Now let’s put the analytical eye to resistance exercise. When you’re putting a large load on a muscle that can only be maintained for 30 seconds to a minute before the muscle gives out, what signal are you sending? That the muscle tissue needs to increase or get bigger in order to better deal with that same load or a larger load next time.
“Why would I want that?” Well I’m glad you asked. The benefits of extra muscle tissue are numerous.
First, let’s take a look at overall caloric intake. Muscle tissue is extremely metabolically active and expensive to maintain. In other words, the more you have, the higher your metabolism is, the more overall calories you can eat without gaining fat.
Now, a quick, simplified physiology lesson concerning carbohydrate. These days, carbohydrates have been vilified and if you listened to popular media, you’d think they’re the cause of obesity, every metabolic disease, early death, Alzheimers, and basically armageddon and the zombie apocalypse. This just isn’t the case. It’s all contextual.
When you eat carbohydrates, the sugar within your bloodstream rises. In order to remain healthy, your body has to maintain a tight blood sugar range, so it wants to get the excess sugar out of the bloodstream as soon as possible.
There are many ways it can do this. Movement (walking, or really any activity that causes muscle contraction) helps get the sugar that’s in your blood into the working muscle to produce energy for said movement. Insulin also helps get the sugar into muscle (or fat), and concurrently helps to a lesser degree along with activity. If you’re sedentary in the post-prandial (after meal) phase, you rely completely on insulin to drive sugar into muscle or fat.
If you’re chronically under-active, overeating, and consuming carbohydrates every few hours, this is when obesity and metabolic disease can begin to manifest.
You do have room to store carbohydrates in the body; but storage is quite limited. You have just a few hundred grams of stored carbohydrate in the liver in the form of glycogen, which will be liberated and used during a short (12-16 hour, usually overnight) fast to keep your blood sugar in the right range.
You also have stored carbohydrate as glycogen in your muscle tissue. However, this cannot be liberated to keep your blood sugar in the right range; your muscle keeps it so it can be used for muscular contraction during times of low or no food/carbohydrate intake.
Then, according to what I wrote above, what conclusion can you make? The more muscle tissue you have, the more room for carbohydrate storage you have in the muscle, the more carbohydrate you can eat without de novo lipogenesis (sugar converting to fat) or metabolic adversities. Muscle tissue is basically a huge glucose sink.
Let’s take a look at the main causes of death in advanced age. The top five, you probably could have guessed: cardiovascular disease, cancer, COPD, cerebrovascular disease, Alzheimers. All of which a healthy lifestyle that includes resistance training and some endurance training can mitigate.
But within the top ten are simply falls. Falling, with or without breaking a hip or another bone, with the inability to get back up. Increasing your muscle mass via resistance training and maintaining it into old age will mitigate this completely. Not only does proper resistance training build lean tissue, but it also increases bone density, which will help mitigate bone breaks as well.
The importance of possessing lean muscle tissue is becoming more and more prevalent such that its thought that within ten years, the amount of lean muscle tissue you have will be a regular biometric that is measured at the doctors office along with your weight and blood pressure.
And you may be thinking “Now don’t you need endurance training for heart health?” or “But I hear weight training is bad for your heart”. This is simply false. A 2018 study
by the American College of Cardiology highlights that weight training is -more- protective against heart disease than “cardiovascular” endurance training. Subjects that engaged in both activities were protected even more, but those who only weight trained had a larger protective benefit than those who only did endurance training.
Muscle is not only aesthetically pleasing, it’s an organ of health. It’s aesthetically pleasing for a reason; it signals a very healthy individual capable of work, provision, and protection.