Last Updated on March 20, 2020

5 Muscle-Building Nutrients That Aren't Protein5 Muscle-Building Nutrients That Aren’t Protein

Amino acids present in protein-rich food assist the body in building muscle. If you’re out to do just that, a balanced protein intake will allow you to work harder at the gym and help your muscles recover faster from tough workouts. But protein isn’t all you need (and neither is a set of heavyweights).

Many rookies are advised the only way to build muscle is by lifting heavy weights. However, in some cases, the same results can be achieved if you increase your reps and use lighter weights. A study has shown even if you’re an experienced weightlifter, 20-25 reps with lighter weights will result in muscle increase similar to 8-12 reps with heavy weights. A well-thought-out workout regime with a smart diet can go a long way for any bodybuilder, beginner and seasoned alike.

While protein intake is at the center of bodybuilding, it isn’t the only thing that can help you build muscle. Here are five other nutrients that can help you bulk up and get your body into better shape.


Creatine supplements are increasingly popular in the fitness community. Creatine is one of the most widely supplements on the market today, and has also been shown to promote the formation of proteins that make up new muscle fibers in the body. But make sure to take creatine monohydrate, not another variety, to get the biggest bang for your buck. And remember, creatine can help build muscle, but it can also cause you to gain water weight. The good news is that weight gain is the only major side effect reported for creatine users.

Vitamin D

Musculoskeletal health and Vitamin D go hand in hand. Softening of the bones occurs when your body is low on Vitamin D, and as you age. When you’re working out to build muscle, this can cause added joint stress, impair muscle function and cause your body to take longer to recover after a workout.

Vitamin D is one of the most popular supplements of the year, and is required by the body to absorb Calcium. So if you’re taking calcium, you should also be taking Vitamin D. Exposure to the sun, while using sunscreen or other sun protection, is another way to up your dose of Vitamin D. Egg yolks, fish and mushrooms contain a lot of Vitamin D, as well. A 100gm serving of fresh Atlantic herring, for example, contains more than 1600 IU of Vitamin D.


We all know calcium helps strengthen bones, but it also does a great job when it comes to muscle building. An adult requires around 1300mg of calcium a day. A glass of milk is great, but it doesn’t provide your entire fix.

Although 99% of the calcium in our bodies is found in our bones and teeth, the remaining 1% is found in our muscles, blood and the fluid between our body’s cells. If your blood calcium is reduced because of intense workouts, your body will draw calcium from your bones. Calcium is crucial for proper regulation of muscle contractions and, most importantly if you’re working out, helps keep the cardiac muscle pumping right.

Low calcium content could be one of the main reasons why you experience fatigue on a regular basis. If your muscles don’t have enough calcium, contractions are quick to take their toll on your body—resulting in unnecessary stress during workouts.

Because nearly one-third of U.S. adults don’t get enough calcium, a calcium supplement is also an option worth considering. Remember that to absorb calcium, your body also needs Vitamin D. But you don’t need to take them at the same time.


The proportion of oxygen, hydrogen and carbon molecules in carbs differs from that of proteins. Even though both fall within the macronutrients category, carbs help boost energy while proteins are the body’s building blocks.

The body can retain and absorb 35gms of protein in one meal. If you want to load up on those calories and improve your workout resistance, make sure you eat the right amount of “good” carbs like brown rice and sweet potatoes. Carbs aren’t directly responsible for muscle growth, but they can enhance your training. By improving your glycogen levels, carbs can help you train more effectively and enhance the muscle growth process.


Muscle Protein Synthesis (MPS) is crucial to anyone working on building muscle. MPS is the process through which your muscles are infused with protein. Zinc helps enhance this process, improving your immune system and speeding up muscle repair. Zinc alone won’t build your muscles, but by boosting testosterone levels and acting as a crucial support nutrient, it provides major muscle benefits that you’re missing if your diet lacks zinc.

Pumpkin seeds are a great source of zinc, but when it comes to increasing your intake of this nutrient, nothing beats oysters. A fivefold increase in zinc takes place with just one serving of oysters. If you’re vegetarian, a good helping of peas and beans should take care of your zinc needs.

You can also get zing through supplements. However, if you’re engaging in a lot of strenuous athletic activity, too much zinc can reduce your intake of iron and copper. Consult a doctor to determine what dose of zinc supplements is right for you.

Protein is essential to building muscle the healthy way. However, the nutrients mentioned here can also go a long way toward enhancing your muscle-building journey. When taking supplements to enhance your fitness, be sure to read high-quality reviews, whether you’re seeking the best protein powder, pre-workout supplement, nitric oxide supplement or testosterone booster.

Cory is a veteran health industry writer and content creator. His work has been featured in major publications such as MyFitnessPal, Healthy Living, and Low Carb Fanatics. His health industry writing career spans over nearly two decades.

In his free time, Cory enjoys snowboarding, fictional writing, and online chess.