Finding the Best Supplements for Muscle Growth
Adding at least one of these best muscle building supplements to a fitness regiment may do more than any extra reps ever could. Derived from a variety of components and available in forms as various as creams, tablets, pills, liquids and powders, the top muscle building supplements have helped athletes the world over achieve their fitness goals.
In the right combinations, muscle building supplements help make any sculpting, building and gaining dreams into reality. Make the most of each workout with a personalized combination of the best muscle building supplements.
Most people have the desire to be fit, healthy members of society. However, many lack the resources, knowledge, and discipline to turn that desire into a reality. Reaching your fitness goals can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be!
By establishing clear goals, maintaining an exercise routine, eating properly, and following a supplement regimen, you can build the physique you’ve always wanted.
See also: Best Supplements for Athletes in 2018
Diet & Supplements
In order to maintain physical health and achieve fitness goals, following a proper diet is very important. Your diet should include all the basic macronutrients that your body needs, plus extra protein, vitamins, amino acids and minerals that will help your body optimize your fitness efforts and show better results.
This is where supplements can come in handy. While it’s completely possible to reach your fitness goals without the help of supplements, adding supplements to your diet plan will only help you reach your goals faster.
Especially when it comes to muscle growth, supplements can accelerate your gains significantly.
Choosing the Right Muscle Building Supplements
However, before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s take note of this simple fact: not all supplements are created equal.
When you read that adding supplements to your diet will help you build more muscle and reach your goals faster, that doesn’t mean you should run out and buy the “latest and greatest” fitness supplement.
There are many supplements out there that either a.) do nothing, or b.) are potentially detrimental to your goals. It’s absolutely essential to know what you’re getting into before adding supplements to your diet.
Navigating the world of fitness supplements can be a difficult task. Every company claims to have the best products, and every product claims to be “the best of the best”. Many product lines are marketed as “all natural”, yet may still not deliver fully on that promise.
It doesn’t help that there is a plethora of misinformation out there, spread mostly by companies more concerned with their profit margins than the goals of their customers.
How to Pick the Best Supplements for Building Muscle
So how does one find the best supplements for muscle growth, while steering clear of potentially hazardous products?
The answer is rather simple: research your options. And since you’re reading this article, you’re way ahead of the curve.
By reading up on the supplements you’re considering, you can equip yourself with the knowledge needed to make an educated decision.
In an effort to help our readers achieve their fitness goals, we’ve put together a list of the best supplements for muscle growth below. We hope that reading this guide will give you the information you need to make the right choices.
Please note that these supplements are listed in no particular order – there’s no “best” or “worst” in this list. We consider all these supplements to be useful and valuable additions to your fitness regimen.
With that being said, certain options might be more useful than others for your particular situation.
See also: Best Strength Supplements
Examining the Top Muscle Building Supplements
Protein powder is somewhat of a staple in the fitness world. It seems as though you can’t walk 3 steps in a gym without seeing someone sipping on a protein shake. There are a ton of options, and there are major differences between different types of protein powders. Whey protein powder is considered by many to be one of the best available protein powders on the market.
There are many types of protein powders on the market – whey, casein, whey isolates, soy, vegetable, etc. Whey takes the cake in the protein supplement world because it’s affordable, accessible, and it is digested quickly – meaning it gets to work quickly!
As you likely know by now, protein is absolutely essential for muscle growth. Your muscles need adequate protein to operate properly, and to recover after strenuous exercise. The more you exercise, the more protein your body needs.
Experts recommend that strength athletes consume between 0.7 and 0.8 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight, per day. That means if you weigh 150 lbs and strength train regularly, you should be eating 105-120 grams of protein per day. Some strength training enthusiasts recommend even more protein, calling for 1-2.0+ grams of protein per pound of bodyweight.
So, if you work out regularly, you need a lot of protein in your diet. Protein from whole foods such as meats, nuts, eggs. etc is very important – getting enough protein from whole foods should be your top priority. However, when you’re tasked with eating 100+ grams of protein per day, protein powder becomes very useful. Unless, of course, you’d rather just eat 5 or 6 burgers every day (protip: don’t do this)!
