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A new study has discovered a powerful force that is now driving evolution on Earth.

How does the body build muscle?

Protein is an important part of our diet and is vital for the maintenance of all body tissues, including muscle. The consumption of protein is broken down into amino acids, required to build a vast array of other proteins and structures.

Becoming ever so popular, are protein supplements used to gain the maximum muscle growth usually following a workout in the gym. Although protein can be gained via an introduction of high protein foods to their diet, supplements such as protein shakes or snacks are much more convenient and, in some cases, can be much cheaper.

What is the physiology of muscle growth?

To understand this, we need to look at the term muscular hyperplasia!

Muscular hyperplasia is referred to as increase the production of myofibrils, mitochondria, sarcoplasmic reticulum, and many other organelles. This process occurs because of a very forceful, repetitive muscular activity in other words strength training.

So why increase the production of myofibrils, mitochondria, and sarcoplasmic reticulum?

Firstly, myofibrils (also known as the muscle fibre) are the structures that give muscles the striped looked. This is because it is a rod-like structure composed of tubular cells called myocytes extending the length of the muscle fibre housing filaments. Holding these fibres together are proteins called myosin, actin and titin, all of which are known as contractile proteins, vital for muscular contraction. The production of these proteins will help bind new muscle fibres and enable contractions with more strength.

Secondly, the mitochondria is a very important organelle for the production of energy and respiration. Along with calcium (Ca2+) the myosin, actin and titin require phosphorylation. Okay sounds complicated, I will try to explain. The mitochondria produce adenosine triphosphate (you may know it as ATP), which is three phosphates bound to one adenosine molecule. Now for the activation of myosin, actin, and titin, they need to steal one phosphate from the ATP. Once bound this will lead to muscular contraction. However, you must remember there are thousands of myosin, actin and titin, meaning this process occurs many times during each contraction, that’s a lot of energy (ATP) required.

Lastly, sarcoplasmic reticulum is an organelle found in the muscle cells (myocytes). The sarcoplasmic reticulum is a vital store for Ca2+, when stimulated upon contraction the sarcoplasmic reticulum will release an outflux of Ca2+  into the cell, which is important to activate myosin, actin and titin via binding just like ATP. Therefore, for new and good muscle fibres to contract, many sarcoplasmic reticula are required.

All these protein and structures mentioned, plus other proteins such as messenger proteins and other structural proteins are why proteins (amino acids) help aid the production of muscle growth. However, among protein, the consumption of vital fats, carbohydrates and vitamins are just as equally important. So if you do use protein supplements, especially as a meal replacement, ensure that the supplement has all of the vitamins and nutrients required, otherwise you may be wasting your time.

Also, when using supplements, it is important to understand any risks involved. For example, long term consumption of high protein has been linked to a person increasing their risk of osteoporosis and certain kidney issues, due to the high blood filtration and pressure. The recommended consumption advised from the Department of Health is to avoid consuming no more than twice the daily recommended intake of protein currently 55.5g for men and 45g for women.

Let us know in the comments below what you think of protein supplements and if you think they are needed.