The “special” muscle can promote the burning of glucose and fat to fuel the metabolism for hours while sitting

Summary: Pioneering “soleus pushups” effectively increase muscle metabolism for many hours, even while sitting.

Source: University of Houston

The same mind whose research led to the belief that “excessive sitting is not the same as too little exercise” comes from a groundbreaking discovery that is set to change the sedentary lifestyle on its ear: The soleus of the calf, though only 1% of your body weight can do great things to improve the metabolic health of the rest of your body if activated properly.

And Marc Hamilton, professor of human health and performance at the University of Houston, discovered this approach to optimal activation – he is the pioneer of the “sole pump” (SPU), which effectively increases muscle metabolism for hours, even while sitting. The soleus muscle, one of the 600 muscles in the human body, is the back leg muscle that runs from just below the knee to the heel.

Published in the journal iScience, Hamilton’s research suggests that the ability of soleus pumps to sustain elevated oxidative metabolism to improve blood glucose regulation is more effective than any popular methods currently touted as a solution, including exercise, weight loss, and intermittent fasting. Oxidative metabolism is a process by which oxygen is used to burn metabolites such as blood glucose or fat, but partly depends on the immediate energy requirements of the muscle during work.

“We have never dreamed that this muscle had such a capacity. It was in our bodies all the time, but so far no one has ever studied how to use it to optimize our health, ”said Hamilton. “When properly activated, soleus can raise local oxidative metabolism to high levels for hours, not just minutes, using a different fuel mix.”

Muscle biopsies showed minimal glycogen content in soleus fuel. Rather than breaking down glycogen, the soleus can use other types of fuel, such as blood glucose and fats. Glycogen is usually the main type of carbohydrate that drives muscle exercise.

“The less than normal reliance on glycogen helps them work for many hours effortlessly without fatigue during this type of muscle activity, because there is a clear limit to muscle endurance due to glycogen deficiency,” he added. “As far as we know, this is the first coordinated attempt to develop a specialized type of contractile activity focused on optimizing human metabolic processes.”

When SPU was tested, the whole body’s effect on blood chemistry included a 52% improvement in blood glucose (sugar) spike and a 60% lower insulin requirement within three hours after consuming the glucose drink.

The new approach of keeping the soleus muscle metabolism buzzing is also effective in doubling the normal rate of fat metabolism in the in-meal fasting period, reducing blood fat levels (VLDL triglycerides).

Soleus pump

Building on years of research, Hamilton and his colleagues developed a soleus pump that activates the soleus muscle differently than when standing or walking. SPU targets the soleus to increase oxygen consumption – more than is possible with other types of soleus activity, while also resisting fatigue.

Marc Hamilton, professor of human health and performance at the University of Houston, pioneered the “sole pump” for the calf muscle, which is only 1% of body weight, but can improve the metabolic health of the rest of the body if activated properly. Source: University of Houston

So how do you do a flatfish pump?

In short, when you sit with your feet flat on the floor and your muscles relaxed, the heel rises while the front of the foot stays in place. When the heel reaches the top of its range of motion, the foot is passively released to descend. The goal is to shorten the calf muscle simultaneously, while the soleus is naturally activated by motor neurons.

While the SPU movement may look like walking (although it is done in a sitting position), the researchers say the exact opposite is true. When walking, the body is designed to minimize the amount of energy used due to the movement of the soleus muscle. Hamilton’s method turns this upside down and causes the soleus to use as much energy as possible over a long period of time.

“The ray-pump looks simple from the outside, but sometimes what we see with the naked eye is not the whole story. It’s a very specific move that right now requires wearable technology and expertise to optimize health benefits, ”said Hamilton.

Additional publications are in work focusing on how to teach people to properly learn this single movement, but without the advanced laboratory equipment used in this latest study.

Source: University of Houston

Scientists are quick to point out that this isn’t some new fitness tip or diet of the month. It is a strong physiological movement that uses the unique characteristics of the soleus.

A Potential First Step Toward a Healthcare Breakthrough

Hamilton calls it “the most important study” ever completed at his Metabolic Innovations lab at UH, and said the discovery could be the solution to many of the health problems caused by spending hours a day with low muscle metabolism caused by inactivity. The average American sits about 10 hours a day.

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

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

Hamilton said inactive muscles require less energy than most people seem to understand, saying it is “one of the most basic but overlooked problems” leading the way to the discovery of metabolic solutions to help prevent certain chronic age-related diseases.

See also

This shows the head with the light switch

“All of the 600 muscles connected normally contribute to about 15% of the total body’s oxidative metabolism within three hours of consuming carbohydrates. Despite having only 1% of body weight, the soleus is capable of increasing its metabolic rate during SPU contractions to easily double, and sometimes even triple, the oxidation of carbohydrates throughout the body.

We do not know of any existing or promising drugs that come close to increasing and maintaining whole-body oxidative metabolism on this scale. ”

About this news from metabolism research

Author: Laurie Fickman
Source: University of Houston
Contact: Laurie Fickman – University of Houston
Image: The painting is attributed to the University of Houston

Original research: Open access.
“A powerful physiological method to increase and maintain soleus oxidative metabolism improves glucose and lipid regulation” by Marc Hamilton et al. iScience


Strong physiological method to increase and maintain soleus oxidative metabolism improves glucose and lipid regulation

The slow oxidative muscle, especially the soleus muscle, is inherently well endowed with molecular machinery for regulating blood-derived substrates.

However, the entire human musculature is responsible for only about 15% of the oxidative metabolism of glucose in the body at resting energy expenditure, even though it is the body’s largest lean mass of tissue.

We found that the human soleus can raise the local oxidative metabolism to a high level for hours without fatigue, during the type of activity dominant while sitting, even in unfit volunteers. Muscle biopsies showed minimal glycogen consumption.

Increasing the otherwise negligible local energy expenditure on isolated contractions significantly improved systemic VLDL triglyceride and glucose homeostasis, e.g. 52% lower postprandial glucose fluctuations (∼50 mg / dL less between ∼1 and 2 hours) with 60% less hyperinsulinemia.

Targeting low oxidative muscle mass (~ 1% body weight) with local contractile activity is a powerful method of improving systemic metabolic regulation while extending the benefits of oxidative metabolism.

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