In order to understand the muscle system of the body and the right nutritional approach to support that, it is necessary to briefly go through a little bit of basic anatomy and physiology. Are you ready?. Okay let' s dive into it.
The muscular system of the human body is made up of muscle and their attachments: tendon and fascia. A muscle is a group of specialised, elastic tissues made up of 75% water, 20% protein and 5% fat, mineral salts and glycogen. The muscle tissue is bound together in bundles and contained in a sheath, the end of which extend to form a tendon that attaches the muscle to other parts of the body.
The average woman’s total body weight is about 23% muscles, and in the average man almost 40% of its body weight is muscles.
There are three types of muscular tissues:
- The skeletal muscle: it is striated and voluntary; we consciously move them. E.g. the muscles of the arms and legs.
- Smooth muscle is smooth and involuntary. It isn’t consciously controlled, and it works automatically. E.g. muscles in the walls of the blood vessel and lymphatic vessels, in respiratory, digestive and genitourinary systems are smooth muscles that work whether we want it or not!.
- Cardiac muscle are striated and involuntary. These muscles only exist in the heart and power the pump action of the heart.
The function of the muscle system is to maintain posture, produce movement, stabilise joints, protects internal and external structures and organs and generates heat.
Muscles work by contraction; the muscle fibres become shorter and thicker and the parts attached to the fibres (periosteum, bone, tendons and fascia) are pulled by the contraction and move. The greater the number of fibres engaged, the greater the force generated.
When a muscle fibre contract the muscle change its shape and move whichever part of the body they are attached to, by starting a movement in the surrounding structures (the tendons, ligaments, and eventually bones). This can be either a conscious movement like lifting an arm (voluntary) or involuntary movement such as shivering.
The initial contraction is ignited by a nerve stimulus sent by the brain through a motor nerve that enter the muscles and break into many nerve endings, each one stimulating a single muscle fibre. The muscle then shortens becoming fatter in the centre.
How does this movement happen?
Simply put, in skeletal muscles (those attached to bones) a muscle needs to pass over a joint to create movement; Its contraction pulls one bone towards another and thus moves the limb. As excellent team players, muscle never work alone: any movement results from the actions of several muscles. Generally speaking, they work in pairs. Each pair contains an agonist (the contracting muscle) and an antagonist (the opposing, relaxing muscle): The agonist and the antagonist must contract and relax equally to ensure a smooth and not jerky movement.
Muscle contraction and therefore movement need sufficient amount of blood supply to provide oxygen and nutrients and to remove carbon dioxide and waste products from energy production. Muscles receive their nutrients from the arterial capillaries, which is then converted into energy by chemical changes. The nutrients and oxygen are used up by the muscle and the waste products, lactic acid, is then excreted into the venous blood stream.
The muscle’s ability to contract is affected by the:
- Energy available
- Strength of the stimulus from the nerve
- Adequate blood supply bringing enough oxygen and nutrients
- Strength of inhibitory nerve supply
- Presence of waste products like lactic acid
The muscle is more prone to injury than to disease: muscle strains and tears, ruptured tendon, carpal tunnel syndrome, muscular dystrophy, muscle cramps, fibromyalgia and fibrosis are some of the possible issue that can affect the muscle tissue.
The relationship between muscles and the gut
Many muscles present in the digestive tract work together with the digestive system to maintain optimal balance in the gut and assuring optimal function; Starting from the mouth and neck, there are muscles in there that allows for chewing and swallowing of the food. The muscles in the GI tract are the smooth muscles (involuntary) that are responsible for peristalsis and segmentation: these two movements are essential for gut health as they push food though the digestive tract assuring a smooth transit time and a healthy regulation of bowel movements and activity. Also, within the digestive tract are encircled skeletal muscles that allow for voluntary control over swallowing and defecation, and finally the muscles of the abdomen protects the digestive organs and tissues. In turn the digestive system breaks down food so that the nutrients can nourish all muscle tissues. That is how these two body system relate to each other closely.
Obviously water is very important, so making you are properly hydrated goes a long way considering 75% of your muscles is water.
Good source of dietary protein is excellent for your muscles and on this regard superfoods like spirulina or chlorella are my favourite on the list because their bio-availability is very high, their protein content is the highest and contrary too many protein-rich food its effect on the body is actually alkaline and it doesn’t slowdown eliminative function, but it actually support them. Hemp seeds are also one of the best sources of protein with about 30-35% highly assimilable protein. Nuts, seeds, legumes and beans are also high in protein.
Vitamin D not surprisingly is good for muscles. Here specifically I am referring about the best source of vitamin D: sunshine. Sensible and responsible exposure to sunlight works as a muscle tonic.
Bee pollen increase muscles growth and definition. It improves athletic performance, muscle recovery, endurance, energy and speed. It may be due to its relatively high content of pre-digested, easy to assimilate proteins(about 25%) and outstanding source of a very broad range of vitamins and minerals, enzymes, phospholipids, antioxidants, fatty acids and about twenty-two different amino acids.
Also, fresh, organic raw fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds (soaked/sprouted/grinded) offer great support to the muscle system due to their nutrient-dense composition
Foods for the muscular system
Water, magnesium-calcium-potassium rich foods, spinach, hemp seeds, avocados, cacao, bananas, millet, quinoa, lentils, almonds, sea vegetables, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, cranberries, blackberries, acai, oats, MSM, broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, garlic, white and red cabbage, onions, green tea, peaches, cherries, papaya, cayenne, spirulina, chlorella, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, pineapple, oranges, kale, Brussel sprouts, cashews, sunflower seeds, chickpeas, lentils, beetroot, parsley