn't matter if you did it before your workout, it doesn't matter. You just want to get it in. And if you want to get your levels up quickly, because generally it takes you about a month to get to tissue saturation and less.
You take the amount you should be taking. Let's say that you figure out you need five grams a day. You [00:06:00] could, for five to seven days, take five grams four times a day and quickly get to tissue saturation. If you're going to do that, I would highly recommend taking this form. It's called crealcolin creatine because it won't cause the GI issues.
Other than that, though, creatine monohydrate is fine. So it doesn't really matter which kind you get. I am working right now on a product that's going to have it combined with something called GG because it's going to help with bone mineral density and visceral adipose tissue. So it's going to be end testosterone.
It's going to be like the perfect female creatine product. The big thing right now is to start taking it and to really pay attention over this next month about. Your muscle mass, again, use a bio impedance scale, your strength at the gym, because I betcha you will see a difference, especially when combined with the next thing, which of course is protein.
Now, of course, you're going to get some creatine in your protein, but not enough. But what you're really eating protein for are. [00:07:00] Amino acids. And as we age, here's what's really important. We do not need less protein as we age. We actually need more protein as we age because of a phenomenon called anabolic resistance.
Anabolic resistance is a blunted stimulation of muscle protein synthesis rates to common anabolic stimuli and skeletal muscle tissue saturation of it. So it doesn't matter if you did it before your workout. It doesn't, it doesn't matter. You just want to get it in. And, if you want to get your levels up quickly, because generally it takes you about a month to get to tissue saturation, unless…
You take the amount you should be taking. Let's say that you figure out you need five grams a day. You could, for five to seven days, take five grams four times a day and quickly get to tissue saturation. If you're going to do that, I would highly recommend taking this form. It's called crealcalin creatine because it won't cause the GI issues.
Other than that though, Creatine monohydrate is fine, so it doesn't really matter which kind you get. I am working right now on a product that's going to [00:08:00] have it combined with something called GG because it's going to help with bone mineral density and visceral adipose tissue. So it's going to be in testosterone.
It's going to be like the perfect female creatine product. The big thing right now is to start taking it and to really pay attention over this next month about your muscle mass. Again, use a bio impedance scale, your strength at the gym, because I betcha you will see a difference, especially when combined with the next thing, which of course is protein.
Now of course, you're going to get some creatine in your protein, but not enough, but what you're really eating protein for are… Amino acids. And as we age, here's what's really important. We do not need less protein as we age. We actually need more protein as we age because of a phenomenon called anabolic resistance.
Anabolic resistance is a blunted stimulation of muscle protein synthesis rates to common anabolic stimuli and skeletal muscle tissue saturation of it. So it doesn't matter if you did it before your workout. [00:09:00] It doesn't, it doesn't matter. You just want to get it in. And if you want to get your levels up quickly, because generally it takes you about a month to get to tissue saturation, unless you take the amount you should be taking.
Let's say that you figure out you need five grams a day. You could, for five to seven days, take five grams four times a day and quickly get to tissue saturation. If you're going to do that, I would highly recommend taking this form. It's called crealkolin creatine because it won't cause the GI issues.
Other than that, though, creatine monohydrate is fine, so it doesn't really matter which kind you get. I am working right now on a product that's going to have it combined with something called GG because it's going to help. with bone mineral density and visceral adipose tissue. So it's going to be end testosterone.
It's going to be like the perfect female creatine product. The big thing right now is to start taking it and to really pay attention over this next month about your muscle mass. Again, use a bio impedance scale, your strength at the gym, because [00:10:00] I betcha. You will see a difference, especially when combined with the next thing, which of course is protein.
Now, of course, you're going to get some creatine in your protein, but not enough. But what you're really eating protein for are amino acids. And as we age, here's what's really important. We do not need less protein as we age. We actually need more protein as we age because of a phenomenon called anabolic resistance.
Anabolic resistance is a blunted stimulation of muscle protein synthesis rates to common anabolic stimuli and skeletal muscle tissues, protein and resistance training. So what that means is as we age, we get worse at using protein and resistance training to build muscle. We get better breaking down muscle, we get worse at building it.
