The Reason Muscle Is Crucial For Men AND WOMEN and My 11 Muscle Building Principles
A metabolism and hormone regulating tissue and a huge factor in our immunity. Muscle is indispensable and women need it just as much as men. Here's why...
*This post was originally titled The Reason Muscle Is Crucial For Men AND WOMEN and My 10(ish) Muscle Building Principles but has been updated and renamed The Reason Muscle Is Crucial For Men AND WOMEN and My 11 Muscle Building Principles*
I hope you all had a wonderful and blessed Christmas with friends and family.
The winter season always seems to bear the threat of getting sick. Let me help you out by giving you a reason to get stronger and healthier, thereby making you happier and livelier by tapping into one source of strength and energy that the good Lord has given to all of us…muscle. Allow me to explain…
A recent study published in the journal Advances in Clinical Chemistry states, “Exercise-induced myokines can exert an anti-inflammatory action that is able to counteract, not only acute inflammation due to an infection, but also a condition of chronic low-grade inflammation.”
As @drgabriellelyon states, muscle is a powerful endocrine organ that literally CONTROLS critical aspects of our health, including hormone function, brain function, and, yes, immune system function.
Our immune system’s performance is heavily influenced by our muscle tissue (or lack thereof). And this is yet another controllable variable that is utterly ignored during this turbulent time we’re facing.
I want to point something out…
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon is a woman. Building and maintaining muscle is just as critical for women as it is for men. I really want my women readers to know this. I feel as if women have been so fearful of muscle that it has been to their detriment. If you’re a women and you’re training naturally you have nothing to fear by lifting weights, even heavy weights. A women can only build so much muscle as their hormones allow. In a chatelaine.com article called Why Women Don’t Need To Worry About Bulking Up James S. Fell quotes Dr. Sue Pedersen saying:
“Muscle bulk is dependent largely upon testosterone production,” says Dr. Sue Pedersen, a specialist in endocrinology and metabolism in Calgary. “But no woman makes nearly as much testosterone as a man. It really is a hormonal issue. Men have an average of 15-20 times more testosterone than women.”
Trust me. A women pushing hard, testing her limits, seeing what her body is capable of, just like any man should be doing, is going to sculpt and reveal the very curves, shape and figure most women want to achieve to begin with. If you’re a woman, your body will develop according to the hormones and capacity God gave you. It will develop according to the biological and physiological limits He designed you to have. As a guy, let me tell you…it’s difficult for a man to bulk up to the level he wants to and to half the level many women are fearful of. That’s why some men choose to take steroids or exogenous hormones, and even then it takes serious hard work and sessions filled with grit and sweat to achieve the level of muscle mass they desire. You can’t just take steroids, sit around and gain muscle.
Take a look at the chart below to see how much muscle you’re likely to gain with a serious, targeted and moderate to heavy resistance training program:
And James also rightfully points out in his article:
Many women fear gaining a lot. They worry that if they lift weights that are too heavy they’ll transform into female Schwarzeneggers and lose their femininity. Well, unless you trip and fall into a vat of anabolic steroids, that isn’t going to happen.
Getting extremely muscle bound is done on purpose, not by accident. If that was the case when it came to women then I’d be a little upset. Because that’s not fair. I have to try too hard Lol! So, for the women, keep this in mind when you’re trying to achieve that figure and shape you’re looking for. As long as you’re physically and medically fit to do so, go hard. Lift light, lift moderately, and lift heavy. Don’t miss out on all the metabolism, cognition, mood and confidence enhancements, as well as the strength, power, body sculpting and anti-aging benefits that muscle has to offer. God gave men and women over 600 muscles to use and develop. Muscle will enhance your femininity, not take it away.
Muscle makes life and fitness goals easier. It takes effort to build it, but once you do you don’t have to obsess over your calories so much, you don’t have to feel guilty about cheat meals so much or struggle so hard to maintain your shape. You should always care about what you eat and put into your body. Food and proper nutrition are the foundation which quality muscle and overall health is built on. But you won’t have to be afraid that every morsel of a treat you eat is going to completely wreck your progress or all of your hard work. It won’t because muscle is there.
