When you're trying to gain weight, it's more about the food you eat than the herbs or vitamins you take. You need excess calories to gain weight, more than you burn each day through your daily activities, which you won't find in most vitamins and supplements. However, supplements might have other benefits that help you bulk up, as long as they're combined with diet and exercise designed to help you gain weight. Make sure you check with your doctor before adding any herbal or vitamin supplements to your routine; they might cause side effects.
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Vitamin D for Muscle Strength
Strength training helps you gain muscle mass, not just put on fat. And vitamin D might help enhance your workouts, so you can progress faster and, as long you're supporting your workouts with a healthy diet, put on more muscle. A study published in the Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise in 2013 reported that people with lower vitamin D levels tend to have less muscle strength than those with higher vitamin D levels, indicating that vitamin D may play a role in muscle function. And a study on elite ballet dancers found that vitamin D might prevent injury. The researchers, who published their work in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport in 2014, found that taking vitamin D improved muscle performance, and it lowered the rate of injury in the dancers during the winter months.
While these results hint that vitamin D might support your training program, which would allow you to gain muscle mass more effectively, it's not a sure thing; researchers still need to conduct larger studies to figure out if it works.
B-Complex Vitamins Support Weight Gain
Making the eight-member B-complex family of vitamins part of your diet can also support a training program that allows you to gain mass. B vitamins play a role in your metabolism; essentially, they help you turn nutrients like carbs and fat into usable fuel. Certain B vitamins also help metabolize proteins, so they can help ensure your muscles have access to the amino acids they need for growth and repair. Active people -- including people trying to gain muscle mass -- might need even more of certain B-complex vitamins compared to the general population, according to a review published in International Journal of Sports Exercise and Nutrition Metabolism in 2006. Consult a professional to get an idea of your B-complex vitamin needs and whether you might benefit from supplements. In the meantime, populate your diet with healthy foods rich in B-complex vitamins, like whole grains, lean meats, peanuts and legumes, and vegetables.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Recovery
Including omega-3 fatty acids in your routine might help your weight gain efforts by improving recovery between workouts. Proper recovery is essential after strength training, the time when your muscles rebuild any damaged tissue. Growing bigger and stronger with each workout and allowing for healthy recovery also help you give your all in each strength workout, so you'll see better results. Taking omega-3 fatty acids may reduce muscle pain and stiffness 48 hours after your workout, according to a study published in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine in 2009.
Fish oil is one of the rare supplements that also provides you with calories; each teaspoon has 45 calories. While an extra 45 calories might not seem like much, it adds up; if you took a teaspoon of fish oil daily, you'd get enough extra calories over the course of a month to gain 1/3 pound.
Herbal Supplements and Considerations
While certain herbal supplements are marketed as helpful for weight gain and muscle building, you should talk to your doctor to get a personalized recommendation for a supplement that works. Unlike medications, supplements aren't tested for efficacy before they're put on the market, so there's no telling whether an herbal supplement might actually help you gain mass, or any way to make sure you choose an effective one on your own. Your healthcare professional can call on her expertise to recommend a supplement that delivers results without likely side effects.
Make sure you're pairing your supplement use with a weight gain diet, which includes eating around 250 to 500 calories more than you need, as well as a well-designed strength training program developed to meet your unique needs. While supplements might increase your results, they won't directly cause weight gain or muscle growth, and they definitely can't compensate for a less-than-optimal diet-and-exercise plan.