Are You Made Of White Or Dark Meat?

Most of you have heard the terms type one and type two muscle fibers, also known as fast twitch and slow twitch, but do you really know what those two terms are referring to? Which type dominates your physique?

Most of you have heard the terms "type one" and "type two" muscle fibers, also known as "fast twitch" and "slow twitch" - but do you really know what those two terms are referring to?

In general, the two terms refer to the two types of muscle fibers present in every mammal, which are responsible for the composition of the muscle. The two types of muscle fibers are as inverse in physiological properties, as they are in the performance that the two yield.

By now you're probably wondering which type of muscle dominates your physique. There is actually a very simple way to tell whether you are made up of white or dark meat...

So, What Are You Talking About?

I refer to the two as white and dark meat because that's actually what the two are! Perhaps one of the main differences is the difference in the rate of full contraction for the two different types of muscle.

Type Two (Fast Twitch) = White Meat

I will explain a little more about type two muscle (fast twitch) fibers first. Type two fibers are able to exert more force and greater energy, but with much less endurance than type one muscle.

Fast twitch muscle fiber is also more complex than type one. There are actually two different types of type two muscle fibers:

  1. Type IIa
  2. Type IIb

The only difference between the two is that Type IIa have more endurance than the Type IIb variety.

Nevertheless, no matter what version of type two muscle you are talking about, type two muscle fibers are also larger than type one, and respond better to resistance training than the type one fiber.

This is why many people are able to train and become stronger, but stay literally identical in size. So if you excel at short burst or sprinting type activities, then you are probably a white meat bird.

Type One (Slow Twitch) = Dark Meat

Type one muscle (slow twitch) is not capable of the type of force exerted by type two fibers, but retains endurance well beyond that of the type two (fast twitch) muscle fiber.

Type one muscle is the darker of the two types because of the additional oxygen, mitochondria, and myoglobin (oxygen carrier in muscle) it contains.

These are the three factors (oxygen, mitochondria, & myoglobin) which are responsible for the performance characteristics of the muscle fiber as well. This is also the reason a bird possesses both white and dark meat; they have two types of muscle fibers as well!

This Is For The Birds

Humans, not unlike our feathered friends, are made up of mostly type one fibers in the areas that are responsible for doing endurance type of work - the most common area of type one fibers being the calves and lower legs. The type one fiber is also smaller than that of the type two.

I personally didn't realize how much type one muscle fiber I have (in my arms of all places!), until my recent workout partner of 175 lbs began to stack on more plates than I do while doing curls. I even have an extra 1.5" in my arms than he does! So if your endurance overshadows your strength, then you are more than likely a dark meat bird!

The fact of the matter is that genetics plays the primary role in what type of fiber makes up your muscle composition, and we are actually neither a strictly white meat bird nor a strictly dark meat bird. What type of fiber dominates your muscle is as dependent on genetics as height, eye, or hair color. There is some hope though...

Research leads us to believe that participating in exercises or sports that rely on a certain type of fiber can lead to an increase of that particular fiber's development.

Although the increase in fiber development isn't equal to the amount of effort put into the cause, you will gain some of the fiber type desired. Once again, there is always a genetic plateau.