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We know that staying in good shape benefits your health, but what’s better for the heart, losing fat or building muscle? Read on to find out.

According to new research, losing extra weight is more beneficial for young people’s heart health than building muscle. While building muscle doesn’t lead to cardiovascular problems, research shows that losing fat provides bigger benefits.

“We absolutely still encourage exercise,” says Joshua Bell, the study’s lead author. Bell is a senior research associate in epidemiology at the University of Bristol in England.

“There are many other health benefits, and strength is a prize in itself. We may just need to temper expectations for what gaining muscle can really do for avoiding heart disease. Fat gain is the real driver.”

The Study

What's Better for the Heart, Losing Fat or Building Muscle?More than 3,200 Brits participated in the study and they were all born in the 1990s. Results show that those who lost fat during adolescence/young adulthood were less likely to develop heart disease risk factors.

Researchers scanned participants at different ages (10, 13, 18, and 25) to measure their body fat levels. In addition, they had handgrip strength tests at ages 12 and 25.

Participants also underwent blood pressure and blood sample testing at age 25. These examined the levels of roughly 200 metabolic factors that may lead to heart disease and other health issues.

According to the results, Bell says that “changes in body fat seem to matter much more than changes in muscle.” In some cases, losing fat was up to five times more protective than simply gaining muscle.

“Muscle gain only seemed beneficial when it happened in adolescence, between 13 and 18 years old,” says Bell. “This is a busy time of growth and maturity, and might be when we should promote some muscle gain as well. [Heart] benefits seem to fade after then.”

What does it all mean?

When it comes to improving heart health, the research shows that losing fat is much more beneficial than building muscle. In addition, the study shows that future heart problems may be traced back to younger years in otherwise healthy adolescents.

“Instill healthy eating and activity habits early on to maintain a healthy body weight throughout childhood and adolescence for the best chance of reducing early onset of heart disease risk factors,” says Lona Sandon. “And by early on, I mean in the womb and infancy.” Lona Sandon is an associate professor in the school of health professions at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

You can read the study findings in PLOS Medicine.

The Outlook

L-arginine PlusWhile losing body fat is more beneficial for the heart than simply building muscle, that doesn’t mean you have to choose one. In fact, many exercise programs suggest you include a mix of aerobic and strength training exercises.

By combining them, you can both increase your muscle power and get rid of your excess fat simultaneously. In addition, you can take daily heart supplements like L-arginine Plus to give your heart health an extra boost.

It effectively promotes better circulation, blood pressure levels, cholesterol, energy levels, and more. Give your heart the support it needs and lose fat while building muscle and taking L-arginine Plus.

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