We all have a fascination with muscles and
strength – whether we want to be stronger, feel better, or look like superman; and there
are many proposed strategies and exercise regimens to get this done. But what if I told
you that it was out of your control, and that your genetics may be entirely holding you
back? Conversely, what if there was a secret out there that could lead you to super human
strength? The truth is: your muscle size has a limit.
Sure, it may seem obvious when you hear it, but your muscles are under the strict control
of a protein called Myostatin, which determines exactly how large a muscle can become. And
this limit is different for everyone depending on their myostatin levels. As a muscle reaches
this limit, myostatin prevents any further growth. But if the myostatin itself is limited
or absent, this muscle limit suddenly goes away.
This phenomenon was first noticed in Belgian Blue Cattle. These cows developed 2-3 times
more muscle mass than a normal cow, and it was later discovered that they had a deletion
of the gene GDF-8, which just so happens to create myostatin. As a result, without any
exercise or special diet, these cows have incredible muscle mass. Similar cases have
been documented in dogs, mice, and even a few cases of human babies lacking the GDF-8
gene. These findings have helped scientists understand
why some people bulk up easily, while others struggle to. Lower levels of myostatin=more
muscle mass. In fact, some studies have even shown that many champion body builders have
naturally lower levels, or even entire deletions of the myostatin gene. If you look at somebody
like Arnold Schwarzenegger, as a teen, he just looks naturally muscular. As such, perhaps
many champion bodybuilders owe their success more to genetics than their training or drug
use. Eventually, it may be possible to develop
drugs which deplete or block myostatin. Of course, it’s a double edged sword; On the
one hand, patients with muscular dystrophy, or muscle loss from aging could regrow and
restore muscle. On the other hand, the potential for abuse as performance enhancers seems…inevitable.
But, the prospect of seeing a real-life human Hulk…seems kind of cool. Besides, should
those who already have low levels of myostatin be considered to have an unfair advantage?
It’s hard to say. Regardless, be weary of anybody selling or promoting this unproven
and unregulated treatment. At the end of the day, whether you have naturally
low or high myostatin levels, remember – this is the level that is optimal for your mechanical
and metabolic efficiency. With proper exercise and general health, you’ll reach your own
unique physiological peak. And while you may not be destined to pack a punch like Superman,
you can push your own limits through training and hard work.
But, what if you could punch as hard as Superman? Our friend Jake over at Vsauce3 has the answer
to this smashing superhero question, which you definitely need to check out.
And if you want to know how much myostatin you have…there’s only one real way to find
out. Get working. This episode of AsapSCIENCE is supported by
23 and Me. 23 and Me is a DNA analysis service that allows you to explore your own genes.
Whether you are interested in discovering your global origins, or understanding your
health and your risk for disease, be sure to check out 23andme.com/asap. With the help
of their DNA kits, connect to your past, learn about your present health and potentially
be part of future genetic research, all at 23andme.com/asap. And subscribe for more weekly