Strong muscles are important for anyone trying to stay healthy. But for triathletes, increasing lean muscle mass is vital and will make a difference in their endurance, speed, and fatigue during intense races. Just like the three segment race, there are three main aspects to remember in building lean muscle mass.
Less Intense Workouts for Longer Periods of Time
Recent studies have shown a larger increase in muscle protein synthesis during long, low intensity workouts than with high intensity but shorter workouts. As such, triathletes should consider training schedules with less intensity but for longer periods of time. Each set should be completed until muscle fatigue sets in. At fatigue, muscles experience microtrauma or tiny tears to muscle fibers. During recovery, satellite cells outside the muscles start the process to create more myofibrils (strands of muscle protein) and repair already existing muscle fibers. A combination of making healthy fibers plus adding strands of protein expand muscle thresholds. Repetition of the training process while gradually increasing workout duration will boost the threshold at which muscle fatigue sets in.
That being said, high intensity drills should be part of the regimen. These drills improve muscles by increasing growth hormones but are especially key to great technique and efficiency.
Giving Muscles Some R&R
Traditionally R&R is associated with rest and relaxation, but for muscles think Rest and Restore. Without adequate rest, muscles cannot restore. The body needs sleep that is long enough and deep enough for several NREM cycles. During stage 3 and 4 of your NREM cycle the muscles begin to relax. An increase in blood flow to the muscles promotes tissue repair. During deep sleep, plasma growth hormones also increase. It is this growth hormone that triggers satellite cells to begin the restoration process. A decrease in important anabolic hormones from poor sleep is shown to decrease lean muscle mass. Don’t underestimate the importance of catching some Z’s!
Feed Your Muscles
Sleep alone cannot heal muscles. The body needs proper fuel for repair. During sleep, the body balances levels of amino acids in the blood. If amino acid (protein) isn’t available through the digestive system, the body begins to tap into its reserve amino acid bank- muscles. Protein before bed can help keep the amino acid levels in the blood high, alleviating the body’s need to break down muscles while boosting its ability to self-repair.
In my book, triathletes are the rockstars of the fitness industry, mastering not one but three sports. Increasing lean muscle mass makes the difference between good triathletes and great ones!
Kevin Jones is a freelance writer, researcher and fitness instructor/consultant. He had helped hundreds of people find ways to become more fit and healthy through a balanced life focusing on an individualized approach to their nutrition and fitness. In addition, Kevin has written extensively in the fitness and health industries, including writing for companies such as a ICON Fitness brand NordicTrack. Connect with Kevin online; LinkedIn – Twitter