In the past 20 years, advances in muscle growth research have skyrocketed, resulting in quality supplements that are supported by a significant amount of conclusive scientific evidence. Combined with proper nutrition and resistance training, supplements can provide a critical boost to your muscle building efforts. The best supplements for muscle growth are ones that create an environment that is conducive to muscle building (anabolism) while preventing muscle breakdown (catabolism).
Whey protein is a quick-digesting protein derived from milk. Whey contains branched-chain amino acids, which are critical for preventing protein breakdown. According to the "American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism," taking whey before and after workouts leads to an increase in protein synthesis, a process within cells that initiates muscle growth. In addition, peptides found in whey increase blood flow to the muscles, supplying them with nutrients as well as key anabolic hormones such as testosterone and insulin that are critical in spurring new hypertrophy.
Branched chain amino acids consist of the following three essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine and valine. Research published in the "Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition" highlights that ingesting a supplement containing branched-chain amino acids leads to an increase in lean body mass as well as strength. Furthermore, BCAAs lower cortisol, a muscle-wasting hormone that battles with the anabolic hormone testosterone for receptors on muscle cells. Lower cortisol levels equal higher testosterone levels, and testosterone has anabolic benefits that increase protein synthesis. The website Muscle and Fitness states that pre- and post-workout are the best times to supplement with BCAAs.
Your liver combines the amino acids arginine, methionine and glycine to make creatine. According to the December 2003 issue of the "Journal of Sports Science and Medicine," creatine supplementation quickly restores ATP, the form of energy muscles use to work. The increase in ATP production allows you to lift heavier weights, which ultimately translates to bigger muscles. Creatine also offers anabolic support by pulling water into cells. Creatine forces the cell to stretch in order to allow the water in. Thus, the muscle increases in both size and fullness.
Relatively new to the research scene, beta-alanine is an amino acid that combines with other amino acids upon ingestion to form carnosine. Muscle and Fitness reports that carnosine increases both strength and endurance. In addition, adding beta-alanine to creatine improves creatine’s effectiveness to stimulate muscle growth.