In order to gain strength and muscle mass, it is recommended to maintain an adequate diet and lift weights. But preparations for building muscle can also be helpful and increase the effect of your training.
By taking nutritional supplements in addition to training – this can be any type of strength training – you can maximize your success. This way you can build or maintain muscle mass more effectively, says Michaela Devries-Aboud. She is a professor in the kinesiology department at the University of Waterloo.
In the following, you will learn which nutritional supplements are best for building muscle and how they can help you achieve your training goals.
Proteins are the basic building blocks of all cells in our body. Their primary function is to build and repair muscle cells. That makes them an essential element of muscle growth. While you can get protein naturally from the foods you eat – such as meat, beans, and eggs – protein supplements can be a helpful addition to your exercise goals.
A 2018 report analyzed the results of 49 studies to determine the effects of protein supplements on muscle mass and strength. The report found that protein supplementation significantly increased strength and muscle size, especially when combined with long-term exercise.
To build muscle mass, you should ideally take the additional proteins up to two hours after training. You can either take it as a post-workout supplement or as a replacement for a protein-rich meal when you don’t have time for a proper meal, says Jose Antonio. He is Professor of Exercise Science at Nova Southeastern University.
Some protein powders have high levels of added sugar and calories and therefore pose health risks. Therefore, you should carefully check the label of the dietary supplement. This way you can avoid consuming extra calories or increasing your blood sugar.
Creatine is a naturally occurring amino acid found in the muscles of your body. Your body converts the creatine into phosphocreatine and stores it in the muscles. There it is then used to generate energy. Often people take creatine supplements to improve their athletic performance and to increase muscle mass.
In fact, consuming five grams of creatine daily has been shown to increase lean body mass and improve strength and endurance. And that without causing harmful side effects, says Antonio.
According to Devries-Aboud, this is the ideal amount to supplement if you want to see lasting effects on muscle mass and strength. With regard to the type of creatine intake, she recommends combining it with a carbohydrate. For example, you can take the creatine mixed with a juice. This has been shown to increase the creatine stores in muscles and prevent creatine loss through the urine.
Creatine supplements taken over a longer period of exercise have been shown to increase muscle mass, strength, and functional performance in both older and younger adults. According to the Mayo Clinic, creatine is most beneficial for athletes who rely on short quick movements or muscle impulses, such as sprinters or weight lifters.
In terms of safety, it should be stressed that you should only take creatine in appropriate doses and not for longer than five years. Excessive amounts can be dangerous to the liver, kidneys or heart. You shouldn’t take more than 20 grams of creatine per day.
3. Beta alanine
Beta-alanine is an amino acid produced in the liver and found in foods like poultry and meat. According to Jacob Wilson, beta-alanine can improve endurance and maybe even help you get a few extra repetitions during strength training. Wilson holds a PhD in exercise physiology and is the executive director of the Applied Science and Performance Institute.
Beta-alanine works by temporarily storing the pH in our muscle cells – when the pH drops, you get that burning sensation that feels great and awful at the same time, he explains. The amino acid can help slow the pH drop. This means that we are not so restricted by this uncomfortable feeling and that our muscles can work well for a little longer.
A small study from 2012 found that two grams of beta-alaning daily for six weeks increased the time to exhaustion during high-intensity interval training (HIIT) by 19 percent. The participants received five 400 milligram doses of the supplement every day.
Beta-alanine is most effective when taken before exercise. Currently, supplementation seems safe in healthy people at the recommended doses of four to six grams per day.
4. Branched chain amino acids
The three so-called branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) are leucine, isoleucine and valine. All three cannot be produced by the body and must therefore be taken in with food. Most importantly, leucine is known because leucine is known to stimulate muscle growth on its own. Like the proteins, you can get the BCAAs from food sources such as red meat, dairy products, chicken, fish, and eggs. However, nutritional supplements can specifically help with muscle regeneration.
In a 2010 study, researchers looked at the effects of BCAA supplementation, particularly on squats. The results showed that the participants who supplemented with BCAA – 100 milligrams per kilogram of body weight – before squat training felt less muscle soreness and muscle fatigue than a comparison group who received placebos. This suggests that BCAA supplementation may prevent muscle injury.
In doses of 10 to 20 grams before training, BCAA can reduce muscle soreness, says Antonio. If the intake is in the form of dietary supplements, you should take BCAA during or immediately after training. In terms of health risks, there is generally very little to worry about when it comes to BCAA supplementation. Follow the directions and make sure you deliver them at the right time.
Beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate, better known as HMB, can reduce protein breakdown and increase protein synthesis. This leads to more muscle strength and muscle mass. Like beta-alanine, HMB also seems to accelerate recovery after high-intensity exercise.
Wilson describes HMB as a conditional supplement that is only recommended in certain scenarios. If you want to exercise in the morning before you eat, you can take dietary supplements such as HMB, because they help reduce protein breakdown during exercise.
When we exercise while we are fasting, our bodies may break down some muscle tissue to provide energy. Dietary supplements like HMB reduce this breakdown, which means we can maintain an anabolic, muscle building state and maybe even have less pain the next day.
The recommended dosage is three grams per day. At this dosage, HMB is generally free from undesirable side effects.
What we learn from it
Physical training puts a lot of strain on the body. Diet supplements can help you get the fuel your body needs to get stronger. While they can be an effective way to achieve your training goals, such as lifting weights. However, they are not required to make progress.
“It’s important to be aware that dietary supplements are meant to be just that: supplements for our training and our diet,” says Wilson. “If you are looking for shortcuts or ways to bypass hard work, dietary supplements will not be enough.”
This article was translated from English and edited by Ilona Tomić. You can read the original here.