I wanted to share a Ted Talk with you that I recently watched. I have been following this doctor for a while and she’s interesting to me. It seems that her entire practice and health philosophy is, that in order to be healthy, you need to have muscle, or what she calls the ‘organ of longevity’.

She studied gerontology and obesity and is trying to shift the paradigm away from the traditional one, of ‘lose fat to get healthy’, to ‘gain muscle to get healthy‘. Her belief, after years of clinical research and personal practice, isn’t that we are ‘overfat’, its that we are undermuscled.

Why is being undermuscled an issue?

Our muscle is the largest endocrine organ in the body, it controls our metabolism, it propels us forward and keeps us standing upright. Less muscle means a slower metabolism, it means less room for our body to deposit glucose and therefore more blood sugar imbalances, it means lower bone density, it means less energy (as our ATP is produced in our muscles), it means decreased brain health as it causes less movement which results in less production of BDNF, commonly referred to as fertilizer for your brain, it means vulnerability and loss of independence. So, she is definitely on to something.

It’s also a fact, the greater your muscle mass the greater your survival from any disease. This study shows that all cause mortality as SIGNIFICANTLY lower with increased muscle mass.

Let’s change our focus from loss to gain!

What I really liked is how she talked about moving our focus away from loss to gain. So many people exercise in order to lose weight. They eat in a way that helps them lose weight. But what about exercising so you gain muscle? So you gain independence? So you build up your mitochondria and therefore stimulate your metabolism. So you fertilize your brain? So you gain years of your life and life in those years.

So what are the best ways to build muscle?

The best way to build muscle is to work on the premise that resistance training and dietary protein work synergistically to protect muscle health. So do both, not just one.

Dr Lyon’s recommendation:
1) Resistance exercise: Lift weights 3 x per week
2) Increase Dietary Protein overall.
3) Increase the protein at first and last meal of the day. Consume up to 40 grams of protein at breakfast and at dinner.

My take: I agree with her wholeheartedly. So much so that I would argue that our muscle mass should be a fifth vital sign our doctors should look at during check ups. I agree that we should lift weights 2 – 3 times per week but also think we need to also ensure we focus on endurance cardio (ie walking or hiking) and high intensity intervals (stair climbing, skipping, sprinting, spinning etc). As for 40 grams of protein at breakfast and dinner.. That might be an ideal but not incredibly realistic for everyone. I usually say a minimum of 20, but ideally 30 at each of those meals.

Check out her 10 minute talk below.


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