How to Build Muscle Without Protein Shakes

Resistance exercises can help you build muscle.
Image Credit: Thomas Barwick/DigitalVision/GettyImages

The market for protein supplements continues to grow, but these products cause side effects in about 20 percent of users. Fortunately, mechanical devices, resistance exercises and other dietary aids give you equally effective and safe ways to build muscle. Using these methods can help you to gain muscle mass in a few weeks.


About Muscle Loss

People take their muscles for granted. Doctors also neglect muscles. No medical specialty claims muscle as their target organ. Yet, an active lifestyle requires them to be healthy.

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The passage of time gradually breaks down muscle tissue. Doctors refer to this process as ‌sarcopenia,‌ and it affects every middle-aged person. The development of illness and disease also tears down your muscles. This process is known as ‌cachexia,‌ and may affect patients with arthritis, diabetes and cancer.

It's difficult to prevent disease and aging, but you can prevent the main cause of muscle loss — inactivity. A sedentary lifestyle will cause atrophy in a few months, and a hospital stay will cause it in a few days.

Being inactive alters the basic processes of your body. For example, inactivity decreases muscle proteins like optic protein 1, OPA1. Animals lacking OPA1 age rapidly and die young. Sedentarism decreases OPA1 causing a metabolic alteration. That change increases your risk for chronic conditions like diabetes and obesity.


Treatments, Benefits and Risks

Aerobic exercises prevent the decreases in OPA1 caused by sedentarism and aging and help prevent muscle loss. Resistance exercises, mechanical devices and dietary aids have a similar effect. Most important, these treatments foster gaining muscle without protein shakes.

Gaining muscle mass does more than fight disease and aging. It offers you many advantages. For example, it's often associated with increases in strength and decreases in body fat. It can also lower your blood sugar.


Scientists still don't know the mechanisms underlying these effects. However, resistance exercise may increase antioxidants and decrease inflammation as well as enhance muscle mass. Using these treatments may allow you to live longer, according to a 2016 report in Rejuvenation Research.

Because all treatments have a certain level of risk associated with them, it's important not to self-diagnose or pursue treatments without help. Working closely with a health-care expert will help prevent mistakes and decrease your risk. Being honest and open about your limits and goals will help as well. Strive to find a treatment that's right for you.



Work Out With Weights

Resistance exercises such as weightlifting offer you the easiest path to muscle mass. These exercises are effective and safe. It's important, however, to work with a trainer or coach who can not only teach proper technique, but also possibly catch an undiagnosed condition and refer you to a physician.

It's also important to eat breakfast before exercising. A 2019 report in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research showed that skipping breakfast had a negative impact on weightlifting performance. The authors recommended eating high-carbohydrate meals to make sure you get the most out of your workout.


Build Muscle With Sports

Other types of exercise may help you build muscle as well. In addition to increasing fitness, sports offers you many psychosocial benefits, including unique feelings of solidarity and fidelity. These feelings motivate people to participate and thereby increase adherence. A 2014 article published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports looked at the impact of playing soccer on the muscle mass of homeless men.


Participants played street soccer twice a week for 12 weeks. They had a 75-percent attendance rate. Compared to baseline, the recreational games caused a 1.6-percent increase in fat-free mass. It also increased their postural balance and bone density.

Modify Your Diet

Changing your diet nicely complements this exercise-related muscle building. For example, it's important to get the right mix of carbohydrates, proteins and fats after workouts. These macronutrients play a critical role in the anabolic processes, or muscle building, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.


It's especially important to consume a mixed snack of protein and carbs within 30 minutes your workout for muscle building and recovery. A glass of chocolate milk fits the bill. Or, if you have the appetite, a yogurt or a turkey sandwich works too.


Look Into Supplements

Personal trainers know that amino acids like leucine can ‌promote muscle growth‌. Leucine metabolites like alpha-hydroxy-isocaproic acid (HICA), may work through a different mechanism. These byproducts appear to ‌prevent muscle decay‌. A 2019 article in Nutrition and Enhanced Sports Performance looked at the impact of HICA capsules on the athletic performance, body composition and muscle soreness of soccer players.

Subjects took 1.5 grams of HICA each day for a month. Relative to their baseline, these supplements increased the lean body mass of the players. The changes mostly appeared in their lower-body muscles. The HICA capsules also decreased symptoms of delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS). The capsules didn't alter athletic performance.

Try Combined Treatments

Amino acid supplements are particularly effective when combined with resistance exercises. This combination may allow you to keep muscle mass while losing body fat. A study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition tested this hypothesis using healthy, younger men.

These researchers put the men into one of two groups: those given amino acid supplements and those given carbohydrate drinks. Testing lasted for eight weeks. During that time, all subjects did resistance training while on a calorie-restricted diet. Both groups gained strength on the leg squat and lost body fat. Compared to the carbohydrate group, the amino acid group gained strength on the bench press and gained muscle mass.

Make Use of Mechanical Devices

Mechanical devices like vibration machines have become increasingly available in health clubs. These machines have many positive effects on your health. For example, a 2019 review in Supportive Care in Cancer showed that vibration therapy helps children with disabilities ‌and‌ cancer improve their physical fitness. The authors also concluded that the treatment is safe — even for this delicate group.


These results suggest that whole-body vibration may let you build muscle without protein powder. Yet, researchers haven't determined settings needed to see beneficial effects. A 2013 report in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research looked at the impact of high- and low-amplitude vibration training in healthy adults.

Participants trained twice a week for six weeks. In each session, the subjects had to spend about 10 minutes on the vibrating platform. They stayed in a partial squat during this time. Compared to a control group, both high- and low-amplitude training increased muscle strength. However, only high-amplitude training increased muscle mass. Neither group lost body fat.

The mechanisms behind these anabolic effects remain unclear. Like amino acid intake, vibration therapy likely promotes protein synthesis by increasing testosterone production and growth hormone levels.




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