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Does Ursolic Acid Build Muscle? (Explained)

Updated: Oct 23, 2021

TL;DR: Uroslic acid is able to help increase muscle growth, strength, and endurance via various mechanisms.

Ursolic acid is known as a pentacyclic triterpenoid that was first discovered in the peel of apples in 1920. It is widely found in the peels of many fruits, as well as in herbs and spices such as rosemary and thyme. But does ursolic acid build muscle?

Ursolic acid increases skeletal muscle mass, as well as the size of muscle fibres, grip strength, and endurance. It also increases the amount of brown fat, a kind of fat that is found in similar areas as muscle and useful effects of body composition.

The details of ursolic acid and how it works are explained further below.

Table of Contents:

man tensing bicep muscle

What Does Ursolic Acid Do?

In one study, ursolic acid was investigated for its effect on muscle growth and muscle atrophy. (1)

Ursolic acid could reduce muscle atrophy in mice that had been deprived of food or had had surgical muscular denervation.

Muscle hypertrophy was also observed during ursolic acid supplementation.

Because the protein kinase Akt (also known as PKB) is known to prevent muscle atrophy and promote muscular growth, the study investigated the impact of ursolic acid on Akt.

Akt activity was shown to be enhanced in mice skeletal muscle as well as in C2C12 skeletal myotubes.

Ursolic acid enhanced Akt activity in myotubes by increasing the ligand-dependent activation of the insulin receptor and the IGF-1 receptor.

ursolic acid mechanisms illustration

Akt enhances energy expenditure, decreases body fat and blood glucose, and provides resistance to diet-induced obesity, glucose intolerance, and fatty liver disease.

Ursolic acid also decreased adiposity and blood glucose in non-obese mice, it also decreases total body weight, white fat mass, glucose intolerance, and hepatic steatosis in mice that were given a high-fat diet.

Brown fat is also increased with supplementation of ursolic acid, which is a tissue that fights diet-induced obesity and has been shown to be protective against it, brown fat also shares similar origins as skeletal muscle, unlike white fat.

Benefits of Ursolic Acid

There are multiple benefits and effects from supplementing with ursolic acid.

Increases Muscle Hypertrophy

Ursolic acid activates the Akt anabolic pathway, likely due to activation of the insulin and IGF-1 pathway.

This lead to enhanced muscle fibre size in both fast and slow-twitch muscle fibres, possibly leading to an increase in endurance performance.

Due to an increase in brown fat, which shares similar locations to skeletal muscle, they may appear to be bigger.

Ursolic acid also increases levels of IGF-1 and irisin. (2, 3)

Irisin can also enhance anabolic cell signalling in muscle cells, further increasing muscle growth.

Reduces Diet-Induced Obesity, Glucose Intolerance & Fatty-Liver Disease

The impact of ursolic acid on skeletal muscle may be adequate to account for its effects on energy expenditure, thermogenesis, white fat, liver, and glucose homeostasis.

Ursolic acid also boosts brown fat, which has a high rate of energy expenditure and therefore protects against obesity.

These effects are likely due, at least in part, to the increase in the hormone irisin.

Increases Brown Fat

Brown fat has a significantly higher quantity of energy-burning mitochondria inside of them.

brown fat vs white fat illustration

Ursolic acid increases brown fat and reduces white fat, increasing the basal metabolic rate of the body.

Brown fat also helps control blood sugar levels and improves insulin resistance. (4)

Increases Energy Expenditure

Due to increased amounts of brown fat and metabolically active muscle tissue, the rate of energy expenditure is increased significantly.

Increased exercise performance will also result in more exercise and workload and therefore more energy expended.

Does Ursolic Acid Build Muscle?

Ursolic acid has multiple mechanisms helping to build muscle, including improved IGF-1 and Akt signalling, increased irisin levels and improved exercise performance.

Therefore, ursolic acid does build muscle, both slow and fast-twitch muscle fibres have proven to increase in size as a response to ursolic acid supplementation.

Brown fat, which is increased by ursolic acid, shares similar locations to skeletal muscle, helping to increase the physical size of the muscles.


Written by Billy White

billy white

Billy White is a qualified Kinesiologist and Personal Trainer. He is an aspiring bodybuilder, fitness enthusiast, and health and fitness researcher.

He has multiple years of experience within the fitness, bodybuilding and health space. He is committed to providing the highest-quality information.


Further Reading

> Quercetin: Does It Improve Muscle Recovery? > Does Urolithin B Increase Muscle Mass?



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This evidence-based analysis of ursolic acid on muscle growth features 4 references, listed below.

1. Kunkel SD, Elmore CJ, Bongers KS, Ebert SM, Fox DK, Dyle MC, Bullard SA, Adams CM. Ursolic acid increases skeletal muscle and brown fat and decreases diet-induced obesity, glucose intolerance and fatty liver disease. PLoS One. (2012) ✔

2. Seo DY, Lee SR, Heo JW, No MH, Rhee BD, Ko KS, Kwak HB, Han J. Ursolic acid in health and disease. Korean J Physiol Pharmacol. (2018, May) ✔

3. Bang HS, Seo DY, Chung YM, Oh KM, Park JJ, Arturo F, Jeong SH, Kim N, Han J. Ursolic Acid-induced elevation of serum irisin augments muscle strength during resistance training in men. Korean J Physiol Pharmacol. (2014, Oct) ✔

4. Paul Cohen, Bruce M. Spiegelman. Brown and Beige Fat: Molecular Parts of a Thermogenic Machine. Diabetes. (2015) ✔

Citations with a tick indicate the information is from a trusted source.


The information provided in this article is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the guidance of a physician or other competent professional before following advice or taking any supplement. See our terms and conditions.

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