The word that we live in today, a lot of importance goes into staying fit and active, eating the right food, and maintaining a healthy life as we age.
Although the importance of muscle mass gets lost somewhere in there.
Muscles are mostly associated with bodybuilders and gym-goers and there is sort of an underlying assumption that people only build muscle to look and feel good.
And yes its partly true, especially in the younger generation, that is indeed the motivation to enter the gym and "chase the pump" which translates into lifting weight and pumping blood into your muscles which makes them look fuller and defined after we work out.
What about in the older generation?
A lot of people do stay active and do cardio workouts which is essential, however, ask yourself what are you doing to put on muscle mass? Since doing cardio is not going to build muscles.
We have to understand first how muscle is built in the body.
As we lift weights, let's say dumbells, or bodyweight exercises, the muscle fiber comes under immense stress, since you are using those muscles to lift which ends up breaking down some of those muscle fibers and in need of recovery.
During recovery, your body needs protein and m-tor, which activates muscle synthesis while we sleep. So normally for a person who is not doing resistance training, his or her protein requirement per day will be around 50-60 grams on average.
But a person who is hitting the gym and has a goal to build strong and bigger muscles, the requirement for protein intake will naturally be higher since your body won't build any new muscles without fulfilling other protein requirements inside the body.
Why is muscle important?
It maintains an efficient metabolic rate
In a nutshell, metabolism is every chemical reaction that takes place in our body while we are in a resting state to maintain optimal functioning.
We have to understand, the body has the ability to store carbohydrates and fat for later use as energy. Our body cannot store protein for long if we don't have muscles.
Hence Muscle is the main aspect of generating heat in the body which influences body metabolism.
It increases bone density
As we grow older we automatically lose muscle mass and our bones get brittle, due to less production of those growth hormones in later stages of life.
While we are weight training, the bones are also under stress since we not only use muscles but also the bones to lift anything, The support of stronger bones is essential for weight training purposes.
When we keep stimulating our muscles through lifting weights and resistance training, our bones remain active as well which allows it to maintain its density as we grow older.
Having fewer muscles and brittle bones is a recipe for pain, Because when we have fewer muscles as we age, we automatically become prone to injuries or degenerative joint diseases like arthritis.
What happens is that a person with low muscle mass cannot support his or her bones while walking or running which is what causes more stress on the joints making it harder to walk in our later stages of life.
Improves insulin sensitivity for type 2 diabetes.
A person with type 2 diabetes, is unable to store glucose from the food into the cells due to insulin resistance (the condition when cells stop responding to insulin).
Insulin is the key to our cells, without which glucose cannot be absorbed into the cells. So in a type 2 diabetic, the body is already full of glucose and have no place to store any more,
So what happens is that it starts turning it into fats and stores in places like the liver, pancreas, and everywhere else. this happens slowly over the years.
What role do muscles play in this? Muscles have the ability to store glucose in the form of glycogen and release it back into the bloodstream during times of need, like exercise or a task that requires energy.
Research suggests that the more muscles you have, more the energy requirement and more places your body can store that consumed glucose in the form of glycogen, which in turn leads to less insulin resistance and more towards sensitivity.
Therefore putting on muscle mass is extremely beneficial for a diabetic, Because a diabetic has to find ways to empty all the glucose stored otherwise the cells will continue to resist insulin which leads to fat gain.
Reduces risk of Obesity
Diabetes and obesity go hand in hand. You see a diabetic is unable to use glucose effeciently so the body stores it as fat which results in weight gain and when unchecked over the years leads to obesity.
So when a person is progressively storing fat, he/she is losing muscles at the same time, which in turn slows down the metabolism, lack of strength, and stamina leading to the acceleration of storing more fat.
Hence its harder for an obese person to exercise because the body has low levels of muscle protein to provide the support that is required for movements. Higher weight leads to increased pressure on the joints of the knee leading to osteoarthritis.
Delays the aging process
As we age, the body naturally produces less of the anabolic hormones like HGH, testosterone which are required for the purpose of muscle building.
On top of that, if you are not physically active and are not using those muscles consistently, The consequences are detrimental like loss of bone density, prone to injuries, lower metabolism, and sarcopenia (a condition where you lose muscles progressively)
Aids in recovery
When we eat a protein-rich meal. The protein gets broken down into amino acids, in which leucine, isoleucine, and valine are key components in muscle growth.
So when we are recovering from an illness or injury, Our protein requirement goes up, And to get that protein from our diet gets extremely demanding especially when sick
So what happens is the body draws those proteins from the vast reservoir of muscles in the body.
This is why someone who is recovering from a disease loses his muscles rapidly because the body is using those muscles to aid in healing and recovery so when we don't have enough muscles, The recovery gets that much harder during times of illness and injuries.
Maintaining muscle mass throughout our lives is imperative and essential. Muscles are not just a tool to look and feel good, it certainly plays a role in our appearance but the overall effect that it has on our body is much bigger than that.
You don't need to train like an athlete or a bodybuilder, it's all about finding the right balance and maintain sufficient muscle mass according to our physiology.