Valine and Building Muscle as You Age. Week 95 Tip

By: David Meine

| October 23, 2023

Welcome to More Than Healthy, where we continue to share our weekly health tips. This is Tip #95, about 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 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 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.

Like lysine and tryptophan, which we have written about in previous posts, valine is one of the 9 essential amino acids. 

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 encouraging the building of protein in the muscle and decreasing 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 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 interested in any amino acid that does all that – especially as I age.

Why does muscle matter as we get older?

The sad truth is that we peak physically between the ages of 20 and 30. After that, the aging process starts, and we 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 age 30. And that rate increases in our 60s.

But here’s the really good news: Even though strength naturally declines as we age, 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 slows losses of muscle mass, strength, and bone density…it can even reserve them!

Consider this compelling study, which followed a 10-week strength training program for 100 adults with a mean age of 87 (range 72-98 years). Results showed that muscle strength increased by an average of 113%! 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 preventing muscle breakdown and promoting muscle health.

Because of what I’ve learned about amino acids like valine, I’m more committed to getting them in my diet daily through the foods I eat or with supplementation. I’m 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. 

Carla’s story

My wife Carla proves that, even over 60, we can rebuild muscle and strengthen. Consider her experience with building muscle this year:

“Over a year ago, I saw women my age and older 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 we discussed 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 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 maintains liver glycogen and blood glucose after exercise, which reduces 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 discuss which foods contain the highest amount of valine.  

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 
  • Eggs 
  • 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 
  • Mushrooms  
  • Gluten-free whole grains like quinoa and brown rice

Can I take a valine supplement?

I get a fair amount of those foods daily (except the ones I’m sensitive to – ensure 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 its ratio of each of the 9 essential amino acids. It’s the closest product to eating the foods on the list above.  

We always encourage our clients to get the bulk of their nutrients from their foods, but we like the whole food supplements from Optimal Health System when they can’t. Using this link for any of their supplements gives you 10% off your first order.

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? 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 what’s worked for us on our health journey. You should consult your doctor before significantly changing your diet and supplementation.

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