Would you take a pill for quick muscle gains?

Forget pumping iron and sweating buckets in the gym: the future of muscle building might be as easy as taking a pill. Researchers from Augusta University have found that by suppressing one of our body’s natural proteins we can significantly enhance muscle mass — and the solution could come in tablet form.

The study looked at the protein myostatin, produced naturally in our bodies and a well-known inhibitor of skeletal muscle growth — meaning the more myostatin you have, the less muscle mass you have.

Prior studies have suggested that people with obesity produce more myostatin, which makes it harder to exercise and build muscle mass, a deadly cycle. “Given that exercise is one of the most effective interventions for obesity, this creates a cycle by which a person becomes trapped in obesity,” said study author Joshua Butcher, a postdoctoral fellow at the Vascular Biology center at Augusta University.

The good news is that losing weight can also decrease your levels of myostatin.

The study was conducted on mice, and found that mice with inhibited myostatin production had higher muscle mass compared to those with uninhibited myostatin production. This effect even transferred over to groups of obese mice, where those with myostatin production had cardiovascular and metabolic levels similar to lean mice despite being overweight.

“Ultimately, the goal of our research would be to create a pill that mimics the effect of exercise and protects against obesity. A pill that inhibits myostatin could also have applications for muscle wasting diseases, such as cancer, muscle dystrophy and AIDS,” said Butcher.