At the beginning I didn’t care for building muscles. I thought I needed to lose weight because building muscles was for men not women. I didn’t want to ‘bulk’ up and look like Arnold Schwarzenegger.
But in college I was the skinny girl with long gangly limbs and I wanted to look lean.
Looking at magazine covers at the grocery stores I thought it was all skinniness that made those women look hot not their muscles. Completely ignorant at that time I didn’t realize that the look I was going for required building muscles and building lots of it.
Well 15+ years of gym workouts later I’m all in favor for building muscles and for getting strong.
Turns out that having muscles is more than just having a certain look for the cameras or having your clothes hug your body in specific places. Muscles play a much bigger role than vanity and having more of it is greatly beneficial for your health.
Here are 3 big reasons why having more muscles means improved health for you.
Protection Against Obesity And Diabetes
The great thing about having more muscles means that your body is better able to handle carbohydrates. Your body stores carbs in two main places for easy access to energy, your lean muscles and your liver.
Having more lean muscle mass means a larger storage center for excess carbs.
This is the idea behind the concept of carb cycling to help you stay lean. It’s recommended to eat most of your carbs after your workouts when your carbs have been depleted from your muscles.
When you follow this eating pattern you store excess the carbs in your muscles instead of in your fat tissue. This way of eating helps to minimize bodyfat without cutting carbs from your diet.
More lean muscle mass also increases your insulin sensitivity to prevent metabolic diseases like diabetes where your body is unable to process carbs properly.
Diabetes develops when your cells are non-responsive to the secretion of insulin by your pancreas and your body cannot process carbs properly. This is called insulin insensitivity and your body shuttles the extra carbs to fat instead.
In order for your cells to get its necessary nutrients it must be responsive to insulin to uptake nutrients from the bloodstream. This process helps to clear away excess sugar in your blood which is detrimental to the health of your blood vessels.
People with an inadequate amount of muscles for glucose storage are at risk for developing diabetes. Those excess carbs from your diet get redirected to fat instead of muscle storage thereby increasing your body fat percent putting you at risk for obesity and diabetes.
Increased Quality of Life
As we grow older we tend to become more sedentary and everyday routines become more challenging as we age.
Sacropenia or the natural loss of muscle tissue starts at age 30 and people who are physically inactive can lose anywhere from 3% to 5% of their muscle mass per decade1. By the time you hit 50 you will have lost about 10% of your muscle mass. This loss in muscle mass that will continue to decline by the decade and accelerate once you’re past 70.
A decline in muscle mass causes us to use more effort when we move because we have less lean muscle mass to draw from. It becomes a vicious cycle because it causes to move less.
Muscles grow and develop based on the demand we put on it. If we are sedentary we don’t give our bodies a reason to keep our muscle mass and instead break down our muscles for organ repair and maintenance.
Healthy muscle mass protects against injury because stronger muscles provide better support for your joints. As we build muscles we start protecting ourselves against sprains and tears because our connecting tissue such as tendons and cartilage grow stronger with muscle growth.
It is definitely possible to increase your muscle mass as you get older through regular resistance training.
Those who have more muscle mass tend to lead better, more active lifestyles. They have more stamina and strength to perform physical activities and tend to lead a life with more freedom. Having quality muscle tissue helps extends the quality of your life so you can live the way you want for as long as possible.
Improved Recovery From Disease And Illness
Having a sufficient amount of healthy muscle tissue is also crucial for recovery from sickness and disease.
Muscles are built from amino acids that are found in the protein we eat in our diet. It acts as a reservoir of amino acids that our bodies can draw from when we aren’t eating enough protein in our diets.
Our bodies need amino acids to perform a host of different survival functions such as protein synthesis for tissue growth, tissue repair, production of hormones, enzymes, and other structural needs like bones and cartilage. When our bodies are under any type of stress such as an injury protein requirements are increased from normal.
This reservoir of amino acids also plays a huge role in keeping us healthy and fighting against sickness.
Amino acids help to regulate different players in our immune system such as T-cell activation and macrophages and the production of antibodies and play a pivotal role in warding against illness. Amino acids such as arginine, glutamine and cysteine are necessary to prevent and treat infectious disease, chronic disease, and pathologic conditions 2,3.
Having less lean muscle mass means a smaller reservoir of amino acids that are available to draw from in the time of need. This means that our ability to ward off disease and infections are decreased.
Lean muscle mass also serves as an indicator of survival predictability in the case of cancer which causes our bodies to have a greater demand for amino acids. Combined with a decreased ability to digest protein with an increased need redirects the body to draw amino acids from our muscles. Those who have sarcopenia during chemotherapy have longer recovery times, suffer from infections more often, and sadly have an increased chance of death4.
A sufficient amount of lean muscle mass is important and acts as a nutritional insurance of amino acids that your body can draw from in the case of disease and illness.
The benefits of building muscles aren’t just for vanity reasons. Muscles play important roles in helping you enjoy a long healthy, quality life and looking good is just the bonus of having more muscles.