You may have heard that one of the benefits of muscle mass is improved metabolism. But what does this really mean?
The more muscle you have, the more calories your body burns at rest to keep it functioning! This means that you can eat more without gaining weight. And if you do want to lose weight, adding some lean muscle can help speed up your metabolism and make dieting easier because there will be a higher energy demand.
Here are fifteen ways increased muscle mass improves metabolism.
1. Increased Muscle Mass Increases the Calories Burned
All cells in our body require energy to function, and we usually get this energy from the food we eat. However, for some of the processes, our bodies need to do, such as breathing and blinking, we don’t need fuel from outside sources. This is what scientists refer to as the resting metabolic rate. The basal metabolic rate takes into account the amount of energy your body needs to keep all its organs functioning, including the heart and lungs. It’s measured under very specific circumstances: fasting for 12 hours, lying down in a dark room quietly resting with no distractions.
The number of calories you burn when you’re at rest is much higher when more muscle cells are working than when you have less muscle. If you add 10 pounds of muscle to your body, your resting metabolic rate will significantly increase. For every additional pound of lean muscle mass, the body burns an extra 50 calories per day! The more muscles you have, the better your body is at converting food into fuel for all those hard-working cells which need the energy to keep your body functioning.
2. Higher Muscle Mass Increases Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)
One of the reasons muscle cells burn more calories is because they require energy to contract and relax. This means that even when you’re not moving, muscle cells are burning calories. BMR accounts for about 60% of our body’s energy expenditure. A higher percentage of this energy comes from lean muscle mass than fat (1 pound of muscle requires six calories a day compared to 1 pound of fat which burns four calories a day). This means more muscle mass in your body will mean total energy expenditure, which is good for losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight. Plus, if you want to increase your BMR as you start exercising, adding muscle is one way to do it!
3. More Muscle Reduces Hunger Pangs
Don’t you hate it when you are dieting, exercising regularly, and still feel hungry all the time? This is because being active increases your metabolism, so it’s burning more calories at rest. The “starvation mode” that I mentioned above can come into play here, too. Your body may think, “They’re using a lot of energy–we’ll hold onto the calories because they may be around longer!” But you don’t want to experience constant hunger pangs while dieting, nor do you want your metabolism slowing down. So what do you do? Add muscle! The more muscles you have, the less likely this scenario will happen than if you were carrying extra fat. Muscle cells require more energy to function than fat cells, so having more muscle mass on your body means you’ll need more calories.
4. Increases Ability to do Daily Activities
The less fat on the body, the easier it is to get around. Strength training with added muscle can help decrease the risk of falls and increase independence in daily tasks such as standing from a sitting position or getting out of a chair. Muscle helps our connective tissue stay healthy, protecting us from injury when we fall without compromising quickness or reactivity. Having more muscle mass decreases the possibility of injury, making daily tasks easier. This also applies to sports-related injuries, which are oftentimes due to a lack of muscle around joints.
5. Overall Feeling of Wellness
Studies have shown that there is, in fact, an “optimal” bodyweight for health and longevity. Being overweight (obesity) or underweight (anorexia) has been linked to decreased life expectancy. However, these studies compared people who were obese and at an average weight; the group that had increased lean muscle mass length and decreased fat mass length had an improved quality of life, which helped them live longer. What does this mean for you? Having good muscle mass and low-fat mass can help lead to an overall improved sense of well-being.
6. Expands Ability to Exercise
By increasing lean muscle mass, it is easier to partake in sports and exercise. The more muscles we have, the more work we can do! But not only does extra muscle mean that you’ll be able to complete a physically demanding activity, but you also maintain this activity for longer periods. Remember when I said that muscle is a metabolically active tissue? Well, this can help minimize fatigue and increase the body’s ability to recover from strenuous activity.
7. Increases Energy Expenditure
As we age, our muscles naturally lose mass. This process significantly decreases total energy expenditure; the older we get, the more sedentary we become. This is where resistance training becomes even more important than its benefits to bone and joint health. Strength training with added muscle mass can help implement a higher level of energy expenditure, which means we need to eat more to maintain our bodies! This is one reason why it is crucial for those getting older to continue resistance training as they age. It has been proven that the less active adults are, the higher their risk of obesity.
8. Improved Mental Health Increasing Metabolism
By having more muscle and less fat, we feel better about ourselves and can face challenging situations head-on. Having more muscle helps regulate emotions and stress levels because it decreases cortisol levels in the bloodstream. This also leads to reduced symptoms of depression. It has been proven that those who don’t exercise enough or at all have an increased risk of developing depression. As I stated earlier, the less muscle you have, the more likely you will become sedentary, leading to many severe conditions.
