UACES Facebook Does Protein Really Build Muscle?
skip to main content

Does Protein Really Build Muscle?

How does nutrition, especially protein, play a vital role in building muscle mass? The following information may help answer that question.

Nashville, Ark. – When we think of building muscles, body builders and athletes often come to mind. However, everyone benefits from gaining muscle. We need muscles to perform everyday tasks, lower the risk of chronic disease and decrease age-related muscle loss. Building or maintaining muscle mass keeps you independent as we age.

            When discussing the building of muscle mass, it is important to become familiar with the term muscle protein synthesis (MPS). In order to gain muscle mass, you need to make more muscle than your body is breaking down. Research has shown that resistance exercise is effective in maintaining and building muscle. Just as its name indicates, resistance exercise is any exercise that uses resistance to build strength, tone, mass, and/or endurance in muscles. These exercises can be performed with weights, resistance bands or tubes, or you can use your own body as weight to make the muscle contract. More recently, it has been discovered that nutrition, especially protein, plays a vital role in building muscle mass.

            High-quality protein (animal sources of protein) have been shown to increase MPS in both young and elderly people after they eat it. This may be due to the quality of the protein, not how much is eaten. High-quality proteins include eggs, poultry, beef, fish and dairy. Therefore, it is important to include high-quality protein in an overall healthy diet.

            As mentioned earlier, resistance exercise can also increase MPS and muscle mass. There are two types of exercise that must happen in order for someone to build muscle mass – progression and overload, with overload being the most important. Overload is placing extra stress on muscle above normal activities. Exercises that uses weights or swimming are very effective. For most people, maintaining muscle mass is the goal. They exercise using low weights. These exercises are done on a regular basis. However, in order for someone to “bulk up” they must add more weight or increase the amount of exercise they are currently doing.

            Researchers have also looked at the added effect of eating protein and resistance training. In a recent study, researchers looked at the effect of eating four different amounts of beef along with resistance exercise in 35 middle-aged men. Results showed that eating 170 grams of beef in addition to exercise significantly increase MPS.

            So, what does this all mean? Protein is important along with resistance exercises in maintaining or building muscle mass. It is important to note that more research is needed to understand the long-term impacts.

            What can you do to maintain muscle mass? Exercise. There are lots of great, low-cost exercise programs available in our area. The Howard County Cooperative Extension Service offers Extension Get Fit which uses low weights along with repetition. Another program conducted by the Cooperative Extension Service is Walk Across Arkansas, which is an eight week walking program. Registration for the program will be open from March 11-23. If you are interested in learning more about this program, visit the website You can form a team and register today!

            For more information on nutrition or fitness, contact the Howard County Extension Service at 870-845-7517 or visit our office located on the second floor of the courthouse. Ask for the fact sheet, Nutrition, Exercise and Muscle.

 Recipe of the Week

            This recipe is perfect for cold, rainy nights. It was served recently at the Howard County EHC Educational Center and everyone enjoyed it.

Taco Soup

1 pound hamburger meat

½ onion, chopped

2 cans ranch-style beans

2 cans corn

2 cans diced tomatoes

1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies

1 package taco seasoning mix

1 package ranch dressing mix

Grated cheddar cheese

Brown hamburger meat and onion together. Add beans, corn, diced tomatoes, tomatoes with chilies, taco seasoning and ranch dressing mix to the hamburger and onion. Cook for 30 minutes. Serve hot with grated cheddar cheese.

By Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
421 N. Main St, Nashville AR 71852
(870) 845-7517


The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.