To most people, strength training means big bulging muscles and six-pack abs, but truth be told, strength training plays a much more critical role when it comes to functional movement and health.
Strength training is one of the best ways to help you lose body fat while building lean muscle mass and increasing your longevity. The trouble is, though, most people have no idea where to start.
If you want to live longer, then improving your muscular system and strength is scientifically proven to be one of the best strategies.
What is muscle mass and size, and why does it matter?
As we age, our lean muscle mass slowly decreases, which is why preventative strategies like strength training are crucial in slowing the ageing process. Strength training and other health approaches help to maintain a healthy muscular system regardless of age. Now that’s good news.
Having adequate muscle mass and size can benefit our fitness and longevity in several different ways.
Quality of life
Strength training may help to improve quality of life and can make performing everyday movements like lifting and walking much easier. Strength also improves balance, which is particularly important for the elderly and can reduce their risk of falling.
Improving the muscular system has been shown to boost metabolism, which helps burn more calories and manage weight.
Strength training places stress on your bones, supporting them and reducing the risk of osteoporosis.
Reduce chronic illness
Increases in muscle mass and size can also help those with chronic arthritis, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes. Moreover, strength training has been shown to help those suffering from depression.
Increases in muscle mass and strength have also been linked to improved cognitive abilities like memory function and learning skills.
Five proven ways to improve muscle mass and strength
As you’ve read, improving the muscular system and strength has many physical and cognitive benefits. Below are five scientifically proven ways to do that and increase your health, fitness, and longevity.
1Get some sleep
Ideally, 8-10 hours of sleep is best for rest and recovery, but this is not always possible, especially with the hectic lives many people lead. One of the most effective ways to maximise your sleep is to ensure you have a proper sleep routine.
Sleeping in a dark room, listening to white noise, and reading a book before bed are some of the most effective ways to create a healthy sleeping pattern.
A University of Texas study showed that participants who consumed an amino acid and carbohydrate shake prior to training significantly increased the rate at which their bodies synthesised protein.
Amino acids are the building blocks of life, and because working out enhances blood circulation, consuming a shake before training can help uptake amino acids into the muscles. It’s highly recommended you add protein to your shake, but the amount required depends mainly on your body weight.
People who work out, typically require between 1.1 – 1.5 grams of protein per kg of body weight. If you’re someone training for an endurance event, increase that amount to 1.2 – 1.7 grams per kg of body weight.
Eating a balanced diet is critical to building muscular system and strength. Generally speaking, your diet should consist of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats.
Aim for at least three servings of high-quality protein daily. Good sources of protein are:
Carbohydrates are also important because they provide energy for the muscles in the form of glycogen. Good sources are:
Although fats get a bad rap, they’re essential for building and maintaining muscle mass. Fats provide a source of energy for the body and play a role in protein synthesis. Good sources of fats are:
Nuts like almonds, walnuts, and cashews
Fatty fish like salmon and mackerel
4Strength and conditioning training
Resistance training is the most well-known and effective way to build muscle. To many people, resistance training means going to the gym and lifting heavy weights. However, it can be performed in the comfort of your own home.
When you lift weights or perform bodyweight exercises like push-ups, you place metabolic stress on your muscular system, meaning it needs to adapt to the amount of weight being lifted. Pushing beyond this point damages the muscle initiating the recovery and growth process.
Furthermore, a study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine concluded that strength training significantly reduced the risk of chronic illness. The study found that participants who combined aerobic fitness with resistance training had the lowest risk.
5Massage and recovery
Not only does getting a massage feels great, but it can also help build new muscles and quicken recovery. A good massage significantly reduces soreness, allowing you to train more; that’s a win-win.
Furthermore, a post-workout massage relieves pain, reduces inflammation, and increases flexibility. Massage has also been linked to minimising Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS.
DOMS refers to the soreness that athletes experience after working out. Massage is an excellent way to increase blood flow to the damaged muscles, which helps to reduce DOMS, allowing the athlete to return to training sooner.
Healthhack from Healthypedia
One of the most overlooked aspects of improving strength is staying committed to the process. Building muscle does not happen overnight. Many people give up within the first few weeks because they don’t see the results. First, in most cases, it takes at least four weeks before you can see any visible signs of improvement. Second, while many people use strength training to look better, it shouldn’t be the sole reason you undertake a fitness program. Exercising should be considered part of a holistic plan to improve quality of life. Sure looking great builds confidence, but ultimately, getting fitter is about enhancing your quality of life.
Fun & curious facts
There are three types of muscles: smooth, which are found in your gut and blood vessels; cardiac, which make up your heart; skeletal, which attach to your bones and help you perform functional movements like walking and lifting.
Did you know the smallest muscles in your body can be found in your ear? They are called the ‘tensor tympani’ and the ‘stapedius.’
Your heart is the hardest working muscle in your entire body.
Let’s sum it up
Maintaining muscle mass and strength is critical to your overall health, well-being, and longevity. It improves your fitness, leaves you looking and feeling great, and even improves your cognitive health.
While strength training places demands on your physical attributes, it undoubtedly emphasises your mindset, particularly when it comes to your commitment to achieving your goal. Stick at it, and don’t give up.
Lastly, remember to prioritise rest and recovery and ensure you follow a well-balanced nutritional plan.
As the adage goes, you can’t out-train a bad diet.
Hungry for knowledge? Here is more!
Watch this short and excellent explanation of how to increase muscle mass. Dr. Eric Berg, a chiropractor and nutrition specialist, shares his knowledge of the most efficient way to do that and the importance of recovery.
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