Article by Alex Stewart.
Supplementation is becoming increasingly popular amongst athletes and bodybuilders. With thousands of supplements on the market, you can target your specific needs. While focusing on building and maintaining muscle mass a nutrient rich diet is paramount though you’ll want to focus on specific supplements as well to help you reach your goals. Some of the best supplements to aid in increasing muscle mass are creatine, whey protein, glutamine, beef protein, and branch-chain amino acids (BCAAs).
Supplements that Help Build Muscle Mass
With all of the supplements that are currently available on the market, it can be overwhelming when trying to choose the best option. In order to build muscle mass, your muscles need to be encouraged through exercise. They also need to be nourished through diet and supplementation. This will encourage muscle growth, improving overall strength. The following five supplements are highly recommended.
Creatine is one of the most popular supplements for muscle mass. It’s found naturally found within the human body, storing ATP for your muscles. The more your muscles are saturated with creatine, the more muscular endurance and power you experience. When you consume creatine, your muscle cells absorb extra water. This will increase your training power, while accelerating protein synthesis.
The end result is increased growth of your muscles. When you utilize your energy source, ATP is broken down to produce contractions in your muscle. Creatine acts as an ATP reserve, which is one of its key benefits.
Due to the replenishment of ATP, you’re able to push your muscles that much harder. When there’s a greater pool of creatine in your cells from supplementation, there’s more phosphate that’s readily available to donate. This process turns ADP (adenosine diphosphate), into the key energy source ATP (adenosine TRIphosphate, notice the extra phosphate).
Basically, creatine helps replenish ATP levels without needing to endure a lengthy process of breaking down other molecules. One study focused on creatine’s influence on muscle and strength loss after immobilization. Subjects were between the ages of 18-25 and had never used creatine before.
The subjects were assessed in terms of their lean tissue mass, their muscle strength, and their muscle endurance. Once these baseline measures were recorded, subjects were randomly assigned. They then had their dominant or non-dominant arm immobilized (plaster casts were administered).
During days 1-7, subjects received a placebo, then creatine during days 15-21. During days 8-14 and 22-29, the subjects’ casts were removed. Their lean tissue mass, endurance, and strength were tested at baseline (as mentioned), during, and after the study. The results showed that creatine supplementation did in fact slow down loss in strength and muscle mass during arm immobilization. This clearly shows how effective creatine is in terms of one’s muscle mass and the ability to increase overall strength.1
Creatine also increases protein synthesis, which stimulates muscle growth. You can find creatine in red meats, as well as certain types of fish. In order to increase muscle mass, it will be challenging to consume enough creatine within your diet. Although red meat yields high levels of creatine, the compound is destroyed when cooked. Due to this effect, powdered creatine is ideal. This is a classic example of when supplementation can fill a deficiency in your diet.
When supplementing with creatine, users are able to gain significant muscle mass. This is due to strengthened myogenic satellite cells, which are essential for skeletal muscle (in terms of regeneration and overall maintenance).
2. Whey Protein
Whey Protein is an excellent supplement when trying to build muscle mass. It allows you to consume protein, without getting all of the saturated fat and cholesterol that’s found in meat. Whey protein is the by-product produced when making cheese. Since this protein is considered ‘a complete protein,’ it contains all of the amino acids our bodies need.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Lecucine is one of these amino acids, which plays a substantial role in building muscle. Majority of bodybuilders and athletes will take whey protein before they workout. When blood flow increases to muscles throughout one’s workout, there’s more protein available.
When your blood has access to more protein, it aids in the development of muscle mass and strength. Although many individuals take whey protein before they work out, it’s also shown to be effective post-workout. There has been substantial evidence collected, showing positive effects on muscle mass time and time again.
In terms of protein synthesis post-workout, a study was conducted at McMaster University in Canada. Researchers were interested in the effects of one large whey protein dose, in comparison to 10 smaller doses, administered over an extended period of time. It was found that when men took one large dose, it increased protein production more than the smaller doses.
In a second study, military personal were examined after consuming a high-protein beverage. One group received a beverage with 1.87 grams of leucine, while the other consumed a beverage that contained 3.5 grams. After exercising on a stationary bike, muscle protein synthesis was examined. When consuming the beverage that was higher in leucine, individuals experienced 33% more muscle protein synthesis.2
Glutamine is the most plentiful amino acid within the human body, although it’s not essential. Majority of the glutamine in our body is stored within our muscles, followed by the lungs. Since it helps carry nitrogen, it’s a vital energy source for many cells. Since amino acids are essential for building protein (which builds muscle mass), glutamine is a great choice.