And protein is critical for pushing that threshold. So when we're eating protein, we're eating protein for the amino acids. I focus on animal protein because the amino acid blend is better. It's [00:11:00] better, it's more balanced, it's higher quality, it's more digestible. And what we're really looking at when we're getting protein, is we're, especially for muscle protein synthesis, is one specific amino acid.
Leucine, add an amount of 2. 5 to 3 grams of leucine. That will trigger, it causes a trigger of muscle protein synthesis, which we need to build muscle. When you're looking at building muscle, it's about 25% diet, 75% work, right? You want to have both of those. And so I actually created a protein calculator that's at jjvirgin.com/proteincalculator that will help you determine exactly how much protein you need for you. But basically, it is going to be somewhere between 0. 7 to 1 gram per pound of target body weight, and then you divide it into your three meals during the day. Let's say you need 100 grams of protein.
That's my floor for the day. You don't need it all at one meal. Your body can't use all of that at a meal. You'll eat somewhere in the 30 to 40 grams of each meal. And especially when you break your fast, the first meal, Because you're [00:12:00] shutting down muscle protein breakdown, you want to make sure you're getting in that 30 to 40 grams, that 2.
5 to 3 grams of leucine. And especially at the end of the day, when you eat your last meal, three hours before bed, same thing, so that you won't start to go into muscle protein breakdown as quickly. Super important. Now, if you are a vegan, if you're more plant based, you'll probably need more protein to really get the leucine trigger that you need.
One of the things that you can do Is spike with branched chain amino acids that can help you there too. And make sure you get in that leucine. I'll give you a little hint. Leucine tastes terrible. You'll find a lot of these branched chain amino acid drinks have a lot of flavoring in them, like citrus to try to cover up the icky taste of leucine, or you can take capsules, but that's one way that you can do it.
But you really want to make sure that you are getting in that healthy, clean protein. Things like wild fish, grass fed and finished beef and lamb, pastured chicken, eggs. If you are not intolerant, I'll do an egg and egg white combo. Not intolerant. They should be pasture raised. If you're [00:13:00] not intolerant, again, this would be doing the virgin diet, right?
Because if you're intolerant to a food, it creates inflammation that Shuts down muscle protein synthesis. Greek style yogurt whey protein can be great, but again, I looked at loads of food sensitivity tests, taken thousands of people through the virgin diet, and I find a lot of people have issues with dairy, which then can create inflammation, which then messes all of this up.
If you're not intolerant, those are great solutions. I love protein powder. If you're a vegan, I find pea protein powder can work well here. It tends to have more leucine than some of the other sources. But again, as a vegan, I'd be spiking with branch chain amino acids, definitely doing that. But for everyone else, I really love bone broth protein.
That's another great source. So there's lots of good sources here. What I find helps the most with protein is tracking. I use the chronometer app. So that I can really see how much protein I'm getting and ensure that I'm getting what I need at each meal. An app, tracking, and a food scale for the win. Okay, now you're eating protein.
There's [00:14:00] another key important thing with protein. You also got to make sure that you are breaking it down. Now, as we age, we tend to have a little lower stomach acid. We tend to not break down our fat as well. Our bile isn't working as well. So I'd like to put people, unless you have a history of hernias, on a trial of my protein first digestive enzymes, which have betaine, and betaine is going to help you break apart that protein, and lipase, which is going to help you with digesting fat.
And one of the other cool things here, and this is one of the ones I travel with, and whenever I don't do this with my smoothies, because I'm fine with my smoothies, it's a very clean, high quality source of bone broth protein, easily digestible. But with all of my meals, I'm taking protein digestive enzymes.
And one of the bonuses when you take digestive enzymes, if you have a history of rosacea, it can help there too. So if you've got any bloating after your meals, any history of rosacea, Or if you're 40 or older or under any kind of stress, all of you should give protein digestive [00:15:00] enzymes a try and see how you feel.
All right. Final one. Fish. And actually this is not the final one, but important one. Fish and fish oil. And this is actually really cool and I wasn't aware of this until I started digging into the research about fish oil. Now I've been taking fish oil. For years, I actually did a lot of speaking about fish oil because when my 16 year old son had a traumatic brain injury and he was in a hospital and coma, I had him on 20 grams of fish oil, working with some doctors to help put out the fire in his brain.
