Does drinking water help build muscle?

does water build muscle

The majority of the public and even a good portion of athletes and bodybuilders do not know that drinking water can help build muscle. Most try to consume sufficient amounts to perform or work out at maximal levels, but few try to utilize water to increase or maximize muscle growth. In this article, we will show you how water can help you build muscle.

Does water help build muscle?

Water can stimulate muscle growth by stimulating mTOR and increasing protein synthesis. Increases in cell volume and size stop muscle breakdown and increase protein synthesis. Water is also crucial to properly transporting critical nutrients for muscle functioning and growth. In terms of building muscle, water is one of the most overlooked factors. Everyone knows that water is essential for optimal performance, but few know that water can help stimulate protein synthesis and muscle growth.

One of the most exciting benefits of water for athletes and bodybuilders looking to build muscle is its ability to stimulate mTOR. Proper hydration and increased cell volume will stimulate mTOR, and the reverse is also true. If the cell volume is low due to dehydration, it inhibits mTOR, and thus a state of low water or dehydration could impair muscle growth.[1] This study sheds some light on why cell volumizing agents like creatine helps increase cell volume by increasing the osmolarity to help build muscle.

Another exciting study also examined the effect that cell volume or quantity of water within the cell has on protein metabolism. The study results confirmed that cells in a hypo-osmolality state (swollen) decreased protein breakdown and had an anti-catabolic effect. The study shows that changes to cell volume can significantly impact protein, glucose and fat metabolism and that Hypo-osmotic cell swelling inhibits protein and glycogen breakdown.[2]

Cell volume or the amount of water within the cell seems to play a crucial signalling role within the cell and body. In terms of muscle building, water, proper hydration, and increased cell volume play a significant role in stimulating an anabolic environment, beneficial for muscle building. The opposite is also true; if the body is in a state of dehydration or decreased cell volume, it can inhibit protein synthesis and ultimately impair muscle growth.[3]

This cellular signalling resulting from the cell volume, size and hydration level is so powerful that scientists postulate that the catabolic state and muscle atrophy seen in many diseases results from the decrease in skeletal muscle cell hydration and volume.[4]

After reading the muscle-building benefits that increased cell volume can give you, you might want to start drinking a massive amount of water. The problem with simply increasing your water intake is that the body will excrete most of it, and you will not get the cell volumizing effect you want. This inherent difficulty getting muscle cells to take up more water is where cell volumizing agents come into play. Supplements that can increase the water in the muscle cell are the best way to try and increase the cell volume or size.

Cell volumizing supplements

Cell volumizing supplements increase the water content within the muscle cells. By increasing the water content of the muscle cells, they cause the cells to swell and increase in size or volume. It is this swelling in size that studies show stimulates the anti-catabolic effect and anabolic effects. The majority of the cell volumizing supplements work by being drawn into the muscle cells themselves, increasing the number of dissolved solutes within the cell compared to outside the cell. This differential creates a change in the osmolarity of the cell. The extracellular water gets drawn into the cell as the osmolarity pull is greater within the cell than outside the cell.

So what are some effective cell volumizing supplements? Below is a small list of effective cell volumizers.

Muscle pump
Muscle pump


Creatine is a potent cell volumizer. Creatine increases muscle cell volume and size by absorbing into muscle cells. The increased creatine content within the cell changes the cell osmolarity, which draws water into the cell and increases the cell size and volume. Creatine increases intracellular (within the cell) water volume while not affecting extracellular (outside the cell) water volume.[5]


Glutamine is a well-established muscle-building supplement, but athletes often overlook its cell volumizing properties. Overlooking glutamine as a cell volumizer can be detrimental to your muscle-building goals, as glutamine plays a critical role in cell volume and mTOR signaling along with leucine. Without adequate glutamine present, leucine’s ability to stimulate protein synthesis is impaired.[6]


Glycerol is an interesting cell volumizing supplement. It can drastically increase whole-body water within short periods, improve cardio performance, and increase the body’s resistance to heat. Glycerol is also called glycerine and is popular in supplements designed to increase the muscular pump while working out. Glycerol does this not by increasing nitric oxide but by increasing the water drawn into the muscle cell. [7]


Ribose is a naturally occurring simple sugar molecule used by the cell in enzymes, RNA and DNA. Ribose can accumulate within the muscle cells, especially if supplemented. This increased cellular ribose increases the solute concentration within the cell. As we have mentioned earlier, this changes the osmolarity gradient and causes a shift of water towards the intracellular, leading to increased cell water content and volume.

Summary does drinking water help build muscle

We have established pretty convincingly that drinking water can help build muscle by ensuring that the muscle cell volume is sufficient to help stimulate mTOR signalling and protein synthesis. But it is important to remember that it is hard to increase muscle cell size or volume by simply drinking large amounts of water. You need to change the osmotic pressure towards the intracellular space and not the extracellular space. An excellent example of this is by supplementing with creatine. As more creatine molecules get taken in by the muscle cells, this shifts the osmotic pressure towards the inside of the cell (intracellular), leading to water being drawn into the cell. An example of the opposite of this would be eating too much sodium (salt). Sodium accumulates more outside the cells (extracellular), leading to the osmotic pressure favouring the extracellular space, which draws water out of the cell and into the extracellular space. 

It would be wise for any athlete or bodybuilder looking to optimize mTOR signaling, protein synthesis, and ultimately muscle growth to increase their water intake while supplementing with a good cell volumizer like creatine or glutamine. This protocol should prove beneficial for muscular gains.

The information in this article should not be taken as medical or health advice. always talk to your family doctor prior to starting any health, nutrition or supplements regiment.