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 body mass
- Increased muscle cell volume
- Faster post-workout recovery
- Increased glycogen storage
- Increase high-intensity muscle performance
Athletes typically prefer creatine when weight training and bodybuilding because of the rapid pace at which 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 the 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 four 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 shut down the neural drive which can force muscle failure. By maintaining increased levels of carnosine through BA supplementation a bodybuilder is able to 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
- Delayed fatigue
- Improved repeated sprint ability
- Works synergistically with creatine
Recommended Dosing: 2-6 grams per day, taken in smaller doses throughout the day to reduce the skin-tingling sensation.
3 Whey Protein
It's been systematically surmised that body builders and trainers can improve performance and gain muscle mass when consuming whey protein shakes or supplements. Whey protein supplies the body with a high amount of protein that helps to jump-start the muscle-growing process.
Whey is typically consumed before and after a workout to increase protein synthesis and to improve muscle recovery and restoration. Whether you are trying to add lean mass or drop body fat, adding a whey protein supplement 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. Whey is a fast-digesting milk protein that acts almost immediately to help deliver amino acids to the skeletal muscle.
Anyone who is lactose intolerant knows the cramping and discomfort of trying to take everyday dairy shakes. Rather than suffering through GI distress, consider supplementing with a whey protein isolate, which contains a higher percentage of pure protein and can be virtually lactose-free.
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. Just make sure to look for ones that aren't packed full of carbohydrates and fats.
Our bodies need a substantial amount of quality protein and amino acids in order to function. Whey protein supplements contain very high concentrations of the essential 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 throughout the day.
Recommended Dosing: Consume 20-30 grams of whey protein at a time. It's best used pre- and post-workout, but is also a convenient way to get in the necessary amount of protein when whole food is not an option. Never rely on shakes; while 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 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.
There is also some measure of proof 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 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.
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 mass your body has, the more effective your metabolism is. When training to lose weight, the body will also shed muscle mass, 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 your entire immune system. Glutamine restores the health of the muscle tissue, and it feeds into the immune system as well, ensuring rapid recovery for the body as a whole.
- Glutamine has been cited for its ability to enhance plasma growth hormone levels in the body. This is a major draw for those who want to focus on building muscle, as one study has suggested that just 2 grams of glutamine supplementation can increase growth hormone.
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 diet is in line. Then if you decide to take the supplements I have recommended, you should see better results.
The results you gain from supplementation are going to vary, specifically because each person will have a different workout utilizing different levels of intensity and length. If your diet is in line and you are working out with the utmost intensity, these supplements may help you get to the next level.