And I had him prior to that accident, because of some issues he had, I had him on five grams of fish oil a day. I believe that one of the reasons he made it through all of this is the neuroprotection. From the fish oil. So I've been using fish oil for years for insulin sensitivity, for reducing inflammation, for bone remodeling, for brain health, heart health.
There's just so many amazing things that it does. But what I didn't know was this cool thing that actually fish oil can help with muscle [00:16:00] mass. So there was a study that was actually a review of 10 studies. It was a meta analysis and where they looked at two grams of fish oil and they looked at muscle mass and walking speed in the elderly.
And what they found was that they improved their walking speed and their muscle mass. And the reason being they thought is that fish oil. has this anti inflammatory effect and what it can do potentially is increase your muscle's sensitivity to protein and resistance training so that you have better gains in your muscle size and strength as you age, which is huge.
And again, even if all it did was reduce inflammation, if you were inflamed, You will block muscle protein synthesis. Then there was another study, a 16 week study that showed that supplementing daily with 4, 200 milligrams of omega 3s, that's a lot, but I've supplemented up to 20 grams with my son and five grams on a regular basis.
So they were doing a little over four grams a day, and what they found was a significantly increased muscle growth after [00:17:00] exercise in older adults when they compared them with younger adults, which is even crazier. And then there's other studies that show that fish oil can boost or maintain muscle mass in older adults when, and this is mission critical, it's not just going to work in a vacuum when combined with resistance training.
And the other thing that fish oil is really act like what I call nature's Advil because It can help reduce inflammation and reduce soreness. So in all the studies, it was a two to four gram range. I do two grams of fish oil daily and then my goal is to eat at least three servings. Usually I get more like four to five servings of wild fish a week.
Shout out to my buddies over at Vital Choice. We keep our freezer stocked with wild halibut and wild salmon and wild sea bass and then also some scallops. So those tend to be my favorites. Okay, Next one is apple cider vinegar. And to me, this is like one of those easy little things. My big advice to you as you're getting used to using [00:18:00] this is to put it out on the counter so that you think about this.
And what I want you to do is I want you to use it. Before a meal. And what I especially love is about 30 minutes before a meal. If you put this apple cider vinegar, a tablespoon or two into green tea, why do I want you to do this? It contains acetic acid. This acetic acid lowers insulin, also lowers the blood sugar response to the meal, right?
Actually the lowered blood sugar response to the meal lowers insulin. And the acetic acid also slows down stomach emptying. By the way, that is what Ozempic, Munjaro, that's one of the things that they're doing is they are slowing down stomach emptying. If you slow down stomach emptying, you feel fuller longer, you are not as hungry.
It also is a little boost to metabolism. It's not a big thing, but hey, I will take every single thing, right? And it's also really good for your gut microbiome because it's antimicrobial. So lots of goodness there, no downside. The only thing you need [00:19:00] to know with apple cider vinegar is you don't just drink it, you got to dilute it so you don't hurt your teeth enamel.
Now probably, I love drinks. Like I am drinking lots of fluids all day long and two of my most favorites, I'll admit it, are coffee and green tea and super exciting, all of the good news about caffeine. And first off, caffeine is great for thermogenesis. It will increase your metabolic rate and it also is an ergogenic aid.
So when I'm going to the gym, I literally go into the gym two fisted. I have one thing of coffee, one thing, big one, 32 ounce of green tea. Because the caffeine helps me work out harder and it helps me also burn more calories from fat. Now, when I'm working out, my biggest focus is to work out as hard as I possibly can, which of course is going to be breaking down more sugar.
But then I also know afterwards, it's going to help stimulate more fatty acid breakdown. It's going to help me burn more fat. Now, if you do some of the lighter roasts, turns out those have more [00:20:00] chlorogenic acid, which can also help reduce appetite. So that's a big thing for coffee. For green tea, I like to do green tea all throughout the day.
And it does have caffeine, although you can get some without. But the big things with green tea, first of all, is the catechins that they have, EGCG, which is a very cool antioxidant, right? Super duper important. So you've got caffeine and you've got EGCG, and both of these things together have been shown to speed up metabolism.
Also EGCG has been shown to break down body fat, right? So you've got more energy being used, more body fat being used. All through green tea. So green tea for the win. Also, we know that green tea can help with your gut microbiome. So that's important too, because the balance of your microbiome can actually make the difference between you storing more calories as fat or burning them off.