9. Contributes to Successful Aging
Decreased muscle mass is associated with decreased bone mineral density, a precursor for osteoporosis and fractures. This is one reason why it is essential to implement resistance training with added muscle mass for both men and women. By having strong muscles, we prevent further energy expenditure on bone health and can instead focus on increasing the quality of life! Being sedentary increases the possibility of developing heart disease, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, and musculoskeletal disorders. Having good muscle mass length is associated with less risk of developing these diseases, which can help us prolong our lives.
10. Increases Quality of Sleep
Strength training has been proved to increase the quality of sleep and decrease insomnia significantly. This is mainly due to the body’s natural growth hormone release, which actively aids in muscle repair and recovery during sleep. By increasing lean muscle mass, we can help induce a deeper and more restorative level of sleep, leading to enhanced overall performance throughout the day. That leads to improved muscle repair and even more muscle growth!
11. Improved Nerve Function, Which Improves Metabolism
Having good muscle mass length can help improve nerve function by increasing blood flow to the extremities. This is because it has been proven that sedentary people have diminished blood flow to their arms and legs. By not having adequate blood flow to extremities, nerve function becomes limited, and the metabolism declines. This leads to decreased endurance for weight-bearing exercise, which can further decrease muscle mass. Implemented strength training with increased muscle mass ensures that our bodies get the necessary nutrients to stay healthy!
12. Decreases Risk of Chronic Diseases Increasing Metabolism
Increased muscle mass decreases the risk of developing chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and neurodegenerative disorders. Good muscle mass also helps with increasing metabolism throughout the day by decreasing basal metabolic rate. To put this concept simply, it is harder to maintain a healthy weight when you have a lower body fat percentage and a higher level of muscle mass. The less muscle you have, the more energy is expended just to be alive! This is why it is important to implement strength training with added muscle mass into one’s daily fitness regime. Who doesn’t want a higher metabolism?
13. Decreases Body Fat Easier increasing Metabolism
Now we all know that we want to achieve a good muscle mass length, but what’s the point if it only helps us burn fat? Implementing strength training with added muscle mass can lead to higher “hormone-sensitive lipase” levels in the bloodstream. This enables our body to break down fat cells faster, which ultimately leads to fat burning. It is now common knowledge that strength training increases our metabolic rate throughout the day, attributed to increased lean muscle mass!
14. Lowers Harmful LDL Cholesterol, which Increases Metabolism
Increased lean muscle mass leads to lower levels of harmful cholesterol, which can lead to heart disease. Not only does increasing muscle mass decrease the risk of developing cancer, but it also decreases the risk of developing heart disease and cardiovascular diseases! This is mainly due to decreased “bad cholesterols” such as low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL), which is the direct cause of plaque build-up in veins or arteries. Through strength training with added muscle mass, we can decrease our LDL cholesterol levels and improve heart health!
15. Increases Growth Hormones That Promote Healing
Using a catch-phrase from pop culture, “Growth hormone does everything!” is not completely accurate, but it is fairly close. Growth hormone does contribute to nearly every aspect of rebuilding the body- from repairing bones and skin to maintaining body fat levels. By increasing lean muscle mass, you signal to your pituitary gland that your body needs more growth hormone to maintain the new muscle tissue. Because of this, your body responds by increasing the levels of growth hormones in the bloodstream. This indirectly promotes healing and tissue repair throughout the body, essential for maintaining good health and metabolism!
Strength training with added lean muscle mass will increase your metabolism at rest while decreasing risk factors associated with many diseases. These health benefits make it easier to lose weight and maintain a healthy weight and help with daily tasks such as standing up or getting out of a chair. Muscle cells burn more calories even at rest, which means you will require more calories from food. This helps keep your body at an optimal weight for good health and longevity, equating to feeling better and having a higher quality of life.
Does this mean that if you add muscle, you will not gain weight no matter how many calories you eat in a day? Absolutely not! The goal is to burn more calories than we intake; it’s important to focus on nutrient-dense foods and portion control. This does not mean eating a very small amount of food. It means to eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly for a long-term healthy lifestyle, which will lead to good weight management.
We help our members with a nutritional programme that works for them, if you’re struggling, give us a shout at our gym or try out our personal training and we’ll help you work out a plan that suits you.
You may also find our nutritional e-books helpful to eating healthier.