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‘Special’ Muscle Can Promote Glucose and Fat Burning to Fuel Metabolism for Hours While Sitting

Summary: The pioneering “soleus pushup” effectively elevates muscle metabolism for hours, even while seated.

Source: University of Houston

From the same mind whose research propelled the idea that “sitting too much is not the same as exercising too little,” comes a groundbreaking discovery that will upend a sedentary lifestyle: muscle. Calf Soleus, although only 1% of your body weight, can do great things to improve metabolic health in the rest of your body if activated correctly.

And Marc Hamilton, professor of health and human performance at the University of Houston, discovered such an approach to optimal activation – he pioneered the “soleus pushup” (SPU) which effectively elevates muscle metabolism for hours, even in a seated position. The soleus, one of 600 muscles in the human body, is a posterior leg muscle that extends from just below the knee to the heel.

Published in the journal iScience, Hamilton’s research suggests that the ability of the soleus pump to maintain high oxidative metabolism to improve blood sugar regulation is more effective than any popular method currently touted as a solution, including exercise, weight loss and intermittent fasting. Oxidative metabolism is the process by which oxygen is used to burn metabolites like blood glucose or fat, but it depends, in part, on the muscle’s immediate energy needs when it is working.

“We never dreamed that this muscle would have this type of ability. It’s always been inside our bodies, but no one has ever sought to use it to optimize our health, until now,” Hamilton said. “When activated correctly, the soleus muscle can elevate local oxidative metabolism to high levels for hours, not just minutes, and does so using a different fuel mix.”

Muscle biopsies revealed that there was minimal glycogen contribution to the soleus diet. Instead of breaking down glycogen, soleus can use other types of fuels such as blood sugar and fats. Glycogen is normally the predominant type of carbohydrate that fuels muscle exercise.

“The soleus’s lower-than-normal dependence on glycogen helps it function for hours effortlessly without fatigue during this type of muscular activity, as there is a definite limit to muscular endurance caused by glycogen. ‘glycogen depletion,’ he added. “As far as we know, this is the first concerted effort to develop a specialized type of contractile activity focused on optimizing human metabolic processes.”

When UPS was tested, whole-body effects on blood chemistry included a 52% improvement in blood glucose (sugar) excursion and a 60% decrease in insulin requirements for three hours after ingestion of a glucose drink.

The new approach of keeping soleus muscle metabolism working is also effective in doubling the normal rate of fat metabolism during the fasting period between meals, thereby reducing blood fat (VLDL triglyceride) levels.

The solar pump

Building on years of research, Hamilton and his colleagues developed the soleus pump, which activates the soleus muscle differently from standing or walking. The SPU targets the soleus to increase oxygen consumption – more than is possible with these other types of soleus activity, while also being fatigue resistant.

Marc Hamilton, a professor of health and human performance at the University of Houston, is a pioneer of the “soleus pump” for the calf muscle that only makes up 1% of your body weight, but can improve the metabolic health of the calf. rest of your body if activated. properly. Credit: University of Houston

So how do you perform a soleus pump?

In short, while sitting with the feet flat on the floor and the muscles relaxed, the heel lifts while the front of the foot remains in place. When the heel reaches the peak of its range of motion, the foot is passively released to descend. The goal is to simultaneously shorten the calf muscle while the soleus is naturally activated by its motor neurons.

Although the SPU movement may look like walking (although it’s performed while seated), it’s the exact opposite, according to the researchers. When walking, the body is designed to minimize the amount of energy used, due to the way the soleus moves. Hamilton’s method reverses this and makes the soleus use as much energy as possible for a long duration.

“The Soleus Pump looks simple from the outside, but sometimes what we see with the naked eye isn’t the whole story. It’s a very specific movement that currently requires wearable technology and hardware. experiment to optimize health benefits,” Hamilton said.

Additional publications are on the way focusing on how to teach people how to properly learn this singular movement, but without the sophisticated lab equipment used in this latest study.

Credit: University of Houston

Researchers are quick to point out that this isn’t a new fitness tip or diet of the month. It is a powerful physiological movement that capitalizes on the unique characteristics of the soleus.

Potential first step towards breakthrough in health care

Hamilton calls it “the most important study” ever done in his metabolic innovations lab at UH and said the discovery could be a solution to a variety of health problems caused by spending hours every day to live with a muscle metabolism that is too low, caused by inactivity. . The average American sits about 10 hours a day.

Regardless of a person’s physical activity level, excessive sitting has been shown to increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, dementia and more. More than half of all American adults and 80% of people over 65 live with metabolic problems caused by diabetes or prediabetes.

Having a low metabolic rate while sitting is especially troublesome for people at high risk for age-related metabolic diseases such as metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.

Hamilton said that inactive muscles require less energy than most people seem to realize, saying it’s “one of the most basic, yet overlooked problems”, paving the way for discovering metabolic solutions. to help prevent certain chronic diseases associated with age.

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“All 600 muscles combined normally contribute only about 15% of whole-body oxidative metabolism within three hours of carbohydrate ingestion. Despite soleus making up only 1% of body weight, it is able to increase its metabolic rate during SPU contractions to easily double, sometimes even triple, the oxidation of carbohydrates throughout the body.

We are not aware of any existing or promising pharmaceuticals that come close to increasing and maintaining whole-body oxidative metabolism to this magnitude.

About this metabolism research news

Author: Laurie Fickman
Source: University of Houston
Contact: Laurie Fickman – University of Houston
Image: Image is credited to the University of Houston

Original research: Free access.
“A Powerful Physiological Method for Amplifying and Sustaining Soleus Oxidative Metabolism Improves Glucose and Lipid Regulation” by Marc Hamilton et al. iScience


A powerful physiological method to amplify and maintain soleus oxidative metabolism improves glucose and lipid regulation

Slow oxidative muscle, notably soleus, is inherently well equipped with the molecular machinery to regulate blood-borne substrates.

However, the entire human musculature accounts for only about 15% of the body’s oxidative glucose metabolism at resting energy expenditure, despite being the greatest mass of lean tissue in the body.

We found that human soleus muscle could elevate local oxidative metabolism to high levels for hours without fatigue during a soleus-dominant type of seated activity, even in unfit volunteers. Muscle biopsies revealed minimal glycogen utilization.

Amplification of otherwise negligible local energy expenditure with isolated contractions improved systemic VLDL-triglyceride and glucose homeostasis to a great extent, e.g., 52% less postprandial glucose excursion (∼50 mg/ dL less between ∼1 and 2 h) with 60% less hyperinsulinemia.

Targeting small oxidative muscle mass (∼1% of body mass) with local contractile activity is a powerful method to improve systemic metabolic regulation while prolonging the benefits of oxidative metabolism.

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