We all know that when it comes to building and retaining muscle, protein is king.
This has been harped on time and time again.
Protein is composed of chains of individual amino acids (including essential amino acids and BCAA).
When our body digests protein, the peptide bonds holding the chains of amino acids together are broken so that our body can utilize the individual amino acids to build the proteins it needs for muscle repair, hormone and neurotransmitter synthesis, enzymatic reactions, and much more.
And, as important as dietary protein intake is to muscle growth and repair, it’s not the only nutrient with which we need to be concerned.
You see, a number of other vital micronutrients also play a role in the body’s ability to successfully build and repair muscle tissue.
Today, we discuss the top 5 muscle building nutrients that aren’t protein.
Top 5 Muscle-Building Nutrients That Aren’t Protein
If protein is the most important nutrient for building muscle and strength, then right behind it is creatine.
Simply put, if you want to maximize your results from the gym, you should be supplementing with creatine. It is the most well-researched, proven successful supplement in the history of sports nutrition.
Supplementation with creatine has been shown to improve lean body mass (a.k.a. muscle mass) as well as performance during intense training.[1,2] Additional studies note that creatine supplementation can increase muscle cell nuclei concentration, which promotes greater muscle growth.
Creatine supplementation has even been noted to enhance strength as well as increase one-rep max on bench press by as much as 43% in weightlifters.[4,5]
Beyond its muscle and strength benefits, creatine supplementation enhances energy (ATP) production, cellular hydration, cognitive function, and osteoblast formation, which increases bone formation and bone repair.
Creatine is safe and effective, and if you’re looking to maximize your natural potential, you’d do well to supplement with creatine.
Given the many benefits that accompany creatine supplementation, it was the first ingredient we included when formulating our post-workout supplement Pure Rebuild, which supplies a full 5 grams of creatine in every serving.
#2 Betaine Anhydrous
Betaine (trimethylglycine) is a modified amino acid consisting of a molecule of glycine surrounded by three methyl groups (hence its name tri -- meaning three -- methyl glycine).
Betaine is found within the human body as it is a metabolite of choline (a nutrient essential for cognitive development and function), and it’s also present in a number of foods common in the diet, including sugar beets, spinach, and wheat.
Betaine supports muscle building in two distinct ways.
First, it acts as a powerful osmolyte (similar to creatine) in that it helps muscle cells absorb extra water. This cellular swelling forces the cell to ramp up protein synthesis to fortify its membrane, leading to more growth.
Second, betaine also methylates homocysteine to the amino acid methionine, which is a building block the body uses to produce creatine.
Human studies have shown that betaine supplementation leads to increases in muscle mass in resistance-trained individuals. It’s also been noted to enhance muscle endurance and repetition quality during intense resistance training.
Due to the supporting role betaine plays in creatine production in the body, it’s only natural that the two should be combined.
That’s why in addition to 5 grams of creatine in Pure Rebuild, we’ve also included the full research-backed dose of 2.5 betaine anhydrous in every serving.
#3 Vitamin D
Affectionately referred to as the “sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D is an essential fat-soluble vitamin best known for its role in regulating calcium levels in the body and strengthening bone.
Research also finds that Vitamin D plays an essential role in many other tissues including skeletal muscle. Additional studies also note an association between vitamin D levels in the body and strength as well as athletic performance. Essentially, individuals with higher vitamin D levels perform better and are less susceptible to injury (especially from falls).
The reason this is particularly concerning is that Vitamin D deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies on the planet.
Researchers suggest that individuals less than 65 years of age who do not have year-round sun exposure consume between 600 to 800 international units (IU) of vitamin D3 daily to prevent deficiency.
Zinc is an essential mineral that is involved in numerous biological functions, including immune function and muscle growth.
Regarding skeletal muscle, zinc plays a major role in myogenesis -- the formation of muscle tissue. It also affects acetylcholine signaling, which plays a significant role in muscle contraction as well as the mind-muscle connection.
Additional research finds that zinc plays a key role in insulin-like growth factor-1 – a hormone that supports muscle growth.
Deficiencies in the essential mineral can impair performance, recovery, and growth.
