When you take a step, more than 200 muscles collaborate to raise your foot off the ground. It is only one of the numerous jobs that the muscles in our body are responsible for doing. This network of more than 650 muscles that blanket the body is the reason humans are able to blink, grin, run, leap, walk, and stand erect. Even the steady beat of the heart may be traced back to this factor. But before we go into it, let’s discuss what the muscular system is?
Our muscular system is composed of 3 main types of muscles.
- Skeletal Muscles. The specialized tissue connects bones and permits movement. The system composed of skeletal muscles and bones is known as the musculoskeletal system. They are also known as voluntary muscles as they are in our conscious control.
- Cardiac Muscles. It is an involuntary and special type of muscle. It paces itself according to our body’s needs like slower while sitting or lying down, and quicker when running or doing sports because your skeletal muscles demand more blood.
- Smooth Muscle. Also known as involuntary, they cannot be controlled. Our organs are composed of such types of muscles. They are located in various internal structures, including the gastrointestinal tract, uterine tubes, and our blood vessels system.
But with time, as we age, the muscles alter but their function remains the same but somehow diminished.
AGE-RELATED CHANGES IN THE MUSCULAR SYSTEM.
While muscular mass develops during preadolescence and puberty, there occurs an enhancement in muscular performance. From birth until about the age of 30, our muscles get bigger and stronger. The peak strength is often achieved between the ages of 20 and 30 in untrained women and men, respectively. But similarly, to how bone density declines with age, so does muscle mass. In the 30s, we begin to lose muscle mass and strength. The age-related loss of muscle strength and mass is referred to as Sarcopenia, originating from the Greek terms for flesh (sarcos) and waste (penia), and its definition encompasses loss of muscle force and power as well as diminished function.
Age-related degeneration is a key contributor to the development of weakness. The American Society for Bone and Mineral Research reported in 2015 that patients with sarcopenia had a 2,3-fold increased risk of low-trauma fractures from falls, such as a broken hip, collarbone, leg, arm, or wrist.
Inactive individuals lose 3% to 5% of muscle mass each decade after 30.
This muscular degeneration occurs due to an imbalance between two neurological impulses important in muscle development. A destructive reaction delivers a signal to decrease muscle size, while a stimulating response sends a signal to increase muscle size. A higher catabolic reaction will result in less muscular growth.
Gender Differences. Male and female muscular aging differences begin to emerge as they age. We all are familiar with that as we age, we lose muscular mass. Men have an edge in this situation since this procedure occurs more quickly for women. A study was done to explore the age-related link between muscle mass and muscular function. Women are more prone to having low muscle mass than men while aging, according to the research. Loss of muscle function is greater than the decline of muscle mass particularly in the upper limbs in men.
HOW TO BUILD MUSCLES?
In recent years, scientists and many healthcare providers have understood the science behind sarcopenia. Despite the fact that certain sarcopenia is an inevitable result of aging, others due to hormonal imbalance, diet, and inflammation types may be prevented. Studies indicate that sarcopenia and muscular loss may be restored. A good diet and moderate exercise may reverse sarcopenia, extending life expectancy and enhancing the quality of life. The main management for sarcopenia is keeping your muscles in exercise, especially resistance exercise or muscle strengthening. These exercises build muscular strength and stamina using weights or resistance bands.
At least 2-4 exercise sessions per week may be necessary to get these advantages. Other factors that may also help to prevent and treat this condition are diet, and exercises such as muscle training,
In addition to preventing and even reversing sarcopenia, walking is an activity that the vast majority of individuals can perform at no cost, regardless of where they reside as it boosts mobility and improves circulation. According to the findings of research conducted on 227 Japanese seniors over the age of 65, walking over a period of six months enhanced muscular growth, especially in those who had low muscle mass. Walking speed has also been associated with prevention in a study, with 879 people over the age of 60 revealed that those who walked faster had a lower risk of developing sarcopenia.
