Workout supplements can help your muscles produce more energy, inhibit fatigue, give you a better muscle pump and accelerate your recovery. Proper training and diet are paramount, and even the best supplements in the world will not make up for lapses in these areas. However, certain supplements can help you achieve better workout results than diet and exercise alone.
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Creatine monohydrate is one of the most effective workout supplements, according to "Natural Anabolics" by Jerry Brainum. It allows your muscles to produce energy faster for longer, perform harder workouts and recover fastery. As a beneficial side effect, it also fills up your muscle cells with water, causing rapid gains in muscle size. Take 5 to 10 g of creatine per day split between pre- and post-workout.
According to "Top Ten Supplements You Can't Live Without" by Jim Stoppani in the January 2010 edition of Muscle & Fitness magazine, beta-alanine teams up with another amino acid L-histadine to form L-carnosine. Yet another amino acid, L-carnosine buffers the lactic acid that builds up in muscles as they fatigue. In fact, the combination of beta-alanine and creatine may help you gain more muscle mass and lose more body fat than taking either alone. Take 1.5 to 3 g of beta-alanine pre-workout.
"Homemade Supplement Secrets" author Jeff Anderson touts caffeine as a performance-enhancing supplement because it works on both psychological and physiological levels. As an alkaloid stimulant, caffeine gives you energy, but it also enhances mental focus and workout intensity. Caffeine is not for everyone and should be avoided by those at risk for heart disease. Take 100 to 300 mg 30 minutes prior to your workout.
According to "Good News on Glutamine" by Matthew Kadey in the March 2010 issue of Muscle & Performance magazine, L-glutamine increases growth hormone production, inhibits muscle breakdown and speeds up post-workout recovery. Take 5 to 10 g L-glutamine before, during and/or after your workout.
L-Arginine is a precursor to the blood vessel-expanding gas known as NO or nitric oxide. When NO expands blood vessels it allow more blood, oxygen and nutrients to reach your muscle cells during your workouts. The effect of this is increased energy, better muscle pumps and faster fat loss, according to Brainum. Take 1.5 to 5 g of L-arginine before and after workouts.
L-citrulline is an amino acid found in watermelon and it acts as a precursor in the body to the amino acid L-arginine. In fact, according to the Muscle & Performance article "Everything You Need to NO" by Jordana Brown, taking L-citrulline increases blood levels of L-arginine more than taking an L-arginine supplement directly. It is thought that the intestines absorb much of the L-arginine for their own uses, while L-citrulline enters unabated. Take 2 to 6 g of L-citrulline pre-workout.
Branched-chain amino acids fuel muscles directly, inhibit protein breakdown, trigger protein synthesis and speed muscle recovery, according to Stoppani. They are some of the fastest absorbed amino acids because they bypass the liver and go directly to muscle cells, Brainum says.
The Muscle & Performance article "The Power of Three" recommends taking CLA or conjugated linoleic acid before and after workouts because it increases lean muscle mass. In fact, combining it with whey protein and creatine offers more benefit than taking any of the three supplements alone. Take 2 to 3 g of CLA pre- and post-workout.
Whey protein provides a fast-digesting source of amino acids for muscle recovery. High in BCAAs and quickly absorbed, whey triggers protein synthesis and nitrogen retention, important factors for building muscle, according to Brainum. Take 30 to 50 g post-workout.
"The Carbo Rater" by Jordana Brown recommends waxy maize as a source of post-workout carbohydrates. Because of the high molecular weight of this corn-derived starch, waxy maize digests quickly and reaches muscle cells for glycogen replenishment and muscle recovery after your workout. Take 30 to 100 g of waxy maize with your post-workout protein.