Take a stroll through the store section on Bodybuilding.com and you will see tons of supplements geared toward building lean muscle and restoring the body after a strenuous workout. For the most part, these supplements work well for people, but not all supplements work for all people. Due to the unique nature of our bodies, some athletes will respond differently to some supplements. Despite those differences, there are a number of supplements that show the greatest benefit and the most return across the board. Here are the five I feel work best with muscle growth.
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.
The perks of creatine supplementation:
- The promotion of lean muscle tissue
- Increased muscle cell volume
- Faster post-workout recovery
- Increased glycogen synthesis
- Increase high-intensity muscle performance
Athletes typically prefer creatine when weight training and bodybuilding because of the rapid pace at which lean muscle mass is built. Likewise, for many it's easy to stop taking creatine because it's naturally produced by the body. When an athlete stops taking this supplement, the creatine levels in the body return to normal within 3-4 weeks.
Recommended Dosing: 5-10 grams. Take half of your daily serving with your pre-workout meal and second half of your daily serving with your post-workout shake.
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 4 weeks.
This is significant because during high intensity exercise our bodies accumulate a large amount of hydrogen which causes our pH to drop (whereby we become more acidic). This acidification (lactic acid) can cause severe fatigue, decrease muscle performance and shuts down the neural drive which can force muscle failure. By maintaining increased levels of carnosine through BA supplementation a bodybuilder is able to the delay the accumulation of hydrogen and the resulting acidity which can, subsequently, delay muscle fatigue and failure.
Additional benefits of beta-alanine supplementation:
- Elevated endurance
- Improved force output
- Reduced fatigue
- Improved body composition
- Works synergistically with Creatine
- Enhanced performance for athletes regardless of intensity or duration
Recommended Dosing: 2-3 grams pre-workout is sufficient if you are an advanced lifter an additional 2-3 grams post-workout has shown to help with the recovery process.
3 Whey Protein
It's been systematically surmised that body builders and trainers can improve performance and lean muscle gain when consuming whey protein shakes or supplements. Whey protein supplies the body with a high amount of protein as well as high concentrations of calcium, magnesium and other minerals that are easily digested in liquid form.
Whey is typically taken before and after a workout to improve muscle recovery and restoration. Whether you are on a muscle gain diet or concerned with losing body fat, a whey protein supplementation to an exercise routine can speed the gain and loss process. Here are some key benefits to whey protein supplementation.
Weight trainers and athletes on the go can save time by consuming a whey protein shake right after their workouts to gain the benefit of the nutrients that are rapidly absorbed. Because these supplements contain a number of vitamins and minerals not available in everyday meals, this is a great supplement for anyone with a busy lifestyle.
Anyone who is lactose intolerant knows the cramping and discomfort of trying to take everyday dairy shakes. Whey protein shakes are generally made with a combination of egg proteins, soy proteins and calcium caseinate protein. That means there are no similar negative side effects to pure milk products.
Please read the label carefully and if you have a recommendation about Lactose Free Protein Powder please email me.
Improved Muscle Repair
When you complete an intense weight lifting workout or sporting event the body needs to repair itself. In order to do that it needs specific nutrition. Protein is the essential building block for muscle repair and comes packed in whey protein shakes and supplements. When taken immediately after a workout the protein triggers rapid muscle recovery.
Natural Appetite Suppressant
Eating a high protein diet can stave off hunger, making it easier to consume a low-calorie diet without suffering from severe hunger. Whey protein supplements and shakes can be used as a meal replacement or as a snack between meals.
Our bodies need a substantial amount of quality protein and amino acids in order to function. Whey protein supplements contain very high concentrations of amino acids that provide assistance in protein synthesis.
Consuming a large amount of protein is fuel for the furnace. When consumed throughout the day it serves as a great source of energy to keep the fire lit for metabolism. With improved metabolism you get a higher calorie burn and reduced hunger.
Recommended Dosing: Consume 30-40 grams of whey protein at a time. Best used pre and post-workout, but also is a convenient way to get in the necessary amount of protein when whole food is not an option. Never rely on shakes - though having a whey protein shake is ideal post-workout, at all other times in the day do your best to get in whole food sources.
4 Branch-Chain Amino Acid (BCAA)
Another common supplement that weight trainers and bodybuilders turn to is branch-chained amino acids (BCAAs) to improve workout results. Of the 21 amino acids in the body, three are referred to as BCAAs: leucine, isoleucine and valine. These are the main elements of protein and combine to make up about 30% of the skeletal muscle within the body.
The body uses BCAAs to help the muscles recover. Like a whey protein supplement, BCAAs drive nutrients to the muscle tissue allowing for improved workout recovery. The body will burn off BCAAs as you work out, so taking a supplement can restore the same nutrients lost during intense exercise. This supplement also reduces pain from muscle fatigue and improves metabolic recovery.
There is also some measure of proof in its use that BCAAs can help improve endurance by keeping muscles fueled—something that is of interest to long distance workouts such as backpacking or long distance running (marathons), distance swimming, or any other prolonged workout.
Recommended Dosing: 3-5 grams upon waking and 3-5 grams pre and post-workout.
Glutamine is touted for its ability to slow muscle tissue breakdown during intensive exercise which can help in improved 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 of course inspires the body to produce greater lean muscle to compensate.
Glutamine also has a number of other benefits associated with taking it in supplement form:
- Preservation of muscle tissue allows your body to burn additional fat; the more lean muscle your body has, the more effective your metabolism is. When training to lose weight, the body will also shed lean muscle so it's important to slow this muscle loss.
- Glutamine has shown positive results with the improvement of the immune system in many who take this supplement. When you're under intense training, it places stress not only on the muscles but on our entire immune system. Glutamine restores not only the health of the muscle tissue but it feeds into the immune system as well, ensuring rapid recovery for the body as a whole.
- Glutamine is cited for its ability to enhance growth hormone levels in the body. This is a major draw for those who want to focus on building muscle, as studies have suggested that just 2 grams of glutamine supplementation can increase growth hormone.
- Muscle tissues require nitrogen, and glutamine supplements (L-glutamine) is made up of approximately 20% nitrogen which makes it one of the best suppliers of nitrogen for muscle tissue. When stacked with other muscle recovery and building agents like creatine and whey protein there is a significant increase in the potential for hitting rapid training goals.
Recommended Dosing: 5 grams upon waking; 5 grams post-workout and 5 grams before bed.
Of course results can always be achieved without supplements, but the process is always going to be slower. My advice to you is get your diet in line first and foremost. You will be very surprised by how much better your body will respond to weight training when your dieting is in line. Then if you decide to take the supplements I have recommended you should see better results.
The results that you gain from supplementation are going to vary, specifically because each person will have a variable workout utilizing different levels of intensity and length. If your diet is in line and you are working out with the upmost intensity I am sure that these supplements will help you get to the next level.
When searching for a supplement to enhance an intensive workout program and start building muscle fast through improved muscle recovery and enhanced nutrition then you should stick with the top 5 muscle gain supplements: Whey, BCAAs, Creatine, Glutamine, and beta-alanine.