I wanted to make sure I knew what I was talking about when I wrote this post about protein so I spent extra time this week reading lots of articles and studies and this may sound totally silly to you but I am just amazed by our Creator. He made us in the very coolest ways. Every time I have an opportunity to discover just how very intricately we are made I am in absolute awe! And even if you don't believe in a Creator I think that understanding how our bodies work will at least give you a new appreciation for the delicate balance of our health and how important it is to care for our one and only body...not just through therapeutic treatment but preventative holistic care.
I have made it fairly clear in the past that I am not your typical CrossFitter. I am not naturally athletic. I didn't play sports in school. My only source of exercise was running and I was even bad at that. I never had ANY desire to have muscles. I equated muscles to being masculine and I really love to embrace my very girliness. I am all about being delicate and feminine and I was afraid that being strong would detract from that.
Let's skip ahead, fast-forward to owning a CrossFit gym and just say I was wrong. Having muscles, even if it is my teeny baby muscles, make me healthy!
1. My posture is better. We all think about those bigger muscles such as glutes, biceps, traps, hammies. But weighted workouts strengthen those smaller muscles and connective tissues, too, which affect alignment and posture.
2. I will maintain muscle mass
3. My bones are healthier and stronger. Weight bearing exercises strengthen our bones. This is great news for people like me who are tripping and stumbling over her own two feet all day long.
4. Muscles prevent diabetes. Crazy right!?!? More lean muscle mass means less adipose tissue (fat). Fat increases our insulin resistance which leads to diabetes. But when you replace that fat with muscle, glucose utilization in increased!!!
5. Weight training increases vascular health in a different way than cardio exercise does. Resistance training leads to a longer lasting decrease in blood pressure and increases blood flow to your limbs. I'm not looking to have a roadmap of veins running down my arms but vascular health is always a good thing!!!
6. Muscles increase energy! There are lots of reasons for this but the main thing to note is that muscles replace fat tissue therefore increasing metabolism, improving sleep, and even the body's ability to handle stress.
7. Muscles are confidence boosters. I don't look like a man. I still am feminine. I still am soft and delicate. But I am also strong. I can do stuff with my family like rock climbing and Spartan races because I have muscles. I can open my own jars!!!! I am not skinny. I am fit. I have muscles and I am grateful for the way they improve my health and my life.
So you want muscle, too, huh?? All that sounded pretty spectacular, right? Well it is important to understand how muscles work and what we can do to make them stronger. Don't go to sleep on me yet...this is about to get cool.
When you workout...particularly during weight training, your muscles are becoming injured or damaged. And what happens when there is injury in your body??? Inflammation!!!! (That super healing power that sometimes goes cray cray.) This releases cytokines and other white blood cells that come and work with satellite cells that have just been chillin' on your skeletal muscles this whole time and they begin to heal and attach themselves to one another and to the muscle fibers. This increases the size of the muscles also known as hypertrophy! I'm sure there is some kind of life lesson in all of that about having to breakdown to build up but I'm going to leave that one to someone else to use as an analogy...Steve, Jim, Adam??? Any takers??
Your body is going to do this breakdown and repair process without you doing anything other than picking up heavy stuff and putting it down. But there are some ways to give this process a little boost. All the dudes just got interested. Let's face it, you girls did too! I get it! Muscles are awesome.
1. Increase testosterone levels. GASP!!!!! Don't freak out on me yet. Most of you know that I am the last person that will tell you to start messing with your hormone levels. I am all about healthy hormones! I think this area gets abused a lot! Dude wants bigger muscles. Dude goes to shady doc who gives him an Rx for legal testosterone and viola! Dude has bigger muscles, along with some additional rage and a black eye because he was too handsy with his date.
But this isn't the scenario I am talking about. Due to the Standard American Diet (SAD) we (by 'we', I mean our society...not me...I don't eat that filth...unless I'm PMSing or going to be PMSing or was PMSing.) Where was I??? Anyways the SAD diet has lots of soy hiding in it. Start looking. You'll see it. Soy attaches to our estrogen receptors and makes our bodies think we have more estrogen than it actually does. This decreases our testosterone levels and we don't want that! We need that hormone for fat metabolism, sex drive, and muscle hypertrophy by optimizing satellite cell proliferation and differentiation (cell maturing.)
Here's my suggestion: Stop eating crap with soy. Keep your body lean. Train hard and increase the intensity level as your technique improves. These things will naturally increase your testosterone levels without a cream, pellet, or shot. If you are still concerned about your T levels then go see an endocrinologist and have some tests run. Any time you are treating hormones with therapy you should do it under the advisement of a medical professional.
2. Increase your IGF-1 (Insulin-like growth factor). IGF-1 stimulates your satellites cell's ability to replicate which leads to bigger and stronger muscles. Increasing IGF-1 is really easy...
EAT PROTEIN. Shocker! Protein is especially effective at increasing IGF-1 in the first 45 minutes after resistance training. Along with eating meat and eggs, whey protein is also a great option. Whey is easily digested and quickly has those amino acids (the building blocks of protein) stimulating protein synthesis...muscle building.
Taking amino acids in supplement form is also something to consider. L-Arginine increases testosterone and growth hormones. L-Lysine is also great for immune building and boosting those growth hormones as well. My favorite is L-Glutamine because it not only elevates growth hormone levels but also aids in muscle recovery. I'm all about the recovery! I hate being sore...even if it is a good kind of sore.
There you have it! My last supplement suggestion is protein/amino acids. You can take BCAAs which are three particular essential amino acids (essential means that your body doesn't make them), valine, leucine and isoleucine. These all work for muscle repair and recovery. Simply increasing protein increases all of your amino acids.
I personally drink whey protein powder mixed in my coconut water after my workout once a day. My favorite is Whey to Go by Solgar. This is my favorite not because it taste like dessert like a lot of protein powders do but because it is the absolute cleanest protein I have found that doesn't require me to sell my kidney to afford it. It has less than 1 gram of sugar, 20 grams of protein per serving and when mixed with coconut water doesn't taste bad at all.
Whether you want to back squat 400 pounds, have healthy bones, more energy, less fat, or just open the jar of olives for your martini, we all need muscles. Start some resistance training in a gym where you can get proper coaching on technique and form, eat right, sleep well, and eat your protein!