The wonder of musclesCebu Daily News
WHAT would you say if I told you that you could have a dramatically improved physique in just six weeks? What if I guarantee that 42 days from today, you will barely recognize your own reflection? Staring back at your bathroom mirror, picture someone with slimmer hips, firmer thighs, tighter buttocks, flatter abs, more defined arms and clearer, younger looking skin. That after you achieved what you want in 42 days you feel great and you look great. Your energy will be higher than it’s been in years, your mood will be positive and you will be rested and you know you can handle whatever your busy life throws your way.
Does it sound a little too good to be true? Do you have the uneasy feeling that deprivation, suffering and cravings are lurking just around the corner? The vast majority of today’s diet books, weight loss products, and exercise gadgets are nothing more than faddish gimmicks that contradict the basic machinery of human physiology and as a result, are doomed to fail.
You don’t diet
The vast majority of so-called diets cater to our penchant for quick fixes. But when it comes to healthy eating, there is no such thing as a magic bullet. Fad diets that eliminate entire food groups and starvation diets that severely restrict calories contradict the basic machinery of human physiology. In the long run these approaches are doomed to fail.
Although severe caloric restriction may lead to initial weight loss, the very nature of such an approach precludes it’s long term effectiveness. Weight loss by calorie restriction triggers hormonal modifications that our species evolved to survive times of famine. These physiological mechanisms involve metabolic slowing, muscle wasting, exaggerated fat retention and changes in brain chemistry that contribute to the development of behaviors like binge eating. The preferential loss of lean muscle tissue over fat often results in a false sense of accomplishment. You do lose weight. However, the new you is merely a smaller, flabbier version of the old you. Once normal eating patterns resume, the weight rapidly returns, plus an added 10 pounds. Why? Because the muscle you sacrificed during the period of forced starvation, combined with metabolic slowing, makes it much harder for your body to burn fat.
Miracle of muscle
When it comes to having a firm, flab-free physique, have you ever noticed that many people are able to coast along on youth until they’re about 20 or 25 years old? After that, without at least minimal attention to diet and exercise, body composition begins to deteriorate. The untended human physique will get softer and flabbier with every passing year. In fact, for many years, the medical community subscribed to the belief that decreases in metabolic rate and subsequent weight gain were “natural” and “unavoidable” consequences of aging. Well, I can assure you that’s simply wrong!
This view was based on research data that showed that most adults get fatter as they get older. Unfortunately, the study failed to account for a number of very important variables, including physical activity. Subsequent research has indicated that people don’t really get fatter as a direct result of aging per se. They get fatter because, as they age, the vast majority of people become less active. When researchers delved more deeply into the phenomenon of aging and weight gain, they discovered that most adults were not merely gaining body fat as they got older, they were also losing muscle mass. This fact alone has enormous bearing on why people tend to gain weight as they age.
Muscle is a very special tissue. In terms of metabolic activity, pound for pound, muscle tissue is second only to nervous (brain) tissue. In other words, it takes more calories to maintain a given volume of muscle tissue than the same volume of just about every other tissue in the entire human body. And because we possess many more pounds of muscle than any other tissue type, the vast majority of our daily caloric expenditure goes to using, repairing and maintaining our muscles. This is true even if you lead a relatively sedentary existence. In fact, if you are currently sedentary, very marginal increases in muscle activity can greatly enhance caloric expenditure and fat burning. And if you are currently active, very modest increases in muscle mass will accomplish the same goal. In other words, the more toned you are, the more fat you will burn. Don’t worry, you don’t have to spend hours at the gym lifting weights to reap the benefits of a revved metabolism; a little extra muscle goes a surprisingly long way.
Additionally, the more muscle you possess, the higher your resting metabolic rate and the more calories you well burn over time even if you’re just lying around channel surfing. Of course, channel surfing is not the ideal way to accomplish muscle toning. The old adage “use it or loss it” is especially true when it comes to firm flesh. Adults who do not exercise regularly will typically lose between five and seven pounds of muscle mass every decade. To put this into perspective, a five-pound muscle loss translates to roughly 250 fewer calories burned each day. This can add up to over 25 pounds of fat gain in a single year!
