If you’re the kind of person who sees pictures of The Rock, Arnold in his prime or other guys with massive muscles and you wonder how they do it, you’re not alone. Some are just genetically gifted to pack on the muscle.
Others turn to more unconventional (and often dangerous) steroids. If you’re interested in staying on the up and up but still want to build size, you might want to consider muscle enhancers.
But how can you enhance your muscles more than just working out and protein without reaching for a steroid injection?
What Are The Best Muscle Enhancers?
We’ve got all the answers for you regarding muscle enhances, what works, and what is just a complete money suck.
Protein Used For Cellular Rebuild
Yup, good ol’ fashion protein. When it comes to muscle enhancers this is the end all be all. You might look at this in the listing and just kind of scoff. Protein isn’t an enhancer or supplement, it’s a line on the back of food labeling.
Well yes, it is, but without protein, none of the other enhancers really matter. Your muscles are made of protein. The only way you’re going to increase the size of your muscles is if you tear down the muscle fiber and build it back up with protein. Working out without the protein can increase strength, but you’ll never increase size.
Adding protein without tearing down the muscles will give you energy but you won’t increase size. You need both put together.
There are different kinds of protein options available to you.
Sure, you can go the Hugh Jackman route when he plays Wolverine and starting eating entire chickens every meal to increase your high-quality protein, low fat and low carb levels (which is great when you want to shred and still put on muscle), but does eating an entire chicken every single meal really sound that great?
There’s only so many rotisserie chickens you can consume before you never want to see another chicken ever again.
That’s why you need to include protein powder.
Casein protein is largely seen as one of the very best proteins on the market. It absorbs slowly so your body always has protein on hand when working out and to rebuild your muscles. Whey protein is another solid option although it absorbs faster. The benefits of whey are the price (far less expensive than casein) and it is something you can consume before going to bed without causing an upset stomach or bloating.
You should always take in some protein before going to bed (that is easy to digest) so your body has protein to convert into muscle as your body performs much of its cellular rebuild while sleeping (WebMD, 2018).
Creatine For More Energy
After protein, creatine is a product you’ve heard tons about. If you were hitting up the gym back a decade-plus ago you might have heard the mentioning of “creatine” and assumed someone was talking about a steroid.
It does kind of have that ring to it.
Just the name “creatine” kind of sounds like an illegal substance you should skirt away from.
However, that’s not the case at all. Your body produces creatine naturally. This energy is used by fast twitch muscle fibers for explosive moves (like sprinting or pushing up the bench press barbell).
However, fast twitch energy is quickly zapped.
It’s why you can only sprint for a short amount of time. By giving your body more creatine you provide your muscles with more energy, which allows you to explode up with that barbell a few more times. By squeezing off even one more rep per lift, you’re adding on that much more resistance to your training, tearing your muscles down that much more, which allows you to increase the size of your muscles faster.
You’re not pumping up the muscles with creatine. You’re just taking a product that helps tear the muscles down more completely. The protein then comes in and does the work to build it back up (WebMD, 2018).
Nitric Oxide More Than Just A Muscle Builder?
No, we’re not telling you to grab a box of whippets and start inhaling the gasses before hitting up the gym.
That’s just a terrible idea all the way around (no matter how much your college roommate use to say how awesome it was). Nitric oxide may be one of the health supplements you should be taking but aren’t. in fact, according to Nutrition Express (2018) there are far more health benefits attached to this than just muscle enhancements.
So let’s go over those first, and then we’ll dive into how it helps for muscle growth.
For starters, it helps improve information transmission between the cells of your brain and nervous system.
By doing this, you’ll improve your ability to fight off not only unwanted bacteria but protect your body against tumors and cancer cells (that alone should make you want to run out and grab some nitric oxide).
Additionally, it helps regulate blood pressure, reduces inflammation, boosts your senses (not to the level of Spider-Man spidey-sense, but still an improvement) and it will help protect against gastric motility. It even goes as far as helps correct erectile dysfunction.
So yes, this is the muscle enhancement supplement that keeps giving (even though the penis is not a muscle but sponge tissue, we’ll include it as another major reason to take this product).
With all of those health benefits, what else can it do for your body in terms of building muscles?
Well for starters, it helps improve the flood of oxygen in the blood. The increased oxygen flow within the blood helps deliver more energy to areas of the body.
This includes muscles.
Basically, it helps send more energy, proteins and other necessary materials to the muscles.
At the same time, it removes excessive lactic acid build-up.
By clearing the way of lactic acid the nitric oxide will cut down on the amount of time it takes to recover from a hard workout. Nitric oxide includes what is known as L-arginine and L-citrulline. While working out, arginine levels are run low, which leads to the increase in lactic acid. By delivering the additional L-arginine levels to the body, this helps prevent this lactic acid build up.
