The title question just shouts Thanksgiving, but what’s the basis of it? Equipped with the following answer, you will be the center of festive table talk again this year. Here is the gist of it–in a roundabout way.

Skeletal muscles differ from one another according to whether they are suited better for short-term, powerful demands or sustained moderate contractions. Those muscles capable of producing sudden, explosive contractions are categorized as fast twitch because they can contract up to seventy times per second; but they can only do so in short bursts before they fatigue. By contrast, slow-twitch fibers can repeatedly contract at a much lower rate for hours without tiring.

Some people naturally have more fast-twitch or slow-twitch muscle fibers than others; and to capitalize on what nature provided, athletes gravitate to physical activities that best highlight their attributes. People with a preponderance of fast-twitch muscle fibers are good at sprinting, jumping, and power lifting; all are endeavors that require sudden short bursts of power, which are over before any oxygen debt is realized. Conversely, athletes endowed with a preponderance of slow-twitch muscle fibers will find their efforts better rewarded in endurance activities such as rowing, cross-country skiing, and long-distance running. These endeavors require a steady supply of oxygen over many minutes or even hours.

Guess which type of muscle fibers these fabled racers had?

Getting back to Thanksgiving table talk, turkeys have both types of muscle. They use their breast and wing muscles to flap their way onto tree branches. This requires sudden forceful contractions, the kind of activity provided by fast-twitch muscles. By contrast, while leisurely scratching and strutting throughout the day, the birds rely on the slow-twitch muscles that populate their legs and thighs. These muscles’ constant and prolonged demand for oxygen is supplied by the abundance of a reddish molecule known as myoglobin, muscle’s version of hemoglobin. When heated, myoglobin turns brown—hence the term “dark meat” for cooked turkey thighs and legs. The breasts and wings are “white meat,” because these fast-twitch muscles have far less myoglobin.

Astounded as your dinner table companions will be with your grasp of turkey muscle physiology and biochemistry, they may wonder why you have wandered from your annual fascinating discourses on the glories of bone, some of which has previously highlighted:

Explain that muscle is bone’s closest friend, and an in-depth understanding of one demands an equal grasp of the other. With that in mind, the blog, now renamed to reflect this companionship, will begin extolling the virtues of both, separately and in combination.

Happy Thanksgiving feasting–and yakking.

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