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Weight loss and muscle atrophy

I didn't know exactly where to put this. I hope Jeff or Bens will see this. Basically I'm having trouble with wasting again. It seems like I'm dropping about 10 pounds a week despite eating high calorie foods. I keep track of my body fat percentage and it hasn't dropped in line with the weight loss like it had the first time I dealt with the wasting problem. My body fat as measured on the electronic scale says 22% which is down from the 34% after the pred taper which was up from the 17% during the first massive wasting episode. I've also started to notice some trouble with things I used to be able to lift with ease becoming harder which I'm sure is due to losing muscle.

I'm not in a position to yet get back to the gym but hopefully soon. So, guys (or gals) any simple home based suggestions on how I can increase muscle and try and burn more of the fat off? I know from my pre-illness days that cardio is very important and my parents do have a treadmill .. so that'll be incorporated. I'm mostly noticing upper body strength issues. So that would be the area I'd like to concentrate on most. I do have 5lb dumb bell weights but no clue on proper use or technique.

Argh, could just be a smidgen of sarcopenia, just the natural process of aging when you don't use muscle enough and lose it over time, combined with possible lowered testosterone levels. Sarcopenia is thought to be "normal" though, or rather expected, unless you regularly contract the skeletal muscle in an intense manner to defy it, or even undo it. Sarcopenia is really just age-related atrophy, but can be slowed, or even reversed.

Well, unfortunately the issue is the best weapon for atrophy is the use of said fibers, and every fiber in a contraction is used to lift 100% of the weight possible. That just means that you have a 1 rep max as using more muscle than any other weight or movement, so that's gonna be the tricky part...Heavy weights, like going to no more than 6-8 reps per set...The more fibers you use, the more the muscles get the signal to hold on to the fibers, as they're needed...I DO know other muscle preservation techniques that are of some help, though, to start with for now.

Protein is numero uno, as muscles are more or less made of it, the reason could be lack of use or lack of nutrition, so either you're not using muscle that was there that used to be needed, or you're not fueling it properly so the body is disposing of it as the nutrition isn't supporting it, or both. Those are the two prime reasons to lose muscle in most cases, barring any other major affliction (cachexia is from cancer/AIDS, etc...and dystrophy is the deterioration of muscle, and can be a disease..."Muscular dystrophy" is actually a redundant term, as dystrophy mostly refers to muscle anyways, or the heart muscle, as technically it's a muscle too)...

Protein will help the most in regards to anything non-weight related. Also of assistance is the amino acid in particular (again, a component of protein as you know) L-Glutamine, it has the highest potency in muscle preservation/repair of any, and is the most abundant amino acid as well. In theory, supplementation isn't a requirement if you eat mass amounts of protein, but, a tasteless powder supplement of L-Glutamine is out there and I buy some from Walmart even for just a few bucks for a little tub.

As far as cardio, the best cardio for upper body is rowing, but that's not just something you can do without a machine or boat usually, unlike running or biking...Running and low intensity cardio can actually have atrophy affect, as the muscles over time adapt to a decrease in mass for efficiency purposes. You see this effect in Marathon runners, whereas sprinters almost see the opposite, they grow muscle. Running in and of itself helps mostly with endurance and fat oxidation (burning), and less with preservation..it can actually exacerbate the issue if you're not careful. The exception would be if you, like a sprinter, go heavier and harder and faster. Doing sprints or jogging with a weight vest/weighted back pack can have the effect. The reason is the difference between fast and slow twitch fibers.

The more you tell your body you want slow twitch use (slow, long running) the more it'll adapt to that need, likewise, the more you tell it it needs short bursts of contraction (fast twitch) the more it'll prepare/evolve for that need...ie: more fibers used at once, and more is saved, and you may even build muscle, as opposed to long jogs which can actually have the affect of atrophy over time.

If anything for now Drew, the protein/diet should help, and going as short yet hard with any exercise/weights that you can handle will help.

That 5 lb weight may seem measly, but if you did periods where you moved it as fast as you could for a couple minutes straight while jogging in place, it's better for muscle preservation than 30 minutes of a slow jog. Mixing the two should strike a good balance of fat burning and muscle preservation though, you'll have to find that balance and watch the effects to see if it tilts too far in either direction, from cardio to heavy, heavy lifting. The sweet spot in the middle ground. Try some bodyweight exercises if you can't do heavy weights just yet, too.