Protein Shakes are Convenient
Protein powder is also used heavily because of its convenience factor. Yes, protein from whole foods is superior to protein supplements in some ways, but you can’t exactly cook up some eggs and bacon while driving home from the gym.
You can, however, have a protein shake premade and ready to consume immediately after your workout.
In fact, many gyms even sell protein shakes – how’s that for convenience! However, remember that protein supplements should be just that – supplements to your regular diet, not replacements. You still need to consume adequate protein from whole foods to obtain the best results.
Why Whey Protein Specifically?
So, we’ve learned that protein is important and that protein powders are the most convenient way to supplement your protein intake. However, the question still remains: why whey protein?
Whey is a milk protein that is recognized by experts as having a superior amino acid profile when compared to competing proteins.
Whey has a high level of branched-chain amino acids (BCAA’s), which are important for pushing protein synthesis. Whey also contains a healthy level of peptides, which help increase blood flow to your muscles.
In addition to a healthy makeup of amino acids and peptides, whey protein is one of the fastest-absorbed protein supplements available. Experts recommend consuming whey protein supplements (usually in the form of shakes or snack bars) before, during, and after your workout.
The increased levels of protein in your system will help your muscles perform their best, while minimizing damage and decreasing recovery time. And since it’s absorbed so quickly, you can literally chug a shake while driving to/from the gym, and you’re good to go!
Creatine is another common supplement for strength training and building muscle. This popular supplement is completely safe when used correctly, and it can really help improve your muscle growth. There has been a lot of confusion about the efficacy and safety of creatine over the years, but so long as you follow proper dosing recommendations and don’t abuse it, it is a safe and effective supplement for muscle growth.
What Does Creatine Do?
Creatine is made up of three important amino acids: glycine, methionine, and arginine. These amino acids work in combination to increase short-burst endurance, allowing you to perform more reps and ultimately gain more muscle.
Creatine can provide what’s known as “fast energy”, essentially increasing your body’s short-term energy and allowing for more reps, more weight, and more gains! While useful for intense, short-term activities like weight lifting, creatine does little to aid in endurance sports like running, swimming, etc.
In addition to providing fast energy for your muscles, creatine helps build muscle by increasing the amount of water drawn into your muscle cells. This process stretches those cells, allowing for increased growth in the long-run. Lastly, creatine increases levels of insulin like growth factor-1 (or IGF-1) in muscle tissues, which stimulates growth and increases muscle gain.
Where Does Creatine Come From?
Creatine is made naturally in the body in both the liver and kidney. Mainly stored in muscle tissues, about 2% of the body’s creatine is used up every day and converted into creatinine. Your body will replenish its stores of creatine naturally over time, and will also absorb it through the consumption of meat and fish.
Every day your body works hard to generate more creatine to keep your muscles functioning efficiently. If you work out, adding a creatine supplement to your diet helps by taking some of that strain off your body, and allowing it to focus on other tasks – like building muscle!
Testosterone boosting supplements, also known as test boosters, are another popular fitness supplement. As you can probably tell from the name, these products help boost your body’s testosterone levels, leading to more energy, more strength and bigger gains.
Testosterone is found naturally in the male body. Levels are at their highest in the young adult years, and then slowly diminish over time. Maintaining a healthy level of testosterone is important for every man, but it is especially important for fitness enthusiasts. Testosterone helps maintain muscle mass, bone density, and sex drive, and also helps with energy levels during workouts.
Types of Test Boosters
There are 2 basic types of test boosters: products that free existing “trapped” testosterone that’s already present in your body, and products that help your body ramp up natural testosterone production.
Many test boosters offer a combination of ingredients aimed at both increasing production and freeing up more existing testosterone for muscle-building purposes, while other products focus on one or the other.
The first type is useful for men with a healthy, but unbalanced, level of testosterone. A lot of your body’s supply of testosterone is bound by globulin (SHBG), a sex-hormone agent which essentially leaves testosterone floating throughout the body, unable to assist with muscle-building.
Many test boosters aim to free up this existing supply of testosterone, adding to muscle growth and endurance. The other type of test booster simply assists your body with its natural production of testosterone, leading to higher levels and increased muscle gain.
What Does a Test Booster Do?
