Understanding Muscles Can Help You Build Strength

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The 4-Hour Body" by Timothy Ferriss. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What do you know about your muscles? Why is understanding muscles important for body recomposition?

The 4-Hour Body discusses the idea of body recomposition, or working to reshape what your body is made of. Understanding muscles is one of the first steps if you’re trying to lose fat and build muscle.

Keep reading for a better understanding of muscles.

Understanding Muscles

Muscle fibers are made of two pieces:

  1. Myofibrils are filaments that contract muscles. Myofibrillar growth (adding more filaments) increases the strength of muscles and makes them a little larger. This growth is caused by doing a few reps (1-5) with a lot of weight (80-90% of the heaviest weight you can lift once).
  2. Sarcoplasm is the liquid around the myofibrils that stores energy. Sarcoplasmic growth (increasing the volume of fluid) increases the size of muscles and makes them a little stronger. This growth is caused by doing more reps (8-12) with lighter weight (60-80% of the heaviest weight you can lift once). (Bonus: This kind of training also creates more capillaries, which help the body deliver nutrients more efficiently.)

Both myofibrils and sarcoplasm are important. Some people deprioritize the sarcoplasm because it’s “just water,” but water helps promote protein production and dehydration decreases muscle endurance. Finally, the size of sarcoplasm is important because when the sarcoplasm grows, its potential for energy storage increases as well.

Supplements: PAGG

The third recomp factor is supplements. The author recommends taking a combination of supplements with the acronym PAGG to aid fat loss:

  • Policosanol is a plant wax extract. It increases the effectiveness of the other three supplements below. 
  • Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) encourages the body to store carbs in muscles or the liver, rather than in fat. 
  • Epigallocatechin gallate, which is found in green tea. Like ALA, it encourages carb storage in muscles. Additionally, it inhibits storage in fat cells and kills off mature fat cells. 
  • Garlic extract, which inhibits fat regain.

You should take PAGG six days a week and take a full week off every 60 days. Make sure to take lots of B-complex vitamins while taking the supplements.

Understanding Muscles Can Help You Build Strength

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Rina Shah

An avid reader for as long as she can remember, Rina’s love for books began with The Boxcar Children. Her penchant for always having a book nearby has never faded, though her reading tastes have since evolved. Rina reads around 100 books every year, with a fairly even split between fiction and non-fiction. Her favorite genres are memoirs, public health, and locked room mysteries. As an attorney, Rina can’t help analyzing and deconstructing arguments in any book she reads.

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