What you eat, how you exercise, the amount of sleep you get, and what you supplement all play a role in building muscle. Just keep in mind, supplements are nowhere near as important as diet, exercise, and sleep. Those three are your foundation. Without supplements, you’ll still build plenty of muscle, assuming your exercise routine is consistent, your diet is healthy and contains enough protein, and you get enough quality sleep. Supplements are just the icing on the cake. They’ll help you push yourself a little harder.
- 1 Beta-Alanine
- 2 Beta-Ecdysterone
- 3 Branched-Chain Amino Acid (BCAA)
- 4 Caffeine
- 5 Creatine
- 6 Carnitine
- 7 Casein Protein Powder
- 8 Energy Supplements
- 9 Fish Oil
- 10 Glutamine
- 11 Growth Hormone Supplements
- 12 High Molecular-Weight Carbs (Vitargo)
- 13 Hormonal Supplements
- 14 Nitric Oxide Boosters
- 15 Testosterone Boosters
- 16 Whey Protein
- 17 ZMA
This is a naturally occurring non-essential amino acid that comes into the body through foods that are rich in protein such as poultry. The performance enhancement in beta-alanine (BA) is due to its ability to increase intra-muscular levels of carnosine. This increase in beta-alanine through supplementation suggests carnosine levels are raised by over 60% in as quickly as four weeks.
Beta-ecdysterone is a phytochemical found in plants such as spinach, where its main function is to protect the plant from insects. Russian scientists discovered many years ago that beta-ecdysterone has anabolic properties. In fact, it’s similar in structure to hormones found in insects and crustaceans. Yet beta-ecdysterone doesn’t behave like a hormone in the body, but rather works by stimulating protein synthesis and therefore muscle growth. Anecdotal reports suggest that it’s very effective for producing increases in both muscle size and strength.
Branched-Chain Amino Acid (BCAA)
Another common supplement that weight trainers and bodybuilders turn to are branched-chained amino acids (BCAAs) to improve workout results. Of the 20 amino acids in the body, three are referred to as BCAAs: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These are the key amino acids that stimulate protein synthesis and help regulate protein metabolism.
The body uses BCAAs to help muscles recover. Like a whey protein supplement, BCAAs drive nutrients to the muscle tissue, allowing for improved workout recovery. In the muscle, BCAAs serve as an energy source during exercise, so taking a supplement can help restore the same nutrients lost during intense exercise. This supplement also reduces pain from muscle fatigue and improves metabolic recovery.
It’s pick-me-up in your morning brew blocking the brain chemicals associated with sleep. It also causes your heart to beat faster, opens your airways, and increases muscle blood flow.
Research published in the “Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research” showed that taking caffeine before resistance training improves the total number of reps done and overall strength. It essentially gives you the oomph to train harder.
Creatine is a naturally occurring substance within our muscle cells, primarily around the skeletal muscle tissue where approximately 95 percent of the body’s creatine supply can be found. The remainder is stored throughout the rest of the body.
This naturally occurring metabolite has been reproduced as creatine monohydrate for dietary supplement purposes. It’s used for cellular energy production and modulation.
Besides being a popular fat-loss supplement, carnitine is now known to enhance muscle growth through a number of mechanisms, all of which are supported by clinical research. For one, carnitine can increase blood flow to muscles, which means it provides similar benefits to NO boosters. It also increases testosterone levels postworkout and the amount of T receptors inside muscle cells, which allows more testosterone to stimulate more growth. In addition, carnitine supplements have been found to increase levels of IGF-1. Add all these benefits together and you have the potential to gain enormous amounts of muscle.
Casein Protein Powder
The other milk protein, casein, squeaks in just under whey. Casein has always played second fiddle due to its very slow digestion rate, yet this makes it ideal as a pre-bedtime snack because it prevents catabolism while you sleep by emptying slowly and steadily. Casein also makes you feel less full, which makes it a great snack for those who want to pack on muscle mass. And new research finds that casein gives whey a run for its money – when it’s taken postworkout, casein boosts muscle protein synthesis much like whey does. It’s even suggested that a whey and casein protein shake taken after training increases muscle growth better than either protein taken alone.
Getting more energy to train will obviously help you work harder in the gym, helping your muscles grow. The trouble is that plenty of energy supplements can leave you jitterier than the junkie Jesse Pinkman from “Breaking Bad.”
