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5 Simple Strategies to Get & Keep Your Muscles


Muscle mass is key for overall health as it helps keep your metabolism cranking, improves fat burning, protects your bones and helps hold everything in tighter (I like to think of it as my "metabolic shapewear").

The challenge is that with low-calorie dieting, stress, aging, lack of exercise and poor diet you can easily lose this precious resource. It turns out, that of the 30-35 percent of the population who aren't overweight or obese, roughly 50 percent of them are TOFI (Thin Outside, Fat Inside) – due to not having enough muscle mass.


Thankfully this is easy to turn around by consistently using these five simple strategies:


1. Use 'em or lose 'em: You must do regular exercise to maintain/build muscle mass. Resistance training focusing on multi-joint, free-weight style exercises uses the most muscles (including your core), allowing you to get fit in the least amount of time. Focus on doing two to three exercises for the four major body parts (hips and thighs, power core, upper body pushing, upper body pulling) two to three times a week. Allow for at least 48 hours of rest between exercise sessions. You should do multiple sets of 8-12 repetitions with a 60-second rest break between sets using the heaviest weight you can handle and still maintain good form. Literally repeatedly shows 8 to 12 repetitions to be most effective for muscle hypertrophy.


2. Feed 'em: Muscle requires protein to rebuild and recover, so it is critical to make sure you are eating and digesting well. To increase muscle mass, eat balanced meals every four hours, with one of those meals within an hour following your exercise session. This is how I helped Brandon Routh pack on 24 pounds of muscle for his role in Superman Returns. Take what you would normally eat in a day and divide it into four meals that each have clean lean protein, loads of non-starchy veggies, a small amount of healthy fat and a serving of a low-glycemic, high-fiber carbohydrate. My favorite recovery meal after a workout is a protein shake using 25-30 grams of a high quality protein, 1 cup of coconut milk, 1 cup of frozen fruit (I like berries) and 1 TBSP of chia seeds (you can also use freshly ground flaxseed meal). You should eat ¾ - one gram of protein for each pound of lean body mass, which is about 80-105 grams for a 140-pound woman and 110- 145 grams for a 180-pound man. This should be divided between those four meals. If you aren't as concerned with building muscle and are really looking to maintain, then you can eat three balanced meals (eat every four to six hours) and one optional snack.


3. Rest 'em: Your muscles need rest to grow. Over-training and reducing recovery between workouts can ultimately undermine your efforts by causing you to break down more than you are building up. Giving your body a break between sessions and getting seven to nine hours of quality sleep nightly are critical not only for muscle mass development but also for fat loss, overall energy and optimal health.


4. Don't overstress 'em: You can't build muscle if you are under a lot of stress, as you will be depleting your anabolic hormones that you need for this work. Stress also can impair digestive function making it harder for you to digest the protein your body desperately needs to re-build.


5. Confuse 'em!: It's so easy to get into a rut with your workout routine so to keep seeing results you need to keep changing things up. The easiest way to avoid the ruts is to hire a trainer or join a class (look for a core strength and conditioning program) so that you are forced to try new things. It keeps it fun and challenging, and more importantly you will reap the rewards!


Biography – JJ Virgin, CNS, CHFI
Celebrity Nutrition and Fitness Expert JJ Virgin, CNS, CHFI is the co-star of TLC's Freaky Eaters and the author of Six Weeks to Sleeveless and Sexy. You can grab her Top Ten Tips to Get Slim and Sexy Fast! FREE at

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