Oh, and as for form/use, the major muscles making up the most of the upper body are the back and chest, followed by shoulders, and finally followed by the arms. So curls are very minor compared to a motion that works the chest or back (a tennis type swing, parallel to the ground when standing is working the chest, while rowing or pulling down/pull up movements work the back, move the weight over and over with those motions until you're fatigued, it'll be a nice mix of cardio and muscle preservation).
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Holy crap, how does that come out so fast, I just start rambling on this stuff and before I know it I have a fudgin' novel! Sorry!!
Very nicely done Benson! You really know your stuff! How about some suggestions for concentrating on triceps and shoulder muscles? You really should look into being a personal trainer, I think you would be in your glory.:ycool:
So all I got out of that is that I'm "getting old" .. =p Just kidding. Thank you for the extensive write up Benson. I have heard commercials on the radio about Glutamine but I figured it was yet another product just being marketed and pushed. I did cardio and lifting pre-illness and actually did put some muscle on. I don't particularly want to get ripped but I'd like to get some strength back and also increase lean muscle mass so I can get rid of the lingering fat I have around my belly and hips and legs.

Wasting is probably not the proper term but it's the best thing I can describe as to what's happening to me. I saw my PCP this morning and he told me to stop losing weight and then laughed cause he knows there's nothing I can really do about it (I've lost 30 pounds since I saw him last). I eat mega calories but they are probably more carb and fat based than protein based. I can't really eat a ton of meat as it makes me stupid amounts of sick, same goes for nuts although I think I need to try peanut butter, should help at least. I will definitely pick up some Glutamine though and I like the idea of running/jogging on the treadmill with the weights swinging, excellent idea.

Would a balance ball or something help with core exercises?
The triceps and shoulders are hit best with heavy military presses, dumbbell, bar, or even machine. Separately, they're hit in isolation best with lateral side raises and reverse flyes (the same machine for pec flyes, only used backwards) for shoulders (front raises are usually unnecessary, as the front delts are hit the most with other exercises, like bench pressing mostly, and out of all 3 heads of the shoulder, the front are usually the most developed/used and don't need extra work most times)...and for isolating the triceps, close-grip bench presses, tricep extensions, overhead extensions with a dumbbell, tricep pushdowns, and dips are quite good at either focusing or isolating them. And yeah, I've considered being a personal trainer or going into sports nutrition, but then Crohn's and money issues came, on top of, and the couple I know say they have to hold 2 jobs to make decent money, as you start out really slow with it building clients..it's hard to make it big and live off just that, I suppose like being an artist too.

Drew, it's only partly a possible consequence of aging, and as I'd noted, it can be reversed, not just defied, you just have to get to it. Atrophy is exaggerated in age, whereas a person in their late teens can go without exercise and lose little to no muscle, a person decades later will most certainly see it evaporate practically...not that you're decades older, just noting the spectrum. :)

A balance ball would help greatly with balance (sorry to be blunt, :D)...it's awesome for core exercises and stability training, mainly the core/torso muscle groups...but it will do very little to extend anything more than function, as balance ball/core workouts are involving more type I muscle fibers, like the abs and lumbar area on the back, the serratus muscles (next to the "six pack" muscles) and the likes...They're great areas to hit for stability and balance and athletic performance, but won't be as helpful in preventing muscle wasting, as they don't have a lot of fiber to begin with, don't burn very many calories, or release a lot of natural HGH when worked, etc... I guess you could think of them as a performance/functional-in-other-movements muscle, rather than a tool for fat burning or getting more muscular (the exception to that is that they ARE involved in some exercises like squating or deadlifting and benching..because they help with stability and "holding steady" when you're tense and trying to force through a motion, they're an assisting muscle in heavy/major work more than a primary muscle for using mass amounts of muscle)...

I used to hold a 5 pound weight (rubber coated) in each hand and jog in place while I watched episodes of Smallville a few years back...45 minutes of that felt like being wiped out of existence sometimes. You really put more stress into the upper body to swing around another 10 pounds for almost an hour...You could try quick bursts of that to start. It basically feels like you're jumping rope without the rope, and with weights in your hands instead of handles.
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BWS 1982 knows his stuff, I just finished my sport and exercise science degree and I could not have said it in any more detail than that. He is especially right in recommending L-Glutamine. This amino acid is the most important nutrient for muscle building as its the most abundant amino acid in muscle tissue. Additionally its also an important for intestinal health. L-glutamine actually causes the bowel wall to regenerate when damaged. It has shown massive efficacy in the treatment of diarrhoea related to radiotherapy, AIDS and short bowel syndrome.

So go get yourself some of the stuff.


I don't even know so much that I'm losing muscle it's just anecdotal being that things are becoming harder to carry and that my body fat content is not going down with my weight like it did last time and the blood tests showing protein loss at times in addition to the Ig protein losses.

I'm definitely going to add Glutamine to my diet though, it certainly can't hurt.
Well Drew, remember, muscle contraction is relevant to the CNS too (Central nervous system)...you essentially have to train to use your fibers. They will contract when the CNS allows/sends the signal to reach full potential. That is a powerlifting concept for the most part, but very true and applicable to all resistance training, and even with sedentary or inactive bouts of time. I think you may have also had your CNS "on vacation" (for lack of a simpler wording) and not used to signaling the contraction of fibers, so the operation has essentially gone dormant when you go to lift heavier stuff. Test levels could be a culprit too. It also could be fatigue related to diet if you're not getting the proper nutrients, as you said protein is lacking (your creatinine levels could be lower than normal, I suppose). Hmm, have they shown your other levels, Drew, creatinine, etc...albumin, I forget how many were "out of whack"...

