When you exercise regularly, you want to know you’re getting the most out of your workout.
One big advantage of regular exercise is gaining strength and muscle. When you have a healthy amount of muscle, you can perform at peak levels during exercise and in your daily life.
You have to meet three top criteria in order to achieve maximal muscle gain. First, you have to eat more calories than you burn. Second, you have to eat more protein than you are breaking down. Third, you need a challenging exercise program to build muscles.
You could meet all these criteria without taking any dietary supplements, but there are certain supplements out there that will help you achieve your goals.
Here we will list six supplements designed to help you gain more muscle as part of your exercise routine.
This is a molecule that is produced naturally in the body, giving your muscles and other tissues energy. You can also take it as a dietary supplement to increase muscle creatine content – by 40% beyond what it can give you normally.
This has a big impact on your muscle cells and exercise performance. It promotes muscle gain too. Research shows creatine boosts muscle strength.
If you want to gain muscle, this is good news for you. More strength gives you a peak performance when exercising. As a result, you can enjoy bigger increases in muscle mass with time.
Creatine also boosts water content in the cells of your muscles, causing them to swell slightly and signal for increased muscle growth.
Additionally, creatine can boost levels of the hormones necessary for muscle growth, like IGF-1.
Research shows that creatine may reduce the breakdown of muscle proteins.
Creatine supplements and exercise have both been studied extensively, and creatine has been consistently found to increase muscle mass.
It also has a very good safety profile with creatine monohydrate being the best creatine supplement to choose.
So, if you want a supplement that helps you gain muscle, you will want to consider creatine first.
Summary: Creatine is the best supplement for muscle gain. Studies confirm it can increase muscle mass.
To gain muscle, it’s important to get enough protein every day. In fact, you will have to consume more protein sources than your body is able to break down naturally.
Yes, you could consume protein-rich foods, but it’s tough to consume enough protein in your diet to make a difference. This is where a protein supplement could help.
There are lots out there, but the most popular are whey, soy and casein protein. Other protein powders may come from beef, chicken, eggs, or plant based sources.
The addition of extra protein through supplements can cause more muscle gain in those who exercise than the addition of extra carbs.
But those who don’t get enough protein in their regular diet will see the biggest effects.
Research shows that the consumption of high amounts of protein supplements will not help to increase muscle if you already eat a high-protein diet.
You may wonder about how much protein you should eat daily. For active individuals who want to gain muscle, shoot for 0.5–0.9 grams of protein a pound of body weight.
Summary: Getting enough protein is critical for optimal muscle gain. If you consume enough protein in your normal diet, you may not need a protein supplement.
Weight gainers can help you consume more calories and protein. People who have a hard time gaining muscle can use these. For some, it’s tough to gain muscle, even when they consume a lot of calories and lift weights.
The calorie contents of weight gainers will vary by product, but usually they contain more than 1,000 calories per serving.
You may assume these calories come from protein because it’s critical for muscle building. But more of the calories come from carbs.
You will often find 75 to 300 grams of carbs and 20 to 60 grams of protein per serving when you take high-calorie supplements. Just remember that weight gainer supplements aren’t a miracle cure.
Studies that have been done on physically-inactive adults show that greatly increasing calories may boost lean muscle mass, but you have to consume enough protein.
Research on adults who engage in weight training shows that using a weight gainer supplement is not really effective at boosting lean mass.
You should only take weight gainers if you can’t consume enough food and it’s just easier to drink a shake.
Summary: Weight gainers, high-calorie products, can help a person consume more protein and calories. But you should only take them if you have a hard time getting enough calories from food sources.
Beta-alanine, an amino acid that can reduce fatigue, can increase exercise performance.
It may also increase muscle mass if you exercise regularly.
One study showed that people who took four grams of beta-alanine a day for eight weeks were able to increase their lean body mass more than those who just took a placebo. This study was performed on college wrestlers and football players.
Another study showed that adding beta-alanine supplements to a six-week-long, high-intensity training program could boost lean body mass by one pound, more than those who took a placebo.
Additional research on beta-alanine and muscle gain will be needed in order to determine if this supplement can adequately support muscle gain if used in tandem with an exercise regimen.
Summary: Beta-alanine, an amino acid, improves exercise performance. Evidence shows it can increase muscle mass when used in conjunction with exercise.
Branched-Chain Amino Acids
Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are three amino acids: leucine, valine, and isoleucine. You can find these in most protein sources, especially those of animal origin such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy.
BCAAs are necessary for muscle growth and comprise 14 percent of the amino acids in the muscles.
Everyone gets BCAAs from food daily, but many also decide to take BCAAs in supplement form.
Research shows that BCAAs can enhance muscle gain and reduce muscle loss, compared with those who took a placebo.
Other studies show that BCAAs may not result in a lot of muscle gain in people who follow an exercise program.
BCAA supplements may only provide benefits if you aren’t getting enough protein in your diet.
Summary: Branched-chain amino acids are good if you are looking to achieve muscle growth. While they are found in lots of foods, it’s not clear if consuming them in supplement form is helpful in those who already get enough protein from their diets.
Beta-hydroxy beta-methylbutyrate, or HMB for short, is a molecule produced when the body processes the amino acid called leucine.
HMB has many beneficial effects of leucine and protein in the diet.
It’s also helpful in reducing muscle protein breakdown.
Yes, HMB is produced naturally in the body, but taking it as a supplement can give you higher levels while helping the muscles.
Studies in untrained adults show that taking three to six grams of HMB a day can boost the gains in lean body mass that can arise with weight training.
Other studies show that similar HMB doses may not be effective at boosting muscle mass in adults who have a lot of weight training experience.
The conclusion is that HMB may be most effective for people who are starting out with an exercise program or who are deciding to increase their workout intensity.
Summary: HMB could increase muscle mass in people who are starting a weight training program, but it may be less effective for people who have training experience.
There are many other supplements that may increase muscle mass, including conjugated linoleic acid, glutamine, carnitine, or testosterone boosters. Studies show mixed evidence as of right now.
- Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA): CLA is a group of omega-6 fatty
acids that have many effects on the body. Studies regarding CLA for muscle gain
have shown mixed results, so the jury is out on whether it’s beneficial or not.
- Testosterone boosters: Testosterone-boosting supplements include fenugreek, D-aspartic acid, ashwagandha, tribulus terrestris, and DHEA. These compounds may only benefit people with low levels of testosterone.
- Glutamine and carnitine: These are not likely to be effective when it comes to increasing muscle mass in active, young and middle-aged people. But some studies have shown carnitine to bring some benefits for elderly muscle mass.
Summary: Many supplements say they can increase muscle mass, but not much evidence is out there showing their effectiveness for active, healthy, individuals.
Supplements cannot give you maximal muscle gains if you don’t have strong nutrition and exercise programs in place.
In order to gain muscle, you have to consume enough calories and protein, coupled with weight lifting exercise. If you do have strong nutrition and exercise routines, then you could consider adding dietary supplements.
Creatine and protein supplements are best for muscle gain, but there could be other supplements out there that are best for certain groups of people.