The number one things I hear the vast majority of my friends complain about, (no matter what their age but definitely my fellow midlifers), is that they’d like to be stronger and more fit, and that they all need better sleep. Being stronger and fit at midlife means you’ve got to focus on building lean muscle mass, and accomplishing that relies, in part, on getting better sleep. Did you know that sleep and fitness (and weight loss/management) were connected in that way? I did not! I’ll bet that you also didn’t know that adding a calcium supplement can help you accomplish both of those goals—and that’s something I also didn’t know. Let’s explore how building lean muscle mass and better sleep work together.
The Role Better Sleep Plays in Fitness and Weight Loss and Management
I’ve been working with a personal trainer and nutritionist over the course of the last several years, helping me to focus on fitness, weight loss, and building lean muscle mass, which plays a critical role in boosting metabolism. Oh the joys of being a woman at midlife! Welcome to the constant battle of not only trying to manage weight, but to also keep bones strong and healthy, and working to fight the body’s natural tendency to lose muscle mass as we age. I’ve spent my whole life focused on fitness and being a total gym rat, but I’ve got to tell you, this battle is not for the faint of heart. It takes a lot of commitment to try to not only stay in shape and look good and fit, but also stay strong on the inside—where there’s stuff going on that you can’t see.
One of the first things we talked about as we explored my personal weight goals and how we were going to get there is my sleeping habits. My nutritionist was startled to learn that I was getting by on about six hours of sleep a night, and proud of it at that! He flat out told me that if I wanted to hit my weight and fitness goals, that I was going to have to do something about my sleeping habits, and that I was going to mindfully work on getting better sleep. No more late nights for me!
Calcium Supplements as a Sleep Aid and a Lean Muscle Mass Builder
I started taking calcium supplements in the last few years, mostly to stave off the old lady hunchback that so many people develop later in life, and largely because I’m stubborn and vain. Also, I don’t drink milk or consume much dairy, and calcium is hard to get from food, so I knew that if I wanted strong bones, I needed a calcium supplement. Want to know more about that, I wrote about it here: Women Need More Calcium: What to Do If You’re Not Getting Enough.
As part of my work with my trainer/nutritionist, I discovered that calcium has many other benefits, beyond just the strong bones part of the equation. I do a lot of HIIT (high impact interval training) as part of my workout regime, and that kind of intense exercise puts a lot of stress on the body. I didn’t realize that supplementing with calcium can help not only decrease inflammation that can come from intense exercise in 50+ year olds, but it can also help combat oxidative stress, which is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in your body.
Equally as important when you’re focused on building lean muscle mass is the right kind of sleep—specifically REM sleep. Your body requires REM sleep more than ever if you’re exercising and breaking down muscle fibers and rebuilding them, and the better the rest, the better your muscles will rebuild and rebound.
Calcium Deficiencies Get in the Way of Better Sleep
Calcium deficiencies can lead to trouble sleeping, and can impact both the quality of sleep and the duration of sleep an individual experiences. That’s where a calcium supplement can help. Calcium aids in the brain’s use of the amino acid tryptophan (yes, that’s what you also get when you eat a lot of turkey at Thanksgiving), which then can help naturally produce melatonin, which leads to better sleep.
If you work to get your calcium levels where they need to be, chances are good you’ll not only fall asleep easier, but you’ll also stay asleep longer and get a better night’s sleep. That’s why I rely on a supplement, because I’m over 50, which means that I need 1,200 mg of calcium a day, and there’s no way I can get that much calcium from food, especially when dairy is not part of the equation.
So if you’re like me and not only focused on building lean muscle mass, improved fitness, and getting better sleep, maybe you should consider adding a calcium supplement to the equation. After all, what have you got to lose?
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