With all the flashy marketing and convincing before-and-after photos, the sports supplement industry can be confusing terrain, rife with impostors selling worthless supplements for top dollar. It is important to see through all the "bells and whistles" and evaluate muscle-building supplements by the real science confirming their safety and efficacy. Consider these effective muscle-building supplements for inclusion in your current bodybuilding regimen.
If you take only one supplement, whey protein should probably be it. Whey is a fast-digesting protein that comes from milk. According to "Natural Anabolics," it triggers fast muscle protein synthesis. Whey's fast action and bioavailability (highest protein rating) make it a perfect post-workout protein supplement.
According to fitness expert Jerry Brainum, creatine monohydrate is the best natural supplement, outside of protein. Also known as creatine phosphate, this wonder supplement allows the body to produce ATP (adenosine triphosphate) more efficiently in muscle tissue. In addition, creatine offers the beneficial side effect of filling muscle cells with more water, making them physically larger.
Branch Chain Amino Acids
Branch chain amino acids are the most important of the amino acids, which are the building blocks of all proteins, including whey protein, milk, eggs, fish and meats. L-leucine, L-isoleucine and L-valine are metabolized directly in muscle tissue, faster than in the liver, and they initiate protein synthesis very quickly.
Beta alanine is an amino acid that works very well in tandem with creatine. While creatine triggers ATP production in muscle cells, beta alanine helps buffer the lactic acid that builds up as a side effect of anaerobic metabolism. The "burn" you feel when you reach muscle exhaustion is the acid buildup and is the limiting factor for muscular performance. According to "Natural Anabolics," beta alanine increases intramusclular L-carnosine levels, which allows your muscles to train harder for longer.
L-Arginine, arginine AKG and other analogs increase NO (nitric oxide) production in the body. Nitric oxide vasodilates blood vessels, allowing them to relax and open up, optimizing blood flow to working muscles. This vasodilation leads to incredible muscle "pump," as well as faster fat loss, says "Natural Anabolics."
L-Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in human muscle tissue. One workout can cause a loss of up to 40 percent muscle glutamine stores. L-Glutamine can boost performance by volumizing muscle cells, increasing growth hormone production and speeding muscle recovery post-workout, according to "Homemade Supplement Secrets" by "Muscle Nerd" Jeff Anderson.
MCT oil is also known as medium-chain triglyceride, and it comes from coconuts. This saturated fat is utilized by the body for energy and can increase lipolysis (fat burning). Jeff Anderson recommends taking a tablespoon pre-workout. Another tablespoon or two can be taken after a workout to add calories to a protein shake and boost natural testosterone levels.
Caffeine is one of the most popular pre-workout supplements available. For those who can tolerate its stimulant activity, caffeine can decrease the body's perception of workout-induced muscular pain, essentially making the effort feel easier. Caffeine is also a potent thermogenic, increasing your internal body temperature, which can trigger increased metabolic rate.
Longjack is a Malaysian herb that has been shown to increase free testosterone in men who are training. According to "Natural Anabolics," this "test boost" was accompanied by a gain in lean mass. Three-hundred milligrams of longjack can be taken in the morning or before workouts to enhance performance.
While not as exciting as other muscle-building supplements, omega-3 is very important to people who are training. Omega-3 promotes heart, joint, brain and skin health. And, according to "Homemade Supplement Secrets," it can boost fat burning when taken in the correct dosage. Most importantly, omega-3 lubricates joints, acting as a natural anti-inflammatory, to prevent undue strain and injury from heavy weight training.
- "Homemade Supplement Secrets"; Jeff Anderson; 2008
- "Natural Anabolics"; Jerry Brainum; 2007
- "Xtreme Lean"; Jonathan Lawson and Steve Holman; 2005