A man hanging on a bar pulling himself up
Education

Could Muscle Be Our Superpower?

0 comments

It appears like the latest “trends” in wellness are searching for ways to let us live – injury and pain-free – for longer. Some of these trends come and go in the spirit of “health” and “wellness”. I am deliberately putting quotation marks around those because as you know my strong belief is that there is not one answer to health and that all of these need to be analyzed on a very individual level. You have to work out what works for you specifically. But with some things, I can totally get on board, and I do believe that they apply more universally. Muscle is being one of them. Strong, lean muscle mass has so many benefits for us and our bodies. And lately a lot of people are wondering: “Could Muscle be Our Superpower?”. Let’s dive in and find out.

A woman showing her butt and some muscles
Jacob Bentzinger on Unsplash

What is Muscle?

According to the Marriam Webster Dictionary, muscle is a “a body tissue consisting of long cells that contract when stimulated and produce motion“. It is also “an organ that is essentially a mass of muscle tissue attached at either end to a fixed point and that by contracting moves or checks the movement of a body part“. Muscles in our body work as a source of power. There are three different types of muscles that are generally distinguished. The ones that propel movement, called the skeletal muscles. Our heart muscle, called the cardiac muscle. And the ones that are in our walls of arteries and bowels. This is called the smooth muscle, which is controlled by our autonomic nervous system. Muscle has become such an important contributor to our overall health that many people refer to it nowadays as an organ.

A man standing on a lake with a camera in hand and displaying back muscles
Jakob Owens on Unsplash

How Much Skeletal Muscle Do We Want/Need?

If we focus on skeletal muscle for moment (because let’s face it, this is the one that we can measure the most accurately today), 40% of our body weight is made up of muscle. Our skeletal muscle mass houses about 50 – 75% of our overall proteins in our bodies. Your overall (skeletal) muscle mass depends on a balance of protein synthesis, and degradation. Both of these processes are dependent on your nutrient status, hormonal balance, injury, disease, and your physical activity.

Structure of muscles in an arm
Alexander Jawfox on Unsplash

Make Up and Structure of Skeletal Muscles

Skeletal muscles are made up of muscle fibers. Each muscle can contain thousand of fibers. These fibers are surrounded by different sheats and coverings:

  • Epimysium is the outermost layer of tissue surrounding the entire muscle;
  • Perimysium is the middle layer surrounding individual bundles of muscle fibers;
  • Endomysium is the innermost layer surrounding individual muscle fibers.
A woman displaying superpowers
Miguel Bruna on Unsplash

Could Muscle Be Our Superpower?

Now that we have dived into what muscles actually are, let’s look at why they are so important to our overall health.

Muscle is the Key to our Metabolic Health

A loss in muscle mass (also called “sarcopenia”), which usually happens as we continue to age can contribute to many metabolic diseases.

Insulin Resistance

Muscles are fueled by glucose. Glucose is used in order for muscles to contract. This is also the reason why movement after eating is great for balancing your blood sugar levels. Less muscles obviously also uses less glucose as fuel, which in turn means that more glucose is “swimming” around our blood streams. That process can lead to insulin resistance and diabetes II, as well as obesity.

Myokines

Perhaps not a word you are overtly familiar with, myokines. Myokines are proteins that mediate energy metabolism and have a positive effect on your metabolic health. This is an area of research that is currently still developing. Myokines are produced in the skeletal muscle as a direct effect of exercise. These myokines then can have a “crosstalk” with other areas of our bodies. For example, the brain, adipose tissue, our gut, pancreas, bone, liver, and skin. Myokines can have an effect on cognition, lipid and glucose metabolism, browning of white fat, bone formation, cell function, skin structure, and tumor growth. As said above, still an area that more research has to go into, but the effects of myokines on being treated as therapeutic targets should not be underestimated.

Inflammation

People who have a lower amount of muscle mass have higher amounts of C-reactive proteins and inflammatory proteins, which in turn, have been associated with chronic inflammation. Not only that, but higher levels of inflammation in the body have been shown to further reduce muscle mass by suppressing muscle protein synthesis.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D. By now classified as a hormone, rather than a vitamin is super important for all of our bodily functions and our overall health. I have written at length about this in my post on the benefits of vitamin D. Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with a loss in skeletal muscle mass. Vitamin D is an important contributor to optimal growth of skeletal muscle mass, as well as great muscle function.

Physical Inactivity

If we are not physically active, our muscles are not able to produce amino acids that are needed to stimulate protein synthesis. Less muscle means less energy consumption, which, again, is associated with more fat deposition, insulin resistance, and inflammation.

A man with boxing gloves ready to box
LOGAN WEAVER | @LGNWVR on Unsplash

The Takeaway From This Post

Could muscle be our superpower? I trust the answer to this one is a strong “yes”!! I also truly believe that we are only scratching the surface on what muscle actually does within our bodies and how it helps us to stay mobile, and injury free late into our lives. Muscle loss is a naturally occurring process as we continue to age. This does not mean though, that we cannot work against muscle loss. Any and all forms of exercise will help our bodies be strong and will continue to propel us forward. Physical activity may be the key to keeping us young. I hope you enjoyed this post and article. Let me know in the comments below what your favorite form of exercise is! Beautiful cover photo by Edgar Chaparro on Unsplash.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.