Basically, this means you’ll be able to squeeze more out of your workout and your body will recover faster.
Now, there are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to nitric oxide.
For starters, your body will lack suitable levels of nitric oxide and L-arginine due to a poor diet (one heavy in fats), because you smoke or have high cholesterol. This is actually one of the bigger knocks against the Atkins Diet in that you are to remove carbs and consume foods higher in fat. The fatty foods can reduce your nitric oxide level (if you are on the Atkins diet and like the results you see in terms of cutting fat, just focus on high protein lower fat foods to prevent this from happening).
So, if you maintain a healthy diet full of leafy greens, you should already have a good nitric oxide level.
You just need to be careful if you already have high blood pressure or a heart condition, as this may cause additional problems (Nutrition Express, 2018).
Branched-Chain Amino Acids
BCAA for short, these amino acids are valine, leucine and isoleucine. Nearly all meat proteins contain these three amino acids. Many brands of whey protein come with BCAA included as well (generally not at a high enough percentage, but still included, which is why reading the product labeling is crucial).
However, BCAAs are typically not found in plant-based proteins.
So if you take vegan based protein supplements or plant-based supplements, you’re not receiving your complete amino acid regimen, which is reducing your muscle gains.
But what’s the big deal with BCAAs?
It’s just a few amino acids.
Well, these are extremely important in helping your muscles recover. BCAAs help reduces potential muscle loss from working out while helping your body consume protein in order to rebuild your muscles. In general, though, it is a supplement you need to stop and determine whether you need or if you’re already getting enough. Yes, there are guys at the gym who just guzzle pink BCAA drinks after every workout. They might need it. Or they might be just wasting money.
But how can you tell?
Look at the kind of protein your consuming.
Where do most of the protein you consume on a daily basis come from?
If more than half of your protein is coming from actual animal protein, such as chicken, eggs, steak or anything like that, chances are you’re already getting enough of the BCAAs. There is only so much your body can do with BCAAs as there is not an infinite level of utilizing protein assistance your muscles need (It’s like you already have two spotters for an extremely heavy bench press, what is a third or fourth one going to do?).
If, however, much of your protein comes from a protein supplement, you probably are not getting enough BCAAs in your diet.
The primary goal of protein powder is to get you just that: protein.
There’s not enough room in the powder mixture to keep up the protein levels while also give you the maximum amount of amino acids.
Likewise, if much of your protein comes from plants, vegetable-based proteins, beans or non-meat proteins, there’s a good chance you’re not getting anywhere near the necessary BCAAs you need. In which case, adding in this supplement is crucial (Healthline, 2017).
Supplements You’ve Heard Of But Probably Don’t Need
First of all, we want to speak on the importance of buying quality supplements. There are plenty of products out there that claim to be top of the line, but in fact are nothing more than powder and sugar.
So always check the labeling.
If one is drastically less expensive than the rest, there’s probably a reason why.
Additionally, there are other supplements you’ve likely heard of and seen when checking out the health section of your grocery store and have wondered if you need or not. Well, we’re going to go over them here, and chances are you don’t need them.
There’s the testosterone booster.
More testosterone means more muscle, right?
Eh, not really. There’s only so much testosterone your body can use when processing protein. In reality, the only time you should ever consider using this is if you have low testosterone levels. Carnitine is another supplement you’ve seen in the store.
Hey, of creatine works, shouldn’t carnitine?
No, not really.
That doesn’t mean there should never be taken though. If you are a senior citizen or at pushing closer to those retirement years and you’ve found it to be a bit difficult to put on any kind of muscle growth at all, there is some research that suggests carnitine can help improve muscle mass on the elderly (Healthline, 2016).
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Remember You HAVE To Lift
It might be a gimmy, but the ultimate muscle enhancer is to workout with weights. Sure, you can get a solid workout with your body weight (the Batman villain Bain first bulked up by just doing pushups and sit-ups in his cell…before he started injecting himself with crazy steroids), but nothing works better than good old fashion weightlifting.
So above all else, make sure you’re hitting the gym and pushing yourself.
Whether you decide to invest in some of these muscle enhancers or you’d prefer to avoid taking extra supplements you may not need, you do need to keep in mind nothing will increase your muscular size without putting in the work at the gym.
Muscle enhancers are supplements, and supplements are just that — supplemental to your work.
If you don’t put in the work there’s nothing to supplement.
So hit the gym, follow the right workout routine to accomplish your size, physique or strength gains and, from there, everything else you include into your diet, including muscle enhances, will serve as just icing on the cake.