5 Essential Muscle-Building Vitamins, Minerals, and Nutrients NOT Called Protein

by John Esposito
Are you looking to build your muscle? Protein might seem to be everything, but it isn’t the only thing. Protein rightfully gets all the accolades. Yes, there’s no question about that. Most adults need around 35 g of protein every meal to maintain strong and healthy muscles, and every gram of protein counts if you wish to continue making gains at the gym and retain your functionality. But the body also needs the extra juice to power your muscles — and we’ve put together a list of five essential nutrients that help build and enhance your muscle growth and overall health. Here they are.  
  1. Calcium

5 Essential Muscle-Building Vitamins, Minerals, and Nutrients NOT Called ProteinCalcium has made its reputation by helping build strong bones, but its role in building strong muscles seems to be underrated. Muscle contraction requires calcium regulation and thus building muscle. Every time calcium is released into your muscles, it helps fire up their contractions — regardless of the activity you’re conducting. Generally, most adults need around 1,000-1,300 mg of calcium each day, and a single 8 oz serving of milk gets you 1/4th of the recommended daily allowance. Don’t limit your calcium intake to just dairy, either — non-dairy sources like salmon, tofu, and green leafy vegetables are excellent additions to your diet. Consult your doctor if a multivitamin or supplement is right for you (if you can’t meet the daily requirements).  
  1. Vitamin D

We can’t mention calcium without mentioning its vitamin counterpart, vitamin D. Vitamin D, like calcium, supports better bone health while keeping your muscles in optimal condition. According to a review, vitamin D deficiency is correlated to insufficient muscle function and health. Besides, for older adults, taking a vitamin D supplement may help reduce the likelihood of falls, a side effect of diminishing bone and muscle health. It’s always best to get your vitamins and minerals naturally, and vitamin D is no different: go out, slap on the sunblock, and get some sunshine. After all, that’s how the body produces the majority of its vitamin D — straight from the morning sun. Other sources of vitamin D include fatty fish like salmon and tuna, mushrooms, eggs, and fortified food sources like milk.  
  1. Zinc

5 Essential Muscle-Building Vitamins, Minerals, and Nutrients NOT Called ProteinZinc not only builds up your immunity but also keeps your muscles strong and resistant from exercise trauma, and better yet – it helps your muscles recover from it. That’s not to mention its testosterone-boosting capability that all men need — just more reasons to love this manhood-boosting mineral. But did you know that zinc also supports the process that the protein from the food you eat becomes part of your muscular system? Zinc plays a crucial role in enabling the insulin-like growth factor in helping boost muscle growth in muscle cells. Want to boost your zinc levels? Eat more oysters. Oysters are undoubtedly the single-most abundant zinc food source out there, followed by red meat and poultry. Think about this for one second: one serving of oysters gets you quintuple your recommended daily allowance of zinc. Legumes and dairy are also excellent vegetarian options to obtain zinc. According to the National Institutes of Health, the typical adult needs around 8-13 mg of zinc daily.  
  1. Beta-hydroxy beta-methylbutyrate (HMB)

Beta-say what now? Beta-hydroxy beta-methylbutyrate, or HMB for short, is a byproduct that remains in the bloodstream in trace amounts after the body processes the amino acid called leucine. Leucine is found in soy, meat, fish, and eggs, and HMB has shown some promise in slowing the constant breakdown of muscle in sedentary or immobile adults. Senior individuals who took HMB experienced less muscle loss than other adults that didn’t. HMB, therefore, shows great promise but requires further research in order to determine its benefits to muscle-building. Studies on HMB used 1g doses of the substance daily, or the same amount you’d get from taking a 60g leucine supplement or consuming 600g (!) of protein in one day. As the latter figures are impossible to obtain through consuming whole foods, an HMB supplement might be required. Check protein powder labels if they include HMB if you wish to take advantage of this fantastic amino acid byproduct. Moreover, HMB powders might be an option. However, it must be noted that you should consult your doctor before taking any supplements (because they are unregulated). It’s best to do your due diligence when picking an HMB supplement (or a supplement that contains it).  
  1. Creatine

Creatine isn’t only for bodybuilders, so you ought to keep reading. We’re going out on a limb here and say that average joes like us should consume creatine, and not just athletes or weightlifters. And it’s for an excellent reason, too: creatine not only takes your gym performance to the next level, but it also helps support cardiovascular health, reduce the risk of heart disease and maybe even cancer, as well as giving your mental health a boost. Creatine is one of those substances that help you go the extra mile whether you’re doing resistance training or high-intensity interval training (HIIT). While creatine doesn’t create bigger muscles per se, it trains them to increase intensity. Creatine supports further muscle growth due to the increased exertion. Creatine is ideally suited for HIIT, running, and resistance training, where the body uses creatine phosphate as its primary energy source. But because the body stores very little amounts of the substance, it depletes its reserves quickly. However, the benefits are clear: a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research helps increase the number of reps you can manage by a factor of 14%. Improved workouts mean superior results. Creatine is available from meat sources. However, even a balanced diet provides only 1g of the substance a day instead of taking a creatine powder supplement that may contain anywhere in the range of 3-5g per serving. We can’t stress this enough, though: you need to consult your doctor before taking any supplements, even if they appear to be safe — even if, like creatine, research has shown that supplementation is safe. Likewise, consult your doctor if creatine monohydrate – the most researched form of creatine – is suitable for your health goals.

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