Like most fitness enthusiasts, you are most likely always looking for an edge. Supplements help you get better results from those hard-earned hours you have poured into the gym. Everyone is looking to build lean muscle mass. This is not only for the aesthetic benefit but because of the many health benefits that come with an increased ratio of lean muscle in the body. By supplementing with naturally occurring substances that are involved in the muscle repair process, you can help to reduce recovery time and build lean muscle faster.
According to recent research, having more lean muscle mass throughout the body actually has more of a vital role in increasing longevity and fighting off disease than was previously believed. This study demonstrated that as the level of lean muscle mass in the body increases, the overall protein metabolism was enhanced as well. This action leads to a cascade of effects that includes increased fat metabolism, improved cognition, increased immune activity, and caused other very beneficial health improvements.
An Overview of Muscle-Building Supplements
These benefits are all likely the result of a more readily available protein source in the body. While this is true, it is also likely a result of a faster and more reactive metabolism. This new set of environmental changes allows the muscles to handle stress more easily. It is then able to burn fat and put nutrients to use much more readily than a weighed down metabolism. This is mainly due to a shortage of essential amino acids. Building muscle requires a constant state of healthy repair in the muscles. This is a process that requires a steady availability of critical nutrients other than just protein.
The right stack of supplements can help to naturally enhance the ability of your body to recover properly. In addition, it can create an environment that is much more conducive to building muscle. All of the supplements we recommend have been shown in studies to have a great chance of success. They are also naturally found in the body as a part of the muscle building process. Keep an eye out for products that make false claims without any real scientific backing or logic behind why they help build muscle.
Before We Begin…
Before you can begin to reap the benefits of an effective muscle building supplement, it is important to understand the basics of muscle growth. Diet is actually the key factor that sets professional bodybuilders apart from the casual fitness enthusiast. Eating correctly is the secret weapon for developing chiseled a body. For this reason, there are a few main points to understand before you can design an effective approach to building muscle and gaining mass:
Maintain a Calorie Surplus
One of the key points is understanding it is very difficult to try to lean out while also building mass. While you can definitely build lean muscle while cutting fat, it is difficult. If you are trying to gain some size, you will need to take in more calories than you burn on a daily basis. One of the best approaches is to look up how many calories are normally burned by people with your body weight. Once you do this, make sure to take in more than this amount per day and get the correct amount of protein per your body weight.
It is important to not go overboard with this and ingest a ton of fat and carbohydrates. This will just result in a buildup of fat and will not reveal the mass you have been putting on. In addition, without enough protein, you will not be building muscle regardless if you are in a surplus or not. According to controlled studies, active athletes who want to build muscle and stay healthy are encouraged to consume 1.3 – 1.8g of protein per pound of body weight. In order for the protein to work, you must eat a balanced diet full of fruit and vegetables. This strategy helps to maintain healthy digestion and absorption. If you do not focus on maintaining a balanced diet, your body will not have the ability to put all of that protein to use.
Train Smarter, Not Harder
Working out with intensity is important for the muscle building process. While this is true, it could be argued that getting sufficient rest is even more important. It is actually during the resting period when your muscles repair and grow the most. Giving your body periodic rest to let your muscles regenerate completely. This is the only way to make sure you are allowing for complete repair before breaking down the muscle fibers again. When you lift weights you are causing small tears in muscle fibers. You are also depleting the muscles of their energy stores. This degradation process requires time and plenty of protein so they can come back bigger and stronger than before.
According to recent studies, it is relatively accepted that muscle fibers take about 48 hours to completely recover. While this is true, your rest schedule really depends on how often you workout. We recommend working out for no more than 5 days in a row. Furthermore, it is best to allow for one rest day every 3-5 days. During these rest days, it is beneficial to stay active and engage in light activity such as a hike, bike ride, or another form of outdoor activity to get the blood flowing.
Top 6 Muscle-Building Supplements
Even the most strict diet plans can benefit from supplements. Supplementing is a great way to aid your body’s natural repairing mechanisms and get results quicker. They can help to reduce soreness and improve muscle building mechanisms. Most importantly, supplements can help you start to see results and grow lean muscle much faster. It is important to keep an eye out for naturally-occurring substances. Many supplements that claim to enhance muscle growth in the body have ingredients that are synthetic and will not provide healthy results.
