For decades, bodybuilders and athletes alike have been taking supplements to sculpt some massive muscles and increase their strength. Some have been proven effective, some not so effective, others are just downright dangerous.
This article will provide you with 5 best supplements that have been proven to not only be effective but also safe to use. It can be difficult to provide your body with everything it needs to build muscles through diet and exercise alone. Try using these supplements to see results quicker.
It should be obvious as to how multivitamins help with the muscle growth but just in case you don’t quite get it, I’ll break it down for you. The body needs a good dose of a wide variety of vitamins and minerals for it to work at optimum levels. If you are lacking in certain nutrients, you most definitely will not be able to bring your A game to the gym.
Your body needs minerals like calcium, iron, and phosphorus to convert energy useable to your muscles. Vitamins like vitamin C and D help your body to absorb and use these minerals and protects your body against exercise-induced cellular damage. These are only just a few of the examples of the body using vitamins and minerals to help build muscle and up your strength.
When choosing a multivitamin, make sure you look at the contents and think about your individual needs. There are some made just for men that include nutrients for prostate health and for healthy testosterone production. There are other multivitamins just for women that provide nutrients that many women need for healthy hair, skin, and nails. People over 50 have nutrient deficiencies that come with age, so there are multivitamins created just for them.
Whey and casein protein
Proteins are the building blocks of muscle cells. Without enough protein in the body, it is impossible to maintain the muscle you have, let alone build more. When your body is lacking protein, it will actually break down your muscle tissue for fuel. Providing enough protein for your body will protect your precious muscle and allow you to build more.
Whey protein is a quickly absorbable protein that will deliver a fast source of protein for your body to use. This will be most useful to use after you work out when your muscles need it most.
Casein protein is a slow release protein that provides a constant source of amino acids to your muscles. This will help you maintain the muscle you build during your workouts and repair damaged muscle tissue. This type of protein is best taken before bed when your body does most of its repairs.
Some people choose to use a protein blend of both whey and casein to make sure they get the benefits of both fast and slow digesting protein synthesis.
How much protein is needed for muscle gains? The recommendation for the average person is to ingest 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight (0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight). This is obviously the minimum and the number increases to 1 gram or more per pound of body weight (2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight) if you have a physically demanding lifestyle or if you workout on a regular basis (which you must be since you’re reading this?).
So the average person would have to eat 50 grams of protein just to maintain their muscle mass. Supplementing with whey and casein protein makes it much easier to ensure optimal protein intake for greater muscle gains when we train hard at the gym.
Intense workouts require a high amount of ATP (source of energy that keeps everything going) to energize the muscles. Your body can only produce a certain amount of ATP. It will run out after a few seconds. That’s why you can only maintain the highest intensity of exercise for a short period of time.
Creatine helps increase the production of ATP in the body, allowing for a longer period of an intense workout. This translates to heavier lifts with higher repetitions creating bigger, stronger muscles.
Creatine also helps to create bigger looking muscles by increasing the water volume in the muscle cells. It is also thought that creatine increases the production of muscle growth hormones.
It’s important to remember that the benefits of creatine only come with exercise. It’s also helpful to know that creatine supplementation begins with a loading phase of about 20 grams per day for about a week before lowering dosage to a maintenance level of about 5 grams.
This is another amino acid that your body produces but can sometimes be lacking in. The magic of beta-alanine supplementation is the fact that it increases carnosine stores in the muscle.
When your muscles run out of carnosine, it causes fatigue and muscle acidity. When your muscles become acidic, they get tired and no longer contract. By supplying a good dose of beta-alanine, your body will provide your muscles with acid counteracting carnosine and you can push out a few more reps or another set. This translates into more gains through longer workouts.
I’m sure you are wondering why you wouldn’t just supplement with carnosine instead of beta-alanine but like many different amino acids, carnosine gets broken down when ingested into two parts, beta-alanine being one of them. This process defeats the purpose of supplementing with carnosine.
Just like creatine, beta-alanine supplementation needs a loading phase to be the most effective. During that loading phase, you should be supplementing with 6.4 grams for 28 days. Then you can stave off to 4.8 grams to 2 grams per day.
Beta-alanine can cause a tingling sensation on your skin but this isn’t dangerous. Many times when your body gets used to it, the tingling sensation stops. For some, they actually enjoy the sensation and know the beta-alanine is doing its job.
Branch Chain Amino Acids, or BCAAs, are three amino acids, leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These three amigos account for more than a third of the muscle proteins in the body.
When lifting, BCAAs are depleted at an alarming rate. When they are running short, your body produces tryptophan in higher quantities. Tryptophan turns into serotonin in the brain. This chemical is known as the happy chemical but when it comes to exercise, it makes you want to stop. Supplementing with BCAAs can help to reduce fatigue and help you to keep working out.
Another way that BCAAs help to increase muscle mass is by improving recovery rates. A great workout will undoubtedly result in pains the day after. This is known as DOMS, or delayed onset muscle soreness. BCAA’s are known to reduce this feeling, allowing you to get back to your workouts quicker.
BCAAs have also proven to reduce muscle damage. There is always a balance of protein synthesis to protein break down. BCAAs help to make sure the scales are tipped towards the synthesis. The more protein that is broken down in the muscle, the less muscle mass you will have.
Bonus for skinny guys and hard-gainers: mass and weight gainer
For all those ectomorphs out there who can eat whatever they want but not gain weight, we know how hard it can be to gain muscle mass for you. We’ve included this supplement in this list just for you.
It can be extremely hard to work against your DNA to gain muscle mass as an ectomorph but you can see results by using a weight or mass gainer. Of course, you will want to use a mass gainer preferably, rather than a weight gainer. The difference between the two usually lie in the number of carbs. The weight gainer will contain much more carbs. If you aren’t hitting the gym hard enough, this excess carb intake will turn into fat.
These types of supplements can still be used to gain muscle mass if you take them right before you work out. The extra glucose can give your muscles the energy it needs to put in an intense workout and burn those carbs before they turn into fat.
Mass gainers are like the Hulk of protein powders. Most protein powders contain about 200 calories per serving. Mass gainers, on the other hand, can contain anywhere from 600-1200 calories per serving. So the science behind mass gainers is really calories in versus calories out.
Ectomorphs have naturally high metabolisms. They are burning calories like crazy just sitting around on the couch. That means you don’t get fat. For the rest of us, we can be a little jealous of that aspect, but unfortunately, along with having a hard time gaining fat, ectomorphs have a hard time gaining muscle.
Good mass gainers will contain a high amount of calories and protein but there are a few other ingredients that you should be seeing in your mass gainer of choice. The first and foremost is healthy fats. Mass gainers should contain as little saturated fats as possible and some good medium chain triglycerides.
Another ingredient that most mass gainers contain, and should contain, is creatine. We’ve already discussed the muscle building benefits of this nutrient in #3 above. It is especially helpful in a mass gainer because it needs quick digesting carbs in order to work its magic. Lucky for you, mass gainers have plenty of those.
Starting out, you should find a mass gainer that has a smaller calorie content and see how your body reacts to it. You can always up the dose but you must always, ALWAYS, put in the work behind the nutrition in order to see muscle gains with weight/mass gainers.