Energy supps can often also cause weight loss. To make sure your supplement regimen isn’t working against your brawn-building goals, you should stick to the supplements listed.
This supplement has accrued a lot competition since people caught on to its benefits. Despite all the other competing supplements such as krill oil, chia oil, and flaxseeds, fish oil is still the top choice.
The unique fatty acid is rich in omega-3 vitamins, and helps strengthen your cells’ membranes, reduce inflammation, and increase blood flow to your brain. These are important recovery aids that will help you repair the damage done to your muscles when training. And the faster you can recover the faster you’ll be able to go hard again the next day.
Glutamine is touted for its ability to slow muscle-tissue breakdown during intensive exercise which may improve strength thresholds and elevated endurance. Those weight training will find that they can lift heavier weights for longer periods and train more often. Pushing the limits of the muscles inspires the body to produce greater lean muscle to compensate.
Growth Hormone Supplements
Your body naturally produces growth hormone, and, as the name implies, it’s responsible for cell growth and regeneration. It gradually declines with age, transforming your Zac Efron face into a George Clooney.
Without GH, you won’t build muscle. Supplementing with it does the same as testosterone boosters, increasing your levels to their highest natural peak.
High Molecular-Weight Carbs (Vitargo)
Molecular weight is a term that refers to the mass of one molecule of a substance. Therefore, high molecular-weight carbs (HMCs) are essentially made up of very large, heavy molecules. HMCs such as the patented Vitargo brand are typically made from waxy maize (corn) starch. What makes these carbs so special is their ability to rapidly pass through the stomach to the intestines where they can be absorbed and enter the blood. Research shows that HMCs pass through the stomach at a rate almost 100% faster than sports drinks. This is important after exercise because consuming carbs at this time blunts cortisol levels, prevents muscle breakdown and raises insulin levels to help promote muscle growth and replenish muscle glycogen levels.
Hormones are the 2 a.m. phone call, the hand-delivered letter, or the email marked urgent. They carry messages that demand your body take instant action. And supplements can gear these hormones toward gaining more muscle.
The two main hormones are testosterone and growth hormone. Yes, messing about with synthetic versions of these hormones is what got Ben Johnson and Arnie into hot water, but you can increase your levels to their highest natural concentrations without running the risk of handcuffs or a hospital visit.
Nitric Oxide Boosters
Nitric oxide (NO) is a molecule found throughout the body that’s involved in multiple processes. The one that bodybuilders are most interested in is its ability to dilate blood vessels, which allows more blood flow to the muscles for enhanced delivery of oxygen, nutrients, anabolic hormones and water (blood is mostly water). This gives you more energy during your workout, an enhanced muscle pump, and better muscle recovery and growth after the workout. NO boosters don’t provide NO, but rather the amino acid arginine, which is readily converted to NO in the body. Research has found that subjects who were given arginine increased muscle strength and growth and lost body fat.
Testosterone occurs naturally in your body and bumps up your muscle mass by improving muscle-protein synthesis.
Fortunately if you’re between the ages of 18 and 35, testosterone boosters probably won’t create too much difference because your body already produces enough of its own.
Even if you’re older, these supplements won’t put your testosterone levels through the roof, but they will put your body in a position to increase your testosterone to its highest natural levels.
Your muscles break down during exercise and remodel when they repair. Research found that this remodeling process is accelerated by as much as 33 percent when people drink a whey protein shake directly after exercise. That’s not enough evidence to suggest protein shakes work better than salmon steaks—it only means that they can work just as well.
Shakes are a valuable asset if you aren’t a heartbeat away from your kitchen and are traveling home or going back to work. Your approach should be to drink a protein shake directly after training, then have a high-protein meal at least 60 minutes afterward.
ZMA is a combination of zinc, magnesium aspartate and vitamin B6. It’s an important supplement because hard-training athletes such as bodybuilders are often deficient in these critical minerals, which are important for maintaining hormone levels and aiding sleep (essential for recovery). Intense training can compromise levels of testosterone and IGF-1. In fact, one study found that athletes who took ZMA significantly increased their levels of testosterone and IGF-1 during eight weeks of training, while those who took a placebo experienced a drop in both T and IGF-1. Naturally, boosting testosterone and IGF-1 can make huge impacts on muscle gains.