By Andrew McInroy, B. Sc. Nutrition
We as athletes and bodybuilders want every edge that we can get and if you want to gain as much muscle as possible then you will have to make sure you maximize your cell volumization. Cell volumization is one of the keys to muscle growth and to define it, it is literally increasing the volume of a muscle cell by putting more fluid into it. But the question is, why would you want to increase the volume of the muscle cell? The answer is because when you increase the volume of a muscle cell, you increase protein synthesis.1,2,3 Essentially, you increase muscle building.
Now we are going to explore a few strategies to increase cell volumization. The first strategy is in your training as you want to increase sarcoplasmic hypertrophy (the increase in the size of the muscle). The goal of your training should be to use the heaviest weight that you can but still achieve a pump. The best rep ranges for sarcoplasmic hypertrophy are 6 – 10 for upper body and 10 – 15 for lower body. The bodybuilder who exemplifies this type of training best is Jay Cutler who is often ridiculed for not lifting heavy enough. The fact is simply that he knows that it’s not how much weight you lift, but how much work the muscle is doing and using the correct form to get the best stretch and contraction in the muscle. Ultimately, this leads to increased sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. Furthermore, at the end of your workouts you want to do static stretches on the muscles you worked and hold them for 30 seconds. This allows for optimal nutrient uptake and enhanced recovery and growth. If you train this way, you should definitely eat and supplement a certain way in order to maximize gains.
People often don’t realize how anabolic carbohydrates really are. Not only do they provide energy to fuel intense workouts, but they also help to build muscle. For every gram of carbohydrate stored in muscles, 3 – 4 grams of water are also stored.4Glycogen (stored carbohydrate) in your muscle needs water in order for it to be stored. Therefore, those looking to maximize muscle gains will not want to go too low on their carbohydrates, regardless of whether or not you are cutting or bulking. Everyone is different but a safe bet for bulkers is to have your carbohydrates be around 40 – 50% of energy intake and also to make sure that the majority of carbohydrates are complex. The ultimate carbohydrate sources are yams, sweet potatoes, brown rice, Ezekiel bread, oats (get gluten free if possible), and quinoa. However, if you’re bulking, consuming a faster digesting carbohydrate source immediately after your workout like chocolate milk can enhance muscle gains.
Once you have your nutrition and training in check, supplements can definitely be used to enhance cell volumization. Creatine monohydrateis one of the best because it has an osmotic loading effect on the muscle cells which means it pulls water in. A lot of people have misconceptions about creatine and that it bloats people up – no, it pulls water into the muscle cells and increases protein synthesis through cell volumization. Creatine also is proven to increase strength and increase power and speed in short bursts due to its actions in the phosphocreatine system. Creatine should be in every serious lifters supplement regime.
Glutamineis often recommended for enhancing recovery and rightfully so. But one aspect of glutamine is that it has potent cell volumizing effects. Glutamine has been shown to increase glycogen synthesis5,6and this is of course important because glycogen is the carbohydrate stored in your muscles and you all know that carbohydrates are very good cell volumizers. Furthermore, studies do show that glutamine is a potent cell volumizer itself.7,8One study stated: “Glutamine is, therefore, likely to exert the greatest effects of any natural amino acid on muscle cell volume and osmolality”7. I would recommend taking 10 grams of glutamine with your post-workout shake.
One of the limiting factors to cell volumization is how much carbohydrates, water, and other nutrients we can take into our muscles. The doorway to the muscle cell is called GLUT4 and it allows for the entry of all these things. GLUT4 is activated primarily during two times: when our insulin attaches to receptors on muscles and when we contract our muscles. You may have heard of the anabolic window of opportunity and this refers to the activation of GLUT4 after your workout and when nutrient uptake is greatly enhanced. There is an amazing supplement called USPlabs Anabolic Pump that greatly activates GLUT4 in muscles and this causes your muscles to be super saturated with glucose and other nutrients in order to promote cell volumization.
The most important factor is to be saved for last: water intake. By now you should see that water is the main ingredient for cell volumization and you should be consuming at least 4 L of water per day. If you are a larger individual (200+) then you should consume 6 – 8 L of water per day.
In conclusion, if you want to increase your muscle gains, you should train to achieve a pump and stretch at the end of your workout, make sure to get sufficient amounts of quality carbohydrates, supplement with creatine, glutamine and if you want to really send your cell volumization into overdrive, try Anabolic Pump. All of these supplements are available at the Paramount Supplements online store. And of course, drink a lot of water!
Never give up on your goals!
1. Hauussinger, D., Lang, F., Bauers, K., Gerok, W. (1989) Interactions between glutamine metabolism and cell-volume regulation in perfused rat liver. European Journal of Biochemistry, 89, 1153.
2. Ingwall, J.S., Weiner, C.D., Moreales, M.F., Davis, E., Stockdale, F.E. (1974). Specificity of creatine in the control of muscle protein synthesis. The Journal of Cell Biology, 63, 145-151.
3. Haussinger, D., Lang, F. (1991). Cell volume in the regulation of hepatic function: a mechanism of metabolic control. Biochemica et Biophysica Acta, 1071, 331-350.
4. Olson, K., Bengt, S. (1970). Variation in Total Body Water with Muscle Glycogen Changes in Man. Acta Physiologica Scandinavica, 80
5. Lavoinne A, Baquet A, Hue L (1987). Stimulation of glycogen synthesis and lipogenesis by glutamine in isolated rat hepatocytes. Biochem. J. 248(2), 429-437
6. Varnier M, Leese GP, Thompson J, Rennie MJ, et al. (1995). Stimulatory effect of glutamine on glycogen accumulation in human skeletal muscle. Am. J. Physiol. 269(2), E309-E315.
7. Low, S. Y., Taylor, P. M., Rennie, M. J. Responses of Glutamine transport in cultured rat skeletal muscle to osmotically induced changes in cell volume. Journal of Physiology, 492.3
8. Low, S. Y., Rennie, M. J., Taylor, P. M. (1997). Signalling Elements involved in amino acid transport responses to altered muscle cell volume.