When your goal is to build muscle, essentially, there are three parts to the puzzle; first and foremost, proper nutrition is the foundation of your success. Secondly, a good training schedule that consistently pushes your boundaries is a given. Then of course, there are supplements. For many, this can be the most confusing aspect, since there seems to be an infinite number of options!
If you’re new to the idea of supplements – or need a bit of assistance with the basics of your current arsenal – then hopefully, the following guide will help to get you on the right track (or stay there)!
These can perhaps be considered the six ‘golden nuggets’ of building muscle:
1. Whey Protein
No surprises that this is a top contender. Whey is renowned for its unpaired biological value (BV); it contains a full spectrum of amino acids, and has an ultra-fast absorption rate. It’s often recommended for post-training consumption since it’s quickly ‘shuttled’ into muscle cells, yielding a powerful anabolic effect.
Don’t let fancy terminology like concentrate, isolate and hydrolysate confuse you – they’re all derivatives of one and the same thing. The latter two have undergone specialised processing techniques, resulting in a more purified form of whey concentrate that’s said to further enhance absorption. However, all forms offer nutritional benefits; many brands contain a blend of all three to ensure all-round, good quality.
2. Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) and Glutamine
Leucine, isoleucine and valine are essential amino acids; just to re-cap, in nutrition, the term essential refers to those nutrients our bodies cannot synthesise. Thus, they must be obtained from our diet or supplements.
The branched-chain aminos are called such because of their unique chemical structure. They’re chiefly involved in the resynthesis of muscle proteins, and have been shown to be highly supportive of muscle growth and repair. Whilst whey protein will contain naturally occurring BCAAs, further supplementing them can really help to ‘up the ante’. Try adding a BCAA powder to your drinking water and sipping this throughout the day, and during your workout; this helps to keep you in a muscle building state!
Glutamine is also worth a mention here; it’s classed as conditionally essential, since the body does make it, but low levels can affect muscle development. As the most abundant amino in the human body, depletion can take place following periods of intense training, stress and illness. Taking a supplement can to help negate this – the recommended dose being 1-5g daily.
Many amino formulae will already contain glutamine. Otherwise, adding a scoop to your protein powder is simple enough to incorporate into your routine. It’s important to note that glutamine also plays important roles in proper function of the immune system, and digestive health.
3. Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids – most notably eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), found in marine species – assist blood circulation, joint health and brain function. They’re also believed to help stimulate thermogenesis and therefore, fat-burning potential.
Eating two portions of oily fish per week can help you to meet your recommended intake of these essential fats, but when training hard (or if you don’t eat fish), a supplement provides the best solution. A daily intake of 1,000mg per day should cut it; this is the standard dose offered by most brands. As a bonus, many varieties are odourless and tasteless. J
Vitamins and minerals are required for the maintenance of overall health and functionality, and work in correlation with one and other. They contribute to energy metabolism, cell renewal and immune function (to name but a few).
A varied, healthy diet with plenty of veggies and fruit is the best way to obtain vitamins and minerals. However, it can be difficult to monitor overall intake of specific nutrients; to help combat this, taking a daily multi is recommended as an ‘insurance policy’ (of sorts).
Supplementing creatine can help to prolong athleticism by renewing ATP – the body’s energy currency that sustains muscle contractions, therefore improving muscle power output. Creatine is one of the most heavily researched supplements in the industry, and has been scientifically proven to help improve performance. Taking 5g daily – in the form of capsules or powder – can really make a difference to what you can achieve during your workouts; it can help you to lift heavier, and/or train longer.
Taking creatine with a carb source is said to enhance absorption – your post-workout meal would work well.
6. Male Support
Testosterone is largely responsible for muscle development; taking a natural male support can therefore, assist this process. Ingredients might include the minerals zinc and magnesium, vitamin B complex, and the amino acid d-aspartic acid – all of which contribute to muscle protein synthesis.
A good quality, natural male support will usually contain a combination of the above, to help maximise efficacy.