There are a lot of tips and tricks that bodybuilders use to get better use out of the time that they spend at the gym. Dietary and lifestyle changes, new habits, and supplementation can all have a huge positive impact on a person’s capability of building and maintaining muscle.
It can be a bit difficult to decide on a muscle building supplement, though, since there are so many to choose from. In addition, each supplement is going to have a different range of effects. For that reason, it’s important for people to figure out the differences between supplements before deciding to take one simply based off of what it says on the label.
Today we’re going to take a look at some of the most popular and effective supplements for building muscle. We’ll compare the effects – both positive and negative – so you can decide which ones are most practical to include in your workout regime.
The Best Muscle Building Supplements
These supplements don’t all work in the same way. Some will help to boost your endurance so you can maximize your gains. Others actually increase the amount of mass that your body distributes to your muscles. Despite the fact that they work different, they’re all quite effective at enhancing the speed at which you gain muscle. Decide which ones you want to implement into your workout routine.
You’ve almost certainly heard of creatine if you’re a workout enthusiast. I’d known about the stuff for years before I ever hit the gym.
Creatine’s more than just a popular supplement, though. It’s a naturally occurring substance that exists within our cellular walls and is necessary for the development of their structure. This means that creatine helps to support our muscles and generate energy at a cellular level. In our bodies, about 95% of the naturally occurring creatine exists in our muscles as phosphocreatine. The other 5% is stored in kidneys, liver, and brain.
When you add a creatine supplement, the additional creatine is stored in the muscles as phosphocreatine. This, in turn, helps your body produce more ATP, a high-energy molecule. With higher ATP, you will notice you have more energy – a valuable asset when you are trying to get a better workout.
Thecreatine phosphate energy system is a system of energy that’s powered by this particular nutrient. It’s activated any time you make a physical movement, be it something as small as smiling or something as big as doing a jumping jack.
Creatine supplementation first became a hit in the early 90s, leading the medical industry to perform a whole bunch of studies on the stuff. There have been a lot of positive results. Creatine – particularly creatine monohydrate, the cheapest and most well-known type of creatine – can do the following:
- Increase the body’s lean muscle mass
- Improve recovery speeds by helping you get over soreness quicker
- Enhancing blood flow and strength during training
There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about its side effects. Creatine is safe when taken by mouth appropriately in the right doses. When taken by mouth in high doses, creatine can be unsafe. Side effects of creatine may include: kidney and liver damage, stomach pain, diarrhea and digestive problems, dehydration. Don’t take creatine if you have a history of kidney and liver disease.
Beta-alanine is another natural nutrient that’s typically found in foods that are high in protein. It’s a non-essential amino acid, which means that your body is capable of producing it on its own. That doesn’t mean there’s no point in supplementing it, though!
Beta-alanine works by enhancing the amount of carnosine available to your muscles. It’s also able to regulate the ions that are responsible for causing the pH of your blood to drop during intense workouts. This allows you to work yourself harder and fatigue slower, which can enhance the speed at which you see improvements to your muscles.
In action, beta-alanine is best for short to medium duration of high-intensity muscular workouts. It’s most effective states, though, can be seen when you are working out in an exercise lasting longer than 60 seconds.
Conveniently, beta-alanine also enhances the function of creatine. If you take the two of these together then you’ll see much more improvement than taking either on their own.
The only real side effect of using beta-alanine is the potential of paresthesia – a feeling of “pins and needles”. However, this typically only occurs in high doses. So, the best way to avoid it is to find a dose that works for you rather than overusing this supplement.
3. Whey protein
Most bodybuilders have used whey at some point. If they haven’t, they’ve at least heard of it. Whey protein is fantastic because it provides the body with a full spectrum of amino acids that allows your body to become more effective at producing its own protein.
When you are shopping for whey protein, you have a couple options. For example, there are 3 main types of whey protein including whey protein concentrate, isolate, and hydrolysate. The best choice, though, is usually whey protein concentrate. This has a high concentration (70-80%) and contains some lactose and fat in it. The best thing about it, though, is that it has the best flavor of any type of whey protein.
This has far-reaching benefits and can even improve the way your body responds to protein in general. When used alone as a supplement, whey greatly enhances the rate at which your muscles develop and the speed at which you can recover after a workout. When taken by mouth appropriately and in right doses, whey protein is most likely safe. However, it may cause digestive problems. If you are lactose intolerant, try switching to a isolate powder.
