The Importance of Muscle Mass for Longevity and Health

a couple of months ago

Hi. Dr. Connie here.

For as long as I’ve been a physical therapist (19 years) and a registered dietitian (22  years), I notice the inherent bias in each discipline.

As a physical therapist, I understand the importance of muscle integrity in maintaining health, but in practice, physical therapists often overlook the importance of balanced nutrition in optimizing patient outcome.

On the other hand, as a dietitian, we focus on the biochemistry as it relates to food consumption.  Very often we ignore the importance of muscle and its role metabolic health.

The Importance of Muscle Mass

Muscle is the largest endocrine organ in the body.  Its importance in longevity, health, and disease prevention is often under appreciated.

Muscles not only provide structural architecture and enable dynamic motion, but they also play a key role in our physiological metabolic infrastructure.

We all know that as we age, we lose muscle mass.  This is because when we’re young, our muscles are stimulated by our hormones, mainly our growth hormones and insulin.

However, as we age, we rely mainly on muscle stimulation through exercise and diet.

Our muscles can degenerate or breakdown (known as catabolism) and our muscles can build and regenerate (known as anabolism).

Due to the sedentary lifestyle of today’s society, most of us are breaking down and losing muscle mass while gaining fat mass.

Aging and Sarcopenia

As we age, due to the inevitable shift in our hormones, we tend to degenerate a lot faster than we regenerate.

So unless we are actively fighting against the clock to maintain our health and vitality, we are losing our health everyday that we don’t actively do something to protect it.

According to research, people who are sedentary tend to lose as much as 3-5% muscle mass per year after 30 years of age.

Sarcopenia, which is age related muscle loss, is an epidemic today.  It’s because we live in a sedentary world and it’s happening at a much younger age than ever before.

It’s not uncommon to see sarcopenia in teenagers.

Muscle loss can happen much quicker than most people think and you know what?  If you lose it, it’s much harder to gain it back.

It’s in your best interest to not only maintain your muscle mass, but actively build muscle mass.

Why Does This Matter?

Muscle is the most important organ in the body and we need to maintain its optimal mass.  It’s like the heart, it’s vital to youth and longevity.

Our muscle is the largest organ in our body responsible for fat oxidation, glucose metabolism, detoxification, and most importantly, movement.

Your ability to move with efficiency is intimately tied to your brain health. Movement and agility impacts your ability to think and focus.

Movement is an extension of your intelligence.  It’s also how we define health, success, and beauty.

Even if you have the genetic fortune of being naturally thin, if you lack muscle tone, you won’t be able to move efficiently in space.

Your posture will suffer, and overtime, your thin frame will be replaced with fatty tissue due to the shifts in hormones and sarcopenia we spoke of earlier.

Everything that we do involves muscle, but we need proper nutrients and exercise to maintain and build muscle for optimal health as we age.

Too often, we talk a lot about eating a proper diet for health, but if we don’t incorporate exercise as part of our health endeavors, we are missing a critical component.

Muscle Mass and Chronic Disease

I believe that the loss of proper lean muscle mass is at the root of our chronic disease epidemic, adding to the rising rates of heart disease, autoimmune disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer, etc.

We as humans are meant to MOVE on a regular basis.  We talk so much about Paleo diets but not enough about Paleolithic lifestyle, which incorporated much hunting, gathering, and lots of walking.

Diet and Muscle Mass

To shift into the dietary role of maintaining muscle mass, our muscles need protein. Protein synthesis requires essential amino acids.

The question is, are you getting enough quality net protein on a daily basis?  We need quality protein, low glycemic carbs, and high quality fat.

Generally speaking, we need to eat protein as it’s the only way to get essential amino acids.  There are 20 essential amino acids that we need, and animal based proteins provide a complete amino acid profile.

For vegans, it’s important to combine proper foods for a complete amino acid profile.

For example, grains are low in lysine while legumes are low in methionine.  Combining grains with legumes and vegetables are a sure way to get enough essential amino acids.

It’s important to note that you don’t have to combine foods at the same meal or even the same day.

Because our bodies store the amino acids to use when needed, eating an overall balanced diet will provide you with everything you need.

Muscle and Metabolism

Muscle plays a central role in whole-body protein metabolism. It serves as the primary reservoir of amino acids, which allows for protein synthesis in vital tissues and organs in the absence of amino acid absorption from the gut.

Muscle also provides support for liver metabolism.

Altered muscle metabolism plays a key role in the development of many diseases.

However, maintenance of muscle mass, strength, and metabolic function is rarely, if ever, considered when placing patients on a diet, meds, or supplements.

Physical exercise to maintain muscle mass is critical for optimal health and aging.

Safe Exercise for Chronic Disease

As a chronic disease patient, it’s very common to shift to a catabolic (acidic) state due to hormonal imbalance, antibodies, systemic inflammation, and medication usage.

So it’s especially important for those who live with chronic disease to find a regular exercise routine to actively be building or maintaining muscle mass, in addition to eating a balanced Alkaline Diet, ultimately allowing you to shift to an ALKALINE state.

What’s the Alkaline Solution?

There are multiple ways to get your body in top notch shape.

We offer affordable monthly physical therapy-yoga-trapeze memberships where you get to build muscle with the elite Alkaline Yoga Certified Practitioners at our center. Click here for more information.

Schedule a private instruction to build the fundamentals of posture and proper alignment with our elite Alkaline Yoga Certified Practitioners.  Click here to purchase a class pack or membership. Email us at info@alkalinewellness.com to schedule a private session.

Schedule a private Alkaline Health Coaching session with our Alkaline Method™ Certified Practitioner.  Click here for more information.

Live far away or prefer to work in the comfort of your own home?  Sign up for our Alkaline Posture Clinic where Dr. Connie instructs you daily on how to build your CORE foundation for efficient movement and to tone your muscles safely.

Thanks for watching. Remember, with anything you do, you should always have the end in mind.  Focus on your goals and stay on your path to healing.

Hope you enjoyed it, please subscribe to our YouTube channel. Like our Facebook pages, Lupus Rebel and Alkaline Health. Follow us on Instagram, @alkalinewellness and @lupusrebel. And subscribe to our podcast, Health Made Easy.

See you next week!

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Dr. Connie Jeon

About the Author

Dr. Connie Jeon

Dr. Connie has suffered from Lupus for the last 16 years. As a result, she discovered that a holistic minded approach to health was most beneficial for herself in battling Lupus and for her patients, who battle everything from Autoimmune Disease to Weight Loss. Dr. Connie holds a Doctorate in Physical Therapy and a Masters in Public Health (Nutrition) from the renowned Loma Linda University School of Allied Health Professions. She is also a Registered and Licensed Dietitian in the State of Georgia. Additionally, Dr. Connie is a Functional Medicine Practitioner (Certification Pending 2017), a Registered RYT-200 Yoga Teacher & School (Yoga Alliance) and Certified Pilates Teacher (Pilates Method Alliance).

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