• dr.aylalester

Muscle is medicine

Updated: Aug 8, 2018

WARNING: Getting strong may lead to improved self-esteem, confidence, and happiness....& you'll age better!

Muscle building leads to:

-better eating habits

-better sleep quality

-better sex

-improved strength

-happy hormones

-anti-depressive effects

- balanced moods

-improved stamina

-improved sleep quality

-improved immune function

-stress reduction

-& feeling better in general

If that doesn’t fire you up, maybe the anti- aging part will:

At a recent conference I attended, Dr. Tanya Moore, ND stated that the root cause of pre-mature aging (starting in our 30’s), is muscle loss! This is perpetuated by:

poor food choices

natural declines in hormonal output as we age

increases in inflammation

increased obesity and fat deposition

mitochondrial dysfunction

Hold up, what are mitochondria and why are they so important?

These powerhouses are the energy producers of our cells –they make ATP (energy). As we age, mitochondria function declines, and oxidative stress that damages cells occurs more readily, driving the aging process.  Studies have shown a link to mitochondrial function and signalling pathways that regulate life span and the aging process.  Furthermore, longevity is at least partly mediated by improved mitochondrial function. Therefore, improving mitochondrial function can delay the onset of age-related diseases.

So wait a minute, muscle can help slow down the aging process?


BRB I have to get to the gym….

 As you build more muscle, your body is building more cells. More cells = more functioning mitochondria = more energy. And, strength training can make the mitochondria you do have function better.

Did you know that muscle comes into play as a major treatment for nearly all chronic conditions? Can you think of what these conditions have in common?


Your muscle system is an organ system that it makes up 40% of your total body mass. In the muscle cells, certain immune molecules that are anti-inflammatory in nature get released. AKA your muscles become this depot for anti-inflammatory things. And if you didn’t know, inflammation leads to aging too.  

Besides improved strength and anti-aging, muscle also plays a role in:

Thyroid hormone signalling (for metabolism and energy)

Improved thyroid hormone levels from muscle signalling leads to improved metabolism and increases in energy.  

Fat loss and visceral obesity (fat deposits surrounding your organs)

Did you know that muscle also eats fat? Although this takes time, eventually, increases in muscle mass will shift the metabolism to decrease fat. Eating away fat on the outside means the fat around your organs is diminishing too.  Word to the wise, you also don’t have to be obese to have fat around your organs. Skinny people can have a an body composition with very little muscle and mostly, fat, skin and bone. And this isn’t good either. This could mean malnourishment and nutritional deficiencies, fragility, pre-mature aging, and decreased lifespan (from increased risk of fractures increasing mortality).

Blood sugar regulation

Muscle needs glucose to function and grow, so it transports this sugar from the blood, naturally lowering blood sugar levels. In part, this helps prevent metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Chronic pain

Strength training has been shown to reduce pain in the posterior chain (low back and spine, glutes, hamstrings and calf muscles). A strong posterior chain will also affect posture and proper alignment of the spine, saving our knees and ankles from pain down the road.  

Testosterone, growth hormone, and cortisol

"Differences in exercises leads to differences in hormone levels, and the science is out on whether these hormonal increases lead to increases in skeletal muscle mass. But no matter, if you are training for health, these hormones are a good thing".

Dr. Tanya Moore, ND

6 Things to consider with strength training:

1.  It is the lower reps, heavier weight (preformed properly) that will provide the most health benefits (plus adequate recovery for conditioning, and proper nutrition).

2. The training program must vary or the body will adapt, and plateau.

3. And ladies, this idea of “toning” –  it has to go!  Women do not have the testosterone to get “bulky” (unless using steroids). So, drop the 2 lb weights and high reps, and start training for strength, stamina, and longevity. Insert [better sex, sleep, and HAPPINESS] here.

4.     STAY THE COURSE, TRUST THE PROCESS - Muscle mass will happen on top of the fat, which at first may make you feel bigger at the start.  Trust that this muscle with the metabolic changes occurring in the body WILL start to burn that fat.

5.     The big lifts (squats and deadlifts) are the best exercises, and nearly everyone can (read: should) deadlift! Building that booty has its benefits!

6.     DO NOT (and I repeat, DON’T) do this alone! Hiring a personal trainer or a conditioning coach that knows what is best for you and your body is the best thing that you can do! No book or you-tube videos can teach you like a coach can.

My suggestion: 2110 fitness in YYC . This place is all about functional fitness, fun, and community!  2110 has some of the best strength and functional fitness coaches around.  They also have group conditioning classes if you prefer getting sweaty with friends. AND they offer complementary one-on-one sessions to try it out!

As always, if you resonated with this information and would like to chat more about how muscle building can benefit you, come see me. I offer complementary mini-consultations for this reason!

Happy muscle building,

Dr. A