Make Your Muscles Grow: Part Two.

Using this information, how can we ensure adequate cell volume and even tip the cell volume scales in our favor? In other words, enough of the theory, lets talk getting BIG.
NOTE: This is part two, click here for part one!

Well I hope to have peaked your curiosity about cell volume, muscle growth, and nutritional supplementation from my last article. As I stated last month, maintaining a normally hydrated or volumized cell is crucial for preventing muscle loss. In addition, increasing the cell volume beyond "normal" may be a strong signal for muscle growth. Insulin, for example, leads to both increased cell volume and substrate uptake (9,10,11). And we all have heard how anabolic insulin is.

Using this information, how can we ensure adequate cell volume and even tip the cell volume scales in our favor? In other words, enough of the theory, lets talk getting BIG.

How Do I Get Big?

Drink Plenty Of Water Daily!

    I like to recommend 50-70 oz of water per day for practical purposes although I try to get at least a gallon myself (oh yea, I have my very own urinal with a gold name plate on it). One of the many symptoms of dehydration (which include fatigue, poor performance, etc) is cell shrinking. Cell shrinking signals cell protein loss and muscle catabolism (9,10,11). Stay hydrated.

Maintain A Normal Sodium Intake!

    2000-3000 mg of sodium is a reasonable level. If you train intensely, more may be necessary to replace what has been lost during activity. Sodium is an important cellular regulator and far too many people focus on eliminating sodium from their diets. The impact of this is beyond the scope of this article, but suffice it to say, don't go overboard in eliminating sodium intake. Adequate (but not excessive) intake may help you grow.

Ensure Liver & Muscle Glycogen Stores Are Full!

    Low carbohydrate intakes, especially during intense training will leave muscles flat and glycogen depleated. Since water travels with carbohydrate, low carbohydrate stores in the muscle can lead to decreased cell volume and muscle breakdown. Interestingly, this phenomenon seems to work in reverse as well, as low cell volume adversly affects glycogen synthesis (12). Normal to high intra-muscular stores of glycogen can cause cell swelling as carbohydrates bring water with them.

    If you have ever seen a bodybuilder after a contest, then you'll know what I'm talking about here. After a show, their muscles are super-compensated with high intra-muscular levels of glycogen and water. It is no surprise, then, that this also happens to be the most anabolic time for these bodybuilders. To ensure high muscle and liver glycogen stores, be sure to consume a high carbohydrate and high protein meal immediately after exercise and one about two hours later.

    In terms of numbers, we're talking carb to protein in a three or four to one ratio with carbohydrate intake being determined using 0.5 ? 0.8 grams per pound (13). Using these numbers, a 200 lb bodybuilder will consume 100?160 grams of carbs immediately after training along with 25 ? 40 grams of protein. Associated with this high consumption of carbs and protein is an increase in insulin levels, which I've already stated is very anabolic (14).

    Carbs And Protein Auto-Calculator

    Enter Your Bodyweight In Pounds: Pounds

    Press Calculate To View Results Below

    Results - Carbs and Protein After A Workout:

    Between and grams of carbs.
    Between and grams of protein.

Creatine Monohydrate Has Been "PROVEN" To Increase Intracellular Fluid!

    Intra-muscular stores of creatine have been shown to increase by about 20-50% after 5 days of oral creatine supplementation (15). This increase in creatine content has been shown to increase anaerobic power and muscular strength by increasing cellular energy potential. In addition, creatine, like glucose and glycogen, attracts water into the cell and can increase intracellular fluid by about 2-3% (16). These increases can lead to marked cell swelling and possibly an anabolic state within the muscle.

Glutamine Has Both Anabolic & Anti-catabolic Properties!

    Some of which result from its effect on cell volume. Glutamine is a conditionally essential amino acid, meaning that the body cannot make enough during certain times. These include periods of high stress, disease, or intense training (17). It also has profound effects on cell volume and (other) amino acid metabolism.

    The literature has implicated low intracellular glutamine concentrations in overtraining syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, muscle catabolism, immune dysfunction, and cell shrinking (18). Since glutamine is released from the muscle to fuel gut cells and immune cells, oral glutamine supplementation has been shown to have a muscle sparing effect, allowing muscular glutamine stores to remain high and allow cell volume to remain normal.

    In this case, the glutamine you ingest is used to feed the gut and the immune system. This enables the muscle glutamine to remain high and to prevent the cell from shrinking and going into a catabolic state.

Back To The Gym

If I were a nicer guy I would have explained all of this preceeding information to Biff and his groupies between my sets of squats. Who knows, I might have lead him to a new path of enlightenment. Instead me and my volumized cells climbed under the squat bar and proceeded to knock out 12 more intense reps, swelling my legs to painful proportions.

After the workout, I made a big vanilla protein shake with lots of carbs, protein, creatine, and glutamine in an attempt to swell my cells and promote some muscle hypertrophy. Maybe next time I'll let Biff know about this article so perhaps he too can reap the rewards of increased cell volume.

John M Berardi is a former competitive bodybuilder and a graduate student in exercise biochemistry. He can be reached for consultation at


  1. Stephan Dahl, Christian Hallbrucker, Florian Lang, DieterHaussinger. Regulation of cell volume in the perfused rat liver by hormones. Biochem J (1991) 280, 105-109.
  2. Siegfried Waldegger, et al. Effect of Cellular Hydration on Protein Metabolism. Mineral Electrolyte Metabolism 1997; 23: 201-205
  3. Dieter Haussinger, F Lang, W Gerok. Regulation of cell function by the cellular hydration state. Am J. Physiolo. 267 (Endocrinol. Metab. 30): E343-E355, 1994.
  4. SY Low, MJ Rennie, PM Taylor. Modulation of glycogen synthesis in rat skeletal muscle by changes in cell volume. J Physiol (Lond). 1996 Sep 1;495 ( Pt 2):299-303.
  5. JL Ivy. Glycogen resynthesis after exercise: effect of carbohydrate intake. Int J Sports Med. 1998 Jun;19 Suppl 2:S142-5.
  6. KM Zawadzki, BB Yaspelkis, JL Ivy. Carbohydrate-protein complex increases the rate of muscle glycogen storage after exercise. J Appl Physiol. 1992 May;72(5):1854-9.
  7. PL Greenhaff, A Casey, AH Short, R Harris, K Soderlund, E Hultman. Influence of oral creatine supplementation of muscle torque during repeated bouts of maximal voluntary exercise in man. Clin Sci (Colch). 1993 May;84(5):565-71.
  8. Tim Ziegenfuss, Lonnie Lowery, and Peter Lemon. Acute fluid volume changes in men during three days of creatine supplementation. JEPonlineVol 1 No 3 1998
  9. M Rennie, A Ahmed, et al. Glutamine metabolism and transport in skeletal muscle and heart and their clinical relevance. The Journal of Nutrition 1996; 126: 1142S ?1149S.
  10. D Rowbottom, D Keast, A Morton. The Emerging Role of Glutamine as an Indicator of Exercise Stress and Overtraining. Sports Medicine. 1996, Feb 21 (2); 80-97.

NOTE: This is part two, click here for part one!