Login | July 21, 2018

Maintaining lean muscle tissue

Pete’s World

Published: July 31, 2017

I often have to remind my clients, primarily cyclists, triathletes and runners, of the importance in having a periodized resistance routine within the confines of their overall training program.

That’s because maintaining one’s lean muscle tissue is not only crucial to their success in sport, but it’s also crucial to maintaining a strong and healthy body as they grow older.

I’m a firm believer that resistance routines should be a component of every person’s lifestyle whether as an adjunct to sport enhancement or as a stand-alone fitness program.

So let’s take a look at this subject from a health perspective only.

And when we do that, you’ll find three critical areas where lean muscle tissue plays an essential role: Strength maintenance, higher basal metabolic rate (BMR), and injury prevention.

Strength Maintenance

Up to 30 years of age, our muscles can grow larger and stronger. But after that, well, “it’s all downhill from there”.

That’s the point where we begin to lose muscle mass and function, a term called sarcopenia, age-related muscle wasting.

Physically inactive individuals can lose as much as 3-5 percent of their muscle mass each decade after age 30. Even active individuals still experience muscle loss - it’s inevitable.

And as exercise science has taught us, any loss of lean muscle tissue lessens one’s strength and mobility.

The other bit of bad news here is that sarcopenia typically accelerates around age 75, but can speed up as early as age 65.

Now the good news: The primary treatment for lessening the effects of sarcopenia is a resistance training (strength training) program.

Resistance exercises increase muscle strength, endurance and lean tissue content, in addition to improving the neuromuscular system and the body’s hormone levels.

Higher Basal Metabolic Rate

First, just what is BMR?

It’s the number of calories your body burns daily without your having to do anything.

Understand that our bodies use around 75 percent of the calories we eat each day just to maintain life - breathing, building new red and white blood cells, pumping blood throughout the body, thinking, raising and lowering body temperature, etc. - that’s BMR.

Any activity we do in addition to these life functions requires more fuel, calories.

And that’s where resistance exercise comes in, because performing resistance exercises burns more calories, both during and after each exercise session.

But…the real kicker here is the fact that when more lean muscle tissue is added to one’s body composition through that resistance work, BMR goes up.

You see, lean muscle tissue is the body’s most metabolically active tissue, making up about 20 percent of total BMR energy expenditure at rest, so adding that extra lean tissue means an upwards bump in the BMR - which goes on 24/7.

Injury Prevention

Injury prevention is a kind of side benefit that’s often overlooked when we talk about resistance training and building lean muscle tissue.

But the fact is that resistance training improves not only the strength of muscles, but it also improves the strength of tendons, ligaments and bones.

When all of these superstructure components are strengthened, the body can be held in a more proper alignment.

This means bones and joints are protected when loaded during sporting and everyday life activities.

Now paramount within this injury prevention realm is the issue of muscular imbalances.

This occurs when one muscle group becomes stronger than its opposing muscle group.

Those weaker groups can fatigue quicker, and become more prone to injury.

A forceful or near maximal contraction from the stronger group can cause damage to the weaker opposing group due to an inability to counter the force.

Muscular imbalances also affect the joints and bones because those unbalanced extensions and contractions can cause the joints to move in unnatural patterns. I

n time this can lead to chronic joint pain and an anomalous wearing of the bones.

So as you can see, lean, strong, functional muscles serve as more than pure vanity, and their purpose is more than sports specific, they’re a key component to our enjoying a safe and successful level of mobility as we age.

And remember, it’s never too late to build muscle mass. With a prudent resistance routine you can improve stamina, muscular strength, flexibility and movement patterns.

I’d say such a small investment in time now, has the potential to pay a whole lot of dividends in the future.