It’s important to remember that testosterone is made naturally in the male body. There’s no magic pill that will actually add testosterone to your system – but rather, a number of products that assist your body in developing more testosterone and using it efficiently.
Most test boosters are made up of a combination of amino acids, herbs, and vitamins. Herbs and plants like fenugreek, damiana, tongkat ali, tribulus terristris, etc. provide a natural approach, and can be taken separately or as part of a blend/pre-made product. Vitamin D, avena sativa (found naturally in oats), and amino acids like D-asparaginic acid are also commonly found in test booster blends.
While you can seek out individual herbs and vitamins to help boost your testosterone, most of the time you’d be better off finding a quality test booster blend.
There are many different products on the market. To find the right one for you, always read the ingredients and conduct your own research.
Casein protein, another milk protein closely related to whey, is another helpful supplement for muscle growth. Whey is generally touted as the best protein supplement because of its quick digestion rate. Casein, on the other hand, has a very slow absorption rate when compared to whey – which is actually the main reason it’s attractive to body builders.
The Case for Casein
Unlike whey, which is digested quickly in the body, casein takes several hours to digest fully. This makes it the perfect pre-bedtime snack for weight lifters, because it gives your body something to slowly absorb. This slow and steady digestion helps prevent catabolism during your sleeping hours, and can help reduce muscle soreness and fatigue.
So, whey is good because it is digested quickly and casein is good because it is digested slowly. How do you choose which is right for you? The answer is simple: you don’t. The best way to optimize protein intake is to consume a combination of whey and casein supplements. Especially if you’re serious about packing on muscle mass.
When to take Casein Protein
Generally speaking, whey can be consumed pre-workout and even during your workout, because of its quick absorption rate; it can also be taken post workout. Casein should usually be taken post-workout, and before bed to prevent catabolism.
Depending on the intensity of your workout and your protein consumption requirements, you may want to consider blending both whey and casein into your post-workout shakes. That way, you’ll get a quick boost of protein as well as a steady stream over the next few hours after your workout.
Another benefit of casein protein is that it doesn’t fill you up. If you’re aggressively gaining mass, you need to eat a lot of food. Whey protein shakes tend to fill you up pretty well, making you feel full and satisfied – which is great if you’re trying to lose weight, but bad if you’re trying to gain mass.
Casein protein shakes don’t make you feel as full as whey protein, so you can consume them often to increase protein and caloric intake.
Beta-alanine, or BA for short, is a naturally occurring amino acid found in protein-rich foods such as poultry. It helps regulate a healthy level of carnosine in the body, which helps keep muscles healthy. In supplement form, BA is used to increase the intramuscular levels of carnosine to aid in bodybuilding.
During high-intensity physical exercise, a large amount of hydrogen builds up in the body, causing a shift in our pH levels. The increased level of hydrogen causes a drop in pH, making our bodies more acidic.
As this acidity increases, more and more lactic acid builds up in and around muscle tissues, causing muscle fatigue, soreness, and decreased performance.
This process is completely natural, but it can be a hindrance to bodybuilders.
Role of Beta-Alanine Supplements
Taking a beta-alanine supplement can help delay muscle fatigue and failure by delaying the accumulation of excess hydrogen in the body. You’ll still experience muscle fatigue and soreness, but BA will help delay the worst of it until after your workout is complete.
BA supplements can also help to increase your endurance for both high-intensity workouts such as weightlifting, and cardio exercises such as long-distance running.
These supplements essentially help your body delay the fatigue that you’re bound to feel after a certain amount of exercise. BA has also been found to work synergistically with creatine, giving you a solid combination of short-term fast energy and long-term endurance.
Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s)
Amino acids help the body function efficiently in a large number of ways. There are 20 amino acids found naturally in the body, 3 of which are referred to as “branched chain amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These key amino acids help stimulate protein synthesis and protein metabolism. In other words, the body uses BCAA’s to help muscles recover faster.
BCAA’s are found in foods like meats and nuts, as well as in whey protein supplements. Depending on your body, diet, and fitness goals, you may get enough from your diet and protein powder supplementation. However, many athletes can benefit from taking BCAA supplements in addition to whey protein.
Like protein powders, BCAA supplements are used to help push nutrients directly to your muscles, both during and after your workout. This process helps aid workout recovery, reducing muscle fatigue and improving metabolic recovery.
