Making a Stronger Case for Building Muscle
By Ellington Darden, Ph.D.
In his search for the Fountain of Youth, Pounce de Leon would have been better off pumping iron at Muscle Beach.
Concerning the normative changes associated with aging, William Evans, Ph.D., of the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center was quoted as saying, “It’s changes in muscle mass that may be triggering all of the other changes.”
Evans was addressing a meeting of the American Dietetic Association and he cited research in which 45 to 60-year-old athletes were compared to athletes in their 20s, as well as inactive men in both age groups. Researchers found that the loss of muscle and increased fat were not age related.
“We can see that the amount of fat they have stored is directly related to the amount of time they spend exercising,” said Evans.
Evans also referred to research in which 80 and 90-year olds increased the size and strength of their leg muscles.
At the ADA meeting, Evans was saying that creeping obesity is making us old before our time.
Our muscle mass, principally, can keep us younger longer.
There’s another study that possibly not even Evans has paid much attention to. It was published in 1975 by Dr. Alfred L. Goldberg and colleagues.
In working with laboratory rats, Goldberg found that if muscle is stimulated to grow through exercise, it will grow in defiance of tremendous adversity and at the expense of the remainder of the organism.
One of the fundamental traits of animal life is locomotion. Locomotion depends on muscular size and strength. Survival resources are, therefore, allocated to the muscles first. This priority allocation depends on muscular growth stimulation.
When we stimulate our muscles to grow, they pull energy (calories) from our fat stores.
Muscles have a vast capillary system and, other than nerves, are the biggest energy user in body. This is why every pound of muscle we can grow raises our metabolic rate by approximately 37.5 calories each day.
If we do not use our muscles significantly they will atrophy. Instead of increasing metabolic rate, the rate will decrease. This is what typically happens when we get older; we lose muscle through inactivity. Simultaneously, if we don’t compensate by eating fewer calories, we gradually get fatter and fatter.
A slight reduction in caloric intake, coupled with an increase (or at least not a decrease) in muscle mass keeps our waistlines in check and our energy high.
Perhaps it also boosts our immune system. Perhaps more fruits and vegetables and fewer deep-fried foods and hydrogenated oils restrict the chances of malignant growths or clogged arteries.
Perhaps the heavy breathing induced by exercise cleanses our lymph system.
Perhaps if we realized that benefits accrue over extended periods of time, we wouldn’t lose our patience and junk out resolve.
Perhaps youth and vitality do not have to fade from our grasp so quickly.
We can strongly influence the situation – there’s no PERHAPS about it.
We all need to regularly visit Muscle Beach.