The build­ing blocks of a great g body

Mus­cle and fat – your two power play­ers for a strong, healthy shape. As sci­en­tists are dis­cov­er­ing, their roles ex­pand way be­yond cre­at­ing curves, though. Un­der­stand the lat­est re­search, and you can max­imise their build­ing and burn­ing po­ten­tial.

Shape (Singapore) - - Total Body Tune-up -


Ev­ery­one has two dif­fer­ent types of mus­cle: type-1 (slow-twitch) fi­bres and type-2 (fast­twitch) fi­bres. “Slow-twitch fi­bres con­trol en­durance. They’re what you use for ac­tiv­i­ties like run­ning long dis­tances and low-im­pact aer­o­bic work­outs like Zumba,” says Michele Ol­son, pro­fes­sor of ex­er­cise science at Auburn Univer­sity.

Fast-twitch fi­bres are used for shorter, ex­plo­sive move­ments like squat jumps or sprints. They fatigue more quickly and re­quire more re­cov­ery time. While type-1 fi­bres re­main about the same size even af­ter you tone, type-2s get larger as they get stronger, so work­ing them is key if you want mus­cle def­i­ni­tion. “If you only fo­cus on train­ing one type, you’re miss­ing out on half the perks,” Michele says.

Fat is a lit­tle more com­pli­cated. You have white fat, which in­cludes sub­cu­ta­neous and vis­ceral kinds, and brown fat. Sub­cu­ta­neous fat is the pinch­able stuff around your hips, breasts, butt, belly and thighs that gives you curves. And, yes, it has func­tional ben­e­fits: “Sub­cu­ta­neous fat is your largest energy re­serve,” says Labros Si­dos­sis,

a pro­fes­sor of ki­ne­si­ol­ogy and health at Rut­gers Univer­sity. “It also helps reg­u­late body tem­per­a­ture and cush­ions your in­ter­nal or­gans.” This type of fat is so es­sen­tial that your body is wired to hang onto it, which can make it tough to lose.

Vis­ceral fat hides out un­der the white fat in your mid­sec­tion. “Its pur­pose is to pro­tect or­gans like your liver and in­testines,” Michele says. “But too much vis­ceral fat in­creases in­flam­ma­tion, rais­ing your risk for heart dis­ease, di­a­betes, can­cer and high blood pres­sure,” she adds. Any woman with a waist cir­cum­fer­ence of more than 89cm likely has an un­healthy amount of vis­ceral fat.

Fi­nally, there’s brown fat – the kind you ac­tu­ally want more of. “It burns calo­ries in­stead of stor­ing them,” Labros says. Ex­er­cise may help the body make more brown fat by pro­duc­ing a hor­mone called irisin, which ac­ti­vates it, ac­cord­ing to re­search pub­lished in the Amer­i­can Jour­nal of Phys­i­ol­ogy: En­docrinol­ogy and Me­tab­o­lism. And vig­or­ous work­outs may even prompt white fat to tem­po­rar­ily turn into a type of brown fat known as beige fat, which also burns calo­ries.


Like a car en­gine, your mus­cles need fuel to move. In fact, the ma­jor­ity of the energy you use dur­ing the day is for pow­er­ing your mus­cles, which have hun­dreds of es­sen­tial pur­poses be­sides help­ing you crush it at the gym, like keep­ing your heart pump­ing and main­tain­ing your bal­ance.

One of the best sources of that energy is fat. It con­tains nine calo­ries per gram, while car­bo­hy­drate, an­other top fuel source, con­tains just four.

But your body is fickle. It likes to pick and choose its gas. “You tap fat for energy when you do low-in­ten­sity ac­tiv­i­ties like typ­ing on your com­puter or go­ing for a walk,” says Keith Baar, a pro­fes­sor in the depart­ment of phys­i­ol­ogy and mem­brane bi­ol­ogy at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia Davis. “But as you in­crease phys­i­cal in­ten­sity and your mus­cles start de­mand­ing fuel faster, your body switches to burn­ing carbs, which are quicker to break down into energy.”


