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Muscle versus Fat – Health Versus Disease

February 7, 2013

A key component of aging is the persistent loss of muscle paired with rising fat content. In a simplistic sense, muscle content gives us mobility, strength, speed, agility – the faculties of youth, while increasing fat content proves to be the source of most of the diseases of old age. Cancer risk, heart disease incident and diabetes symptoms all increase with our waistline, as does our risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s.

The most detrimental fat is that which grows within the abdominal cavity. While a certain amount is present in health to cushion our organs from impacts and bouncing, once this fat starts to grow with age it becomes an inflammation-ridden stew of immune cells that signal our immune system to progressively attack our tissues in all areas of the body. It is now clear that most of the diseases of aging are manifestations of our immune system turning against us. And while this eventually happens to all of us, it happens far sooner to those with increased abdominal fat. In cultures where people don’t pack on fat as they age, and there are many around the world, death nearly always comes as a result of some contagious infection that the immune system fails to repel, or an accident, rather than the big four – heart disease, cancer, diabetes and dementia – which cripples us slowly, makes us a burden to others and robs us of life’s joys before taking us out.

Are there viable strategies for maintaining muscle and eliminating excess fat? Indeed there are – bodybuilders are masters of these strategies, even if taken to extreme, but we can apply the same strategies for the rest of our lives with huge benefit to our quality of life. In fact, the more muscle the body carries, the lower fat content goes in response. The reason for this goes beyond the well known fact that muscle is the primary element of metabolism, and the more you have the faster you burn calories at rest. There is a connection between muscle mass and whether the body prefers to burn fats or glucose for fuel. The more muscle we have, the more we prefer to use fats for fuel, and the less of it we tend to store.

In the 1990s a regulatory molecule, myostatin, was discovered that controls the amount of muscle we can attain. More recent studies have shown that our production of this protein increases as we age and is largely responsible for muscle loss with age. Since its discovery, the promise of growing really big and really strong by inhibiting myostatin has been a hope for body builders and other athletes, but no practical supplement or drug has come to market until recently. Wythe, the original developer has shelved efforts to develop such a drug.

The rest of the world, however, is looking at creating such drugs for the treatment of muscle loss with chronic disease, aging and muscular dystrophy, so research is continuing. Beside those efforts, we have learned other avenues for inhibiting myostatin production. Progressive Weight Training results in muscle growth by lowering myostatin levels. Taking Creatine also lowers blood levels and makes it easier to grow and retain muscle. I use both of these approaches to keep muscle and stay strong, and my fat content is quite low compared to most 70-year olds.

Consider this from a study published in December of 2012:

NTU study finds ways to prevent muscle loss, obesity and diabetes – 19 December, 2012 Nanyang Technological University

“When someone is suffering from a chronic disease and doesn’t eat enough, the body starts to generate energy by breaking down muscle proteins and that is the reason we see a lot of muscle wasting under chronic disease conditions.”

“Over the years, our research has revealed that this type of muscle wasting is initiated by excess levels of myostatin in the body. If we block myostatin from binding to cells, then muscles won’t waste away and we can then mitigate the effects of aging and chronic diseases.”

“Apart from regulating the growth and loss of muscle, myostatin also regulates whether the body will burn fat or carbohydrates during fasting and meal times. Blocking myostatin keeps the body in “fat-burning mode” and promotes muscle growth at the same time – which could potentially make obesity a thing of the past.”

If we do what lowers myostatin, either its production or preventing it from binding to its receptors on muscle tissue, we grow muscle easily and at the same time reduce fat stores, which improves everything. It lowers inflammation, improves blood sugar regulation, reduces risk for all the diseases of aging, and lets us dance through life more easily.

On this website I have instructions for athree-day strength training routinethat will pack on serious muscle at any age. Just remember I was in my 60s when I wrote it and now at 73 I use longer spacing between workouts.

Here are some supplements I use that are known to impact myostatin levels:

Creatine Nitrate by APS, Pre- and Post-workout. This creatine formulation pumps creatine into the muscles while dilating vessels and capillaries throughout the body improving oxygen usage and nutrient uptake.

Hypershock by Myogenix, Pre-workout, ½ hour before hitting the gym. Boosts strength and output dramatically.

Aftershock by Myogenix, Post-workout, take with ½ hour of finishing the workout. Starts the rebuilding process immediately.

Somnidren-GH bt MHP, for great sleep and growth hormone production while asleep (increased growth hormone reduces myostatin levels), ½ hour before sleep

Here’s the latest supplement to claim direct inhibition of myostatin:

Myo-X by MHP

I’ve read the studies backing this up, and while they are done by a researcher with an interest in the company, they look very credible. I’m going to give it my own test ASAP. As long as we keep our muscle structure substantial and strong, we will have a better shot at staying lean, avoiding the common diseases of aging and staying out of a wheel chair until we are really old.

Good Living – Frank

Frank Wilhelmi
Frank Wilhelmi

Frank Wilhelmi – Retired/consultant electronic engineer researches and reports practical strategies for optimizing health and fitness into advanced age. “I have a passion for living life to the fullest, and helping others to do the same.” A rapidly growing body of knowledge now enables us to extend our health and fitness decades beyond popular expectations.

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