Human Performance & Athletic Development
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Muscle Talks

Why This Matters To You

1. Training positions you to enjoy a better quality of life and stave off the preventable disease epidemic.

2. Improves your ability to look better naked.

Before we get started let's go over what to expect from reading this article:

  • The importance of muscular communication 
  • A glimpse of how muscle communicates with the rest of the body
  • Short-term and long-term implications of how skeletal muscle tissue improves your health.

The following terms will be used commonly as well:

  • Myokine: Myocyte (Muscle Cell) + Cytokines. Released by skeletal muscle that orchestrates communication between muscle and other endocrine organs. Primarily liver and fat cells.
  • Adipokines: Adipocyte (Fat Cell) + Cytokines. Release by fat cells that orchestrate the messaging between fat cells and organs.
  • Cytokines: Signaling molecule used for cellular communication that are primarily proteins and peptides. Think of cytokines as the way different body parts, primarily organs, communicate with each other.

The Endocrine System

As we dive into the muscular response, let's have a brief overview of the endocrine system, myokines, and adipokines and all of what we will dive into until the conclusion of this article. To start, the endocrine system is the regulatory system of our body. Through the endocrine system (previously believed to be only the pituitary, thyroid, parathyroid, and adrenal glands alongside testicles and ovaries) we produce hormones that regulate our growth, metabolism, sexual function, mood, and sleep. Prior knowledge would state that the largest endocrine organ in the body is the skin but we have transitioned this position to skeletal muscle. Until recent years, research has suggested that skeletal muscle was primarily a receiver organ that only responded to stimuli until the discovery of myokines.(If you would like a better insight of the total endocrine system you can find a simple and cool explanation here.) Myokines play a huge role in whole body metabolism, inflammatory response, hypertrophy, and glucose uptake. When skeletal muscle contracts, we excrete cytokines, protein, and peptides (all considered myokines) that interact with other organs. In contrast, when we aren't exercising and accumulate fat, adipokines release their interactive hormones that change how our bodies function. Below we will see how myokines and adipokines interact with the rest of the body and the benefits that are reaped from the expression of myokines in particular.

Preventable Disease

Below is the equation of factors that equates to poor health:

Lack of Activity + Poor Nutrition = Excess Body Fat & Inability to Handle Sugar (Glucose)

Inability to Handle Sugar = Excess Body Fat

Excess Body Fat= Inability to Handle Sugar (Glucose)

As you can see, these factors feed off of each other and create a myriad of downhill effects on our health. Excess body fat? Let's talk cardiovascular disease. Can't handle blood sugars? We're talking Type II diabetes. Unfortunately, both of these instances typically occur together so we have a total negative effect on health. Fat alone is not the problem per-se, it is how the over accumulation of fat interacts with the rest of our bodies that becomes the primary issue. Myokines and their functions (more on this later) is a rather new phenomena but research is stout on the effects of adipokines and how excess fatness plays a role in our bodies.

As we get fatter, the more dominant the expression of adipokines increases as well. Adipokines, for the most part, promote an inflammatory response within the body. Adiponectin, is released by fat cells that is actually an anti-inflammatory adipokine but decreases in circulation as body fat increases. The pro-inflammatory environment of adipokines leads to insulin resistance that begins the tidal effect of the precursors to Type II diabetes, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries), alongside the chronic low grade inflammation that threatens the integrity of your joints. We have poor movement, possible heart-attack/or stroke, and chronic pain as the result. 

The Muscle Intervention

In a previous article, Get Swole, Stay Swole, Be Healthy, I spoke of the importance of having skeletal muscle and the many positive effects it has on our health. As briefly stated earlier, myokines are released by contracting skeletal muscle via exercise. Below is proposed scenario of how myokines effect the rest of the body.

Image:  (Schnyder & Handschin, 2015)

Image: (Schnyder & Handschin, 2015)

As we exercise, muscle blunts the inflammatory effects of adipokines. The observation has huge implications on preventable disease. Myokines function by increasing insulin sensitivity, fat oxidation, and growth of muscular tissue. While there are multiple myokines that have been discovered, I will briefly touch on the major players in our health. In the case of handling blood sugar, IL-6 (Interleukin-6) encourage glucose (blood sugar) uptake into the exercising muscle. Downstream, IL-6 initiates the break down of fat cells to energize working muscle. IL-6 can be a contrary hormone; when released by fat cells it acts as an inflammatory adipokine that stimulates fat cell growth and insulin uptake. In exercise when skeletal muscle contracts, IL-6 functions as an anti-inflammatory myokine instead of a pro-inflammatory cytokine when expressed by fat cells. BDNF (Brain Derived Neutrophic Factor) has been found to effect the integrity of our mental health. Multiple studies have shown that BDNF circulations are low in those who have major depression and Alzheimer's. In terms of maintaining muscle quality and size, IL-15 (Interleukin-15) has been shown to maintain the health of myoblast (muscle cells) due to it's anabolic nature. Studies have always shown that circulating IL-15 levels have correlated with lowered fat-mass and increased lipid-metabolism. 

Overall, myokines primarily induce fat oxidation, improves insulin sensitivity, and decreases bodily inflammatory that all decrease the likelihood of preventable disease. Aside the health benefits,  anabolic factors are promoted which stimulate muscle growth and further increases lipid (fat) metabolism.

To Conclude

Our bodies are designed to move, look good, and be awesome. Being obese with poor metabolic function and health issues is the exact opposite of what we are built for. By living an active life (hopefully lifting weights, excuse my bias) we can improve the expression of our myokines that inhibit the promotion of the "diseasome of physical activity" as showed below

Diseasome of Physical inactivity:       CITATION
 Pra13 \l 1033    (Pratesi, Tarantini, & Di Bari, 2013)

Diseasome of Physical inactivity: (Pratesi, Tarantini, & Di Bari, 2013)

On top of pure health reasons (my primary concern) maintaining lean muscle tissues improves total quality of life and aids us in looking better naked (also my primary concern). Lift weights frequently, move consistently, and take control of your health (and nakedness.)

Short-Term/Long-Term Application

My bias towards building health around resistance training goes with much support. In the short term, having lean body tissue aids in preventing obesity and improves the effectiveness of the immune system, increases bone density, and maintains the overall integrity of joint structures. Long-term, the effects are fairly similar and stave off the effects of aging that decline our health. Two major compromises of health long-term is the development include sarcopenia and osteoporosis. Both of these insults to quality of health are tied back to the lack of resistance training and up-keeping the health of our soft tissues.  



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