Muscle Gain Is Good, But Can You Have Too Much Muscle?

Too much muscle… That’s just another humble brag like being “too big”, isn’t it? Surprisingly, you can have too much of a good thing. Although it is possible to function on as little as 5 percent body fat, the healthy amount of body fat for men is 18 -20 per cent. You might aspire to have a “zero-fat” body, but if your body is very high in muscle with little to no fat, you are heading for disaster.

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Health Problems Caused by Excessive Muscle

The main problem with excessive muscle is that it is associated with dangerously low levels of body fat. In an obesity-ridden world, it is natural to think of fat as being evil, but a certain amount of body fat is healthy and even necessary. Fat forms a protective layer around our internal organs; consequently, people who have excessive muscle and insufficient fat are likely to face several health issues such as:

1. Lower Testosterone Levels

Studies show that the testosterone levels in bodybuilders drop drastically while preparing for a competition – from 9.22 to 2.27 ng/ml. While this may not seem like a very serious health problem, don’t forget that lower testosterone problems will reduce your sperm count… and if that isn’t enough to scare you, don’t be shocked if you are also unable to rise to the occasion!

2. Higher Risk of Heart Problems

Body builders with a high muscle-low body fat percentage have a very low heart rate and lower blood pressure which increases their risk of a cardiac arrest and cardiac arrhythmia, as well as a fatal heart attack.

3. Low Mood and Low Energy Levels

Fat serves as a reserve for energy so if you have excess muscle and less fat, your body is forced to cannibalize muscle to meet your energy requirements. Your low energy levels will also translate to a low mood and depression. So, you literally won’t have the energy to fight the funk!

4. Endocrine Disturbances

Disturbances in the performance of the endocrine system will wreak havoc on your entire body, as this system controls hormone production. These hormones regulate everything from metabolic rate to hair growth. Those with high muscle and low body fat are also likely to experience hair and skin problems.

5. Reduced Life Expectancy

Your excessive and strenuous exercise regimen will give you that ripped body that you’ve always dreamed of, but it comes at a price. These extreme fitness programs play havoc with your cardiovascular, endocrine, and nervous systems, and the very low levels of body fat have been linked to a reduced life span. Think about that the next time you say that you’re willing to “die for 6 pack abs”!

So, while getting buffed may be great and will get heads turning, the primary goal of fitness should always be to get healthy. If you’re working out to the point of risking your health by sending those body fat percentages dangerously low, you need to seriously rethink your approach to fitness.

References:

  • “Body Composition Information and FAQ’s Sheet.” GAPSA – University of Pennsylvania. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 June 2016.
  • “Balance the Food You Eat with Physical Activity — Maintain or Improve Your Weight.” Nutrition and Your Health: Dietary Guidelines for Americans, Fourth Edition (1995). Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP), n.d. Web. 09 June 2016.
  • “What Do Fats Do in the Body? – Inside Life Science Series.” NIGMS – National Institute of General Medical Sciences. N.p., 15 Dec. 2010. Web. 09 June 2016.
  • Lorenzini, Antonello. “How Much Should We Weigh for a Long and Healthy Life Span? The Need to Reconcile Caloric Restriction versus Longevity with Body Mass Index versus Mortality Data.” Frontiers in Endocrinology 5 (2014): 121. PMC. Web. 9 June 2016.
  • O’Keefe, James H. et al. “Potential Adverse Cardiovascular Effects From Excessive Endurance Exercise.” Mayo Clinic Proceedings 87.6 (2012): 587–595. PMC. Web. 9 June 2016.
  • Rossow LM, Fukuda DH, Fahs CA, Loenneke JP, Stout JR. Natural bodybuilding competition preparation and recovery: a 12-month case study. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2013 Sep;8(5):582-92. Epub 2013 Feb 14. PubMed PMID: 23412685.

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