How Lean Body Mass Can Make You Healthier, Sexier, and Happier
A few years ago during a move a friend who was helping me mentioned that my old IBM Correcting Selectric typewriter was upstairs and that she would go and get one of the men to carry it down. I said, “You’re only twenty-six years old. If you can’t carry a typewriter downstairs now you’re going to lose muscle mass and be a deteriorated weakling by the time you’re my age.” To her credit, she turned around and walked back upstairs and lugged the typewriter down.
Another time a woman I know who was in her early fifties and already suffering from spinal compression (vertebral fractures/dowager’s hump), told me about her typical morning. Three days a week she got up at five a.m. raced to the gym, worked out with a trainer for forty-five minutes, beat it home, got dressed, walked twenty minutes to the train station, caught a train into the city of Boston and then walked another twenty minutes to work. At her desk she ate a yogurt. Even though I try very hard not to offer my opinion unless asked, I was so stunned I couldn’t stop myself from stammering, “That’s not enough nutrition,” but I immediately stopped talking as her lips drew into a thin disapproving grimace.
If you know me at all you know that my program is all about building up more than you break down. These two stories illustrate a lack of weight bearing activities and poor nutrition that are combined factors that are resulting in low muscle mass and bone density in some women and men.
Muscle and bone are referred to as “lean body mass.” Don’t you like the way that sounds? Who would not want to have a good foundation of lean body mass?
Benefits of Preserving Muscle Mass
You look better: There are many reasons to preserve your muscle mass and it’s not all about having a nice looking butt, though that is a perfectly fine way to maintain motivation 🙂 The more muscle mass you have the more energy your body will burn at rest. We begin to lose muscle mass at the rate of one half a pound a year after the age of thirty. It’s one reason why people begin to see the dreaded fat roll accumulating around their waists.
Prevents injury: It is so very easy to get injured in the average day. You can trip and fall or bump into something or have something bump into you. My house in Boston has vertical stairs built in 1868 that are very easy to slip and fall on, which I did three times in three years. Now that I’m in LA, I’m nursing a tender hamstring connector and a pinching elbow from yoga as well as a sore foot from twisting it during a hike. But how bad could these injuries really be if I weren’t physically fit? Building (or maintaining) muscle mass builds and preserves tendon, and ligaments, all of which either act as shock absorbers to each other, and to your skeleton. Who has not heard horror stories from people who have injured muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments? Just those war stories alone should keep us all in the muscle-building mode.
Keeps you youthful and strong: Muscle mass is where your ready energy called “glycogen” is stored. When you begin to exercise—even if it’s just lugging your briefcase to your car—your brain perceives this as “stress” and calls upon your adrenal glands to release the stress hormone adrenaline, which releases glycogen from your muscles and liver. If you have very little muscle mass to store glycogen, when you exert yourself your brain will be forced to call upon your adrenals to release another stress hormones cortisol to break down your muscle mass and bones to convert the proteins to sugar. This constant cannibalization of lean body mass partly explains why people can get weaker, flabbier, and saggier as they age.
Equally Important is Preserving and Building Bone
The dowager’s hump: Osteoporosis is definitely something we should be aware of because once a woman’s bones begin to weaken and the hunch forms, the next step—or misstep—is a fall, hip or pelvis fracture. A serious bone break will confine a woman to bed or a wheelchair and it’s pretty much downhill from there. So should we, or should we not freak out?
Let’s talk a little bit about the hype about osteoporosis drugs: Osteoporosis (spinal compression (vertebral fractures/dowager’s hump) is a very rare condition. But to scare women into taking their drugs, drug companies have redefined the testing of low bone mineral density.
The measure of your bone mineral density (BMD): It’s only one of many factors that determine the risk of bone fragility. Everyone naturally loses bone density as part of normal aging and all bones, no matter how dense, will break if smacked hard enough. But the new standards in testing have made it nearly impossible for anyone over 50 to have a “normal” diagnosis.
Osteoporosis drugs: These drugs have grab bag of side effects and contraindications such as severe muscle, joint, and bone pain, tummy ache as well as inflammation and erosion of the esophagus, irregular heartbeat, fractures of the femur, low calcium in the blood, skin rash, joint, bone, and muscle pain, jaw bone decay. Fosamax is linked to cancer of the esophagus, and dramatically increases the risk of stomach ulcers when taken with the arthritis drug Naprosyn. (Bear in mind that many osteoporosis patients also suffer from arthritis.) Fosamax has also been linked to bone death of the jaw.
