If you work out on a regular basis you’ll want to make sure you are getting the best results for your efforts. Gaining muscle and strength is an important benefit of working out.
A healthy amount of muscle will allow you to do your best while exercise and in everyday life. For maximum muscle gain, you must meet three main conditions: eat more calories than you burn, consume more protein than you break down, and engage in workouts that challenge your muscles.(1)
Although it is possible to achieve all of these objectives without taking bodybuilding supplements, some nutritional supplements can help you reach your goals. Here are the best bodybuilding supplements that can help you to build more muscle while following your workout regimen.
Creatine is a naturally-occurring molecule produced by the body. It is essential for energy production in your muscles and other tissues.
It can however be used as a nutritional supplement to increase muscle creatine levels by up to 40%.(2)
Creatine can affect your muscles cells and exercise performance, which promotes muscle growth. Creatine improves muscle strength according to a huge amount of research. (3)
This is great news for anyone trying to build muscle. Using creatine will allow you to exercise more effectively, which leads to greater muscle mass growth over time.
Creatine can also raise the water content in muscle cells, causing your muscles cells to swell and send signals for muscle growth. Additionally, this supplement can also increase the levels of hormones that are associated with muscle growth, like IGF-1.(4)
Plus, some studies show that creatine may reduce protein breakdown in the muscles.(5)
While a great amount of research has been conducted with creatine supplements and exercise, one thing is certain: creatine can definitely increase strength and muscle mass, and is considered safe to use.
Try creatine first if you’re looking for a supplement that will help you build muscle.
2. Protein Supplements
For weight lifters, it is crucial to get enough protein. For building muscle in particular, you must consume more protein than your body catabolizes (breaks down) through natural processes.
It is possible to get all of the needed protein from high-protein foods. However, not everyone is able to do so.
This is where a protein supplement can be very beneficial. There are many protein supplements on the market, but the most common forms are whey, casein, and soy protein.
Other protein supplements include protein from eggs, beef, chicken and other sources. Studies show that individuals who work out and supplement with protein see slightly greater muscle gains than those who add more carbs.(6)
The effects of low protein intake are likely to be greatest for those already not getting enough protein through their diet. As a matter of fact, some studies show that protein supplements are not effective in increasing muscle mass if you already eat a high-protein diet.
Many people are curious about what amount of protein they should eat each day. For active individuals looking to build muscle, 0.5-0.9g of protein per pound (1.2-2.0 grams per kilogram) is probably best.(7)
3. Pre-workout Supplements
Pre-workout supplements are a common choice for individuals wanting to increase muscle mass.
Intended to be consumed anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes prior to your workout, pre-workout supplements often are formulated with stimulating ingredients (such as caffeine) which enable you to exercise harder for longer.
That said, a number of pre-workout supplements are made with ingredients that haven’t been proven to be effective for muscle growth, or to have any benefit at all.
It’s important to consider that the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) oversees supplements in a different way than with medicines, and that any ongoing effects of using pre-workout supplements is uncertain.
4. Weight-Gaining Supplements
Weight-gainer supplements can help you get more calories and protein. These are often used by people who have a hard time gaining muscle, commonly referred to as “hard-gainers”.
It is not easy for some individuals to build muscle, even if they consume a lot of calories and lift weights.
While the calorie content of weight gainer powders can vary, it is not unusual for them to have over 1,000 calories per serving. People mistakenly believe that these calories are made up of protein, as it is so vital for muscle building, but the majority of these calories come from carbohydrates.
These high-calorie supplements often contain 75-300g of carbs and 20-60g of protein.
Studies involving physically inactive adults show that increasing calories can dramatically increase muscle mass, provided you consume enough protein.(8) But studies involving weight-training adults has shown that weight gainers may not be as effective at increasing lean mass.(9)
Weight gaining supplements are ideal if you have difficulty eating enough food, or if it is easier to consume a weight-gainer shake than to eat more solid food.
Beta-alanine, an amino acid, can reduce fatigue and increase exercise performance. If you’re following a workout program, beta-alanine could help increase your muscle mass.
