Want to know which supplements to take to enhance your muscle gains? We’ve got all the info you need on the best muscle building supplements.
You work hard in the gym and spend countless hours in the kitchen preparing your meals, all in search of adding lean muscle and building the best body your genetics will allow.
But is there anything else you could be doing to enhance your muscular development?
The short answer: Absolutely!
This is where supplementation becomes so important.
But, as with the training and nutrition, it’s important to focus on your specific goal and narrow down your choices. Make sure that you use muscle-building supplements when on a muscle growth training plan, not the best supplements for weight loss. This is a common mistake I’ve seen many athletes and gym enthusiasts make. If your overall goal is to gain muscle, then naturally, you’ll be on a diet and training plan designed to enhance your strength and put on more weight. There are also many retailers that have the best gnc supplements so take your time and do your homework!
So choose supplements that are suited to that target.
Fat loss supplements work well on a fat loss training plan and diet. On a muscle growth plan, you will rarely lose any fat, as that is not the goal. Muscle building diets require higher calories. Fat loss plans require lower caloric consumption. You won’t gain much weight on a low-calorie diet, and you won’t lose much fat on a high-calorie diet, regardless of supplements.
It’s as simple as that!
Remember that buying supplements will not achieve a perfectly sculpted body by magic. You must weight train!Best workout supplements alone will not give you the desired effect. Quality muscle has to be earned!
Now, beware, there are many products that do not work. I won’t go into that area now, but instead, will focus on the ones that do work. Studies have shown that there are many supplements that can help to enhance your body’s ability to build muscle and improve your overall health.
It’s important to note that diet is key and you must eat!
Food will be the main building block for muscle growth. Supplementation is there for just that – to supplement your diet. So, let’s get onto the specifics about my top six supplement choices – in no order – to help build those muscles.
Count Down On The Best Muscle Building Supplements
Perhaps the most commonly known muscle builder, creatine is a top strength-enhancing product, which I can recommend. Creatine works by increasing your strength output. It helps you to lift heavier weights for longer periods of time. Over time, by lifting heavier than normal weight you will increase muscle size and strength. This has a cumulative effect so the longer it takes, the more benefit you will derive from it.
The most popular form of the best creatine is the powder form of creatine monohydrate. Although there are many types of creatine on the market, I’d advise you to stick monohydrate powder. You can also look at what is the best creatine for more info.
Monohydrate powder is also the least expensive creatine.
Combine your monohydrate with simple sugar dextrose. This combo has been proven to enhance the effectiveness of creatine absorption during loading, meaning that more creatine is pushed into your muscles.
More creatine in your muscles means more strength.
That means more muscle growth!
Creatine is stored in the muscle cells with water. When you first begin loading, and the creatine is stored in the muscle cells, it will also bring more water. The extra water increases the muscle size. That means many people will gain weight almost right when they begin loading with creatine.
Don’t get confused with water retention. This is a term used when water is stored under the skin, not within the muscle cells. The water that is stored within the muscle cells makes the muscles look larger and fuller with a more muscular appearance.
If you stopped taking creatine after a few months, the weight gained during that time, apart from the water added within the cells, would be new muscle and wouldn’t be lost when you stop taking creatine. It takes time to grow muscle, and that muscle will not be lost simply because you stopped taking creatine.
When you start loading on creatine, you’ll load for five or six days. During that time your weight will go up about four pounds. After loading, continue to take your maintenance dose of creatine each day for the next four months. In that time you’ll gain about 22 pounds. At least 18 pounds of that weight gain is new muscle and it won’t be lost if you stop using creatine.
It’s your choice as to whether or not you decide to cycle creatine.
It is always a good idea to take a break from supplements from time to time to give your body a break from that product and avoid the loss of effectiveness. However, in order to gain maximum benefit from creatine, you should take it consistently for at least three months.
During periods of high stress (such as weight training), your body calls on glutamine to help it maintain normal function. I recommend taking up to 15 grams per day. That is slightly higher than the suggested 5 grams on many products. With higher doses, you may well notice decreased recovery time and enhanced glycogen storage.
You should rarely get sick.
Intense weight training can be very stressful on the immune system. I suggest that you opt for the powder form of this supplement for the simple reason of cost. In the long term, a 1,000-gram container of glutamine powder should last for over two months if you take 15 grams per day.
It’s a slightly more expensive supplement than creatine, but in my eyes is equally as important, if not more so!
#3 Whey Protein
This is the trusted old staple of a muscle-building regime.
Protein builds muscle, and you need plenty of it. In order to get enough protein and calories in the day, you could use a quality whey protein powder, which does not contain any carbs and has very small amounts of fat. It’s pure whey protein.
There are a multitude of great products that will let you add more protein to specific meals. If your meal contains plenty of carbs, but not enough protein, you can add a scoop of pure whey, and it will ensure that your meal has enough protein.
