Maximizing Muscle Growth


The red advice is based on meta-analyses or literature reviews.

At The Gym

  • Untrained people should work out 3 or more days per week. Trained people can get away with 2. dose response for strength development
  • You should perform about 4 sets for each exercise dose response for strength development. Each set causes 40% as much growth as the previous Single vs. multiple sets.
  • Resting 3 minutes between sets promotes more growth than shorter durations rest periods.
  • As long as you spend less than 10 seconds, it doesn't matter how long each rep takes repetition duration.
  • There's no reason to train to failure repetition failure.
  • Novices should lift as many reps as they can while lifting 60% of their max, while trained lifters should lift 80% dose response for strength development.
  • Trained lifters should lift as many reps as they can while lifting 85% of their max Maximizing strength development in athletes.

In the Kitchen

  • Protein up to 1.6 grams per kg of body weight per day improve muscle gains protein supplementation - that's about double the 0.8 recommended for the general population. A literature review recommends higher levels for people losing weight: between 2.3 and 3.1 dietary protein during caloric restriction g/kg/d.
  • Protein supplements work Protein supplementation, especially whey advantage whey,
  • Consuming more than 30g of protein in a meal yields no benefits, so you have to split your protein consumption throughout the day moderate serving of high-quality protein.
  • Consuming protein around the time of your workout has no effect on muscle growth except insofar as it may boost your total protein consumption protein timing.
  • You should definitely take creatine supplements, which have been found to increase muscle mass by something like a sixth of a pound per week among older adults. The only side-effects found were minor gastrointestinal issues creatine supplementation.

Creatine Dosage

I couldn't find any meta-analyses on the optimal creatine dosage so I decided to take a look at the data on my own. I looked at the creatine meta-analysis creatine supplementation and assumed the average American weight of ~182lb to convert between studies using creatine in g vs. g/kg. Then I constructed a scatter plot of the effect size on lean body mass (relative to the control group) after adding a little bit of noise for illustrative purposes. Unfortunately, the chart isn't very illuminating:

The charts representing the effect of creatine on chest press and leg press are similarly unhelpful.

Next, I tried dividing the studies into low-creatine (< 5.8 g/d) and high-creatine (>8.2 g/d). The average effect size in the high-creatine was 0.23 higher than in the low-creatine group. However, the p-value was fairly high (p=0.26) and this difference represents just a 16% increase in effect size, suggesting that the first ~5 g/d of creatine represent most (if not all) of the gains.

This analysis has two major problems, however. The first is high error bars due to small sample sizes and noisy muscle growth. The second is that there just aren't that many studies on the effect of very high creatine consumption on muscle growth (just 2 where more than 20 g/d was consumed).

Both these problems are mitigated by examining chest press strength gains instead:

Here, we actually find a negative difference between low and high creatine consumption, but p=0.4, so really the finding is just "no effect".

In short, there's clear evidence that non-zero creatine consumption promotes muscle growth. We have no reason to think more than 5 g/d helps at all, and for all we know the point of diminishing returns occurs far below that.

Rhea, M. R., Alvar, B. A., Burkett, L. N., & Ball, S. D. (2003). A meta-analysis to determine the dose response for strength development. Krieger, J. W. (2010). Single vs. multiple sets of resistance exercise for muscle hypertrophy: a meta-analysis. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 24(4), 1150-1159. Schoenfeld, B. J., Ogborn, D. I., & Krieger, J. W. (2015). Effect of repetition duration during resistance training on muscle hypertrophy: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sports Medicine, 45(4), 577-585. Davies, T., Orr, R., Halaki, M., & Hackett, D. (2016). Effect of training leading to repetition failure on muscular strength: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sports medicine, 46(4), 487-502. Schoenfeld, B. J., Pope, Z. K., Benik, F. M., Hester, G. M., Sellers, J., Nooner, J. L., ... & Just, B. L. (2016). Longer interset rest periods enhance muscle strength and hypertrophy in resistance-trained men. Journal of strength and conditioning research, 30(7), 1805-1812. Morton, R. W., Murphy, K. T., McKellar, S. R., Schoenfeld, B. J., Henselmans, M., Helms, E., ... & Phillips, S. M. (2018). A systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression of the effect of protein supplementation on resistance training-induced gains in muscle mass and strength in healthy adults. Br J Sports Med, 52(6), 376-384. Symons, T. B., Sheffield-Moore, M., Wolfe, R. R., & Paddon-Jones, D. (2009). A moderate serving of high-quality protein maximally stimulates skeletal muscle protein synthesis in young and elderly subjects. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 109(9), 1582-1586. Chilibeck, P. D., Kaviani, M., Candow, D. G., & Zello, G. A. (2017). Effect of creatine supplementation during resistance training on lean tissue mass and muscular strength in older adults: a meta-analysis. Open access journal of sports medicine, 8, 213. Peterson, M. D., Rhea, M. R., & Alvar, B. A. (2004). Maximizing strength development in athletes: a meta-analysis to determine the dose-response relationship. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 18(2), 377-382. Helms, E. R., Zinn, C., Rowlands, D. S., & Brown, S. R. (2014). A systematic review of dietary protein during caloric restriction in resistance trained lean athletes: a case for higher intakes. Schoenfeld, B. J., Aragon, A. A., & Krieger, J. W. (2013). The effect of protein timing on muscle strength and hypertrophy: a meta-analysis. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 10(1), 53. Cermak, N. M., de Groot, L. C., Saris, W. H., & van Loon, L. J. (2012). Protein supplementation augments the adaptive response of skeletal muscle to resistance-type exercise training: a meta-analysis. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 96(6), 1454-1464. Devries, M. C., & Phillips, S. M. (2015). Supplemental protein in support of muscle mass and health: advantage whey. Journal of food science, 80(S1), A8-A15.

Works Referenced