One study found that college wrestlers and football players who took 4g of beta-alanine daily for 8 weeks had more lean body mass than those who took a placebo.(10) Another study found that the addition of a beta-alanine supplement during a six-week HIIT (high-intensity interval-training) program increased lean mass by approximately 1 pound (0.45kg) compared to a placebo.(11)
Although more research is needed on beta-alanine’s effects on muscle gain, this supplement could help to support muscle growth when used in conjunction with a workout program.
BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids), consist of three distinct amino acids: leucine. isoleucine. and valine. They can be found in almost all protein sources, especially those of animal origin, such as meat, poultry, eggs, fish and dairy.
BCAAs are vitally necessary for muscle growth. They make up approximately 14% of the amino acids found in the muscles. BCAAs are a commonly found in everyday foods, but many people also take them as a supplement.
Some studies show that BCAAs can increase muscle gain or decrease muscle loss.(12) Other studies, however, indicate that BCAAs do not increase muscle gains in people who exercise.(13)
Unless you’re not eating enough high-quality proteins, it is likely that BCAA supplements will not be of any benefit to you. They may be helpful if you have an inadequate diet, but more research is needed before BCAAs can be recommended as a must-have supplement for muscle growth.
HMB (beta-hydroxy betamethylbutyrate), is a molecule produced by the body when the amino acid leucine is being processed. HMB is associated with some of the positive effects of consuming protein and leucine in food.
It could be particularly important in minimizing muscle protein breakdown. Although HMB is naturally produced by the body, its supplementation increases its levels and positively affect your muscles.
Numerous studies have shown that weight training can increase lean body mass in previously untrained adults by taking 3-6g of HMB daily.(14) However, other studies indicate that HMB in similar amounts is unlikely to increase muscle mass in overweight adults who have had weight training experience.(15)
This might indicate that HMB may be most beneficial for people who just beginning exercise or who want to increase the intensity of their workouts.
8. Testosterone Boosters
Testosterone is a hormone that is critical to the anabolic process of your body that are necessary for the growth of muscle. Testosterone boosters represent a wide ranging category of supplements that purport to increase testosterone levels and promote muscle growth.
These products often containing ingredients such tribulus terrestris, fenugreek, D-aspartic acid, and DHEA, among others. These ingredients may provide beneficial effects by increasing free testosterone levels.
Although research conducted on these supplements has suggested positive benefits, more research is needed.(16, 17) However, many testosterone boosters fail to live up to their marketing hype.
9. HGH Supplements
HGH supplements are designed to work with your body’s natural production of HGH and increase it, providing benefits such as increased muscle mass, fat loss, sex drive, and more. There are many different types of products on the market that claim they will help you boost your hormone levels but not all can deliver what they promise.
Some HGH supplements can optimize performance and temporarily boost your HGH levels. Several ingredients which can be found in these products have been shown to enhance human growth hormone production, including: l-arginine, GABA, beta-alanine, glutamine, creatine, ornithine, L-dopa, and glycine.
While research indicates that HGH supplements contain many ingredients that can boost HGH production, these effects appear to be temporary. For best results, these products must be cycled on an ongoing basis.
CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid), refers to a particular group of fatty acid found in vegetable oils, meats and dairy that is believed to have various health benefits. It is also a popular weight loss supplement.
CLA is a used by athletes use to reduce muscle damage and increase their lean body mass after training. CLA is particularly popular with bodybuilders, who use it in order to increase post-workout recovery.
CLA supplements have shown mixed results in muscle growth. Some studies show small benefits while others do not.(18)
Six research studies were reviewed in the journal Nutrients and concluded that CLA supplements may help reduce body fat when combined with resistance training exercises.
CLA can also cause negative side effects, such as nausea, upset stomach, and fatigue. It can also affect insulin sensitivity.
Additionally, CLA can negatively interact with certain antipsychotic medications.
The Final Verdict
Supplements won’t help you achieve maximum muscle gain if you don’t follow a healthy diet and do not exercise enough.
To build muscle, you need to follow a bodybuilding diet that supplies enough calories and protein, and adhere to a regular workout program. Taking dietary supplements is something you should consider once your exercise and nutrition are in order.
While protein and creatine are the best options for muscle growth, some supplements might be more beneficial to certain individuals.