Both becoming and maintaining physical fitness can be a tough task. After all, it takes a lot of effort and patience to grow and maintain muscle. Be it for bodybuilding or general wellness, muscle tissue is a high-maintenance tissue that requires a lot of energy and nutrients. Even the basic upkeep of muscle requires a substantial portion of daily calories. Aside from calories and other nutrients, muscles also require amino acids. These are the basic building blocks of muscle fibers. And with the proper forms of amino acids, muscle maintenance can become extremely rewarding.
How Muscles Work
Muscle fibers are a complex, yet intricate type of tissue. They’re involved in numerous tasks you complete throughout the day. Some are done even without conscious control. From digesting food to breathing, they support numerous functions that would otherwise be impossible to live without. This shows just how important and intricate they really are. Muscles are made from small groups of fibers which are themselves specialized arrangements of proteins. They connect to the nervous system through the motor cortex and spine in order to contract or relax. Signals from the motor cortex in your brain travels through special motor neurons in the spine, where they are then sent to the associated muscle group.
Types of Muscles
While muscles are involved in numerous biological functions, there are actually multiple types of muscles that are each involved in different processes respectively. This is due to each of the governed biological processes requiring their controlling muscle fibers to respond in specific ways. There is also a subcategory of muscle fibers known as fast-twitch and slow-twitch fibers.
Skeletal Muscle- Skeletal muscles are responsible for moving limbs and other external parts of the body. They are arranged in pairs so that when one contracts, the other expands. This is what allows for their movement. These muscles twitch as they receive signals from the motor cortex.
Smooth Muscle- Smooth muscles are involved in autonomic movements in biological systems like the heart, pupils, uterus, intestines, and some organs. They work without any thought and control things like pupil dilation and food digestion. They’re also able to stretch, which is useful in functions like childbirth.
Cardiac Muscle- Cardiac muscles are a type of muscle fiber that are only found in the heart. They can stretch, but also twitch as the heart beats. This allows for continuous function as the heart pumps blood throughout the circulatory system.
Type I- Type I muscle fibers are a type of skeletal muscle fiber. It’s also known as a slow-twitch muscle. These contain myoglobin (an oxygen-bound protein) that carries oxygen to the muscles. They also contain mitochondria, which convert oxygen to ATP for energy. These muscles can work for long periods of time, but produce low amounts of force.
Type II- Type II muscle fibers are a type of skeletal muscle fiber. They're also known as fast-twitch muscle fibers. This is because they respond quickly to signals sent from the motor cortex. But unlike slow-twitch fibers, these muscle fibers rely on ATP and cannot create their own energy. Due to this, they fatigue more easily.
While there may be multiple types of muscles, the process by which they grow is relatively the same for all groups. However, skeletal muscles are the ones that may experience continuous growth. When a force greater than what the muscle can handle is exerted, this creates microscopic tears. Special cells called satellite cells then carry over amino acids to fuse and rebuild the torn fibers. This process is known as hypertrophy and is what allows for new growth to occur. This also helps to prevent fibers from tearing when exposed to similar stress in the future.
Amino Acids and Muscle
Amino acids are the main building blocks of the proteins that make up muscle fibers. They’re also one of the main building blocks of organic life. They are divided into two subcategories known as essential and non-essential. Essential amino acids consist of 8 amino acids, and must be derived from food sources. However, non-essential amino acids can be synthesized by the body. There is also another category of amino acids known as Branched-chain amino acids (bcaa). These actually refer to three of the eight essential amino acids.
Branched-chain amino acids are unique in that their structure enables them to be metabolized primarily by skeletal muscle. This can ensure that muscles directly receive the necessary proteins for growth and maintenance before they're utilized by other biological processes. Branched-chain amino acids have been shown to have other benefits as well. They can also help reduce DOMS (delayed-onset muscle soreness) after workouts, which helps muscles recover more efficiently. These proteins can also inhibit muscle protein breakdown, which can contribute to more efficient growth and general maintenance.
While maintaining muscle growth and general wellness can be a difficult task, it doesn’t have to be. Aside from exercise, nutrition plays a critical role in how well muscles are developed and maintained. More specifically, amino acids play a crucial role in this process. Branched-chain amino acids are essential amino acids that can be metabolized primarily by muscles. They can help muscles grow, recover, and reduce fatigue after exercise.
By Paisley Hansen
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