When you workout, not only do glutamine levels fall, but muscle becomes torn down. In order to support muscle growth, nutrients and protein synthesis are essential. When you supplement with glutamine pre-workout, you can help prevent the breakdown of muscle. Supplementing with glutamine post-workout is also highly beneficial, as nutrients are low.
To show the powerful effects of glutamine, a study analyzed individuals that were undergoing surgery. Patients either received glutamine or a placebo, then their glutathione levels were analyzed. Glutamine is a precursor to glutathione, which is typically depleted following some sort of trauma. Muscle and blood tests were administered before surgery, as well as 24-hours and 72-hours after surgery.
Individuals that did not receive supplementation of glutamine, showed glutathione depletion up to 63%. Those that were given glutamine on the other hand, showed no significant decrease in glutathione levels. This study clearly showed that supplementing with glutamine, helps reduce the depletion of skeletal muscle in humans.3
4. Beef Protein
You can now gain the benefits of beef through supplementation, as beef protein is offered in powdered form. Within the bodybuilding world, beef has been a staple source of nutrients for many years. It’s packed with creatine, branched-chain amino acids, zinc, and B-vitamins. Containing all nine essential amino acids, beef is one of the best sources of protein.
When you enhance protein levels, you increase muscle development, while improving recovery and growth. It is quickly and easily absorbed, as 70-80% of what you ingest is utilized by the body. When purchasing beef supplements, it’s ideal to invest in a product that has undergone a hydrolysis process. This process actively breaks down amino acids, resulting in small peptide chains. Since your body is then able to skip this step, you access its benefits more quickly.
Branched-chained amino acids (BCAAs), are essential amino acids such as leucine, valine, and isoleucine. ‘Branched-chain’ simply refers to the molecular structure. The most common use for these supplements are seen within the athletic and bodybuilding community. Taking BCAAs can help you increase performance, while reducing the breakdown of muscle.
BCAAs are mainly metabolized within skeletal muscles, helping repair damaged muscles, decreasing muscle soreness, and increasing overall muscle function. There’s been a lot of research conducted, supporting the benefits of supplementing with BCAAs. Muscle has been shown to repair post-workout, as well as reducing muscle damage that’s induced throughout training.
One study focused on BCAAs and their effect on protein degradation within human skeletal muscle. This double-blind study had male subjects perform one session of quadriceps muscle resistance training, on two occasions. Each subject consumed either a placebo or BACC during and after exercise.
It was found that those individuals who ingested BCAA had an overall increase of leucine, isoleucine, and valine concentrations during their exercise, as well as 2 hours post-exercise. Individuals who took the placebo, showed no changes. When BCAAs were consumed, it enhanced phosphorylation 3.5 fold. This means that after resistance training, BCAA brought about signal transduction within skeletal muscle (increasing protein synthesis).4
In order to achieve results, you need to put forth the effort. To build muscle mass, you’ll need to train hard and eat plenty of nutritious food. However, supplementation can help you improve your overall workout, by encouraging muscle growth and recovery. If you’re looking to build muscle mass, consider one of the five supplements above. Good Luck
As always if you have any question about the above article and or anything else regarding training, dieting, nutrition or supplementation please feel free to send me an email AlexBigStew@gmail.com I would be glad to help you out.
- Johnston, AP. Burke, DG., MacNeil, LG., Candow, DG. (2009). Effect of Creatine Supplementation During Cast-Induced Immobilization on the Preservation of Muscle Mass, Strength, and Endurance. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 23, 116-120.
- American Society for Nutrition. (2011). Muscle-building effect of protein beverages for athletes investigated. ScienceDaily. Retrieved on December 9th, 2014, from sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110818132225.htm
- Flaring, U.B., Rooyackers, O.E, Wernerman, J., Hammarqvist, F. (2003). Glutamine Attenuates Post-Traumatic Glutathione Depletion in Human Muscle. Clinical Science, 104, 275-282.
- Karlsson, H., Nilsson, P., Nilsson, J., Chibalin, A. (2004). Branched-Chain Amino Acids Increase Phosphorylation In Human Skeletal Muscle After Resistance Exercise. American Journal os Physiology, 287, E1-E7.