2. Resistance Training
To acquire muscles, regardless of age, progressive resistance training is the optimal method for gaining muscle growth through persistent resistive training (PRT). Weightlifting, resistance bands, and gravity are all forms of resistance training. Resistance training causes muscle fibers to develop, which increases strength. A 12-week study of 57 seniors aged 65 to 94 indicated that the three resistance training sessions per week boosted muscular strength. The exercises include leg presses and knee extensions against weight machine resistance. According to an article published in Harvard, a typical training program may include
- 8 to 10 workouts targeting all main muscle groups
- 12 to 15 repetitions
- 2 or 3 times every week.
Once you have established a routine, you can increase or decrease the number of reps per set. Aim to be able to complete at least 8 reps, but no more than 12. Increase weight by trial and error, so you stay within the range of eight to 12 reps.
3. Fitness Training
Controlling sarcopenia may also be accomplished by sustained exercise that elevates your heart rate. This kind of exercise includes aerobic exercise and endurance training. Most trials of aerobic exercise for sarcopenia also incorporated resistance and flexibility training. Cycling, jogging, and hiking 5 days a week have been shown to increase muscle mass in women over 50 years of age.
Food is key to building muscles. All the weightlifting in the world won’t help if you don’t eat well.
Protein is the king of muscle-building nutrients, and it is broken down into amino acids, which the body utilizes to construct muscle. Older men often face a process known as anabolic resistance, which diminishes their bodies’ capacity to break down and synthesize protein. So, intake of protein is necessary for muscle building. One finding suggests that muscle development increased in males over 70 who ate at least 35 grams of protein.
Recent research published in the journal Nutrients recommends that older people who engage in resistance exercise should consume 1 to 1.3 grams (g) of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. Protein powders add 30 g per scoop to cereal, smoothies, and yogurt. Supplemental protein might assist if you can’t get enough calories and protein from eating. But still, foods are preferred over supplementation. A qualified dietician may provide you with dietary advice. However, diverse protein sources are the safest option.
The guidelines for carbohydrate and fat consumption are more variable. Among other things, you require dietary fat to promote normal hormone action. A recent study proposes a daily fat intake of 0.22–0.68 grams per pound (0.5–1.5 grams per kilogram). It has also been recommended that consistent muscle building without excessive fat accumulation, you should consume an additional 300–500 calories each day. Using a calorie calculator online, estimate your caloric intake. Your daily calorie target is 300 calories over your baseline.
You should consult with an expert to design an exercise regimen. The right amount, intensity, and frequency of resistance training are critical for achieving the maximum benefit. An expert physical therapist or trainer can help you decide what exercises are best for you based on your individual needs and history.
How Much Muscle is Enough?
In order to gain muscle, it is not required to train for the whole of each day at the gym.
Weightlifting exercises for 20 to 30 minutes, 2 to 3 times a week are sufficient for achieving benefits. You should attempt to target each of your main muscle groups at least twice each week. Even a single strength training session may boost muscular development, although you may not notice effects immediately. In the 2 to 4 hours after an exercise, a process called protein synthesis is stimulated. Your levels may remain high for a whole day. Overall, research indicates that 0.5–2 pounds (0.25–0.9 kg) of muscle development each month is a solid benchmark for maximum potential muscle growth when combined with proper diet and continuous exercise.
What are repetitions and sets? And how should you calculate the number of reps and sets to perform? Learning weightlifting vocabulary will help you create a program that will assist you in reaching your weightlifting objectives.
Rep: It means repetition. It is a single instance of a single exercise. For instance, if you do one push-up, you have completed one “rep” of push-ups. If you perform 10 chest presses, you complete 10 repetitions of a chest press.
Sets: Simply a series of repetitions. You may do a single set of repetitions or numerous sets for a specific exercise. It is more normal to do many sets, particularly if your goal is to develop physical endurance or strength.
The Science Behind Muscle Building
This process of gaining muscle mass is referred to as muscular hypertrophy, and it is the fundamental objective of resistance exercise. When you engage in intense activity, such as weightlifting, your muscle fibers experience stress, also known as a muscle injury. When this occurs, satellite cells on the surface of the muscle fibers are activated. They seek to heal the damage by fusing together and expanding the muscle fiber as a consequence. Additionally, several hormones stimulate muscular growth. They are responsible for controlling the satellite cells and for the following:
- After exercise, cells are sent to the muscles to produce new blood capillaries.
