Why Building Lean Mass Is Important for Everyone (even you)

People have all sorts of reasons for working out and developing Lean Body Mass.  For some, it is because they want to get stronger to better excel in sports.  For others, it’s to build a physique that wins body building competitions.  For others, it’s just to keep a trim, healthy, well-functioning body.  Still others: to just look good.

Whatever the reasons are, recent research has made a very strong case that building Lean Body Mass has health benefits far beyond just becoming stronger or looking like a swimsuit model.  Sufficient amounts of Lean Body Mass are actually critical for building a healthy life over the long-term.

Male or female, young or old, everyone can benefit from increased Lean Body Mass.  It’s true.  This doesn’t mean that you have to become a huge, brawny movie star from 1980s action flicks in order to be healthy.  However, building sufficient Lean Body Mass is a lot more important than you might have thought before.

Here’re some reasons why you might want to rethink getting in better shape and improving your body composition.

Lean Body Mass Combats Obesity


In a world where more than 2/3 of Americans are considered overweight or obese, it’s hard to avoid messages advertising products that guarantee weight loss in X number of weeks, or a new workout technique that promises to shred fat off of your frame, or even a new superfood that promises to cause weight loss.

However, most of these shortcut approaches fail to address the basic issue regarding weight gain: it’s about calories in vs. calories out.  According to research by Dr. Robert Wolfe (emphasis added):

The development of obesity results from an energy imbalance over a prolonged time. An effect on energy balance can be therefore achieved by altering either energy intake or energy expenditure. – AJCN: “The Underappreciated Role of Muscle in Health and Disease

“Energy imbalance” in this context refers to consuming more calories than your body needs.  Do this for a long enough period of time, and you’ll gain fat.  Gain enough fat over a long period of time, and you can become overweight or obese.

“Energy intake” refers to how many calories you take in by eating and drinking, in other words, your diet.  This is what many people think of when they think about calorie reduction.

However, its “energy expenditure” where you can really make a big effect on balancing your calories in and calories out, and this is where Lean Body Mass has a significant influence.

Lean Body Mass is associated with your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) – the amount of calories you burn at rest.  The greater amount of Lean Body Mass you have, the greater your BMR will be.  This means that people with greater amounts of Lean Body Mass will have a greater energy expenditure while doing nothing, helping to avoid calorie imbalances, and ultimately, obesity.

Lean Body Mass Helps You Battle Disease

When you become sick and your body becomes stressed, your body’s immune system gets kicked into high gear.  When that occurs, your body’s nutritional demands change.  In order to support the immune system and contribute towards recovery, your body requires protein – and a lot of it.  Diet alone won’t supply the amount of protein required to defend against illness.  Where will your body find protein reserves? Your Lean Body Mass.

For example, in burn victims in, the need for increased protein can increase tremendously: around 4 g of protein per kilogram of body weight, or about four times the normal daily intake of protein.  This demand for protein exceeds the demands put on the body during fasting (times where you aren’t bringing in calories), which is when muscle breakdown occurs.  The same trend was also found in cancer survivors.  In those whose overall body protein decreased due to cancer and cancer therapy, the rate of reoccurrence of cancer increased.

In both cases, the ability to survive these serious conditions ultimately came down to how much Lean Body Mass each patient had to begin with, and how much their bodies were able to lose due to increased demand for protein.

Bottom line: your Lean Body Mass can act as protein reserves that your body can draw off of when the immune system is triggered.  If you have sufficient Lean Body Mass, your body will have a much easier time fighting off infection because it will have enough protein in reserve to power the demands caused by the immune system.

If you don’t have sufficient Lean Body Mass, your body will have a much more difficult time defeating and recovering from illnesses because it won’t have the type of nutrients it needs to power the immune system.

Lean Body Mass Contributes to Strong Bones


One common concern that both men and women have as they age is the onset of osteoporosis, or frailty in general.  These conditions can put people at serious risk in the later stages of life because they can lead to falls and broken bones.  Sometimes, these falls are so serious that some people never walk again.

What can preserve bone density and bone mass later in life?  Maintaining sufficient and healthy amounts of Lean Body Mass.

In the Mediterranean Intensive Oxidant Study, researchers found that lower amounts of skeletal muscle mass, a significant and major component of Lean Body Mass, was correlated with weaker and thinner bones in elderly men.  Because Lean Body Mass is made up of multiple components that cannot be readily increased, such as the weight of body water and internal organs, increasing skeletal muscle mass is the primary means of increasing Lean Body Mass. This in turn builds up greater bone strength and density.

In order to protect against thinner and weakening bones, maintaining and developing sufficient Lean Body Mass through developing skeletal muscle mass is key.

Lean Body Mass Can Protect Against (and potentially reverse) Insulin Resistance

Insulin resistance occurs when the body is unable to clear the blood of excess glucose due to the presence of Fatty Free Acids.  The release of Free Fatty Acids into the body is generally associated with high amounts of Fat Mass, which lessens insulin’s ability to clear glucose from the blood.  If this insulin resistance becomes significant over a duration of time, the development of Type 2 diabetes can occur.

Once again, developing sufficient amounts of Lean Body Mass can help prevent the onset of insulin resistance/Type 2 diabetes.  Because insulin resistance/Type 2 diabetes can strike anyone at any age, ensuring that your Lean Body Mass levels are sufficient while keeping your Fat Mass low (i.e. a healthy body composition) is very important for everyone.

In a large scale study of over 13,000 people over a 6-year span conducted by the UCLA School of Medicine, the researchers concluded their findings by illustrating an inverse relationship between skeletal muscle mass and insulin resistance.  Not only that, they found that for every 10% increase in skeletal muscle mass, there was an 11% decrease in insulin resistance.  For people without diabetes, the decreases were even more pronounced.

Developing your Lean Body Mass also has the added benefit of increasing your BMR, which will increase your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) all on its own, which, when combined with proper diet and nutrition, causes Fat Mass reduction.  This reduction contributes to less release of Fatty Free Acids into the body in the first place, which will in turn make it easier for the body to clear excess glucose and transport it into muscle cells.

Fitness for Long-Term Health

Building Lean Body Mass isn’t something that only bodybuilders and athletes should worry about; for long-term health, everyone can benefit from building their Lean Body Mass.

For this reason, it is important to monitor the changes in your Lean Body Mass by having your body composition measured.  Body composition analysis can divide your weight into its various components – Fat Mass, Lean Body Mass, etc. – which will give you a much clearer picture of your overall fitness and health.

Building Lean Body Mass is an investment in your future.  When you’re healthy, you don’t worry about being sick; when you’re younger, you likely have more time to develop your body and r Lean Body Mass than someone who is older.  If you don’t start working on building yourself a healthy body while you are still healthy, you’ll wish you had later on.

To get started today, the first step is to have your body composition analyzed.  You can learn about the different types of BIA devices that analyze body composition and the types of outputs you can expect to receive by clicking here.





Heather Coladonato