Muscles: Gains, Cramps, Repairs & limited growth

Home » Muscles: Gains, Cramps, Repairs & limited growth

We always go back to the basic questions, because there’s always new research coming out on stuff and it’s great to stay informed:

Protein, Gains, Fat Loss & Surgery

If you want to put on muscle, we know you need to be eating a calorie surplus and completing the right amount of exercise.  While logic and common sense in contrast, woudl mean – weight loss works in deficits.  In the search to close the holy grail on diet and exercise, McMaster University found that it was possible to achieve both, and quickly, but it isn’t easy.  They tested two groups of overweight men on a low calorie diet- one on a high protein diet and one on a low protein diet.  The lower-protein group at least had the consolation of not losing muscle, which is a predictable outcome of cutting calories and not working out, say researchers.

“Exercise, particularly lifting weights, provides a signal for muscle to be retained even when you’re in a big calorie deficit,” said Stuart Phillips, a professor in the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster and senior investigator on the study. “Exercise, particularly lifting weights, provides a signal for muscle to be retained even when you’re in a big calorie deficit,” added Phillips.

The higher-protein group experienced muscle gains — about 1.1kg  actually–  even though they were consuming insufficient energy, while the lower protein group didn’t add muscle. The lower-protein group at least had some consolation not losing muscle, which is a predictable outcome of cutting calories and not working out.

In some cases / conditions that can’t afford the time of longer term adjustments to diet and exercise routine,  some people may require weight loss surgery due to immediate life threats.  While there have been improvements to mobility and body regulation mechanisms around Diabetes for example, this kind of surgery has been linked to negative impacts on bone health, therefore it’s handy to  consider when designing a muscle gain and training program to factor this in.

Muscle Cramps & Dilution

Even when completing some kind of exercise consistently, despite muscle memory, occassional cramping develops.  Hydration is the typical go-to, but when understanding the biomechanics of old mate mucle cramping, we get some pretty interesting insights from Edith Cown University‘s research. 

“Many people think dehydration causes muscle cramps and will drink pure water while exercising to prevent cramping,” said Lead researcher Professor Ken Nosaka, from ECU’s School of Medical and Health Sciences.  “We found that people who solely drink plain water before and after exercise could in fact be making them more prone to cramps. This is likely because pure water dilutes the electrolyte concentration in our bodies and doesn’t replace what is lost during sweating.”

Electrical nodes were placed on the test subjects calves to trigger muscle cramps with some being given water and others being given electrolyte enhanced water.

“We found that the electrical frequency required to induce cramp increased when people drank the electrolyte water, but decreased when they consumed plain water,” said Professor Nosaka. “This indicates that muscles become more prone to cramp by drinking plain water, but more immune to muscle cramp by drinking the electrolyte water.  Electrolytes are vital to good health — they help the body to absorb water more effectively than plain water and replace essential minerals lost through sweat or illness,”

Tissue Regeneration

Muscle regeneration is mediated by muscle stem cells, also called satellite cells. Satellite cells are located in a niche between a layer of connective tissue and muscle fibres. Salk Institute manipulated Yamanaka factors, a combination of proteins which control how DNA is copied for translation into other proteins. These cells are used by the body to replicate cells like for example, skin cells after a wounding injury, muscle building or are used against the body like for example in cancers or tumors.

“Our laboratory previously showed that these factors can rejuvenate cells and promote tissue regeneration in live animals,” says first author Chao Wang, a postdoctoral fellow in the Izpisua Belmonte lab. “But how this happens was not previously known.”

The generally vague information we find when shopping for supplements or nutrient rich foods of amino acids, vitamins and minerals do in fact feed these building blocks in order for this process to take place.

Nurofen & Aspirin can limit muscle growth

Karolinska Institutet have literally proven the common go-to phrase of fitness junkies, “no pain no gain” as their study seems to suggest that inflammation post workout is necessary for muscle growth and to perhaps reconsider your next dose of over the counter drugs to soothe pain or injury.

“The results are extremely interesting since the use of anti-inflammatory drugs is so globally widespread, not least amongst elite athletes and recreationally active individuals,” says principal investigator Tommy Lundberg, researcher at Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Laboratory Medicine. “We chose to look at the effect of ibuprofen as it is the most well-studied anti-inflammatory drug on the market, but we believe that high doses of all types of over the counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) have similar effects.”

Muscle strength was also impaired with high doses of anti-inflammatory drugs, but not to such a pronounced extent. Analyses of muscle biopsies showed that classical markers for inflammation were inhibited in the muscles of the ibuprofen group.

“This suggests that muscular inflammation processes when combined with weight training are beneficial to the long-term development of new muscle mass, at least in the young,” says Dr Lundberg. “Our results suggest that young people who do weight training to increase their muscle mass should avoid regular high doses of anti-inflammatory drugs.”

With over 600 different muscles of the body and the ever expanding research on how they work, the answers and formulas are never straight forward for each body and lifestyle type.   

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