When choosing protein supplements you must watch the sugar content. By unnecessarily eating large amounts of sugar, you could gain more body fat. Always check the carbohydrate content. Look for products that have more protein than carbs. The protein should be mainly whey protein. Get in the habit of reading the nutrition label and the ingredients listing and you’ll know exactly what you are consuming.
Not glamorous or exciting, whey protein is a great staple muscle builder!
Although whey is a very common supplement, some people don’t actually know what whey is good for. There are three benefits of whey protein.
First, it builds muscle. You need to consume at least 1 gram per pound of bodyweight to build muscle. One scoop of whey is about 25 grams of protein. If you struggle to get this amount of daily protein, 1 or 2 scoops daily will help. It’s also easy. Just put one scoop in your shaker, mix it with milk or water and then drink. There’s nothing easier when you are short on time! And lastly, it works out to be a cheap form of protein. Ten pounds of it will typically last for five months if you take one scoop daily.
I wouldn’t recommend weight-gaining type of products, as they are high-calorie drinks with large quantities of sugar and small amounts of protein. Any weight gaining diets should be centered on high-quality protein. Sugar intake should be minimized.
Most weight gaining drinks have more sugar than anything else, and will cause you to gain fat, not muscle!
#4 Fish Oil And EFAs
Omega-3 fats have been a hot supplement for several years now and so many foods come with a label that reads: “Contains omega-3.”
The benefits of adding omega-3 into your muscle-building plan include reduced inflammation, less acne and being helpful with tendonitis. It’s also shown to help to keep your body fat under control when gaining lean muscle. You should also notice reduced soreness from weight training.
If this wasn’t enough to encourage you to add it into your plan, it also lowers cholesterol, prevents heart disease, cancer, and depression. Whether you opt for capsules or liquid form, watch the EPA/DHA content. Some brands have low amounts of EPA/DHA. On average, 1 tsp. contains:
Fish Oil: 4,360mg
Omega-3 EPA: 715mg Omega-3
These kinds of supplements can also help you to get good fats into your diet, and eating fat doesn’t necessarily make you fat. Certain fats are vital in order to gain optimal health and hormone levels and they can help you to gain weight.
Your goal should be to have the largest part of your fat intake to come from unsaturated fats.
These are divided into monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Both of these fats will keep your testosterone levels high, as well as help to keep your arteries and blood vessels clear. I’d recommend getting your good fat from sources such as coconut oil, flax seed oil or Udo’s Perfect Oil Blend. All of these products contain the essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6. You can also use unprocessed oils such as sunflower oil, safflower oil or cod liver oil.
I would not recommend using oil capsules as a substitute. Instead, I would recommend taking at least 1 tablespoon of oil up to three times a day.
This would be over 30 grams whereas most capsules only have 1,000 milligrams of oil!
You’d need to take 30 capsules a day to get 30 grams! This wouldn’t be very economical. Flax seed oil and Udo’s oil can spoil easily when exposed to the sunlight. To avoid this, be sure keep it in the fridge.
ZMA is a combo of zinc and magnesium. It has been shown in a recent study to increase testosterone levels naturally up to 45%. This increase in the muscle-building hormone also prevents muscle catabolism. It has no harmful substances that could affect your body’s natural hormone balance. It’s an optional supplement, not essential.
But, it can really take your gains to the next level.
#6 Vitamin C And Multivitamins
A good multivitamin and vitamin C in particular is a great way to help optimize your muscles’ ability to recover, repair and grow. For these processes to take place, it’s very important that your body isn’t deficient in any nutrient.
Intense physical and mental stress (like weight training) can cause an increase in free radicals. These are unstable molecules that can destroy healthy cells.
And, that includes muscle tissue!
Vitamin C can really help to prevent this.
Not only does it help to prevent free radical damage, it also speeds up the repair of the connective tissue damaged from your workouts. When choosing a multivitamin, I suggest that men find one that does not contain the added iron designed for women.
Eat a healthy varied diet to get your vitamins. Vegetables and/or fruits with every meal are a great start. You should also get plenty of meats, fish, and eggs in your diet. Some of the many benefits of multivitamins include better sleep, fewer illnesses, and faster recovery.
How does it all work?
Zinc helps getting quality sleep. Vitamin C fortifies your immune system. Calcium and iron help recovery from intense weight training.
The best muscle building supplementation doesn’t necessarily have to be complex or hard work. As I’ve outlined here, it’s important to simply take the time to make the correct choices when selecting your supplements.
If you use them correctly alongside a good, strong diet and training program, you’ll get the best results and benefits from the products, and you won’t be throwing your money away. The quest to build a muscular physique is a challenge, but well worth it!
By Keith Cormican, RD