- Rebuilding muscular tissue and regulating increased muscle mass.
For example, resistance exercises cause the pituitary gland to make more growth hormones. The amount that is released depends on what type the activity is done. Growth hormone speeds up your metabolism and helps turn amino acids into protein, which helps build muscle. The optimum amount of resistance exercise triggers a hormonal response that promotes muscular growth, but adequate protein and energy availability are required to assure muscular gains rather than losses.
Resistance exercise damages or destabilizes the cellular proteins in your muscles. Messages sent between cells instruct satellite cells to initiate a series of processes that result in muscular development and repair. Muscles begin to adapt to the overload stress of resistance training immediately after each session, but it may take weeks or months for improvements to become visible.
When muscles experience intensive activity, like during a resistance training session, stress occurs to the muscle fibers which is referred to as muscle injury or muscle soreness. It is a good metric to measure how are you progressing in your muscular weight training but what can be done to avoid excessive muscle soreness in exercise? Read our dedicated article here.
Muscle Building Difference in Men & Women. Due to fundamental variations in how their systems metabolize food, scientists have discovered for the first time that it is more difficult for older women to replenish naturally lost muscle. In the past, scientists were unable to discern gender variations in muscle protein synthesis. The study, however, indicates that the female body’s sensitivity to diet and exercise begins to deteriorate between the ages of 60 and 70. In early and middle age, women often have less muscle and more fat than males, putting them closer to the ‘danger’ threshold for frailty in their 50s and 60s.
But in May of 2020, the meta-analysis Sex Differences in Resistance Training put an end to this debate. We learned for the first time whether males or females grow greater muscle mass and strength by lifting weights. We may summarize the findings in a few key points:
- Males and females acquire muscle mass at about the same pace, according to 10 trials with 12 results.
- The researchers reviewed 17 trials and 19 results and discovered that women increase upper-body strength somewhat more quickly than men.
- In terms of lower-body strength, the analysis of 23 research revealed no gender differences.
- By lifting weights, men and women build equal amounts of lower-body muscular mass and lower-body strength. In terms of upper-body strength compared to body size, women improve more than men.
Another recent 2021 research confirms the findings of the previous results that both males and females gained their upper and lower body muscle mass similarly.
BENEFITS OF MUSCLE TRAINING
Muscle training has been a staple of most workout routines due to its numerous advantages that one may ponder how strength training might improve your life. Here are a few reasons backed by science that emphasize working on muscles:
1. Boost Functional Fitness. Muscles play a significant part in deciding whether you can accomplish household, job, and recreational tasks. Consequently, the greater your degree of physical fitness, the greater the likelihood that you will be able to do daily chores without excessive tiredness or danger of injury.
2. Makes Bones Stronger. Muscle training not only strengthens your muscles, but it also strengthens your bones helping the overall muscular system.
- Over time, it has been discovered in research that strength training increases bone density.
- Some other studies showed that 2 sessions a week for 3 years kept bone mineral density in the spine and hips, while a group of people who didn’t exercise lost between 2% and 8% of their bone mineral density. So, strength training will help reduce your chance of bone loss.
- In another research, High-intensity strength training for 2-3 weeks has been shown to improve bone mineral density.
3. Slows the Aging Process. Muscular strength training boosts the elderly capacity to do the everyday tasks required for independent living. The University of Birmingham and King’s College London researchers discovered that physical activity maintains the body youthful and healthy and also preserves healthy immunity, muscle mass, and cholesterol levels. Therefore, as per research adequate strength training may play a crucial role in assisting elderly individuals to keep their independence and personal integrity.
4. Helps to Maintain a Healthy Body. Muscle burns 3x as many calories per pound as fat. As you lose fat and gain muscle, your scale weight may not change, but you’ll look better and boost your resting metabolic rate. This lean muscle mass contributes to the determination of your resting metabolic rate. It has been studied that the more muscular you are, the simpler it is to maintain a healthy weight, all other circumstances being equal.
5. Reduces Particular Muscular Needs. Every physical activity demands a specific proportion of a person’s maximum muscular strength. Common tasks of everyday life (e.g., carrying groceries, shoveling snow, lifting young children) become simpler and take less effort for people who get stronger via muscular strength.