Now, I have to include this quote by Dr. Gabrielle Lyon about what muscle does. Remember, this is true for both males and females:
It is the primary site for glucose disposal, it is the primary site for metabolic regulation, it is a primary site for fatty acid oxidation. If you want to survive an infectious disease and your body goes into a highly catabolic state, what is going to save you, it’s going to be skeletal muscle.
Did you hear that? Makes me want to go grab my mom and my sister and go lifting right now.
Health & fitness expert and bestselling author Shawn Model also put out a podcast episode discussing some intriguing points regarding resistance and weight training in his podcast The Model Health Show episode 528: 5 Proven Ways To Make You More Resilient Against Stress & Adversity. I’m going to run through a some of the things he discusses in this episode about strength training as it pertains to adapting to stress.
Harvard Medical School researchers reported strength training grants an opportunity to overcome obstacles in a controlled and predictable environment which has the ability to dramatically increase mental resilience. Strength training not only has a profound influence on our musculature, but our nervous system as well. Even when the muscles may feel recovered from strength training, the nervous system takes more time to recalibrate, adapt and heal from the demands that were placed on it. So it’s wise to take an additional day or two to let your central nervous system rest a bit more. This is so to allow it to actually recover completely and become stronger and be prepared for another challenge, even if you feel your muscles are ready. This is how you truly benefit from strength training. Also, the more you strength train and adapt, the less time your nervous system and muscles will need to be fully recovered depending on the intensity or novelty of the training. This is building mental toughness and endurance.
You increase the capacity and tone of your nervous system and enable better and stronger communication between your muscles and your brain. This is that mind-muscle connection that becomes stronger and more efficient which is a big part of strength and resilience. This is a hermetic stressor. In other words, a good type of stress leading to adaptation. Seeing our bodies become physically stronger gives us a window into our minds and spirit which are aspects of us that also become stronger with the recovery from proper amounts of stress. But you must give your body and brain adequate time to recover. Whether you’re a man or a women, you need to be lifting weights and making your body and mind more resilient to stress and adversity.
This can be done with free wights, bands, cables or just your own body. You don’t need a gym or equipment although they’re nice to have. If you have your body and as long the law of gravity is in effect, you have the ability to strength train. You need to be physically resisting a weight and resisting a challenge on a regular basis and cultivating the body and the mind.
According to a Study in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, resistance training helped to reduce symptoms of anxiety in the participants of the study. Anxiety is the feeling and thought in your mind that the weight of the world is on your shoulders. That whatever you’re dealing with is too overwhelming and there’s no solution or way out. Anxiety is fierce enemy and cruel master. Strength training can actually help you cope and dispel the feelings of anxiety and give you the confidence that you can handle whatever comes your way. Strength training makes changes in the brain and in your spirit that protects you against anxiety. Amazing.
According to the research of health psychologist Kelly McGonigal, strength training increases the brains sensitivity to pleasure. That’s right, resistance training enables you to feel emotions and sensations of pleasure and happiness even better than if you didn’t regularly strength train. Our brain creates a positive feedback loop and starts to look for more pleasure and joy in the things in our everyday lives. This is important because, as noted by neuroscientist Andrew Huberman, intense stress can create psychological tunnel vision where our thinking becomes limited and narrowed and we can’t see the good in things nor see the answers or solutions to problems that would be obvious if we were not under so much stress. Strength training creates the sensitivity to pleasure and positivity that can counteract this psychological tunnel vision created by stress and anxiety. Are soaking all this in?
Also, according Kelly McGonigal, our perception of stress is one of the, if not the greatest, determinants of how stress affects us. Of test subjects who were exposed to the same stressors, the subjects who believed that the stress was making them stronger are the ones who actually had a strengthening positive response to stress. The ones who didn’t believe that they were being made stronger from the stress did not have a positive, beneficial stress response. So go lift and believe you’re getting stronger, believe it’s going to make you a better overall person because of the things that resisting challenge, whether it be a weight or a situation, teaches you. Sounds a lot like faith doesn’t it? I don’t think it could be said enough, development of the body is development of the mind, the spirit and the character.
