Developing lean muscle mass: What, Why and How
Q. What does ‘development of lean muscle mass’ mean?
A. Through a combination of exercise and nutrition, skeletal muscle can be developed both in terms of size and function.
Muscle hypertrophy, the scientific term for when muscle fibre increases in size, occurs when the number and size of myofibrils (the building blocks that contain the individual contractile units of muscle) within muscle fibre increase. An increase in the size of muscle fibres results in a greater cross sectional area of muscle and therefore an increase in muscle mass.
Improvements in muscle function, evidenced through one’s strength and power, are due to increases in muscle mass and to neuromuscular adaptation. Neuromuscular adaptation, the improvement in the functioning and co-ordination between nerves and muscles, occurs predominantly during the early stages of a resistance training programme.
Q. Why is the development of lean muscle mass important?
A. Your CES will have explained to you why the development of lean muscle tissue is important and why it is one of the goals set in your CP+R programme. As a brief recap, it:
- Increases metabolic rate
Skeletal muscle is active tissue and needs fuel. At rest, one pound of skeletal muscle tissue uses around 3 times the number of calories than one pound of fat. Essentially, the greater the muscle mass, the greater the energy expenditure at rest. An increased metabolic rate can help tip the calorie balance scales and therefore increase capacity for healthy weight loss.
- Improves quality of life
Greater muscle size leads to a greater capacity for force production and, ultimately, improved functional capabilities of muscle i.e. greater strength and power. Progression in muscular function will improve the performance of your daily activities and consequently your quality of life.
Q. How do you develop lean muscle mass?
A. To develop lean muscle mass, we must create an anabolic state within the body, whereby muscle protein synthesis > muscle protein breakdown.
This is achieved through:
- The deformation of cells caused during resistance training creates a cascade of cellular events in the body, which drives muscle protein synthesis and the capacity to develop new muscle tissue.
- To allow a sufficient cascade of cellular events to take place and to maximise muscle protein synthesis, resistance training must be performed to a point where one can no longer perform a movement whilst maintaining sufficient timing, accurate tempo, correct technique and controlled breathing. Train the same, remain the same!
Protein intake creates an anabolic state
- Consuming sufficient amounts of protein and maintaining a positive calorie balance drives muscle protein synthesis and reduces protein breakdown. To maximize muscle protein synthesis, a serving of 20-25g of protein every 3-4 hours throughout a day is recommended.
- Developments in muscle function over the first 8-12 weeks of a resistance-training programme are due to neuromuscular adaption. After the 12-week mark, longer-term changes such as muscle hypertrophy may occur. It must be noted that hypertrophy is mediated by a number of factors (age, gender, disease state) and in order for it to occur, reaching overload in resistance training must be performed 2-3 times a week, and a high-quality nutrition promoting an anabolic state must be consistent.