Welcome to More Than Healthy as we continue to share our weekly health tips. This is Tip #95, the health benefits of the right amount of valine and building muscle – even as you age. To watch our weekly Video Tip, click this link. To listen to the audio podcast, click on Spotify or Apple Podcasts.
Valine is another essential amino acid, which means our bodies cannot make it. We need to get valine from the food we eat.
Remind me, what are essential amino acids again?
We’ve talked a lot about amino acids. But if you’re new to More Than Healthy, let’s quickly review what makes them essential and why they matter so much to our health.
Amino acids are organic compounds composed mainly of nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon. They are the building blocks of proteins and play many critical roles in your body.
Our bodies need 20 different amino acids to grow and function properly. All 20 are important to our health. But, only 9 of the amino acids are classified as “essential.”
An amino acid is labeled “essential” because although they are necessary for your body to function properly, your body cannot make it. We have to get essential amino acids through what we eat. They’re found in protein-rich foods like meat, fish, and soybeans.
What does valine do?
Valine helps stimulate muscle growth and regeneration. It is also involved in energy production. It does this by supplying the muscles with extra glucose during intense exercise.
Valine is also one of three branched-chain amino acids (you’ve probably heard of these as BCAAs). This means it has a chain branching off from one side of its molecular structure.
What are BCAAs and why do they matter?
Most of our clients have heard of BCAAs. You’ve probably seen them marketed as a popular post-workout dietary supplement. But you might not really know what they are and why they’re so important.
These special branched-chain amino acids are known for their ability to encourage the building of protein in the muscle and decrease muscle breakdown. It seems they also discourage problematic brain cell messaging that can occur with certain serious health conditions.
BCAAs are especially popular with athletes because of their health benefits specifically related to strength and exercise. Some of the proven health benefits of BCAAs include:
- Increased muscle growth
- Decreased muscle soreness
- Reduction in exercise fatigue
- Prevention of muscle wasting
As someone who has always enjoyed competitive sports and working out, I’m definitely interested in any amino acid that does all of that – especially as I age.
Why does muscle matter as we get older?
The sad truth is, we peak physically somewhere between ages 20 and 30. After that, the aging process starts, and we begin to slowly decline in bone density, muscle mass, muscle quality, and muscle strength.
Studies confirm that adults lose 3-8% of their muscle mass per decade after the age of 30. And that rate increases in our 60s.
But here’s the really good news: Even though our strength naturally declines as we get older, research proves that it is very possible to build and increase strength after age 60.
In fact, consistent strength training in your 60s and beyond not only slows losses of muscle mass, strength, and bone density…it can even reserve them!
Consider this compelling study that followed a 10-week strength training program of 100 adults with a mean age of 87 (range 72-98 years). Results showed that muscle strength increased by an average of 113% percent! Additionally, functional strength such as walking speed and stair climbing power noticeably increased as well.
Can valine help us to stay healthy as we age?
The more you study longevity, the more you realize that one of the main keys to staying healthy as we age is to retain muscle. Valine is known for its ability to prevent muscle breakdown and promote muscle health.
Because of what I’ve learned about amino acids like valine, I’m more committed to getting them in my diet daily either through the foods I eat or with supplementation. I’m very aware of how much my muscles are deteriorating as I age, so I consistently train in strength, eat good protein sources, and take additional supplements when needed.
My wife Carla is proof that, even over 60, we can rebuild muscle and get stronger. Consider her experience with building muscle this year:
“Over a year ago, I saw where women my age and older were increasing their muscles, and I decided to make more of an effort. So far this year, I’ve put on 6 pounds of muscle (according to my dexa body scan), and I’m working to put on 2 more pounds before the end of the year.
I’ve done this through strength training 3 days a week (nothing crazy, just the exercises that we talked about in week 22 tip if you want to see what I do). I’ve added more good protein to my diet and supplemented it with my Kion Aminos (a combination of the 9 essential amino acids).”
This accomplishment would be noteworthy at any age, but adding 6 pounds of muscle at age 63 is especially impressive! That additional muscle not only helps you to look great, it has powerful health benefits that might surprise you.
Adding muscle does all of the following for your body:
- Supports bones and joints
- Improves balance and mobility
- Helps with weight loss
- Lowers blood sugar levels
- Prevents cognitive decline
Additional health benefits of valine
In addition to the benefits we’ve already mentioned, valine appears to help with tissue repair. It also supports both muscle coordination and mental strength – all while promoting an emotionally calm state.
Studies show that valine also improved the rate of recovery and muscle soreness in resistance-trained athletes. It does so by maintaining liver glycogen and blood glucose after exercise, which seems to contribute to the reduction of fatigue. These are all things I’m very interested in to make the most of my strength training.
Which foods are high in valine?
Now that you know the awesome benefits of valine, let’s talk about which foods have the highest amount of valine in them.
This will sound familiar if you’ve been following us, because it’s the same foods list as some of the other essential amino acids we’ve covered in other posts. Protein-rich whole foods provide a great source of valine.
Here are some good sources of valine to include in your diet:
- Dairy products, especially cheese and yogurt
- Red meat like lamb and beef (we like grass-fed)
- Fish, especially wild-caught salmon and trout
- Fermented soy products like natto and tempeh (we eat these sparingly)
- Turkey and chicken (we like a free range – no hormones or antibiotics)
- Seeds, including sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, flaxseeds, and chia seeds
- Nuts like pistachios, cashews, and almonds
- Beans, like navy, kidney, chickpeas, and lentils
- Gluten-free whole grains like quinoa and brown rice
Can I take a valine supplement?
I get a fair amount of those foods on a daily basis (except the ones I’m sensitive to – make sure you always know which foods do and don’t work for your gut). However, when I can’t get enough of these foods, I supplement with Kion Aminos.
We like this product and the ratio of each of the 9 essential amino acids it has. It’s the closest product we have found to eating the foods on the list above.
We always encourage our clients to get the bulk of their nutrients from the foods they eat, but when they can’t, we like the whole food supplements from Optimal Health System. If you use this link for any of their supplements, you get 10% off your first order.
Can hair analysis help?
With just a few strands of your hair, you receive a full report looking at toxins, nutrients, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, electromagnetic frequency exposure, chemicals, radiation, parasites, immune factors, and foods you should avoid. A More Than Healthy Hair Analysis also includes a 15-minute consultation with Carla to review the results and recommend 3 or 4 things you can do to help improve your health.
Just go to our website to learn more. You can schedule a local hair analysis or order it online to be mailed to you today.
Valine and building muscle: the anti-aging secret
We always enjoy hearing from you. Do you have questions about valine, or any other health topic? Go to our social media pages on Facebook or Instagram (@morethanhealthyliving) and ask us. We try to respond to all questions.
We’d love to become your health coaches as you work to become “more than healthy” and achieve optimal health. Thanks for joining us, and we’ll see you next week.
Note: Remember, we’re not doctors. We’re sharing with you what’s worked for us on our health journey. You will want to consult your doctor before significantly changing your diet and supplementation.