My Muscle Building Principles To Build Muscle
Eat enough protein. Get at least 0.8-1 gram of high quality protein per pound of body weight per day.
Eat mainly whole food. Your body does better on whole unprocessed food and it is more nutrient dense. Processed food won’t kill you but if that’s all your eating you are severely hindering your muscle building goals and efforts in the gym. Aim for at least whole food 80% of the time and limit processed food to only about 20% of the time.
Stay hydrated. Water will ensure protein and nutrients get transported and utilized as they should and help with recovery and metabolism.
Get adequate sleep. Get at least 7-9 hours of good quality sleep every night. You grow and repair as you sleep and with the nutrients you supply to your body. Without sleep you cannot repair and your muscle building efforts will go to waste, or worse…you’ll store fat instead.
Reduce your stress levels. Chronic stress, whether mental, physical or emotional will cause excess cortisol to be released and impair your ability to build muscle and recover from workouts. And just like not getting enough sleep, it can actually cause you to store fat instead of building muscle. Practice good stress reducing techniques such as meditation, prayer, journaling, hanging out with good friends, laughing and/or taking part in a hobby that you enjoy.
Get adequate carbohydrates to fuel your workouts. The ideal range of protein to carb ratio seems to be 1:2 to 1:3 in favor of carbohydrates. For example, if your 180 lbs and getting 1 lb of protein per day, you would be getting 360g of carbohydrates per day if you’re going with the 1:2 protein to carb ratio (180x2=360). If you’re going with the 1:3 protein to carb ratio then you would be getting 540 grams of carbohydrates per day (180x3=540). If you want to build muscle faster and ensure you have enough energy for your muscle building workouts, I would recommend going with the 1:3 protein to carb ratio.
Ensure you’re getting enough overall calories. You need to be in a caloric surplus in order to gain muscle. Don’t worry, if you’re lifting and the surplus is reasonable (250-500 calories) it will go to building muscle, not fat.
Make sure you are in fact lifting weights regularly. You need to be lifting and challenging your muscles beyond what they’re used at least twice per week to build muscle and ensure those extra calories go to building muscle and don’t get stored as fat. Make sure you have a written down plan for your workouts.
Lift with proper form. Poor form hinders your body’s ability to grow and develop, produces muscle imbalances, and increases your risk of injury. Always lift a load you can handle. Too much compensation such as leaning too much to one side or rotating your trunk too much means the load is too great and you will impair muscle development and motor control (the mind-muscle connection). Proper form is not about how you look performing the exercise. It’s about full and balanced muscle development and injury prevention. If lifting to your 1 rep maximum, your max is what you can lift with proper form. Once you start to compensate and shift, writhe and wiggle to get the weight up, that is not your max. That’s an injury waiting to happen. Don’t worry about how much weight you’ll be able to tell your friends you lifted. Worry about getting completely developed and staying in the game without hurting yourself. Strength will come. Keep a long spine and chin down on upper and lower body lifts, brace and keep your core tight not allowing too much flexion of your thoracic spine (upper back) or hyperextension of your lumbar spine (lower back). Keep your shoulders back and your scapula retracted downward on upper body and overhead lifts (like squeezing a pencil in between your muscles in the middle of your back.
Never workout mindlessly. Somewhat related to having proper form because it takes thought, but on a different level. Squeeze the muscle and the end of every contraction and force blood into it. Control your movements on the way down (eccentric) and on the way up (concentric). With a light weight, try to shift your body into different positions and angles and stop to focus your brain on how each little change in direction or positioning hits the muscle. Focus on how it feels, the limits of rotation, extension and contraction.
Always warm up and cool down properly. Warming up reduces your risk of injury just like lifting with proper form does. Cooling down helps your body temperature and heart rate reduce properly and keeps your muscles and soft tissue from becoming too tight and adhesions from forming that potentially reduce flexibility, mobility and circulation down the road.
Stay strong my friends.