Muscle building supplements are dietary supplements commonly used by those involved in bodybuilding and athletics. Muscle building supplements may be used to replace meals, enhance weight gain, promote weight loss or improve athletic performance. Here are the best supplements for muscle growth.
1. Leucine-Enriched BCAAs
Lots of recent studies have highlighted the positive effects of taking leucine – it can increase protein synthesis, which boosts muscle growth and recovery, by up to 145% – but for it to be most effective you should take leucine-enriched BCAAs (Branched-Chain Amino Acids).
The benefits include less muscle damage, less pain from training, greater time to exhaustion on all-out exercise tests and greater muscle growth. Leucine-enriched BCAAs are especially valuable for older people who have a harder time building muscle.
2. Casein Protein Powder
The milk protein, casein, squeaks in just under whey. Casein has always played second fiddle due to its very slow digestion rate, yet this makes it ideal as a pre-bedtime snack because it prevents catabolism while you sleep by emptying slowly and steadily.
Casein also makes you feel less full, which makes it a great snack for those who want to pack on muscle mass. And new research finds that casein gives whey a run for its money – when it’s taken post workout, casein boosts muscle protein synthesis much like whey does. It’s even suggested that a whey and casein protein shake taken after training increases muscle growth better than either protein taken alone.
Supplementing with creatine can increase your ability to pack on muscle hugely – it’s the body’s primary fuel for explosive, high-intensity exercise. It also boosts strength development, enhances sprint and power performance, and leads to fat loss. You must have insulin present in your body for creatine to have an effect, so take it with carbs or a supplement that will stimulate insulin, such as fenugreek or alpha lipoic acid.
In the body, the amino acid beta-alanine is combined with another amino, histidine, to form carnosine. Research shows that when muscles have higher levels of carnosine, they have more strength and endurance. Carnosine appears to increase the muscle fibers’ ability to contract with more force, and to do so longer without fatiguing.
Several studies reported increases in muscle strength and power in athletes who took beta-alanine. One recent study found that subjects who took beta-alanine along with creatine gained more muscle mass and lost more body fat than subjects who took only creatine.
The fat-burning properties of carnitine have been established for years, but recent studies have found it offers a variety of additional benefits. These include increased blood flow (which leads to improved muscle recovery and growth), a rise in testosterone levels and the ability to halt muscle loss caused by inactivity.
A 2001 study also found that taking 2g of carnitine a day for six months increased work capacity by 35% in athletes. Carnitine also needs insulin to be effective, so take it with a nutrient that spikes insulin, such as omega-3 or carbs.
6. Nitric Oxide Boosters
Nitric oxide (NO) is a molecule found throughout the body that’s involved in multiple processes. The one that bodybuilders are most interested in is its ability to dilate blood vessels, which allows more blood flow to the muscles for enhanced delivery of oxygen, nutrients, anabolic hormones and water (blood is mostly water).
This gives you more energy during your workout, an enhanced muscle pump, and better muscle recovery and growth after the workout. NO boosters don’t provide NO, but rather the amino acid arginine, which is readily converted to NO in the body. Research has found that subjects who were given arginine increased muscle strength and growth and lost body fat.
This amino acid has been a favorite of bodybuilders for decades because it’s central to muscle function and is one of the most plentiful amino acids found in the human body. Glutamine provides numerous bodybuilding benefits, such as aiding muscle growth by increasing levels of leucine in muscle fibers, helping decrease muscle breakdown and bolstering the immune system, which helps prevent you from getting sick and missing workouts.
Glutamine taken before workouts can help decrease muscle fatigue and boost growth hormone levels. In addition, recent research shows that glutamine might also play a role in fat loss by increasing the amount of calories and fat burned at rest and during exercise.
Caffeine is invaluable for enhancing performance. Evidence suggests it can raise testosterone and boost focus and motivation, making it especially effective at raising physical capacity when you’re tired.
A study published in the Journal Of The International Society Of Sports Nutrition found that sleep-deprived athletes who took caffeine before a workout selected heavier loads and performed more reps than when they trained with a placebo.
An American study found taking 8mg of caffeine between sessions on a double training day helped participants perform better in the second session than participants who had a carb-based drink.
ZMA is a combination of zinc, magnesium aspartate and vitamin B6. It’s an important supplement because hard-training athletes such as bodybuilders are often deficient in these critical minerals, which are important for maintaining hormone levels and aiding sleep (essential for recovery).
Intense training can compromise levels of testosterone and IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1). In fact, one study found that athletes who took ZMA significantly increased their levels of testosterone and IGF-1 during eight weeks of training, while those who took a placebo experienced a drop in both T and IGF-1. Naturally, boosting testosterone and IGF-1 can make huge impacts on muscle gains.
10. Fish Oil and CLA
Fish oil and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) are both anabolic agents that will significantly boost your results in the gym. A study in the journal Clinical Sciences found consuming 4g of fish oil a day increased protein synthesis in adults by 30%, while a seven-week study of men who took CLA while training found they gained 1.4kg of muscle and lost 1kg more body fat than those in a placebo group.
CLA can also help to boost metabolism while you sleep. You can use fish oil and CLA in place of carbs with nutrients such as creatine that require an insulin spike.
Beta-ecdysterone is a phytochemical found in plants such as spinach, where its main function is to protect the plant from insects. Russian scientists discovered many years ago that beta-ecdysterone has anabolic properties. In fact, it’s similar in structure to hormones found in insects and crustaceans. Yet beta-ecdysterone doesn’t behave like a hormone in the body, but rather works by stimulating protein synthesis and therefore muscle growth. Anecdotal reports suggest that it’s very effective for producing increases in both muscle size and strength.
This amino acid raises your levels of arginine and nitric oxide, increasing blood flow and the delivery of nutrients to muscle. Citrulline also enhances energy levels by removing waste products such as lactic acid and ammonia, so it can increase your high-intensity work output.
In addition, raising arginine levels can increase growth hormone and IGF-1, both of which are instrumental in muscle building and tissue repair. Try it with caffeine and tyrosine to stimulate your nervous system when you’re sleep-deprived.