Volume 12, Issue 42 |  
Why some people have big muscles
and others don't

I've told you in the past that I'm far more concerned about your muscle mass than I am about your overall weight. People with a solid muscle mass tend to stay healthy longer and have fewer health problems than those who don't have as much muscle. But some of us, including me, have trouble maintaining muscle mass.

I've always been on the skinny end of things. But after medical school I decided to do something about that. So I went down to the YMCA in Berkeley, California and signed up for the body-building program. I'll never forget the first day. There were two other guys there. The trainer measured our strength and took our muscle measurements. Then he put each of us on the same program of weight lifting. All three of us were roughly equal. But it was not to stay that way.

Every day, all three of us would be in the gym doing what we were taught. The trainer did not go easy on us and we were all working hard for two hours a day. After two months, I was beginning to get a little burned out. I had been working just as steady as the other guys, but something was wrong. Their muscularity was dramatically improving. But not so with me. I was barely able to notice a difference. I was stronger, but there was no noticeable improvement in my muscle mass.

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After another three months I gave up. My friends had gained 15 pounds of muscle and I had gained two. Each of them was definitely showing the results of their efforts, while I was looking just about the same as when I started. Why had they gotten such great results? I didn't know it then but the reason probably had a lot to do with something called myostatin.

Myostatin is a protein that inhibits muscle growth. Its action is to prevent muscles from getting too large. Now why in the world would it be so important to make sure that muscle mass doesn't get too big? It might have something to do with survival. Studies have shown that when people are put on starvation diets, their bodies start to make increasing amounts of myostatin. Presumably this is to insure that the muscles get smaller so that the body can more easily survive on the small amount of food it has available. And here's the thing.

Different people make different amounts of myostatin. It is genetically controlled. Some people make a lot of myostatin. They will have a heck of a time gaining muscle mass. A good example of this is obese women. A recent study showed that they make an average of three times more myostatin than thin women. On the other hand, some people make very little. When they exercise, they will increase in muscle strength and mass much faster. So my guess is that my YMCA friends had not been blessed with as much myostatin as I had. Such a deal! But what if there was a way to decrease your natural levels of myostatin?

I'm happy to report that there is a way. And it's a simple pill that can help you develop a solid muscle mass. I'll tell you all about it on Friday.

Yours for better health,

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