150713 Gaining muscle with electrical impulses, fact, or fiction

Gaining muscle with electrical impulses, fact, or fiction

Periodically one sees an advertisement for an electrical device that supposedly builds muscles or helps someone to lose weight. Without a doubt, some types of electrical stimulation are beneficial, however the gains in the muscles are minuscule. Useful versions of these are seen most often in a physical therapy setting where they are used in the rehab of an injury and after a surgery to help control pain. The tens unit comes immediately to mind.

The repeated shocks produced by these electrical devices can force rapid contractions of the muscles. This repeated stimulation does cause a certain amount of growth in the muscle fibers but even the best of these devices, as used in the medical field, can do only so much. They help to partially stave off muscle atrophy during the rehabilitation.

In order to gain muscle size, strength, and to burn enough calories to lose weight, exercise is a critical part of the equation. Without exercise, these devices are practically useless, especially the ones seen on TV.

One popular, regularly advertised, model found that the stimulation of the major muscles of the abdomen, arms, and legs for up to 45 minutes, three times a week for a full two months produced no significant changes in the participants strength levels, body fat ratio to lean muscle mass, weight , or their overall appearance.

The recommendation from most astute observers is to regularly exercise and follow a sound nutritious diet because getting stronger, bigger, and losing weight does not come with an electrical machine. You actually have to be active and watch what you eat and drink.

Sarcopenia: muscle wasting

Sarcopenia: muscle wasting

Have you found that lifting two full grocery sacks has become more difficult to do than in the past? What about doing things that were once relatively easy to do? Have some of them started to tax your strength and stamina? Are they now just plain hard to do?

This could be age related, a result of your muscle mass and strength beginning to diminish. In some extreme instances, this can lead to a loss of the function al ability to lead a normal life. Later on in life, your body composition begins to shift from lean muscle mass to less lean muscle mass. Generally the naturally occurring outcome is increased body fat. Your scales may still read the same as they did in high school but the tonus of your muscles is no longer ideal. You have replaced the muscle weight with fat.

Myth: Muscle does not turn to fat. The muscle atrophies and the weight you now see registering on the scale has been replaced by fat tissue.

Exercise is a necessary part of living a healthy life

Muscle mass decreases as we age, in fact it has been estimated that muscle mass decreases approximately one percent each year after we turn thirty years old.

The mayo clinic states that the percentage of females who are unable to lift over ten pounds between the ages of 55-64 is forty percent of the population and for those in the 63-74 age bracket these numbers rise only slightly to forty five percent. However, it gets much worse for the 75-84 year olds, where a full sixty five percent of them were unable to lift ten pounds.

Ten pounds is not much by any standard. This is getting close to not being able to lift a gallon of milk out of the refrigerator.

Muscle mass is critical to maintaining ones strength and balance. Without the strength to regain ones balance, the fall is inevitable. Losing weigh is harder for those with small percentages of lean muscle mass. Muscle burns calories because it is always in motion whereas fat tissue is motionless. The reason this is important is that the lower your lean muscle mass the slower your bodies metabolism will be. This is what contributes to more unhealthy fat and unwanted weight gain.

The relationship between disease, excessive weight gain and the loss of muscle mass and strength

The body is more susceptible to heart disease, diabetes, joint problems and loss of bone density with lesser amounts of lean muscle.

The scientific name for this muscle loss is Sarcopenia[1], a wasting away of muscle tissue.

If this is happening to you then it is time to see your doctor, to cut back on your unhealthy foods and drinks, and exercise your large muscle groups at least three times a week.

[1] http://discoverysedge.mayo.edu/wasting_disease/index.cfm

Sarcopenia is the natural and progressive loss of muscle fiber due to aging. The term “sarcopenia” derives from the Latin roots, “sarco” for muscle, and “penia” for wasting, making it the “muscle wasting disease.”