Your body is made up of 650 muscles, and they all play a part in giving you strength, not only to perform well in sports, but also to move your body throughout the day. Each muscle is made up of tissues that contract and relax—think of an extendable ladder that snaps together and shortens when you pull or apply tension at one end. When you release that tension, the ladder—or the muscle—relaxes and extends.
Lifting weights or doing bodyweight exercises like Push-ups damages the muscle fibers, and the soreness that follows a training session is from toxins released by the tissue. This is when muscles get bigger and stronger.
Your energy intake, which ideally comes from healthy foods like lean proteins, fruits and vegetables, provides the power for your muscles to contract and relax, and the raw fuel for growth. Work your muscles and feed them right, and they will grow. By supplying the body's system with the right nutrients, it'll have the material to build itself back up. That's why post-workout nutrition is so critical. Go too long without eating and the body will start breaking down the muscles to feed the rest of your body—and it'll get weaker.
Building muscle can even help with weight loss and can actually help the body burn fat. The stronger the machine—the more muscle it has—the more fuel it can burn. So in addition to watching calorie intake, getting in the gym to build some muscle can increase the fat-burning engine in the body.
Mehmet Oz and Mike Roizen, authors of four New York Times #1 bestsellers on health, and Kristin Kirkpatrick, a Cleveland Clinic nutritionist and regular guest on the Dr. Oz Show, are the YOU Docs, STACK's experts on health and sports performance.
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