Muscle is precious. It provides advantages for movement, longevity, and quality of life. We need enough muscle to do the things we want to do and enjoy.
Based on a 2008 study in Free Radical Biology & Medicine, it appears that measured doses of intensity in the quest for muscle may enhance our ability to better manage the damaging oxidative stress associated with exercise.3 Intelligent approaches to exercise actually increase enzymes in our muscles to fight off undesired free radicals and oxidative stress. The authors referred to this as the “double-edged sword” of physical exercise.
Frequent, high stress activity may lead to increased damage to your cells and body from oxidative stress. Whereas strategic application of intensity enhances our ability to manage oxidative stress and promote health. Since oxidative stress is associated with accelerated aging, strategic application of effort may also be a part of our prescription for longevity.
Manage muscle to manage stress
Muscle also provides us a management “tool” for maintaining optimal levels of blood sugar. Humans have an optimal range in which blood sugar must be maintained to keep it from becoming destructive. A “sweet spot” if you will. Our muscles provide a very powerful influence on maintaining our “sweet spot.” When more active, we use stored sugar in the muscles, called glycogen, for energy. After fatiguing and energy depleting exercise, the body’s top priority is to restore our glycogen levels; pulling sugar from the blood to replenish it.4 In this way, our muscles provide a “sink” to pull excess sugar out of the blood and into the muscle, avoiding a negative impact health.
Picture the muscles as a sponge full of water. Every time you exercise, you squeeze the water (use stored glycogen) out of the sponge (aka the muscles). As you recover from exercise through rest and optimal nutrition, you refill your sponge (muscles) with water(glycogen) to help maintain healthy levels of blood sugar. Sounds great, right?
Does this mean that the bigger our muscles are, the better off we are?
Muscle is certainly a good thing to have. How much is enough is a tough question to answer. Muscles grow in response to increased stress, such as lifting weights. We also know that we potentially increase oxidative stress and inflammation by chasing “more is better” in regard to muscle. The key then, is keeping the quantity and frequency of stress on the muscles within our adaptive capabilities. As long as programs are progressive and optimize frequency of exposure to allow for recovery and adaptation of your protective systems, body can keep pace and systems grow stronger. All good things for both acute health and longevity.
Your plan to optimize muscle:
- Train at IFAST 2-3 times per week with an emphasis on higher intensity efforts.
- Make small progressive increases in strength consistently over time
- Support your gym efforts with meals containing anti-oxidant rich vegetables and high quality proteins.
- Get high quality sleep.
If you need a much more detailed and complete plan, take advantage of the free All Gain, No Pain download below.