6. Shape Your Appearance. One of the advantages of having good muscle training is having a good body shape. The “fit and healthy” appearance is a function of muscular tone, and adequate strength training increases it. Fortunately, significant improvements in a muscle’s degree of strength and tone may be achieved. Learn more about body shapes and their impact in this article.
7. Improves Mood and Mental health. It has been shown in research that muscle training has a favorable effect on anxiety, sadness, and self-esteem. That is why muscle training may have a significant impact on numerous aspects of the mind-body link.
8. Muscles Support the Joints. A review of data published in the journal Rheumatology reveals that strengthening the muscle groups around afflicted joints improves osteoarthritis patients’ function and alleviates their pain. Additionally, the hormonal consequences of growing muscle may aid in tissue healing and ease some of the discomforts. Determine how you can engage in weight training without aggravating your joint discomfort or consult a physiotherapist to deduce a plan for you.
HOW TO OPTIMIZE WORKOUTS?
The following methods can make your workouts better and more efficient so you can make the best out of them.
- Always Perform Warm-ups. Cold muscles are more susceptible to damage than warm ones. Warming up before exercise optimizes your cardiovascular system by boosting blood flow and body temperature. When your muscles are warmed up, the movements stretch and tension throughout your exercise are less harsh. Before lifting weights, try brisk walking or similar cardiovascular exercise for five to ten minutes.
- Lifts Weight. Not only can cardio make your metabolism fast as well as boost the muscle but lifting weight has also been proven to. In a 12-year Harvard study of 10,500 individuals, those who lifted weights 20 minutes a day accumulated less belly fat (compared to those who spent the same amount of time performing cardio).
- Start Slowly. As a novice, you may realize that you can only lift a few pounds. That’s OK. Once your muscles, tendons, and ligaments get used to resistance training, you may be pleased with how rapidly they develop. Once you can do 12 to 15 repetitions or more with a certain weight with relative ease, increase the weight gradually.
- Always Stay Hydrated. According to a review from the University of North Carolina, Sweating only 2% of your total body weight can make gym-goers sweat 6-10% more. So, it is better to be hydrated to make the best use of the gym activity you will be performing. It is advised to drink half to one ounce of water per pound daily. Weigh yourself before and after an exercise to ensure you’re drinking enough water to restore fluids lost.
- Prefer Free weights. According to research published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research in 2014, workouts conducted with free weights such as dumbbells, kettlebells, and barbells elicit stronger hormonal reactions than identical exercises performed on exercise machines.
- Eat Carbs & Proteins. According to research, consuming carbohydrates before a workout and muscular training might also be beneficial during rest. Carbohydrates are your body’s main fuel source for any high-intensity activity, and when your body is fueled, it will exert more effort and gain more value in terms of caloric expenditure and muscle building than it would if you were in a fasting state. Protein helps your muscles recover after a workout, and for the best fitness results, this process shouldn’t stop when you go to sleep. Research from Maastricht University in the Netherlands shows that a nighttime snack high in casein (found in Greek yogurt & cottage cheese), a slow-digesting protein, continues to keep amino acid and muscle protein synthesis rates high all night. At least 40 grams of casein protein should be consumed around 30 minutes before bedtime and after strength activity in the evening.
- Rest In Between. It is suggested to rest a full day between each muscle group workout. One can train primary muscle groups in a single session 2 or 3 times a week or do particular muscle groups every day. For instance, exercise your arms and shoulders on Monday, your legs on Tuesday, and so on.
- Have a good sleeping routine. Symptoms of overtraining, such as fitness plateaus, manifest in the absence of sufficient sleep. and pain in muscles. Also, poor sleep decreases exercise performance (and calorie burn) and your body’s capacity to recover after every activity, according to a 2015 Sports Medicine analysis. So, it is recommended to sleep for 7 to 9 hours every night.
The loss of muscle mass is a natural aspect of aging, but you are not helpless to prevent it. The body’s most adaptive structure is skeletal muscle. It requires effort, commitment, and a strategy, but it is never too late to rebuild and retain muscle.