Insulin Resistance and Muscle Mass

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Strength training is increasingly important as we get older but is especially important during peri-menopause when we have decreasing muscle mass along with fluctuating hormones. Our muscles naturally decline as we age and this becomes more apparent as we go through our 40’s and 50’s. Decreasing muscle mass means decreasing metabolism, which has far reaching consequences that slowly but surely creep in.

Muscle plays a huge role in managing our blood sugars because muscle tissue is a major site for glucose uptake in the body. If you have less muscle then you have less options for glucose storage and use – each muscle is like a mini factory. During exercise, muscle contractions stimulate the transport of glucose into the muscle cells independently of insulin. This means that exercising muscles can take up glucose from the bloodstream, reducing blood sugar levels and decreasing the demand for insulin. My workouts focus on building muscle – the bigger the muscle group the better, which is why I always recommend glutes and legs as important focus areas.

Regular exercise also helps increase the number and sensitivity of insulin receptors on muscle cells. When insulin binds to these receptors, it triggers a series of events that allow glucose to enter the cells. By enhancing insulin receptor sensitivity, muscles become more responsive to insulin, improving glucose uptake and reducing insulin resistance. Consistency is important to ensure the factory works efficiently.

Regular exercise also promotes the storage of glucose in the form of glycogen within muscle tissue. This glycogen can be readily broken down and used as a source of energy during physical activity. By increasing the capacity for glycogen storage, muscle helps regulate blood glucose levels and reduces insulin resistance.

Something that is often over-looked but that is really important is that muscle is a metabolically active tissue, meaning it requires energy to function even at rest. Having a higher proportion of lean muscle mass increases the basal metabolic rate, leading to greater energy expenditure throughout the day. This can contribute to weight management and help prevent or reduce obesity, which is a risk factor for insulin resistance.

Muscle tissue also plays a crucial role in the metabolism of fats. Regular exercise helps improve our lipid profile by increasing the breakdown of triglycerides (stored fats) and utilizing them as an energy source. Lowering levels of circulating fats in the blood can improve insulin sensitivity.

Another important factor is the impact on hormonal balance, including insulin and other hormones related to insulin resistance. Regular strength training exercises, such as resistance training, can stimulate the release of growth hormone and other anabolic hormones, which promote muscle growth and improved insulin sensitivity.

It’s important to note that maintaining and building muscle requires a combination of resistance training exercises (body weight training, free weights and / or resistance bands) and adequate protein intake. You can make a significant difference to your future health by adopting a consistent training programme, such as the ones I offer on my app. The monthly challenges with set workouts each week are a brilliant starting point if you don’t know how to begin or how to build consistent training. Always remember that over-training isn’t a good thing so try to reduce some of the cardio you may be doing (running / cycling / gym bases cardio etc) and replace with strength work – cardio can be a stressor so always listen to your body.

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