The Secret to Stronger Muscles


by Annie Hauser

THURSDAY, April 26, 2012 — One look at Olympic weight-lifters shows that the heavier the weights, the stronger the weight lift, right? Although there’s definitely some truth to this conventional workout wisdom, a new position paper published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism argues that there’s more to the story.

Weight training with less weight but more repetition may be as effective for building muscle as lifting heavier weights for fewer repetitions, said researchers at McMaster University in Ontario. The key to muscle gain, researchers say, is working the muscles to the point of fatigue, no matter the weight size. They want you to feel the burn.

The authors of the paper conducted a series of experiments to measure how muscles react to different forms of training. They found, not surprisingly, that high-intensity muscle contractions from lifting heavy weights produced muscle development. But when volunteers performed resistance training with smaller weights until they reached muscle fatigue, identical muscle development was formed. The higher repetitions also helped sustain the muscle-building response in the days following the workout.

This means you can continue using 3-pound hand weights for bicep curls if you want. But if you want to see a bigger, stronger bicep, you must keep up the curls until you have to fight to pull up the weight each time. (For a woman who works out regularly, this could means scores of repetitions.)

No matter how you chose to get there, the key to seeing a real benefit from strength training is using enough weight to challenge yourself, and repeating the exercises enough times that your muscles reach fatigue. As you get stronger, remember to switch to progressively heavier weights to keep on feeling the burn.

Why Strength Training is Essential

Now that you know how to strength train to build muscle mass, here’s why strength training should be a regular part of your fitness routine.

  • Increasing muscle mass is the only way to boost metabolism. Fad diets claim they can increase your metabolism, but the only real way to make it happen permanently is to increase your muscle mass. This is because muscle burns more calories than fat, even at rest.
  • Regular weight training can help protect your brain. As you age, strength training can help keep you sharp. One recent study found that women who started strength training at the first signs of memory decline might ward off full-blown dementia by routinely lifting weights.
  • Muscle mass manages blood sugar levels. Because your muscles store glucose, researchers believe that muscle mass can help your body keep blood sugar in check and ward off type 2 diabetes.
  • Strength training plays a role in bone and joint help. One of the best ways to prevent or even reverse bone density loss is through strength training. If you have arthritis, studies have shown that regular resistance training can help ease joint pain.
  • Lean muscle looks good. Last but certainly not least, weight training is a surefire way to build those long, lean muscles so many women want. If you’re worried that weight training will make you look bulky, know that women do not have the testosterone levels required to get bigger from weight lifting. Instead, you’ll look lean and toned.

More Fitness Equals Less Fatness

Look around you and chances are you’ll see that more than two adults in three are overweight or obese. Perhaps you are among them and you’re thinking, “That’s O.K. I’m no different from anyone else, so what’s the point in waging yet another losing battle against the bulge?”

You are not alone. A subtle form of peer pressure has convinced many, consciously or otherwise, that it’s acceptable to be significantly heavier than the “normal” weight ranges listed on a body mass index (B.M.I.) or doctor’s height-weight chart.

As Americans have gained extra pounds in recent decades, Mary A. Burke, an economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston who studies social norms, says they seem to have adjusted to a new normal regarding weight. A study she and co-authors published in 2010 revealed that a growing proportion of overweight adults — 21 percent of women and 46 percent of men (up from 14 percent and 41 percent, respectively, in the 1990s) — consider their weight “about right.” And a study published in JAMA last year found that fewer adults who were overweight or obese were trying to shed excess pounds.

Public health experts fear that this trend toward “fat acceptance” bodes ill for future well-being and the soaring costs of chronic weight-related ailments like heart disease, hypertension, Type 2 diabetes and more than a dozen kinds of cancer. As Dr. Burke wrote in a recent issue of JAMA devoted to obesity, public health and medical professionals worry that “individuals who do not believe they are overweight, or who view obesity in a positive light, are less likely to seek treatment for weight loss.”

Even doctors may be tempted to give up trying to convince their overweight patients to lose weight. Although Medicare now covers up to 20 visits for weight loss counseling each year, few doctors (or perhaps I should say few patients) have taken advantage of this benefit. Yet only a 5 percent or 10 percent reduction in weight can often result in a significant improvement in health risks like high blood pressure, blood sugar or serum cholesterol levels. In other words, you don’t have to become model-thin to improve your health and life expectancy.

In an editorial in the JAMA issue, Dr. Edward H. Livingston, bariatric surgeon at the University of Texas Southwestern School of Medicine, suggested that perhaps a different message — one that encourages physical fitness — would do more to improve the health of individual patients and the overall population “than continuing to advise weight loss when that message is increasingly ignored.”

