Nitrogen Balance and Building Muscle!

Posted on August 22nd, 2012 at 3:55 am by


What is the Nitrogen Balance?

Nitrogen Balance refers to the state of nitrogen present within the body and is calculated by subtracting the quantity of nitrogen ingested from the quantity of nitrogen that is excreted.  Sufficient levels of nitrogen in the body is important for muscle growth and this can be achieved by consuming enough protein.

Definition of the Various Nitrogen Balance States

The body is said to be in a positive nitrogen balance when nitrogen intake from high quality protein sources are greater than the quantity of nitrogen that is excreted by the body in urea etc.  This state is ideal to be in if you want to build muscle.

In the event that nitrogen output surpasses nitrogen input, you are a prime candidate for muscle loss because of this negative nitrogen balance.  If this negative nitrogen balance is prolonged your body will resort to taking nitrogen from major organs such as your liver, kidney and heart.  This will eventually lead to death since the body is unable to produce antibodies to fight against sicknesses and infections due to a prolonged negative nitrogen balance.

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Nitrogen balance is said to be in equilibrium when nitrogen input is equal to nitrogen output.  This is not an ideal situation to be in if you want to grow your muscles but it is much better than to be in a negative nitrogen balance.

How You Can Sustain a Positive Nitrogen Balance

Now that you are aware of the impact that nitrogen balance has on your ability to build muscle, you should be interested to learn how you can sustain a positive nitrogen balance.  As you learnt earlier, you get nitrogen from the consumption of protein but you have to ensure that your protein sources are of the highest quality.  This means the protein you consume should be from complete sources of protein and you should avoid overly fatty sources.  Those who do not eat meat nor meat derived products (milk, cheese or eggs) are especially at risk of being in a negative nitrogen balance because plant sources by themselves (with the exception of moringa and soy) are not complete sources of protein.  Nevertheless, proper nutritional planning will avert this.  Checking out a protein’s Biological Value (BV) is a great way to judge the quality of a protein.

The following table was taken from


Biological value

Whole egg










Rice, polished


Wheat, whole




Beans, dry


Avoid Overtraining and Get Sufficient Rest

Avoiding overtraining is necessary to ensure that you are in a positive nitrogen balance.  If you train too much then your body’s nitrogen surplus will be used up in training instead of towards inducing muscular hypertrophy.  You can avoid this by keeping your workouts (exclusive of warm ups and cool downs) under one hour.  Research has shown that the anabolic hormone testosterone peaks within the first 45 minutes of exercise, while the catabolic stress hormone cortisol increases after the first hour of exercise.  Also, sufficient sleep has been proven to increase your body’s level of anabolic hormones that will spur muscle growth.  It is recommended that you get at least 7 – 8 hours of sleep every night.  Adequate rest gives your body sufficient time to soak up nutrients such as nitrogen needed to repair and rebuild muscle tissue that has been broken down in the gym.

Do Not Neglect Other Macronutrients

Although you get nitrogen from the consumption of protein, it is vital that you do not neglect other macronutrients.  Carbohydrates are your body’s main source of energy while fats are critical since they play a role in producing anabolic hormones. Vitamins and minerals are essential since they play a critical part in the many chemical processes that occur in your body every second (Five (5) Great Multivitamins to Build Muscle).  If you are not getting enough of these important macronutrients nitrogen will have to be expended towards other processes unrelated to muscle growth.

Final Thoughts

Nitrogen is very important in the muscle building process and is obtained from the consumption of sufficient amounts of high quality protein, however, if it is not backed up by wise training, adequate rest and a diet that is composed of all the macronutrients in sufficient amounts, a postive nitrogen balance might not result.


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