Some of the most popular and proven supplements to help muscle growth include:
Probably the most commonly used and popular supplement is of course protein, specifically whey protein. The most talked about form of protein in recent years is whey protein. This is because of its ability to be absorbed by the muscles faster than other forms of protein. The hype around whey protein is well deserved. It is proven in many different studies to improve muscle regeneration times. In addition, it keeps the body supplied with plenty of bioavailable protein during the recovery period. According to one study, they concluded that by supplementing 25g of whey protein within one hour after your workout as well as the next morning helped to dramatically improve muscle recovery and muscle performance.
It is pretty obvious that whey protein is a great choice for fitness buffs. It gives any athlete an edge to help them build muscle faster.
But which type of whey protein should you use?
There are a virtually endless amount of products to choose from that all have unique blends of ingredients. The best protein blends are free of artificial gums and fillers. These ingredients to watch include xantham gum and psyllium. More beneficial ingredients such as plant protein and greens help to improve digestion and uptake of the protein. Also, keep an eye out for vegetable oils and fats that are normally used to increase the richness of protein shakes. This is important because these ingredients contain trans fats and can reduce metabolic activity and increase fat stores.
In general, the fewer ingredients protein powder has the better. Additional amino acids and fiber are beneficial additions that will help enhance the effect of the protein and make sure your digestive system does not suffer.
People who exercise regularly are at an increased risk for anemia due to increased oxygen requirements the muscles demand. Supplementing with iron can help your muscles remain energized. This gives you an increased ability to get more out of your workouts and improve fatigue time and overall output.
During exercise our body’s oxygen metabolism increases; requiring increased use of RBC’s to supply the muscles with the oxygen they are demanding. Our bodies do adapt and become more efficient as we get in better shape. However, researchers theorize that athletes may require increased iron to supplement efficient RBC function. This is in response to the increase in muscle oxygen demand. While females who exercise are at an increased risk of iron deficiency anemia, anyone who exercises could benefit and have peace of mind from adding iron supplementation.
The Importance of Iron Supplementation
Iron is a vital mineral that is an integral part of the body’s ability to maintain healthy blood oxygen and energy. Most of the iron in your body is present in red blood cells. Red blood cells (RBC’s) are cells that transport oxygen from the lungs to the tissues of the body. They help to eliminate carbon dioxide waste from tissues. Iron also creates energy from nutrients that are ingested. It also plays a role in healthy nerve impulse generation and helps support normal immune function.
By supplementing with iron you can help to improve your endurance and ensure that your body is making the most of the nutrients that you ingest.
Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid. This means that it is created from other amino acids in the body and does not need to get it from food sources. Beta-alanine’s main action comes from how it is responsible for synthesizing an important compound called carnosine. Carnosine is stored in the brain and muscles. Due to this, it helps to reduce fatigue and improve the amount of load your muscles can handle before becoming fatigued. This is very beneficial for helping you to get better reps and to trigger even more breakdown and growth of muscle fibers.
Why not just supplement with Carnosine, then?
As it turns out, Carnosine is not absorbed well by the body. Supplementing beta-alanine orally is the best way to trigger the action of Carnosine synthesis and to reap the many benefits it offers. The main benefit of carnosine is its role in maintaining pH levels in the muscles. When you workout, your muscles give off acid when they contract. As this acid builds up, the muscles lose the ability to keep working. This results in the tired and weak feeling you get towards the end of your sets.
Carnosine helps muscles to resist this acid buildup and continue working for longer before they are exhausted. Therefore, if you can increase the amount of carnosine in the muscles you will be able to give them a greater buffering capacity against acid build up. Using beta-alanine supplements help your muscles be able to train longer for bigger and better gains.
Glutamine is yet another non-essential amino acid and is the most abundant amino acid in your body. It has become one of the most respected and widely used supplement for serious weightlifters trying to gain mass and is found in protein powders and pre-workouts throughout the industry. It has all kinds of great benefits that help you recover more efficiently and fight off soreness and fatigue.
Glutamine is a vital fuel source for both the muscles and the nervous and immune systems. The mechanism of glutamine is pretty complex. It involves maintenance of nitrogen levels in muscle and the repairing mechanism of muscle fibers. For those who are not biochemistry experts, it basically helps to ensure that muscles remain fueled. In addition, it also enhances the rate at which muscle cells are able to repair before and after they are placed under heavy stress. When you workout and place your body under that constant stress, your muscle’s glutamine stores become severely depleted, most of the time by up to 50%.
