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While it is necessary to be cautious about what you eat, it is also crucial to monitor your body every now and then. Check the well-being of your bodily systems. Be aware of the proper composition of your muscles and bones.
If perhaps you’re finding it hard to move around, then maybe you’re experiencing a deficit in muscle mass. It’s probably time for you to start monitoring your lean body and muscle mass percentages.
How do you do it? Well, read on to know more about the ways and importance of calculating your muscle mass.
What is Muscle Mass?
Muscle mass and lean body mass are often used interchangeably, as they are closely related to each other. However, those two don’t actually mean the same.
Muscle mass is the number of soft muscle tissues in your body. It is only a portion of your lean body mass. Lean body mass is the general term and is comprised of the muscles, bones, and fluids.
Muscle mass includes these three types:
- Skeletal muscle
- Smooth muscle
- Cardiac muscle
Skeletal muscles are the ones found throughout the body that allows you to move. They are attached to the bones by tendons. Smooth muscles are the muscles within your internal organs, while cardiac muscle refers specifically to the heart muscle. Most context of the muscle mass typically refers to the skeletal muscle.
The muscle mass percentage of a person depends on his/her age, gender, and lifestyle. Generally, men have more skeletal muscle mass than women. Muscle mass tends to decrease as a person ages. People who frequent the gym for some workout sessions are bound to develop more muscles than those who don’t.
Benefits of Muscle Mass
The primary function of the muscles is to produce force and motion. More specifically, a healthy muscle mass allows you to:
- Stay mobile
- Prevent sarcopenia
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Reduce the risk of injury
- Promote bone density
Sarcopenia is a syndrome characterized by progressive deterioration or loss of skeletal muscle mass and function. Keeping the skeletal muscle healthy results in better movement, balance, and strength. It maintains proper mobility and helps adults counter sarcopenia.
Additionally, having a healthy muscle mass indicates a healthy weight. A higher percentage of muscle mass generally depicts a lower amount of body fats. It could also result in lesser severity in cases of injuries. Working out to build muscle mass can simultaneously increase bone density as well.
How to Calculate Muscle Mass Percentage
As previously mentioned, muscle mass depends on your height, age, gender, and fitness level. That is why it isn’t easy to pinpoint a specific formula or method to measure it. The measuring of muscle mass is often only based on the result after computing the lean body mass.
There is still no standard method of taking the muscle mass percentage from the lean body mass.
Further studies are being done to determine a more accurate way of measuring the body’s muscle mass percentage. Here are some of the current methods on how to know your muscle mass percentage:
1. Getting an MRI
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is by far the most precise and reliable method of knowing your muscle mass percentage. An MRI takes an image of your muscles through the use of strong magnetic fields that will rearrange the hydrogen atoms in your body.
This will generate a release of energy that is used to quantify the muscles.
In a study in the Journal of Applied Physiology, the researchers employed a whole-body MRI on 468 men and women. This was done to determine the influence of gender, age, weight, and height on the skeletal muscle mass distribution.
Another objective of the study is to create reference data for the muscle mass in both men and women. A tabular representation of their results is presented in their journal. It shows the total and relative skeletal muscle mass according to age brackets.
However, currently, there are still no standard guidelines regarding the normal or healthy muscle mass percentages that an individual should have.
2. Using a Body Fat Scale
Getting an MRI is quite expensive, making it an impractical choice in measuring your muscle mass. For the sake of estimation, you can actually calculate your muscle mass at home by weighing yourself on a body fat scale.
You’ll have to input your height, gender, and age. The scale incorporates them to the impedance value to complete the estimation.
A body fat scale uses bioelectrical impedance to send a weak intensity of current to your body.
Fats conduct less electricity than the muscles, meaning it is more resistant. The resistance is then quantified as the number of fats. The greater the resistance is, the higher is the percentage of fats.
Body fat scale is an easy-to-use tool that shows both your body weight and the estimated fat percentage. Subtract this percentage from 100, and you will have your lean body mass percentage.
% Lean Body Mass = 100 – %Body Fat
Remember that muscle mass is not equal to your lean body mass, as the former is only a portion of the latter. Also, note that using the body fat scale is not the most accurate method available. However, through this, you can still have a rough estimation of your muscle mass percentage.
3. Using The Military Formula
Another way to estimate your body fat percentage is by using the formula that involves measuring the circumference of different body parts. This is the method recommended by the Navy Physical Fitness Program.
You have to get your circumference value (CV) and place it on the chart containing the corresponding body fat percentage estimates. You can then use that value to calculate and determine your approximate lean body mass percentage.
For men, CV is equal to the abdominal circumference minus the neck circumference. For women, CV is equivalent to the sum of the waist and hip circumferences minus neck circumference.
Just like the body fat scale, this formula is also just an estimation. Therefore, it is not entirely accurate.
4. Online Calculators
The calculators available online are usually for lean body mass and not specifically for muscle mass. However, as previously said, these two are correlated.
Many online calculators can help you compute your lean body mass by inputting some body composition information. These include your gender, weight, and height. But like the other methods, these calculators are also not completely precise nor reliable.
Why Do You Have To Calculate Muscle Mass?
It is a general rule to take care of the body. You have to eat a balanced diet, do some regular exercise, and have enough fluids and sleep. But it is more of an initiative actually to measure and monitor the different components of your body. In addition to blood sugar and blood pressure, you also have to keep track of your body fat percentage, lean body mass, and muscle mass.
