Consistent exercise, nutrient-rich foods and a calorie-controlled diet are key to lean, toned muscles. Adding supplements, such as fish oil, protein powder or amino acids, to this routine can also help maintain muscle tone. But don’t count on supplements alone to create toned muscles, and check with your doctor before taking any dietary supplement.
Multivitamin to Support Nutrition
A balanced diet that includes whole grains, vegetables, fruits and lean protein provides the range of vitamins and minerals needed to support muscles. For example, calcium and potassium are essential for muscle contraction, and the B vitamins are required for energy production. If your diet lacks nutrients, your muscle toning efforts may benefit from taking a multivitamin targeted for active women.
You also need to consume the right balance of macronutrients or else supplements, such as protein powder, will be used to maintain overall health before they'll help improve muscle tone. If you're involved in endurance activities or athletics, your needs may increase. Otherwise, women should get 45 percent to 65 percent of daily calories from carbs, 10 percent to 35 percent from protein and 20 percent to 35 percent from fats.
Protein is essential for muscle tone, as it builds muscle tissue and forms the filaments responsible for muscle contraction. Most people need to consume 0.35 gram of protein for every pound of body weight, or about 42 grams for a person weighing 120 pounds, reports the American College of Sports Medicine. People involved in muscle building and endurance activities may need to increase their protein to 0.5 to 0.8 gram per pound of body weight.
Even when you're building muscle, you can probably get all the protein your need through whole foods in your diet, but supplements can fill in any gaps. Choose quality protein supplements that contain all the essential amino acids, such as milk, soy, whey, casein and egg-based protein powders, and look for protein powders that are low in sugar or sugar-free.
Branched-Chain Amino Acids
The three branched-chain amino acids -- leucine, isoleucine and valine -- are all important for muscles because they stimulate muscle protein synthesis. Leucine is an especially important regulator of protein synthesis, but your supplement should include all three. Taking only leucine can deplete valine and isoleucine.
When athletes participating in a resistance-training program took BCAA supplements, their muscle tone improved as they lost more fat and gained more lean muscle mass than athletes who didn’t take BCAAs, according to the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition in 2009.
Fish oil is the only natural source of two omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA, and docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA. EPA and DHA are well known for their ability to fight inflammation and promote the health of your heart and blood vessels. But they also help maintain muscle tone by boosting muscle protein synthesis.
While you can get EPA and DHA by eating at least two weekly servings of fish, such as salmon, sardines, trout and canned light tuna, fish oil supplements are safe for most people, and they eliminate concerns over mercury contamination. But don't take more than 3 grams of fish oil daily unless you consult your physician to be sure you won't have side effects, advises the Linus Pauling Institute.
- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: Macronutrients: The Importance of Carbohydrate, Protein, and Fat
- American College of Sports Medicine: Protein Intake for Optimal Muscle Maintenance
- The Cell: A Molecular Approach: Actin, Myosin and Cell Movement
- Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition: Consuming a Supplement Containing Branched-Chain Amino Acids During a Resistance-Training Program Increases Lean Mass, Muscle Strength and Fat Loss
- Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition: Evidence-Based Recommendations for Natural Bodybuilding Contest Preparation: Nutrition and Supplementation
- Clinical Science: Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids Augment the Muscle Protein Anabolic Response to Hyperaminoacidemia-Hyperinsulinemia in Healthy Young and Middle-Aged Men and Women
- Linus Pauling Institute: Essential Fatty Acids