Foods high in zinc include red meat, poultry, and seafood (especially oysters). Plant foods high in zinc include beans, chickpeas, lentils, walnuts, and various seeds.
We’ve also included 15mg Zinc (as Zinc Aspartate) in every serving of 1UP Pro Test Max to support protein synthesis, hormone production, and performance.
Calcium is another unsung hero of muscle building.
It’s well-known for its role in supporting strong bones and healthy teeth, but it also impacts your ability to build muscle.
Specifically, calcium ions play an important role in muscle contraction by creating interactions between the proteins, actin and myosin. Ca2+ ions bind to the actin filament, which exposes the binding site for the myosin head to bind to in order to stimulate a muscle contraction.
Deficiencies in the essential mineral / electrolyte can impact bone status as well as lead to spasm or twitching in nerves and muscles.
The RDA for calcium for both men and women is 1,000mg per day.
Rich food sources of calcium include dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese, etc.), kale, Chinese cabbage, and broccoli.
Seeing as whey protein is derived from milk, it stands to reason that it too would be an excellent source of calcium.
Every serving of 1UP Whey Protein supplies 15% of the RDA of calcium.
Consuming enough protein is paramount to building muscle and seeing the results you want to during your transformation challenge.
But, there are also a number of other nutrients that can equally affect your results.
To maximize your progress and get the best results possible, make sure you’re getting sufficient amounts of these other muscle-building nutrients each day!
- Branch JD. Effect of creatine supplementation on body composition and performance: a meta-analysis. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2003;13(2):198-226.
- Parise G, Mihic S, MacLennan D, Yarasheski KE, Tarnopolsky MA.Effects of acute creatine monohydrate supplementation on leucine kinetics and mixed-muscle protein synthesis. J Appl Physiol. 2001;91(3):1041-1047. doi:10.1152/jappl.2001.91.3.1041.
- Olsen S, Aagaard P, Kadi F, et al. Creatine supplementation augments the increase in satellite cell and myonuclei number in human skeletal muscle induced by strength training. The Journal of Physiology. 2006;573(Pt 2):525-534. doi:10.1113/jphysiol.2006.107359
- Earnest CP, Snell PG, Rodriguez R, Almada AL, Mitchell TL. The effect of creatine monohydrate ingestion on anaerobic power indices, muscular strength and body composition. Acta Physiol Scand. 1995;153(2):207-209. doi:10.1111/j.1748-1716.1995.tb09854.x.
- Rawson ES, Volek JS. Effects of creatine supplementation and resistance training on muscle strength and weightlifting performance. J strength Cond Res. 2003;17(4):822-831.
- Cholewa, J. M., Wyszczelska-Rokiel, M., Glowacki, R., Jakubowski, H., Matthews, T., Wood, R., … Paolone, V. (2013). Effects of betaine on body composition, performance, and homocysteine thiolactone. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 10(1), 39. https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-10-39
- Hoffman, J.R., Ratamess, N.A., Kang, J. et al. Effect of betaine supplementation on power performance and fatigue. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 6, 7 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-6-7
- Ceglia L. Vitamin D and its role in skeletal muscle. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2009;12(6):628-633. doi:10.1097/MCO.0b013e328331c707
- Sizar O, Khare S, Goyal A, et al. Vitamin D Deficiency. [Updated 2020 Jul 21]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Available from:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK532266/
- Hernández-Camacho JD, Vicente-García C, Parsons DS, Navas-Enamorado I. Zinc at the crossroads of exercise and proteostasis. Redox Biol. 2020;35:101529. doi:10.1016/j.redox.2020.101529
- Ruth S. MacDonald, The Role of Zinc in Growth and Cell Proliferation, The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 130, Issue 5, May 2000, Pages 1500S–1508S, https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/130.5.1500S
- Szent-Györgyi AG. Calcium regulation of muscle contraction. Biophys J. 1975;15(7):707-723. doi:10.1016/S0006-3495(75)85849-8
- Cooper MS, Gittoes NJ. Diagnosis and management of hypocalcaemia [published correction appears in BMJ. 2008 Jun 28;336(7659): doi: 10.1136/bmj.a334]. BMJ. 2008;336(7656):1298-1302. doi:10.1136/bmj.39582.589433.BE