If you’re someone who doesn’t like the figure they see when they step on the scales or wishes to one day drop a belt or jean size, we imagine the first step you’re going to take to achieve these goals is to put yourself on a strict diet.
Diets have long been hailed for their ability to help us lose body fat, by restricting or changing the foods we consume. News flash: eating right is better than eating less. However, a diet may not be the best offence for weight loss, but the secret actually lies in the amount of muscle we have, and we should aim to gain more muscle in order to say bye-bye to body fat.
Revealing what could initially be seen as contradictive advice is Dr Gabrielle Lyon, an expert physician and advocate for Muscle-Centric Medicine, a concept that can also prove vital in prolonging the ageing process. Appearing on American nutritionist Max Lugavere’s podcast The Genius Life, Dr Lyon explains in great detail how muscle is the key to shedding fat.
Beginning by saying “muscle is the largest organ in the body, it’s actually not just for locomotion, it’s an endocrine organ (part of the endocrine system; the network of glands that produce hormones) it determines everything about the way that we age.”
“When muscle contracts, it releases things, called myokines which travel throughout the body to protect the body, the brain, and they help with nutrition partitioning.”
Going on to claim that having muscle for aesthetic reasons is probably the “least important aspect” – sorry gym bros – Dr Lyon explains it is also our “metabolic currency, it determines everything about our body composition.”
She adds that muscle is a key player in preventing cardiovascular diseases, Alzheimer’s and diabetes, and, speaking about one of her previous patients who battled with obesity her entire life, she says,
“I realised at that moment that everyone is focusing on the wrong tissue, that we are looking at the pathological problem, we’re looking at pathology, we’re looking at adipose tissue. Most people regain the weight.”
“But the reality is, the solution is muscle.”
“By shifting the paradigm from the failure of the fat-focused paradigm to a muscle-centric approach, we can change the trajectory of ageing. And that’s where muscle-centric medicine was born.”
Max is on hand to break it down into layman’s terms, “So rather than obsess over the amount of fat we may or may not be carrying you’re saying, that’s putting the cart before the horse.”
Further explaining that insulin resistance – when your body’s cells don’t respond normally to insulin, meaning glucose can build up in your cells where it isn’t regulated, leading to type 2 diabetes – “starts in the skeletal muscle, because skeletal muscle is the primary site for glucose disposal.”
“However, everybody is talking about fat tissue, but that comes later.”
“Muscle tissue is like a suitcase, if you overfill it, things spill back into the bloodstream. Then you store it as fat, not first. So by optimising muscle tissue through resistance exercise, through really understanding the importance of high quality dietary protein, you can take care of this tissue that decline with ageing, that becomes more insulin resistant.”
In real-world terms, Max adds that if you’re someone who is overweight, “don’t worry about the weight loss, focus on putting on as much muscle as you can for your frame and your genetics.”
Dr Lyon confirms, “You have to correct metabolic composition first, by correcting and making sure you have healthy muscle tissue, the weight will come off.”
“But by focusing on the weight loss, the quick fix, the fasting even, it’s not about the amount of weight you lose, it’s about the quality. So every time you lose weight for the most part you lose partially muscle tissue and partially fat tissue.”
“But if you do it strategically, the majority of of the weight can just be fat.”
The remainder of the podcast is just as informative and insightful, and we wholly recommend giving it a listen. But for this piece of information alone, it could prove highly beneficial to more people wishing to lose weight.
Putting yourself on a diet can be stressful, and you’re nearly always going to want to reach for the junk food as a reward – but one cheat day can wreck a whole week’s work – however, focusing on gaining muscle through strength and resistance exercise can be easier, and according to Dr Lyon, has far more effective results.