If you consistently add to it while you’re young and take care of it as you age, it’ll be there for you when you need it.
First, what is a 401k?
In a nutshell, it’s a retirement account where you can invest part of your paycheck without paying taxes until you withdraw the money.
Pretty sweet, right?
Muscle mass works the same way.
You have to make some sacrifices on the front end while building the muscle, but that investment becomes more and more valuable as you age.
The older we get, the harder it is for our bodies to hold on to muscle mass. Our bodies are on an ever-tightening budget. Our ability to break down and utilize protein for building and remodeling tissues becomes less efficient.
Not only that, but we generally become less active, which is a strong cue to the body that it can discard the most “expensive” to maintain tissues because there’s no longer space in the budget.
Muscle is extremely expensive to maintain, so it ends up being the first casualty on that chopping block, specifically type II muscle fibers which are the ones we use for big explosive movements like sprinting, jumping, throwing, and some lifting.
And that makes total sense if you think about the older people in your life and how most of them live and move.
Very few of them run, let alone sprint. Their movements become smaller and smaller.
The older they get and the less confident they feel in their movements.
What you’re seeing is the “use it or lose it” principle in action.
When we’re younger, we have a larger margin of error. We can lay around for months at a time losing muscle mass, and though our egos might take a hit, we’re relatively unconcerned about it because it’s easy to get the muscle back.
After about the age of 45, that’s generally not the case unless you have exogenous hormonal support.
You can still gain some muscle, but it will be extremely hard-won.
The name of the game becomes maintenance, which brings us full circle in the 401k analogy.
Those who contribute the most to their 401k accounts early on have the greatest returns. They take advantage of the miracle of compounding interest, and you can do the same thing with your muscle mass.
The earlier you get strong, the more doors are opened for you to take advantage of experiences you otherwise wouldn’t be able to participate in. Those doors and the benefits they provide stay open so long as you maintain your muscle mass.
That doesn’t mean you need to be a jacked bodybuilder. What it does mean is that you need to maintain enough muscle mass to easily and confidently fulfill your daily physical responsibilities and are capable of participating in your chosen recreational activities.
Spending a few hours a week building and maintaining that muscle will give you years of enjoyment, independence, and significantly reduced risk of injury and many chronic diseases.
Build some muscle; your future self will thank you.