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Monday, August 24, 2009

VAT Trumps Muscle

Meet Wally (not his real name).

Wally is in his mid 40's and is built like a wall. Get it? Wally? :)-


Wally's upper body muscle volume is easily three times anyone I know----including my Greek god mentioned in yesterday's blog. Wally makes my Greek god look like a toothpick. Words can't express how 'stacked' this fellow is---just think of the most buff PRO football player you can think of and you have a fraction of the idea of how much muscle mass Wally has in his upper body. He claims to have never used steroids, btw. He's just really been into lifting weights and body building his whole life.

Wally taught me that "V.A.T. trumps muscle."

You would think with all that muscle he would be an incredible glucose burning machine, right?

But then as I did research into "bulky muscles" (ie: fast twitch fibers) vs "lean muscles" (ie: slow twitch fibers) it started to make more sense. Wally has been building his bod via heavy weight lifting---a fast twitch endeavor. What I didn't realize until recently is that fast twitch fibers only have a fraction of the mitochondria of slow twitch muscle fibers.

Mitochondria are the organelle powerhouses inside each cell. Like our local electric company, the "Might Mos" are responsible for providing ATP, the basic unit of cell energy, to the cell/tissue/organ they occupy. Mighty Mos are most abundant in the most metabolically active tissues such as heart, kidney, liver, brain and muscles.

Mighty Mos are in all skeletal muscles. However,which type of muscle would need more Mighty Mos for energy? Wally's muscle that lifts something heavy a few reps...aka: fast twitch fiber? Or the muscle of a long distance runner....aka: slow twitch fiber?

The slow twitch muscle fiber of the long distance runner would need much more energy, ATP, and thus Mighty Mos to carry on their endurance feats. Said another way, a long distance endurance athlete with lean, slow twitch muscles would actually have more mitochondria than his fast twitch heavy weight lifting body builder counterpart.

The Mighty Mo creates energy by taking in carbs, fats and proteins from our food and putting it through a wonderful biochemical reaction (ie: Kreb's cycle) resulting in ATP.

Now, back to the wall of muscle Wally....

What you don't know about Wally is that he has a significant V.A.T. brewing. To be safe, we shouldn't be able to pinch more than an inch of V.A.T. while standing. Wally has a handful.

How can this be? He's got enough muscle for a least three Greek gods! With all that glucose craving muscle, how could he have a V.A.T.?

Reason number one has been sited above: Wally's massive muscles are slow twitch muscles and thus, have less glucose consuming Mighty Mos than one would expect.

Reason number two: Despite all his bulky muscle, Wally has a sweet tooth. And he also has a V.A.T.

And now that he's in his 40's and Wally's body is not quite as efficient as it use to be, Wally's body needs some help removing the excess glucose from his blood. Yes, despite all that bulky muscle, Wally's body is AGEing (Advanced Glycation Endproducts) rapidly. His body is looking for a way to drain that glucose from his blood. And how does the body rapidly drain this glucose from his bloodstream?

By lodging and storing the glucose in the V.A.T.

The moral of this blog is this: V.A.T. trumps muscle.

I don't care how much muscle you have....even if its enough for three Greek gods...its still not enough muscles if after a 14 hour fast you have a 105 glucose reading and a significantly sized tire belly (ie: V.A.T.). (Note: optimal fasting glucose is 80-85).

V.A.T. trumps muscle.

In other words, no matter how much muscle a person has, if there is a significant sized V.A.T., then I guarantee you that there is an imbalance somewhere within that person's glucose/insulin metabolism and thus, he has Limit-Age Syndrome.I'm not blogging this to advocate we give up weight lifting. Heavens no!

I'm blogging this for two reasons.

Number one, to help my readers realize the value of cardio workouts because cardio exercise helps us build slow twitch fibers absolutely packed with glucose hungry Mighty Mos. Walking, stepping, cycling, swimming and low weight/high rep weight training are all great cardio work-outs that are easy on the joints.

Number two, because of the importance of 'balance' between the amount of Mighty Mos and the amount of sugar influx.

Get it?

Its about balance.

Its about ratio.

Its about the relationship between the amount of high glycemic foods taken in versus the amount of glucose hungry Mighty Mos that are standing by to gobble up the the glucose surge.

In the poker game of life, V.A.T. trumps muscle every time.

Got V.A.T.?


Then no matter how much muscle mass you have built up, you've still got Limit-Age Syndrome.

Thanks to Wally, I'll never look at a person's skeletal muscle the same way. I realize now that bulky muscles does NOT automatically equate with mitochondrial density and massive glucose uptake 24/7.

Lean muscle does NOT automatically equate with mitochondrial sparsity and lower glucose uptake 24/7.

Like the saying goes, you simply can't judge a book, or in this case, Mighty Mo density, by its cover (ie: muscle size).

Those that perform only low rep/heavy weight training have thick, bulky muscles but don't have long-distance stamina (ie: lower ATP generating Mighty Mos) and are more prone to a major case of Diabesity V.A.T. later in life (ie: lower glucose eating Mighty Mos).

Long-distance runners and cyclists, for example, with their long, slender muscles can remain "VAT-free" for the duration of their life. These V.A.T.-free endurance athletes are not leaner just because they may burn more calories during their work-outs (see Calorie Hoax blog). Endurance athletes may be more likely to be V.A.T.-free because even during rest they have many times more Mighty Mos within their muscle gobbling glucose from the blood stream 24/7.

Given the above, I hope we all can appreciate the importance to having BOTH a cardio and weight training component to our exercise routine. And more precisely, the Mighty Mo generating benefit of throwing in a lower weight/higher rep component (aka: endurance weight training) now and then to our higher weight/lower rep weight lifting routine.

Wally's case has provided me with a new found self-love and self-respect for my own lean, frail-looking, twig-like, slow twitch, Mighty Mo packed arms----arms that can easily swim one hour+ of "crawl" laps without fatigue.

"Kiss kiss". You go girls. I love you both...

Stay tuned...