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    Increase Your Muscle Mass to Get Less Sick and Have a Better Quality of Life

    These are the benefits of gaining muscle mass for your health, beyond aesthetics

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    Muscle mass is used for much more than looking in the mirror and seeing big arms or firm buttocks. Strength training and the muscle mass that is generated with it is essential for health. The amount of muscle mass accumulated in a natural and healthy way is the best shield against diseases, both to prevent and treat them. Cancer is one of those diseases that will benefit from a large muscle mass, both when treating it and in the quality of life after passing it.

    Muscle mass as savings for emergencies

    Low muscle mass is a strong predictor of disease, frailty, and mortality. A large part of the population has a low muscle mass that increases with age and with some factors such as chronic inflammation and other metabolic alterations.

    Our muscle mass is that envelope that we have saved for emergencies when we have a car accident that is not covered by insurance. If we have set aside a significant amount of savings, we will be able to face the purchase of a new car with greater guarantees, but if we have not been careful, we will have more problems when dealing with this unforeseen event.

    Sudden accidents also appear in health, some directly and others indirectly. COVID-19, which is still latent in 2023, was a global accident in which unfortunately there were people at higher risk of complications and mortality, depending on their age and physical condition.

    Those people, not all, who had a greater amount of muscle mass and better cardiorespiratory capacity had fewer complications than those who had low muscle mass and less well-trained resistance.

    Aging takes its toll on everyone, so the older population was the one that was most at risk. However, the age of the DNI differs a lot from the biological age, especially the older we are.

    At that time, if we were infected, we depended on how the virus affected us and on “that envelope that we had set aside with our savings at the level of muscle mass and cardiorespiratory capacity

    For a couple of years, the world of research focused on the development and treatment of SARS-Cov-2, the technical name of the virus that we all call coronavirus. Diseases such as cancer were left unprotected, although this disease is the main cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide.

    Muscle mass and Cancer

    Some 10 million deaths occurred worldwide in 2020 due to cancer. This biological alteration, and the toxicity of the treatment, affect all our systems, including muscle mass. A good previous muscle mass helps in the disease, as well as after it.

    After going through cancer, it is very common for survivors to have low muscle mass, even more so if their age is advanced. This process generates adverse effects on muscle mass such as altered metabolism, inflammation and biological aging).

    Despite removing the cancer, there is an increased risk of stroke and other health complications in survivors. Improving muscle mass in this population is key in influencing long-term survival, as well as a better quality of life.

    A recent publication in the journal Nutrition states that low muscle mass is associated with an increased risk of mortality from any general cause, as well as specifically from cardiovascular disease in cancer survivors.

    This publication cites several investigations where low muscle mass is associated with shorter survival, either at the time of diagnosis or after treatment. This is how physical exercise serves as a shield to stop the progression and metastasis of cancer

    Cancer survivors with low muscle mass have a worse prognosis than survivors without that low muscle mass and may be at increased risk of fatal cardiovascular events. Therefore, having a good amount of muscle mass is vital when dealing with any disease.

    If we also go through an aggressive process such as cancer and its treatment, we must try to retain as much muscle mass as possible, as well as recover what we have lost once the treatment ends. That could help survival years after cancer in the first place, and less frailty and higher quality of life in the future.

    Basic aspects to gain muscle mass

    Strength training

    “If physical exercise is so important for health, why aren’t there gyms in hospitals?” That is the question that Pere Estupiny√† asked himself in a chapter of “The Brain Hunter”. That same question is asked by many people.

    Some hospitals already have their own gyms, but not to prevent, but to treat. Among them, there are some gyms for children and adolescents with cancer, yes, these facilities can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

    To gain muscle mass we have to train strength, it is an essential condition. Beginners in strength can also gain muscle mass by going for a run or cycling, but the best way to avoid low muscle mass is to lift loads in the gym.

    There are countless ways to train to gain muscle mass, so we cannot explain each of them in depth. What is common to all of them is that we must train all muscle groups in our body. Not only for aesthetics, but for health.

    Eating more calories than we expend

    Just like to lose fat we need to eat fewer calories than we expend, to gain muscle mass it is necessary to provide a slight energy surplus. Those calories that we consume in excess will be used for muscle growth mechanisms, which would not occur without them, or would do so much slower.

    Depending on our level of training, we will have to eat more or less calories. A beginner can gain much more muscle mass than an advanced one, so a higher energy intake will help you grow more.

    A person who has been training for years will increase their muscle mass much more slowly, so those extra calories should be fewer. No matter how much we eat, our body has limits on the creation of muscle mass. Once covered, the excess calories will accumulate as fat, not muscle mass.

    Protein, the building blocks of muscle growth

    Little by little, protein is occupying the place it needs in health, to the point that it is common to buy protein products for older adults at the pharmacy. As we age, the loss of muscle mass accelerates.

    To prevent this loss, and even gain muscle mass in older adults, a high protein intake is recommended. The same thing happens in people who have finished the cancer process and who need to recover a lot of muscle mass lost in the treatment.

    Proteins are the bricks of our wall, of our muscle. Without them we will not increase muscle mass. That’s our trio of trump cards for muscle hypertrophy: strength training, energy surplus, and adequate protein intake.

    Lifestyle habits

    To the aforementioned trio of aces for muscle hypertrophy we must add our lifestyle habits. Tobacco, alcohol and not getting enough sleep are the three factors that we must take care of to gain muscle mass and for our health.

    All three are associated with the worsening of the mechanisms that are responsible for building our muscle mass. Therefore, if you want to gain muscle mass for aesthetics and health, you should avoid smoking, stay away from alcohol and sleep eight hours a day. All this as a whole will help you gain muscle mass and “fill that envelope” against future accidents that may come. Luck also influences health and there are times that no matter how full the envelope is, it does not reach us, but it helps with a very high probability.

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