What is Muscle Mass and How It Unlocks Ultimate Health

What Is Muscle Mass?

Muscle mass is the total weight of muscle tissue in your body. While there are different types of muscle, most of us prioritize skeletal muscle, which is the muscle type that allows us to move freely through all planes of motion.

Measurements like BMI are actually useless when determining health risks for those with above-average muscularity.

See Related: Does Muscle Weigh More Than Fat?

Many fitness enthusiasts end up in the overweight category even when having a below-average body fat percentage. So, if we can't use BMI when we build muscle and don't fit the population for those charts, what should we be measuring? Is building muscle mass even important for health?

examples of crossfit workouts to build muscle

The Many Benefits Of Muscle Mass

Before embarking on the journey to increase muscle mass, it's important to know the many reasons that having more muscle is beneficial. Here are just a few of the benefits:

  • Your metabolic rate¬†will increase to maintain your muscle mass, meaning you'll burn more calories doing physical activity and even at rest. This makes weight maintenance easier.
  • Increasing your skeletal muscle¬†mass through weight training also strengthens your bones, ligaments, joints, and connective tissues.
  • The risk for chronic disease decreases, and it even¬†lowers mortality risk for those who already have heart disease.
  • Insulin resistance¬†is improved through muscle growth and exercise training.
  • It can improve your mood and confidence levels.
  • Those who build muscle¬†mass¬†tend to have better posture, and daily activities are easier in general.

On the flip side, those at risk for sarcopenia (muscle loss) due to aging, disease, or a sedentary lifestyle are at increased risk for mobility issues, metabolic dysfunction, chronic disease, osteoporosis, obesity, and a suppressed immune system, all of which can drastically increase your healthcare costs.

While age-related muscle loss may become inevitable at some point for older adults, gaining muscle mass is effective for all ages! Nobody should settle for a loss of muscle mass due to the drastic effects on your health.

The Role Of Muscle In Controlling Anxiety

someone deadlifting

Many people know the benefits of physical function from strength training and gaining muscle mass, but not many know the potential mental benefits. For example, regular resistance training is effective at reducing anxiety.

Anxiety and other stress disorders can cause a hormonal imbalance with chronically raised Cortisol levels.

Cortisol actually works against muscle growth and is catabolic in nature. Resistance exercise can briefly raise Cortisol, but it helps boost antagonist hormones that can reduce cortisol throughout the day.

Sometimes the best medical advice is to go out and get active. Even if you aren't trying to gain more muscle at the time-being resistance training can be effective for lowering the 

The Role Of Muscle In Insulin Sensitivity


Exercise, in general, is effective at boosting insulin sensitivity. Since strength training is required to gain an appreciable amount of muscle mass, exercise will also help your body deal with incoming carbs and the glucose derived from them.

The way your body treats a carbohydrate is largely connected to your insulin sensitivity. If you are insulin resistant, you can experience hunger even when eating regularly, tiredness regardless of sleep quality and quantity, and obesity.

Building muscle mass will improve your insulin sensitivity and send you down the path to better health, quality of life, and longevity. That way, you won't end up with Type 2 Diabetes and have to avoid carbs as much as possible!

Muscle Mass Percentage Chart

Instead of looking at body mass index charts, analyzing your muscle mass and fat mass in terms of percentages can be a useful predictor of health. The easiest way to calculate these ratios without expensive MRIs is to calculate your body fat percentage. The less muscle and more body fat you have, the higher your body fat percentage.

There are a few standards out there for healthy levels of body fat with handy charts. ACE has charts with different categories for athletes, fitness enthusiasts, and average Joes. Click here to see it.

Age affects the levels of body fat and what is considered healthy, so Winchester Hospital put together a handy chart that accounts for age.

Muscle Mass Percentage Averages For Men

Based on data collected from 1999 through 2004, men averaged between 22.9-30.9% body fat, dependant on their age. That means the lean body mass averages are around 69-77% for males.

Muscle Mass Percentage Averages For Women

Based on the same data as above, women averaged between 32-42.4% body fat, making the average lean body mass around 57-68%. Women naturally carry more body fat to stay healthy and hormonally balanced.

Body Fat Percentage

Measuring your body fat percentage is the easiest way to decipher your muscle mass without expensive medical procedures. Seeing your body fat percentage stay the same or drop while your lean body mass increases is a surefire way to know that you have a higher muscle mass 

Tips To Grow And Preserve Your Muscle Mass

There are a few basic steps to ensure you can gain muscle effectively:

  1. Eat right
  2. Exercise right
  3. Rest & recover right

That's it! It's not too hard, even for those with no experience in the gym or with a diet plan.

Ensure you eat a good high-protein diet and ward off malnutrition chances by incorporating healthy food choices. Use total body workouts and exercise that train multiple muscle groups for the most bang-for-your-buck.

Sleep well, and remember that you gain muscle mass outside of the gym while you are recovering, not inside while you are training!

Frequently Asked Questions:

What Is Considered Good Muscle Mass?

Any amount of muscle mass is good muscle mass. The health benefits of gaining muscle are undisputed, and the steps to gaining muscle align well with a healthy lifestyle.

Is Gaining Muscle Mass Good?

Yes, improving your body composition by gaining skeletal muscle has a myriad of benefits. In addition to weight loss to lose excess fat, it's one of the best ways to improve your health, quality of life, and longevity!

What Causes Muscle Bulk?

Muscular hypertrophy is caused by microtrauma, typically due to resistance training. The body responds to the trauma by rebuilding the muscle tissue bigger and better than before. It also gains more glycogen storage, which contributes to a bulkier look. Supplements like Creatine can boost water retention in muscles as well.

Is Being Too Muscular Unhealthy?

There is essentially no worry of getting too muscular to reach unhealthy levels in the absence of illegal substances. Losing weight to reduce fat and get more definition in your physique can approach unhealthy levels by harming hormonal balance and many other health factors. Most people won't want to lose this muscle fat in the first place to worry about this level of leanness and its effects on the body.

What Are The Three Types Of Muscle?

Skeletal muscle, smooth muscle, and cardiac muscle. When looking to build muscle, you are aiming to build skeletal muscle.

What Should I Eat For Muscle Gain?

You need adequate amounts of protein and calories to put on lean body mass. Each person is different, but most people need to be eating at maintenance or in a slight caloric surplus with around 20-30% of their daily calories coming from protein to gain appreciable lean muscle.

How Do You Gain Muscle Fast?

An optimized strength training program and a good nutrition plan boost muscle growth to its peak. When building muscle mass, gaining excess body weight can actually speed up the muscle-building process, but you'll also put on fat mass that will require a diet later on.

What Is A Good Muscle Mass Percentage?

Looking at your lean body mass percentage will be easier than using your actual muscle mass percentage (lean body mass is a muscle, water, bones, and everything else in your body that isn't fat). 76-86% lean body mass for males and 69-79% lean body mass for females is considered a healthy range.

How Do You Measure Muscle Mass?

An MRI or related medical measurement is required to accurately calculate muscle mass, organ weight, fat mass, and every other tissue type in the body. Measuring your lean body mass and fat mass is much easier and can be done with calipers, smart scales, bioelectrical impedance analysis, and much more. Lean body mass is your muscle mass and the rest of your body.

About Milo: Milo Martinovich is a freelance writer with years of professional experience in the fitness industry. In late 2012, he became certified as a Fitness Trainer and Specialist In Fitness Nutrition through ISSA and opened up a personal training studio with his soon-to-be wife. Read More