What Are You Doing to Maintain Muscle Mass, and Why It Matters.

If you read my blog post about metabolism, you may recall that weight is determined not only by how much you eat, but also by how efficiently your body burns it off. Your base metabolic rate is the amount of energy needed to support the basic requirements of being alive. That includes your pumping heart, expanding and contracting lungs and digestive system, your brain activity, and your muscle flexion and contraction.  

Your muscle mass is a key ingredient for burning energy, even when you are resting. Ladies,  if you want to lose weight, increasing you muscle mass is vital. When you change your body’s tone and build more muscle by using weights, lifting, pushing, etc., your resting metabolism or automatic daily energy burn raises.  That means you can use increased muscle mass as a tool for losing weight. 

Why?  Because to sustain itself, muscle burns more energy than fat. it only takes 9 calories of energy to support one pound of fat; it takes 38 calories to support one pound of muscle.  So there you have it!  Have more muscle in your body and you can burn off more of what you eat. 

The Muscle Disappearing Act

Think about a toddler. They never stop moving, climbing, running and playing. Their muscles are constantly in use. Their muscles are toned and smooth from all they do. 

Muscles fizzle if you don’t use them.  How much do you sit in the course of a day?  Are you climbing stairs several times a day or are you always on one level?  Muscle breakdown does not happen overnight; it sort of sneaks up on you from lack of use.  

If you haven’t been exercising and maintaining muscle mass, you may have more fat than muscle, making it especially hard to lose weight. If you have been a yoyo dieter with frequent rapid weight loss, you likely lost even more muscle mass that way. 

It is not uncommon for women to start a slow but steady weight gain after age 35.  By the time you reach age sixty, if you have gained a mere 2 pounds a year, your weight could be as much as 50 pounds greater than you were at 35. IBut all is not lost.  Once you understand the basic importance of muscle in relation to weight you will be highly motivated to build more muscle and stop yoyo dieting. Eating quality food, enough but not too much,  and building muscle will bring excellent results. Remind yourself that your body wants to be well.  Given the right care, it nearly always can get better

Muscle building techniques

You don’t have to go to a gym to build muscle.  A personal trainer once demonstrated a full body toning workout that can be done with just a set of resistance bands. To build muscle you need flexion and expansion.  You can do that with resistance bands or plain old floor exercises, yoga or tai chi. You can use your muscles and build more tone in them walking, bicycling, climbing, running, skiing, swimming, water aerobics, dancing and carrying grand babies.  The key is to do something you enjoy and do it often.  

You also want to build flexibility into your body.  View this link  from bendablebody.com (remember Gumby?) for free videos that demonstrate some simple ways to build in flexibility.

And then there’s the “O” word

…as in osteoporosis.  Osteoporosis is a weakening of the bone that puts one at risk of fracture.  I have a few tips on that subject while we’re talking about muscle.  A strong core and muscle tone will keep you more stable and also more able to recover if you trip over something.  Healthy bones require more than calcium; bones function best in a  strong body that has the muscular strength to prevent falls and maintain balance. Miriam Nelson, PhD and Annemarie Colbin, PhD. each published books on women and bones and are strong advocates for building muscle to protect and support bones. 

And while we are on the subject, check out my blog post on wellnessandyou.com where you will find a list of foods other than dairy that provide excellent nourishment for healthy strong bones. The Dairy Council would have you think you must have dairy to have strong bones and nothing is further from the truth. 

Get fit, lose weight and have strong bones

Yes, that’s it in a nutshell.  You get fit, which results in more muscle mass and less fat, you lose weight because you burn more, and the restored muscle mass will let you be more active which naturally strengthens your bones.  It’s a win/win when you build muscle mass. 

What will you do to build more muscle? How will you work it into your daily routine? My fitness tracker shows I climb 9 flights of stairs each day on average.  I’ve set a goal to increase that to 14 flights a day by the end of March.  Share what’s worked for you or what you plan to do.