I believe it could also partially be "an illusion" as that would also partly account for lost strength and less of a loss in bodyfat, as the less muscle you have, the harder it is to burn fat and fend off gains of it. You may have lost some fat, but even more muscle, sort of an undesirable trade-off, and the space that previously occupied some muscle is now occupied by just a tiny bit more fat, and you were expecting the ratio of loss to be similar to your prior loss...but I think it's a ratio that can vary as you age or go through bouts of illness, and sadly, the former may also be the case. :(

Heh, thanks MICWOOL, what do you plan on doing with the degree now? How was the education and programs? I've always been fascinated by it both by curiosity and for personal reasons in a fitness/bodybuilding lifestyle...you need to learn your machine before you can tinker with it, no different than a car or computer, I guess. I wonder how expensive it would be to get a moderately solid degree in it, maybe it'd pay better to be on the consulting side and not just a personal trainer type...not that I don't like the personal trainer idea still (actually have helped a few friends and coworkers with it on the side, for free of course, because it's so fun)...They now have so many online courses from decent places, it's not hard to fathom such an endeavor. Nice to meet you! :)

Ah, and I've also heard that L-Glutamine has been shown to support immunity, how much credit do you give to that purported benefit MICWOOL, it's been very up and down with testimonies, and with an autoimmune disease, I was very curious if that would be good or bad, or null?
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Hi BWS, I actually would like to do a post-graduate in Dietics now, Im also into nutrition because I see how much of a massive benefit proper eating has on a number of illnesses including ours.

Yeah I have also read that glutamine has had both negative and positive testimonials, but for me its a solid part of my colitis management. I just really believe it works for me to help me get back on track. As for glutamine being an immune stimulant that probably is right too. However I also read that even though crohns is an autoimmune disorder there may commonly be abnormalities in phagocytosis. Which is where white blood cells seek out and eat bad bacteria etc. And since individuals with crohns tend to have bacterial imbalances this supplement may be an ally for us. I am actually starting to come round to the fact that people with crohns may have weaker immune functions because we seem to be prone to infections more easily, and any supplement I have taken with proposed immune stimulant efects have actually not had any effect on my risk of flaring.

P.S. I think you would do well on a sports degree course, since you seem to be very knowledgeable. I dont know about costs though coz im based in England and we get loans to pay for our uni tuition.




Sports Crohnie
This is a great thread.

I've been working out for the past month, drinking protein shakes (non-whey protein powder mixed into soy milk) post-workout. Is Glutamine a powder or a pill supplement (sorry to sound ignorant). Do you mix that in post-workout drinks?

Micwool/Benson - given the positive experiences some have with naltexrone (which boosts the immune system), I wonder if there's something to this. While the 6mp therapy is working for me, I've also been actively taking multivitamins, vit D and turmeric which strengthen the immune system. They've concluded that Johne's disease in livestock - similar to crohn's in humans - is caused by bacteria. There has to be a bacterial link.
It could really be any number of things Benson in terms of what's out of whack. I've had red blood cell issues at times and the white count that won't go away and with the realization I'm battling CVID apparently on top of Crohns I'm always fighting something which probably is taking more effort from me then in the past. I hate to think it's in my head which is very well could be. My litmus test which is rather comical is that I buy the 24 pack of soda and that has recently seemed to be harder to lift and carry whereas it used to be very easy. I was also wondering if the weight loss was losing muscle as opposed to fat, although there is a good order of fat loss on top of it just not what I had expected.
It could just be some of your CNS like I said, on top of any muscle loss. Just that you might not have been lifting that heavy lately and your nervous system isn't used to calling into action that many fibers at once?

Hmm, as you said could be any number of things. I think for now your best bet is to assume that which is possible, that you can curb and undo this "setback" and slowly regain any lost ground, and then some. How much do music teachers weigh? lol

Seriously, a touch of dietary intervention, or some supplementing with L Glutamine or just upping some protein along with just being a bit more active is the best course. I mean, does it help that Gerard Butler is like 40 and got his build for 300 in just about half a year? Sylvester is 63 and got his build without roids (used testosterone which is different) for Rambo 4 last year. Age is something to laugh in the face of and defy, if you ask me! :D

I came in here to say thanks a bunch for your help! I had typed a longer message but when I tried sending it via PM, it says you can't receive anymore messages because you have no space. lol

Anyway... I will try the green tea/grapefruit stuff.
Sorry about that, I logged on and had 50, it's hard to manage them because I save a lot of them (yes I'm OCD, I inventory and catalogue my PM's until not needed)...Sorry again.