Muscle Gain & Exercise

Last Updated: February 11, 2023

Exercise is planned, structured, and repetitive physical activity that aims to maintain or improve physical fitness. Muscle gain is a consequence of muscle protein synthesis exceeding muscle protein breakdown and is provoked by exercise and diet.

How does muscle gain work?

Muscle tissue is constantly turning over, with the rates of muscle protein synthesis (MPS) and muscle protein breakdown (MPB) fluctuating throughout the day. Net protein balance is the difference between MPS and MPB. For an increase in muscle mass to occur, MPS must exceed MPB, resulting in a positive net protein balance.[1] MPS is very sensitive to exercise and diet (namely, essential amino acid intake).

How could diet affect exercise and muscle gain?

An adequate energy intake is essential to optimize exercise performance and adaptations — if one maintains an energy-deficient diet during training, muscle loss, impaired recovery, illness, decreased bone mineral density, poor mood, and menstrual dysfunction can occur.[2] Consuming a hypercaloric diet augments resistance-training-induced increases in muscle mass.[3]

Beyond general energy intake, carbohydrate intake is important because it serves as a primary fuel source over a wide range of exercise intensities, and a robust body of evidence demonstrates that matching carbohydrate availability to exercise demands enhances both prolonged endurance exercise and intermittent high-intensity exercise performance.[4] Additionally, dietary protein intake is essential for the synthesis and repair of muscle tissue and is required after exercise to elicit a positive net protein balance.[5]

Which supplements are of most interest for exercise and muscle gain?

Supplements may benefit exercise performance and muscle gain by providing a convenient form of energy and nutrients (e.g., powdered proteins such as whey protein or vegetable protein sources, carbohydrate drinks and gels), correcting or preventing nutrient deficiencies, improving recovery from exercise, or enhancing exercise performance directly.[6] The supplements of most interest for enhancing exercise performance directly are creatine, caffeine, nitrate, citrulline, beta-alanine, and sodium bicarbonate.[6]

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