When it comes to cholesterol, you know the score: High cholesterol can lead to cardiovascular disease, and dietary cholesterol has no place in a healthy bodybuilding diet. Well, that conventional thinking may be wrong.
In fact, eating a diet that’s higher in cholesterol may be better for building muscle and boosting strength, according to new research from Kent State University (Kent, Ohio).
Kent scientists put 47 older adults (ages 60-69) on a 12-week weight-training program and tested them before and after for changes in muscle mass and strength. While all subjects ate a diet that was moderate in protein, about half consumed a low-cholesterol diet (1.6 mg per pound of bodyweight or about 150-250 mg per day) while the other half consumed a high-cholesterol diet (2.6 mg per pound of bodyweight or about 250-450 mg per day).
After 12 weeks of weight training, the lower-cholesterol group did not increase muscle mass and increased strength by only about 35%. The higher-cholesterol group, on the other hand, saw an increase in muscle mass of about 5 pounds and increased strength by about 90%.
Although the Kent research team isn’t sure exactly why cholesterol influences muscle and strength gains, the reason can be speculated: Cholesterol is important for testosterone production as well as maintaining the integrity of muscle cell membranes.
In other words, cholesterol isn’t all bad and may be necessary for building muscle and strength. The researchers suggested that low-cholesterol diets shouldn’t be emphasized for everyone, particularly athletes and others who are concerned with muscle mass and strength.
While M & F doesn’t recommend purposely eating a high-cholesterol diet, we do advise you don’t steer away from healthy foods containing cholesterol such as egg yolks, liver and shellfish.