How can you prevent this from happening to you? Simple! Adopt an exercise program designed to efficiently build and maintain adequate muscle to fuel around-the-clock fat burning. But is it really possible to add muscle while you shed body fat?
Intuitively, the idea seems to defy logic. After all, it takes an excess of calories to build tissue, and a caloric deficit to lose tissue. Right? Not entirely. Many people (including, unfortunately, many
so-called weight loss experts) continue to view
human metabolism like a bank account into which we deposit and withdraw calories like currency. The notion that you need to spend more calories than you consume in order to lose body fat is deceptive. Dozens of studies indicate that the appropriate
dietary practices, coupled with regular exercise, will induce simultaneous muscle gain and fat loss—without counting calories. Physiologists are discovering that the quality of the calories you
consume is far more important than the overall quantity. Likewise, the quality of the food is far more important than the food group to which it belongs. You will never have to sacrifice variety for good health, or good health for good looks. When it comes to nutrition, thankfully, they all go hand in hand.
Have you ever stopped to wonder why you need food to survive? It might seem fairly obvious, but the complete explanation is exceedingly complicated. In essence, however, it all boils down to homeostasis, which is really just a fancy word for physiological balance, or equilibrium. The more steadfast and
unfaltering our overall homeostasis, the better our state of health.
From the moment we are conceived until the moment we draw our last breath, our life represents a glorious and successful battle against the most lethal force in the universe: entropy, the tendency towards chaos. Our very existence as living organisms relies on a precariously maintained balance between interdependent systems and processes. Should even a tiny component of this bewildering array of life-sustaining functions be out of condition, it damages our health and jeopardizes our ability to offset future disturbances.
The human body can compensate for a wide variety of assaults to homeostasis. However, each time our body engages to combat an ongoing threat to our health, our physiological equilibrium shifts to a new, less stable set point. The more chronic battles we must fight, the more the balance of life tips toward chaos. Eventually, we run out of ammunition. When our body can no longer defend itself against disequilibrium, we lose the war against entropy and draw our last breath.
Conceptually, you can think of homeostasis like an old-fashioned scale wherein two pans are suspended. Each time you add or subtract a weight from a pan on the scale of homeostasis, the beams adjust accordingly. To prevent pans from tipping, the scale requires a steady supply of both counterweights and a processing and distribution system for delivering the appropriate denominations of those counterweights to the areas where they are needed. In other words, to successfully maintain the complicated balancing act of homeostasis, the body requires a steady supply of both matter and energy. This is where food comes in.
To illustrate this point, let’s consider your muscles. To be firm and toned, your muscles need the elemental building blocks of tissue growth. Muscle toning also requires energy to deliver the building blocks to the muscles, energy to direct the building blocks to where they are needed within the muscle fibers and energy to remove damaged tissue and metabolic waste products. Not to mention the huge amounts of energy demanded by the very muscle contractions that made your physique firm in the first place. Small wonder that your muscles represent such a metabolically active region of your body!
One of the keys to fat loss is knowing which fats to eat and which fats to avoid. Use your common sense in choosing what kind of fat is safe and don’t clog in your arteries.
Now that you have a basic understanding of how you need to eat in order to build a firm physique, I’d like to provide you with a better understanding of how you need to eat in order to hone your beautiful body. Like every other component of your physiology, good muscle health is inextricably linked to good health in general. And a diet that promotes beautiful body and smooth skin is a diet that by definition, also promotes optimal health. This is extremely important point: Eating for a firm, youthful physique equals eating for optimal health and vice versa.
More from this Column:
- Turn stress into strength
- Six-pack midsection
- Six-pack midsection (First of two parts)
- The benefits of walking
- Lower back pain
Tags: Training and Fitness