By supplementing glutamine you can make sure that there is plenty of intracellular glutamine ready to replace what is lost during exercise and also ensure that there is a ready source available while your muscles are recovering.
Creatine is one of the most popular supplements and has also had its fair share of ridicule over the years. As it turns out, a great majority of research done on creatine has done nothing but prove it to be the best muscle building supplement that helps you build muscle faster by being able to lift heavier and longer. It has even been shown to nearly double lean muscle gains as compared to training without it and can also reduce the amount of time it takes for your muscle fibers to repair.
Creatine works by enhancing the maximum load that your muscles can handle during your workouts, resulting in the ability to lift heavier and grow bigger muscles. It also directly enhances the main energy source in the body – ATP. By creating a more dense store of ATP your muscles can perform with more stamina and strength.
When your body takes in creatine, it combines with phosphate to create creatine phosphate. This substance is extremely beneficial for many reasons. It triggers the many benefits of creatine provides because of its ability to turn burned energy back into usable energy. When your body expends ATP when exercising, it is converted to ADP. Creatine phosphate is able to convert ADP back into ATP. This process gives you more energy to get through those last few reps.
Our #1 Recommendation
Creatine is the most effective supplement for enhancing your workout intensity and ability to build muscle faster in combination with a good diet and effective workout routine. It has numerous other benefits that include enhancing overall energy, improving brain function, and also has the ability to better hydrate muscles and boost protein synthesis. Creatine is naturally occurring in the body and has been proven to be a very safe supplement in multiple studies, so there is no need to worry about any myths you may have heard about this powerhouse muscle building supplement.
Leucine: Flipping the Growth Switch
Leucine has become one of the leading muscle building supplements. Consequently, experts are beginning to understand how it even rivals creatine in its effectiveness. It is one of the top three branched chain amino acid’s that helps promote muscle growth. Leucine’s action is pretty simple – it helps to stimulate skeletal muscle protein synthesis for enhanced growth.
When your body becomes short on leucine, which normally occurs after intense exercise, leucine signals the cells that there is a lack of protein available which switches off the protein synthesis mechanism. When you supplement additional leucine, these stores remain filled and the protein synthesis mechanism remains active throughout your recovery period. Providing your body with plenty of extracellular leucine is very important. It is a great way to ensure your muscles are never overwhelmed and are able to put your body’s natural repair mechanisms to the greatest use.
The main point to understand is that without a sufficient amount of protein from your diet, the muscles will not be able to take advantage of this enhanced muscle-building pathway!
When Should You Add Supplements To Your Diet?
Supplements are beneficial for anyone who lifts weights or performs an exercise of any kind regularly. Over time, the body can become depleted of key amino acids. These substances are vital to the repairing and growth of muscle cells throughout the body. If you are having trouble getting over a plateau, adding the right type of supplements can help you get more out of your body’s natural repair mechanisms. This will ensure that you come back after each workout stronger than before.
When considering adding supplements you should be wary of a few key points to make sure you pick healthy and all natural products.
- Watch out for synthetic ingredients and fillers
- Ensure a high protein balanced diet
- You will not gain muscle if you are not in a caloric surplus
- Keep your workouts challenging and fresh each week
It is important to understand that supplements are not magic ingredients. They do not help you burn fat or gain huge amounts of muscle easily. Supplements are only effective for those who put in hard earned hours at the gym regularly. Not only that but results require you to be smart about your diet and protein intake. All of the supplements in our list will help you recover faster and come back to the gym every day feeling at the top of your game and ready to conquer your personal bests.
The Bottom Line
Maintaining an optimally balanced diet, exercising smarter, and getting plenty of protein are the best ways to gain muscle. Adding supplements to your diet will help you see results faster. But, this is only if you are pushing yourself in the gym and staying true to a healthy diet.
Whey protein is extremely effective for ensuring a steady supply of fast-absorbing protein. This gives your muscles constant access to protein and critical substances such as leucine. Leucine is an important amino acid found in whey. Supplementing with creatine and the important nonessential amino acids create a more nutrient-rich environment that allows for more strength and deeper recovery.
By combining the different supplements in this list in different ways you can find the ideal supplement stack that works for you and gets you the results you are looking for.
Which supplements have worked best for you? What is your go-to muscle building stack? Let us know in the comments below!