Muscle mass is rarely talked about as a health marker and today I would like to tell you why it is essential and what we can do to support it in the body.
Muscle mass refers to the amount of soft muscle tissue in the body. Other major components of the body include fat, bone, and water. Muscles primarily help with movement, maintaining posture, and supporting bodily functions. Muscles give the outer body shape as well as supporting internal processes.
There are three main types of muscle:
Smooth Muscle, which is in the internal organs
Cardiac Muscle, the muscle of the heart
Skeletal Muscle, which exists throughout the body
The body’s collective muscle tissue constitutes its muscle mass. However, in most contexts, the term “muscle mass” specifically refers to skeletal muscle. This is the only type of muscle that a person can voluntarily control.
Skeletal muscle plays a key role in movement. For example, bending the arm upward requires the bicep muscle to contract and the triceps to relax. Exercising the skeletal muscles in various ways can increase the body’s mobility, balance, and strength.
Keeping the skeletal muscles healthy is important for daily functioning. This is particularly important as we age and by ageing, I am referring to any women in menopause or a male in andropause! If we wait till until our mid 60's, even for those in good health and undertaking a daily general exercise plan; it's going to be too late to support the muscle mass changes we need to be doing.
Your muscle mass percentage can be an indicator of health as well as a predictor or long-term health!
Over time, muscle mass naturally declines, and this reduction is referred to as sarcopenia of the body. These people are often referred to as skinny, fat people as the fat percentage is greater than the muscle mass. These changes can make everyday activities such as walking, climbing, or maintaining general function more difficult.
The percentage of muscle mass varies between people. It will depend on several factors, including fitness, body size, and gender.
Exercise that increases muscle mass may also have mental health benefits. For example, clinical trials have found that resistance training can reduce symptoms of depression.
Resistance training, or strength training is the primary way to increase muscle mass. It involves pushing or pulling to counter resistance from the body’s own weight. This can be done using a resistance band or reformer Pilates or light weights.
Countering resistance places strain on the muscles, forming tiny tears in the muscles’ fibres. The body then heals these tears and adapts to strengthen the muscles.
With repetition, this process leads to an increase in muscle mass. It is usually necessary to gradually increase the amount of resistance over time to keep the muscles adapting.
It is important to take every precaution to avoid injuries during these workouts, especially for older adults. If you are over 60 years of age, then resistance exercise alone may not be enough to help build and maintain optimal muscle mass.
Dietary factors have shown that protein intake is essential as we age but we must be able to digest and process protein so optimising gut health and good Microbiome is a factor that must be addressed in most people. I often hear my clients saying, I just cannot eat animal protein anymore as it just sits in my gut for hours or days. This is a sign that the digestive fire has diminished and digestion is imbalanced.
How do we assess muscle mass?
Our MetaScan Body Assessment Device is quite unique in measuring muscle tissue and defining lean body mass (muscle tissue) over fat and water tissue percentages. Referred to as Bio-electrical impedance analysis, our device measures 5 primary body parameters including fat mass, muscle mass (lean and dry mass), fluid balance, cellular Phase angle and BMI.