During intense exercise, the level of amino acids in your muscle tissues will be reduced significantly. By taking BCAA supplements, you can replenish the body’s natural supply quickly, reducing recovery time.
When it comes to building muscle, fish oil doesn’t directly help. So why is it on this list, you might ask? Well, simply put, fish oil can help repair some of the damage done to your body by weightlifting.
Fish oil is very rich in omega-3 fatty acids, including EPA and DHA. Health experts have stressed the importance of maintaining healthy levels of omega-3’s in your system for many years. If you eat a lot of fish, you might not need to supplement your diet with fish oil. On the other hand, considering the dangerously high levels of mercury found in most saltwater fish these days, supplementation might be your best course of action.
Benefits of Fish Oil
Fish oil has a long list of health benefits, including several that are important to bodybuilders. Taking a fish oil supplement can help you lose weight, regulate cholesterol levels, maintain healthy bones, regulate your mood, reduce inflammation, maintain healthy blood pressure, and more.
For weightlifters, fish oil can help reduce inflammation and joint pain – two ailments that are very common amongst athletes, especially for those over 40. Fish oil can also help you recover from injuries quickly, getting you back on track and back in the gym.
It also helps keep your bones strong and healthy, which is very important for strength training.
Lastly, fish oil can help you stay healthy while eating a high-protein, high-calorie diet. When you’re tasked with eating 3,000+ calories and 150+ grams of protein a day, it can be difficult to maintain healthy levels of cholesterol and blood pressure.
Eating lots of red meat and eggs, two staples of the weightlifter’s diet, can lead to high cholesterol and high blood pressure – two potentially dangerous ailments.
Fish oil can help by regulating blood pressure and helping the body to maintain a healthy balance of cholesterol.
A variety of gainers are available to meet the needs of any athlete struggling to gain weight.
Most gainers come in 400 to 900 calorie options and include healthy medium-chain triglycerides. Maintaining proper calorie levels is key to building muscle.
- Available in forms containing high amounts of creatine
- Good source of easily digestible protein
- Easily tailored to match caloric needs for gaining lean muscle
- Available both pre- and post-workout formulations
- Best options for athletes struggling to gain weight
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This amino acid is an essential component for repairing damaged tissues. During intense workouts, muscles are injured and broken down, making glutamine a great post-workout supplement. It further aides muscle growth by stimulating the release of growth hormone, a naturally anabolic compound.
- Available as powders and capsules
- Enhances recovery rates
- Enhances glycogen formation in fatigued muscles
- Supports healthy immune functioning
- For best results, use as a post-workout supplement in combination with carbohydrates
Nitric Oxide Boosters
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Nitric oxide precursers allow the body to produce more of this natural vasodilator. Increased localized blood flow means better delivery of nutrients and removal of waste to enhance energy levels during workouts and to speed recovery afterwards.
- Speeds recovery and improves workout performance
- Enhances mental focus and clarity
- Increases fat burn and glucose uptake
- For best results, use in conjunction with post-workout meals
- Boosts energy levels and recovery for more intense, more frequent workouts
Final Thoughts on the Best Supplements for Growing Muscle
There are many fitness supplements to choose from – some good, some bad. Everything listed in this guide is good option and a great place to start, but this list is far from complete. The supplements you should be taking depend on your individual needs, diet, and exercise habits.
We’ve already listed the 10 best supplements for muscle growth, which we hope will help you on your path to fitness and health.
This guide can serve as a one-stop resource, or as a jumping off point for additional research – the choice is yours. There is a wealth of information concerning supplements on the internet – just be wary of where you get your information.
There is a lot of misinformation concerning supplements out there, so choose your sources wisely.
The science behind muscle mass has never been better and neither has the selection of muscle building supplements. Whatever the fitness goal, bring it within reach using a tailored combination of products from the top muscle building supplements.
See also: Best Supplements for Workout Recovery
Be sure to include a few essentials such as whey, creatine and multivitamins before stacking on those aimed at specific goals such as enhancing recovery or increasing endurance. Besides a balanced diet and plenty of sleep, there is no better way than using the best muscle building supplements to ensure the body is primed and ready to make the most of each and every workout.