1. Health Indicator
Muscle mass percentage can be taken as a health indicator. As a person gets older, the muscle mass naturally diminishes. This situation is called sarcopenia, and it usually begins at the age of 30. The reduction of muscle mass can make walking, running, and other motor skills difficult.
Aside from declining physical function, you may also be more prone to injury. Being aware of your muscle mass allows you to take action to build or regain it.
2. Weight loss
Also, calculating lean body mass and muscle mass is essential in losing weight. Health enthusiasts go to the gym often to build their muscles. If you want to effectively achieve your fitness goals, you have to monitor your muscle mass percentage. This will help you decide if you have to step up or slow down your workout procedures.
Effects of Having Low Muscle Mass
Low muscle mass is now a diagnostic criterion for malnutrition and could therefore affect the body’s well-being. Having a percentage of muscle mass that is lower than the average could impose the following issues:
- Difficulty in upholding motor skills
- Lower physical function
- Higher surgical complications
- Metabolic syndrome
A higher-than-average muscle mass actually has its drawbacks, too. Besides finding it hard to find clothes that fit you, you’ll also need to consume more calories to suffice your energy needs.
It may also reduce your flexibility. That is why you have to maintain a regulated amount of muscle mass rather than just mindlessly increasing it every time.
How To Build Muscle Mass
Whether it is to maintain a healthy body composition or pose a physically fit body, you have to build muscle mass to its adequate amount. Here are the ways of doing so:
1. Eat More Protein
Protein is the building block of the muscles. Hence, this macronutrient is essential for muscle growth and maintenance. You need a significant amount of protein, especially if you undergo arduous training.
The fastest way to load your body with protein is by consuming whole foods, such as:
- Beef, pork, lamb, and other red meat
- Chicken and other poultry
- Milk and other dairy products
- You can also get protein from plant-based foods. These include:
- Soy products, such as soymilk and tofu
A healthy amount of carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals is also necessary to fuel and repair your muscles. Having a daily dose of fruits and vegetables will satisfy your stomach without gaining fat.
The antioxidants and fiber in them also aid in proper digestion and metabolism.
That being said, you also need to avoid or limit your intake of processed foods. These foods can only provide you trans-fats, added sugar, and preservatives that are harmful to your body.
2. Eat Every Three Hours
To boost muscle mass, you need to eat the right food at the right time. Be sure to have something to eat during the three fundamental meals: breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Don’t be shy to grab a snack in between meals and especially after a workout. Eating smaller meals several times is said to be better than having big ones in fewer frequencies.
Not eating in longer intervals will result in cravings and overeating, which is not really the proper way to build your muscles.
3. Train Heavy
Heavy training will challenge your muscles, and when done correctly, it will promote muscle tear and rebuild. Exercising regularly and doing effective workouts help burn fats, which consequently increases lean body mass.
Do some strength training activities, such as pushups, squats, and lunges. Resistance band and free weights exercises will also help. You can complete these activities in high reps, but remember not to overstrain your muscles along the way.
4. Drink Water Regularly
Water comprises most of the muscle mass. According to a 2019 study, the progressive decline of total body water and intracellular water can be correlated to the loss of muscle mass due to aging.
To decrease the risk of such a situation, you need to drink more water as you get older.
Also, intense training and workout sessions could make you feel dehydrated. Dehydration can impair muscle recovery, thus preventing muscle mass increase. It is crucial to have enough water to replenish the amount lost due to sweating.
5. Have Enough Rest
While it is smart to focus on your building-the-muscle workout, you should also let your muscles have enough time to recover. Fatigue and exhaustion are not beneficial for the muscles and the whole body in general.
Constant training without enough rest is counterproductive. So, have breaks in between sets during your workout sessions. Ensure that you have sufficient time for sleep, too.
6. Drink Milk or Protein Shake Before Bed
Sleep is the longest period of fasting within a day. During sleep, your body releases cortisol to maintain metabolic function. Cortisol can inhibit protein synthesis, which means that your body will have difficulty in building the muscles.
A way to manage this is by consuming a protein-filled drink, such as milk and protein shake, before going to bed. This shall help you build muscles even while you’re asleep. Protein does not only maximize muscle gains; it can also help you sleep better.
7. Lose Fats, Not Muscles
Lastly, if you’re on a diet, do not overdo it to the point of depriving yourself of energy. Dieting can help get rid of unwanted fats, thus increasing lean body mass.
But excessive dieting can also promote muscle protein breakdown. Therefore, you should follow an appropriate diet plan that will let you lose weight without affecting your muscle mass percentage.
Knowing your muscle mass percentage essentially helps you to monitor the progress you are making in your fitness quest. Since it is done regularly, it enables you to increase your muscle mass compared to body fat.
Any positive results should indicate progress in achieving your fitness goals. Every single week, you will be able to determine how much muscle mass you have gained or lost.
Using the results, you can make adjustments to your program whenever you need to. That’s especially when you seem to be losing muscle mass rather than gaining it.
After all, getting the perfect diet or training program is not just possible. It would be best if you kept making regular adjustments until you can see progress. But you cannot do that without the muscle mass percentage calculator.
Also, bear in mind that the pace you train muscles varies from one person to another. It is determined by your body’s reaction time, genetics, age, muscle memory, and experience.
Even as you strive to monitor how much muscle mass you are gaining, you need to consider these factors. Don’t push yourself too hard when your muscle mass percentage seems not to move fast.
Don’t overlook the importance of the muscle mass percentage calculator. It is what you need to keep track of your progress towards fitness. Start using it today!