Five Facts about Building Muscle
Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, CSSD
Building and maintaining a healthy amount of muscle is important for a number of reasons. For one thing, toned muscles help give your body a healthy, lean look. Also, since muscle tissue requires a lot of calories to do its work, building up lean body mass is a great way to give your overall daily calorie burn a boost, too.
Having a strong upper body can help you to more easily perform everyday activities, like lifting heavy objects, as well as help to improve your posture, which can make you look slimmer. A strong lower body can improve your balance and help protect joints by taking some of the pressure off your back and knees. Here are some things you should know about building muscle:
- When you lift weights or other resistance exercises, you want to stress the muscle by using the right amount of weight. It’s better to do fewer repetitions with an amount of weight that’s moderately difficult to lift, rather than a lot of repetitions with weights that are too light.
- You need high-quality protein to build and repair muscle, so eat plenty of healthy proteins from fish, poultry, eggs, low-fat dairy products, lean meats and plant sources such as beans and soy. Protein powders are a convenient way to include protein in your meals, and allow you to tailor the amount you consume to your personal needs.
- After you exercise, your muscles need some healthy carbohydrates and small amounts of protein to help them repair and recover. A carton of yogurt, a smoothie or a bowl of cereal with milk and fruit are all good recovery foods after a session of strength training.
- Your muscle doesn’t turn to fat if you stop exercising. It may seem that way, but what actually happens is that your muscle fibers shrink up. You can start to store a little bit of fat between the muscle fibers, so that is why you can feel a lot softer if you stop working out for a while.
- Lastly, if you’re female, don’t worry about getting big and bulky. It’s a common concern, but it’s unfounded. Women carry less muscle-building hormones than men, so they don’t get as big as men do when they strength train.