|Muscle loss is one of the few phenomena for which I prefer exercise over diet. When you think about muscle preservation and muscle building, it’s easy to think about protein first.|
Certainly, adequate protein is crucial for muscle health, and the Phase One Diet includes optimal levels of high quality protein. The amino acids help build and maintain muscle fibers. But I think there’s something else to keep in mind.
If you’ve ever broken your arm and put it into a cast for several weeks, you noticed something unsettling when the cast is removed. The arm that was in the cast became much, much thinner. The muscles in that arm “atrophied”.
But why? Is it because the arm in the cast got less protein than the healthy arm? Of course not. Every time you ate a protein meal, the same protein that went to the healthy arm also went to the injured arm.
The difference is that the arm in the cast couldn’t move or bend or do any work whatsoever. It was stationary, and it was because of that lack of any work (or “stress”) that the muscle shrunk in only a few weeks.
Assuming you get a normal amount of protein each week – and you probably are if you’re doing Phase One – the most important thing you can do to preserve and build muscle tissue is to work it. But you need not join a gym. Basic calisthenics, pushups, crunches, or light dumbbell work is all that’s necessary. The more you do, the easier it becomes, and you’ll find yourself adding a few more sets, and a few more pounds to the dumbbell over time. Sure, if you want an athletic physique it’ll require more effort. But for the purposes of lifelong health, just getting in a little muscle stress a few times a week, along with a proper diet, will help ensure strength throughout your life.