And green tea can also improve insulin sensitivity. It includes blood sugar control. [00:21:00] So Green tea for the win. Now I'm going to pop back over to a supplement. And just like I think creatine is one that everybody should be on, it is rare for me to look at a vitamin D test, which is a 25 hydroxy vitamin D, which we all should do.
When you're getting your labs done, you should always do a 25 hydroxy vitamin D. And I will tell you, can't think of the last time I looked at a lab where someone wasn't supplementing and they were optimal. Either because Genetically, they don't make vitamin D well, they're not out in the sun much, or they're wearing sunscreen, which blocks it.
You're going to make vitamin D from sunlight, but if you're wearing sunscreen, you're not going to do it. So this is a super key one. Vitamin D is important for so many reasons. Biggie is immune system. But in another area, vitamin D is critical for, and who knew this? I didn't know this. Vitamin D can help increase muscle strength, especially if you're deficient.
And again, I find most people are deficient. I look at vitamin D [00:22:00] and you want to be somewhere in the 50 to 80 mg's per ml range. Turns out that higher levels of vitamin D are associated with reduced injury rates and better sports performance. And… It could, this is just new information, it could help with muscle strength and with again, that injury prevention makes a ton of sense, but also when you look at vitamin D, it also is mission critical for blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity and bone density, everything that we're talking about, vitamin D is a big help with.
Now, one of the other things that I've been eating a lot of, and it is one of the ways it's hard to get vitamin D from diet. But one of the places you can get it from diet is mushrooms. I love Dr. Sarah Ballantyne's work, and she has done this cool thing called the Nutrivore score. And one of the highest scores out there in foods is mushrooms.
So we have literally made it a point to incorporate mushrooms into our diet, like at least three days a week. And you can get vitamin D [00:23:00] enriched mushrooms. So check those out. Of course, wild fish is another great place to do it. But I think this is one that you're really going to want to supplement with.
And when you supplement, you're going to want to make sure that you are getting your D3 with K. So super duper important because vitamin D is going to help you with getting your calcium levels up and K is going to direct that they go to the right place. Must take those two together. Think of them like a pair.
All right, let's talk hydration. Now, first thing that I want you to know is like, how much should you be drinking and how do you know if you're drinking enough? First off, you basically want to think of having about half your body weight in fluid a day, right? So half your body weight in ounces of fluid a day and adding more for exercise.
So basically it's about four ounces every 15 minutes. And then if you were in a hot Humid place, kick it up from there. You can drink too much, but that's generally not people's problem. They're [00:24:00] not drinking enough. How can you tell if you're doing well? Look at your pee. It should be clear. Here's why this is so key mission critical.
Even mild dehydration, like 1%, raises your stress hormones, raises your stress hormones in your body. And an effort to protect you starts to take glycogen from your liver, convert it to glucose, and then convert it to fructose so it can be converted to fat. Why on earth would we do this horrible thing? We do it because if you store more fat, you can then burn that fat to free up water.
Just like camels do with that hump, right? That hump that camels have is fat so they can walk across the desert, burn fat, free up water. We don't want to do that. First thing you want to make sure is that you're not even mildly dehydrated. By the time you're thirsty, you're way past that point, right? Then think about using, especially if you're in a hotter, humid climate or working out and sweating a lot or doing the sauna, that's another one.
Look at using some electrolytes. I have my [00:25:00] electro replenish drink that I do every single day. And depending on how much I'm doing, if I'm doing some extra sauna or whatever, I'm doing extra. All right, I know that was a ton. I do not want you overwhelmed by these. And by the way, like I know I just rolled through these things.
I bet you're already doing a couple of them right now. And we're going to add a little bit more, but it's a lot easier than it sounds. Now to prove it to you, here's what I'm going to do. I want you to watch this next video on everything that I eat in a day, and I'm going to literally walk you through my typical breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
And how I incorporate in all of these things in between. You'll see how easy it is. Be sure to join me next time for more tools, tips, and techniques you can incorporate into everyday life to ensure you look and feel great. And more importantly, that you're built to last. And check me out on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and my website, jjvirgin.com. And make sure to follow my podcast so you don't miss a single episode at [00:26:00] subscribetojj.com. See you next time.