You’ve heard of the “fat-burn­ing zone” – an ex­er­cise in­ten­sity of about 50 to 65 per­cent of your max­i­mum heart rate, thought to be be­low the thresh­old where your body will start burn­ing carbs. It turns out, though, that crank­ing up the in­ten­sity can lead to more fat loss in the end.

“You want to burn as many calo­ries over­all as pos­si­ble dur­ing your work­out so that after­wards, your body will be forced to use fat to help your mus­cles re­cover,” Keith says. “That’s how you get the big­gest burn.”

In­ten­sity is only part of the equa­tion, how­ever. These six strate­gies will help you build mus­cle and torch fat more ef­fec­tively.

Get mov­ing early. You can blast up to 20 per cent more body fat by ex­er­cis­ing in the morn­ing. The key: Eat break­fast af­ter your work­out, re­search in the Bri­tish

Jour­nal of Nu­tri­tion sug­gests. “Your body has less glyco­gen [also known as energy] from carbs if you don’t eat, so it will have no choice but to turn to fat,” ex­plains Dr Jor­dan Metzl, a sports medicine physi­cian in New York City and the au­thor of Run­ning Strong.

Sleep more. Aim for at least seven hours a night. Less than that keeps your lev­els of the stress hor­mone cor­ti­sol el­e­vated, which may sab­o­tage the re­sults of your work­out. “Cor­ti­sol slows mus­cle growth,” Keith says. It may also cause the body to hold onto fat. “Stress is seen as a threat, so your body be­gins hoard­ing fat so it has energy stores, par­tic­u­larly in the ab­domen,” Michele says.

Fol­low the 1:3 rule. One hour, three times a week. Peo­ple who stuck to that work­out sched­ule for six months ex­pe­ri­enced a change in their gene ex­pres­sion that en­cour­aged their bod­ies to re­move fat from the blood stream. They also had sig­nif­i­cantly smaller waists, ac­cord­ing to re­search from Lund Univer­sity. The study au­thors say the ge­netic changes may lower the risk of heart dis­ease, too.

Push harder. The best way to build lean mus­cle mass is by lift­ing weights or do­ing body-weight ex­er­cises un­til you’re tapped out. “When you lift to fail­ure – the point where you phys­i­cally can’t do it any more – all your mus­cle fi­bres get the sig­nal that they need to grow,” Keith says. “It could be five reps with a heavy weight or 15 with a lighter weight. What­ever it takes to get you to fail­ure.” And don’t worry about bulk­ing up: Women are nat­u­rally less mus­cu­lar than men. If you do feel your mus­cles look­ing big­ger than you’d like, though, lift heav­ier weights, but don’t push your­self to fail­ure ev­ery time, Keith sug­gests. “This helps your mus­cles grow stronger with­out get­ting as big.”

But take it easy some­times, too. Change your rou­tine to let your mus­cles rest. “Switch­ing from mod­er­ate- to high­in­ten­sity work­outs gives your body dif­fer­ent chal­lenges to adapt to, and pre­vents over­train­ing,” says Polly de Mille, an ex­er­cise phys­i­ol­o­gist at the Hos­pi­tal for Spe­cial Surgery in New York City. And re­cov­ery is es­sen­tial: That’s when your mus­cles are able to build them­selves back up stronger, and your body dips into your fat stores to re­plen­ish your drained energy.

Snack smart post-ex­er­cise. Eat a combo of car­bo­hy­drate and protein within two hours of your work­out. “The carbs re­plen­ish glyco­gen stores, while the amino acids from the protein help re­pair wear and tear on your mus­cles so you’re stronger the next time you ex­er­cise,” says Dr Dou­glas Kal­man, a sports nu­tri­tion­ist and co-founder of the In­ter­na­tional So­ci­ety of Sports Nu­tri­tion.

Aim for a 2-to-1 ra­tio� of car­bo­hy­drate to protein (or if you’re ex­er­cis­ing for longer than 75 min­utes, a 3- or 4-to-1 ra­tio), like a smoothie with a scoop of protein pow­der (go for 20g to 40g), a quar­ter cup of oats and a ba­nana.

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