Indeed, as one team of specialists put it in JAMA, “Low cardio-respiratory fitness may pose a greater risk to health than obesity.” The team, headed by Ann Blair Kennedy of the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, cited a 2014 analysis showing that, compared with normal-weight people who were physically fit, unfit individuals had an increased risk of death regardless of what they weighed, and those who were fit and overweight or obese did not face a significantly greater mortality risk when compared with normal-weight individuals.

But before you give up trying to lose weight, a better understanding of the likely sources of those extra pounds and the most successful approaches to losing them may help you achieve a double goal: more fitness and less fatness.

The average weight of American adults and children was fairly stable until 1980. Then began a frightening rise that has only recently shown some signs of leveling off. There are many reasons, among them the growing employment of women outside the home contributing to a decline in home cooking; greater reliance on packaged and processed foods; the rise of fast foods, takeout and restaurant meals; and a commensurate decline in physical activity. A result: more calories in and fewer out, a perfect formula for weight gain.

Several decades of commercial weight-loss diets, ranging from the Drinking Man’s Diet to the low-carb Atkins Diet, each claiming to be the best way to get rid of unwanted fat with minimal or no sacrifice to taste and satiety, tempted those struggling with rising poundage. Most, however, involved a radical change in people’s eating habits that was rarely sustainable. After a while, dieters returned to their old habits and regained the lost weight, often more than they had lost in the first place.

As Dr. Livingston stated, “Providing patients with the false hope that if they only reduce one class of foods or another (e.g., carbohydrates or fats) they will lose weight can become frustrating, and may in part explain the failure of most diets.” Even reducing consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (which provide no nutrients beyond sweet calories), he wrote, “is not likely to influence obesity at the population level,” which has continued to increase even as soda consumption has declined.

Rather than a soda tax, Dr. Livingston endorsed taxes based on the calorie content of foods, and using the revenue generated “to subsidize healthy foods to make them more affordable.” Noting that “the common denominator for all successful diet plans is calorie reduction, irrespective of how that is achieved,” he said that a slimmer American populace can be achieved only if attention is paid to the entire food supply.

That attention is unlikely to be paid anytime soon by either the processed food industry or government regulatory agencies, so it is up to consumers to take matters into their own hands, eyes and mouths. The goal is not radical change but a reduction in calories of 500 a day and/or an increase in physical activity to achieve a weekly deficit of 3,500 calories, the approximate amount in one pound of body fat.

Just eliminating any of these — a bagel with cream cheese, one Big Mac, a Belgian waffle with a drizzle of syrup, one cup of Häagen-Dazs Green Tea ice cream, a Starbucks Venti Caramel Frappuccino with whipped cream, or one serving of a Cheesecake Factory Santa Fe chicken salad — will create that 500-calorie deficit. (For the sake of comparison, you’d have to eat six apples or seven eggs to get to 500 calories. Or you could choose a two-cup Wegman’s Caesar salad for a mere 200 calories.)

If you live in a city that mandates calorie listings on menus, pay attention before you order. Also always request dressings and sauces on the side and drizzle them on yourself rather than let the restaurant pour hundreds of calories on a low-calorie salad or chicken breast.

Everything You Need To Know About Daylight Saving Time 2018


March 06, 2018 05:57 PM

It’s almost time to spring forward!

Daylight saving time begins this Sunday, March 11, at 2:00 a.m. And yes, this is the one where you lose an hour of sleep. But don’t fret! That means you gain one more precious hour of sunlight at the end of the day to beat those end-of-winter doldrums.

So don’t forget to set any clocks that aren’t on a smart device ahead one hour before heading to bed Saturday night. And get ready to have your microwave display the wrong time for the next 8 months because you don’t want to break out the instruction manual.

Daylight saving time may not be the most thrilling day on your calendar, but the practice is celebrating it’s 100th birthday this year.

It was first enacted by the federal government as a way to save coal during World War I in the spring of 1918, and was only meant to exist during wartime. The practice was technically ended later that same year, but many regions continued to follow it, until eventually the government put the measure back in place in 1966.

The next major change came in 2007, when the Department of Transportation (DOT), which is surprisingly in charge of the practice, expanded daylight saving time to encompass about 65% of the year.

The DOT was assigned the responsibility because the switch affects so many modes of transportation. The agency continues to observe the twice-yearly time swap because it reportedly saves energy, cuts down on traffic accidents and reduces crime.

States have the final say on if they participate, though. Hawaii and most of Arizona do not — the latter because it receives so much sunlight already. The islands of American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands abstain as well.

According USA Today, 26 states are considering making daylight saving time permanent, starting with Florida, but this change would require approval by Congress.

Research varies as to whether or not the practice actually satisfies its reasonings — air conditioning units have shown to cost more energy in some areas — but at the very least, the extra hour encourages more time outside. And whether you spend that working out or sipping cocktails on the patio, a little more sunshine is never a bad thing.