Bones are living tissues: Your bones are constantly breaking down and rebuilding in order to maintain structural integrity. Bones are like tubes that are made of, and filled with protein and hardened by calcium. It’s the hardening of this protein that makes bone solid. The osteoclast cells break down and eliminate old bone and then osteoblast cells lay down new bone matrix, which is made up of collagen. Collagen, a protein, is the structure of bone. After the bone matrix is laid down, hormones direct calcium to be laid down on top of the protein. This new bone matrix is thus calcified. When Fosamax kills osteoclast cells, bones get denser temporarily, but in time, bones weaken because the natural process of breaking down and building up has been disrupted. Not to gross you out, but think of what it would be like to allow your fingernails to grow indefinitely and what they would ultimately look like. Disrupting normal bone metabolism spells less bone formation and increased bone breakdown, which ultimately results in osteopenia (less bone) and then osteoporosis (fracture). It’s disputed whether Fosamax has reduced hip fractures by even one percent.
To Preserve and Build Lean Body Mass
Eat: Unlike a teaching skeleton that can hang pretty much indefinitely in a classroom, a fifty‑year old woman doesn’t have the same skeleton that she had when she was thirty. Every single cell has been broken down and replaced numerous times. And does anyone really believe that her skeleton can be replaced with enriched cereal, Tums, calcium fortified orange juice, Fosamax, Actonel or the once a month “bone builder” Boniva? It’s common sense that living tissue can only be replaced by eating the same biochemicals that make up bones (and muscle).
Eat a balanced diet of real food: Real, living food provides adequate protein, fat, calcium and other minerals, vitamins and enzymes for optimal metabolic processes By providing your body with adequate fats and proteins, your body will be able to break down and rebuild lean body mass (muscle and bone).
Eat enough food: In Death by Supermarket I use Hilary Swank to illustrate the internal breaking down and building up phenomenon that continually occurs within our bodies. Hilary Swank trained four hours a day for two months to prepare for her Academy Award winning role as female boxing champ Maggie Fitzgerald in the 2004 film “Million Dollar Baby.” Swank put on 15 pounds of muscle prior to shooting. Because extreme training causes muscles to break down and build up in an accelerated fashion, more protein is needed for the rebuilding process. The actress actually awoke in the middle of every night to down an extra protein drink to provide her body with enough supplies to keep up the accelerated rebuilding process.
Sleep for goodness sake: Hilary Swank slept nine hours every night when she was training for her film. Your body needs this time to repair. If you’re having trouble sleeping see my HuffPost blog http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nancy-deville/insomnia-treatment_b_900176.html, or read Healthy, Sexy, Happy.
Use Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy: Osteoporosis (bone breakage) is prevented by using bioidentical estrogen. You can read more about the benefits of BHRT http://www.alwaysnewyou.com/nancy-deville/hormones-put-them-back-let-them-tank.htmlor in Healthy, Sexy, Happy.
Exercise regularly: Exercise builds muscle, we all know that. But did you know that stressing your bones through weight bearing exercise actually strengthens them? Think of your bones exactly as you think of your muscles. They are dynamic. They bruise when you hit them, for example. They break down, like muscle, and they build back up. If you don’t stress them, just like muscles, then they weaken. Even walking is considered weight bearing. The point is not to be Mr. or Mrs. Olympia, but just to engage in exercise that builds strength, flexibility, and endurance. And think about ways you can get weight bearing exercise in daily life, picking up and carrying bags of potting soil, dog food, carrying cases of Pellegrino and other heavy things. (Only do this when you are physically fit enough to do it without hurting yourself.)
Don’t over-train: There’s a point of diminishing returns where you actually break down more than you build back up again. Be reasonable. Plus there are so many other fun things to do in a day than spend three hours at the gym.
Quit smoking and other stimulants: Stimulants (alcohol, tobacco, drugs, sugar, caffeine) call on your adrenals to break down lean body mass.
Exercising outside in the sun: Cholesterol is necessary for the body to synthesize sunlight into vitamin D, and then the vitamin D is used to absorb calcium to be used as bone. So think in these terms: Eat cholesterol foods, eat whole dairy, get sunshine. (I have a very hard time getting sunshine because my skin is so sensitive. If you have this problem, protect your fragile areas like your face, chest, and hands and expose larger areas like your legs and back. If you can’t get sunshine, for example in the frozen tundra areas of the country during the winter take vitamin D supplements. I take 5,000 IUs every day.)
Your bathroom scale: Ignore the number on the scale and look in the mirror. If you’re fixated on a number you are going down, baby. Over time eating real food will help produce a muscular, attractive body as your body changes on a cellular level. Your ideal body weight means that you have arrived at a metabolic set point, and you can stay there by eating three balanced meals every day.
As always I encourage you to go for optimal health and let your body do its thing.
Peace, Fun, Love.
Your girlfriend in health,