Its not all about that aesthetic appeal , muscles are useful for many reasons. Even in a society with every form of technological convenience we can dream up, occasionally you have to move a from your chair and reach, carry or lift something in your every day life.
But most importantly, muscles play a vital role in supporting overall health and wellness, especially into old age. They aren’t just about looking good , and they aren’t just about the occasional need to help your friends move; they’re a critical factor in metabolic health, body weight control, bone strength, and resilience to stress and disease.
Muscles Promote Insulin Sensitivity
One of the most important functions of muscles in metabolic health is their ability to store glucose (carbohydrates) as glycogen. They then use this stored glycogen as fuel every time you need to move. Muscle mass essentially acts as a glycogen reserve that you top up by eating carbohydrates, and deplete when you exercise.
Muscles Protect Against Obesity
Diabetes, of course, usually comes along with an unwelcome co-morbidity: obesity. Diabetes and obesity are really just two sides of the same coin – diabetes is the inability to use carbohydrates productively, and obesity is the natural result when your body stores them as fat instead. Both are inflammatory; both are mediated by imbalances in the gut flora; both are closely connected to autoimmunity. Unsurprisingly, the muscle wasting of sarcopenia is also strongly associated with obesity, and the two problems react on each other in a vicious cycle.
Obesity and Aging
The dangerous consequences of muscle loss and fat gain most obvious among the elderly, making muscle health especially important after middle age. As people get older, they generally stop exercising , and spend more time sitting still. But muscle, unfortunately, is a use-it-or-lose-it kind of tissue. For one thing, it takes a lot of energy to maintain, so if you want to keep it around, you have to use it regularly to show your body that it’s still worth the effort. Since an elderly person’s body already has enough to do without maintaining muscles for no reason, it breaks down the muscle proteins to spare energy and keep the heart and other organs functioning.
Muscles And Bone Density
Moving on from the metabolic advantages of having a healthy amount of muscle mass, strong muscles also help preserve and maintain healthy bone density. Especially for women and the elderly, bone density is important for preventing osteoporosis – and it’s not just about eating more calcium.
Muscles Improve Disease Recovery
Another health benefit of muscles is their ability to create a “safety net” of protein that your body can draw on at times of increased need. Protein is one of the most important structural components in your entire body, and muscles play a key role in regulating protein availability. They absorb protein from the diet, store it, and distribute it to the heart, liver, and other organs as needed. In the absence of dietary protein, your body will break down your muscles to keep feeding your organs.
Building Healthy Muscles
First, eat adequate protein (20-25% of calories is a good number for putting on muscle) and adequate calories. If you’re losing fat, your body can build muscle mass on a slight calorie deficit because it will just take energy from body fat to make up for what you’re not putting in your mouth. On the other hand, an extreme calorie deficit is completely counterproductive and will actually destroy muscle mass you already have, since starvation produces the same kind of muscle-wasting stress response as injury or illness. 1,200 calories a day is not enough for an adult human of any size, especially if she’s also working out.
If you aren’t losing fat, you’ll need to eat a slight surplus in order to gain muscle: you can’t build any kind of mass without raw materials over and above what your body needs just to function. The bigger your surplus, the faster you’ll put on muscle, but many people prefer the “slow and steady” route since very fast muscle gain is usually accompanied by a significant amount of fat.
Women and Muscles
Strength training and building strong muscles are especially important for women, who tend to have less muscle to start with, and who are also more prone to osteoporosis and bone density problems. But when it comes to building muscles, women are often skeptical. Even though the benefits are significant, they’re afraid of getting “bulky,” and shy away from heavy weights in favor of extremely light dumbbells.That isn’t to say that weightlifting won’t change your body. But for the vast majority of women, those changes are positive: a leaner physique, arms they love showing off in T-shirts, and toned, shapely legs. So there’s absolutely no need to fear the free weights, and plenty of reasons to embrace them.
Muscles aren’t just for bodybuilders. They’re for everyone. Human beings are physiologically designed to have a fair amount of muscle mass built through regular exercise, muscle mass that allows us to metabolize carbohydrates efficiently, recover from injury or illness, and maintain our resilience and health into old age.
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