Just a thought.
I was listening to a podcast with an Integrative Medicine doctor talking about protein. She advocates an enormous amount of protein. She says that she doesn’t need extra carbohydrates because she can make enough with the assimilation of protein. Carbohydrates are the easy macros to get. Protein, not so much. You can listen to it on the Shrugged Collective podcast.
Regardless of this high protein diet, I’ve heard conversations with friends who say protein is overrated. They say protein is hyped way too much and we get plenty in our diets. But, before we make assumptions in life, we always need to ask “why?”.
An interesting concept from this podcast was the thought of muscle. We always talk about body fat percentage. Then, we “falsely” assume that the rest after fat is lean muscle. It really isn’t. There are bones, water and other chemicals, organs, connective tissue, fascia,… Truthfully, a healthy low range is desired. However, someone who is anorexic or elderly can have a 5% body fat, but be very unhealthy. And their muscle mass may be infinitesimal. That’s not a good way to live. The intriguing question that the doctor couldn’t answer for herself was “what is our lean muscle mass?”
She said that mortality is directly related to muscle mass. When we lose our muscle, we die. Recent studies points to strength as overriding the long-thought idea that Heart Health is most important. Stronger people live longer than strictly cardio people.
Anecdotally, I was a trail runner and ultra-marathoner for much of my life. During that time I had lots of back pain and other maladies, like skinny chicken legs. I still lifted weights so I carried some mass on my body. But you can’t overcome those skinny legs if you put in the miles. In the fitness community, an adage popped into mind from teaching, “if you can’t lift, then you run”. I know this isn’t true. I admire greatly runners and running. I have books about different runners and things they’ve accomplished. Its why I started into my adventures in ultra-running. I wanted to see and feel what they wrote about. But many people with smaller, thin frames gravitate toward running because what else are they gonna do? We didn’t have a lot of long distance runners or skinny basketball players on our wrestling team. We were mostly lifters and football players. We did strength.
My point in all of this, a lifter is always admired as someone who looks healthy. You can see the muscles when they wear a shirt (or better without a shirt). They walk around with confidence and strength. There was a colleague of mine, a senior professor at a major university, who I once spotted at a trail race. He actually finished pretty high in his age group. But, truth be told, I never thought he was an athletic person. He always looked sickly, he looked quite disheveled, and always had a snuffly nose. I think of several like that who I would have never thought were very healthy. They were all runners. Now don’t get me wrong, there are runners who really look healthy. But many do not appear any healthier than your average, sedentary population.
There is an older lady who lives across the street from me. I may even say she is “elderly”. I highly respect her because I’ve seen her out every day walking many miles early in the morning. She rode her bike all around town until she had a bad bike accident. And she is crazy about her lawn. So I see her mowing at least every other day during the Summer. I know she is healthy, but unfortunately she doesn’t look healthy. She is frail, she has a major hunchback, and appears very weak. Looks really matter. They tell a lot about our health. A person with muscles is a vision of health and hard work. You can’t always see that in an endurance athlete.
Mortality is driven by muscle. And muscle is built by protein. If you think about competitive bodybuilders, when they are building muscle, they eat all day. Most of their diet focuses on protein. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein that builds muscle. They wake up in the middle of the night to take in protein so they don’t go into a catabolic state. You always want to be anabolic. Muscle growth is important. For them, they err on the side of too much protein than too little.
Hmmm, maybe there is something there for us normal people to think about. Err on the side of more protein. More muscle is better!! Our biggest muscle is the gluteus maximus. When you sit on the toilet, your glutes are the primary movers. When you lift your groceries, lift your kids, or do anything important in life, your buns are involved. If I were to focus my strength on any area, it would start with the buns. Back, legs, shoulders,…they all fall in line afterward. But keep that big booty filled with lots of muscle. You’ll never be sorry for a nice butt.
Don’t be the saggy pants kids who have no butts because they sit around playing video games and watch TV all day. They haven’t earned the strength moniker by doing that. Don’t be the old dude who has to wear suspenders since they don’t have a butt to keep their pants on. Instead be that proud butted person who is strong and lives a long life. Before you go on a long run, prioritize a session of heavy squats, deadlifts, and lunges. It will serve you better in the long run and will be a lot less boring than steady state cardio.