It may seem contradictory at first to include caffeine in a list of supplements that improve muscle gains, because caffeine’s a central nervous system stimulant and stimulants are better known for increasing metabolism than they are for helping to enhance muscle mass. Simply put, when you’re using stimulants, you’ll burn more calories than you would otherwise.
However, caffeine is pretty mild as far as stimulants go. This means that you’ll be able to reap the benefits of increased stimulation without having to pay for it in muscle mass. Many pre-workout supplements include caffeine because it gives people an extra punch so they can put a little bit more into their workouts everyday, thus leading to more opportunity to gain muscle mass.
It should be noted, though, that there are concerns that caffeine can cause cramps by aiding in dehydration. However, you can combat this by making sure that you drink plenty of water when you work out and, once again, learning to use the right amount of caffeine as a supplement rather than overdoing it.
BCAAs – branched chain amino acids – are a great supplement for people who want to increase muscle mass and they’re generally included in pre-workout supplements. There’re only 3 amino acids out of the whole spectrum that make up BCAAs: leucine, isoleucine and valine.
These amino acids are unique because they help the body manage its protein metabolism and they also enhance your ability to make protein from the other amino acids that you consume. This means that you’ll get more bang for your buck when taking other protein supplements, and you’ll see a quicker and more significant improvement to muscle gains.
6. Casein powder
Casein, in addition to being the compound in milk that helps to nullify the spicy factor from eating hot chili peppers, is also a fantastic protein supplement that’s comparable to whey protein. It’s a lot slower digested, but this isn’t a bad thing – it’s suitable for people with really slow metabolism and it’s also great to eat before bed because it’s absorbed slowly over the course of hours and won’t cause a blood sugar spike.
Casein is also great for people who want to put on extra pounds but are worried about those pounds being turned into fat, because it helps to fill you up a lot quicker than many other foods. Casein also works great when combined with whey because the two different absorption rates complement each other.
For those looking to build muscle mass, casein powder is invaluable, though. This is because one of the main benefits of this supplement is that casein powder can be used to help muscle growth. However, this isn’t one directly. Rather than directly causing the growth of your muscles, casein powder works by reducing muscle breakdown, preventing your body from quickly undoing the work that you put in at the gym to build muscle.
7. RAD 140 (Testolone)
SARMs (Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators) are getting more and more popular these days, and it’s safe to say RAD 140 is among the best ones. RAD 140 (aka as Testolone) has been known to increase lean muscle mass, burn fat and prevent muscle loss.
RAD 140 is used by bodybuilders and it’s often used in combination with other SARMs. Interestingly, RAD 140 has been effective in treating some forms of cancer. If used properly, there are no notable side effects.
- 8. Omega-3 fats
You might be surprised to see omega-3 fatty acids on a list of bodybuilding supplements, but they’re necessary for the proper formation of muscles. Your body relies on a wide variety of nutrients to function at an optimal level, and omega-3 fatty acids can provide your body with the fat that it needs.
The best way to supplement with omega-3 acids is to find a supplement that has the proper balance of DHA and EPA. Fish oil supplements are good for this because they provide the proper balance that the human body can utilize to function.
Citrulline was first used to promote wakefulness. Nowadays, research has proven that it’s actually quite a useful nutrient for people looking to improve muscle mass. Citrulline malate, in particular (a combination of L-citrulline and malate) has been shown to increase ATP.
ATP is the fuel that cells use, so increasing levels of ATP means that every cell in your body will be more energized. This is ideal because it will allow you to exercise more vigorously for longer periods of time. There are no significant side effects. Citrulline can also naturally lower blood pressure and help with erectile dysfunction.
10. Nitric oxide boosters
Nitric oxide is another important fuel source that your entire body uses. There are many foods and supplements that improve nitric oxide – some of the best food sources include beets, radishes and pomegranates.
Nitric oxide also enhances blood flow which allows your muscles to retain a greater amount of energy. Eating these foods or supplementing with the nutrients they provide is a great way to enhance blood flow throughout your body and give yourself the extra kick you need to get in a serious workout.
There are a lot of workout supplements out there. They all have different effects and they can impact different aspects of your workout. Hopefully this article has helped you decide which ones will be best for your personal workout routine.