If you’re on a quest to build enviable muscles, you might wonder how nutritional supplements can help you achieve your goals more quickly. Take a stroll through any nutrition store and you’ll encounter a dizzying array of options. Supplements designed to increase muscle mass work in different ways, so become knowledgeable about each and talk with your doctor before incorporating a supplement into your diet.
Proteins and Amino Acids
Protein supplements are available in the form of powders, liquids and bars. They work by delivering the essential building blocks needed for your body to repair and grow muscle tissue. Athletes typically have higher protein needs than non-athletes, and a protein supplement is a convenient way to meet those needs. Protein supplements come from various sources, including whey, casein, soy, hemp, rice, pea and beef.
Testosterone is the steroid hormone that provides men secondary sex characteristics and greater levels of muscle mass and strength than women. The use of a natural testosterone booster — such as D-aspartic acid, fenugreek or damiana — may result in increased muscle mass. Men may experience better results with testosterone boosters than women. A study published in “Sports Medicine” in 2005 found that muscle and strength gains in women occur as a result of resistance training, regardless of whether testosterone levels are elevated.
Another class of muscle-building supplements consists of performance-enhancers, which enable you to train at higher intensities for longer periods of time. Popular performance-enhancers include creatine, caffeine and beta-alanine. Creatine works by increasing the level of adenosine triphosphate in the muscles. ATP is a nucleotide that releases energy for muscle contraction when it’s broken down into adenosine diphosphate. The elevated ATP level helps exercisers to use heavier resistance for a longer duration. Caffeine is a stimulant that may help to improve workout intensity. Beta-alanine buffers lactic acid formation, increasing the threshold for muscle failure and reducing the familiar “burn” felt at the end of a set.
Nitric oxide is a vasodilator that increases blood flow to the muscles during workouts. Besides providing an impressive pump, nitric oxide may help deliver important nutrients, such as amino acids, to your muscles. In addition, the increased blood flow to muscles can give the body a head start at ridding itself of waste — such as ammonia — that builds up in the body during exercise. This improved waste removal may promote quicker recovery between sets, allowing you to train longer and harder.
Don’t Forget the Diet
The importance of diet in relation to muscle-building shouldn’t be underestimated. Even with the best supplements and training routine, a poor diet can prevent you from achieving quality gains. Eat a diet rich in lean protein sources, such as lean beef, poultry, fish, egg whites and low-fat dairy. Protein supplements should not be used as a source of protein. A variety of fresh, seasonal produce will provide you with other vital nutrients, and complex carbohydrate sources — such as brown rice and quinoa — will give your body the energy it needs to get through your training sessions.
References & Resources
- Fox News: Creatine: Myths and Facts
- The Independent: How Do Protein Supplements Work?
- Men’s Fitness: Question of the Week: Effective vs. Ineffective Supplements
- Men’s Health: Muscles in a Bottle?
- Muscle & Fitness: 11 Best Supplements For Mass
- Sports Medicine: Hormonal Responses and Adaptations to Resistance Exercise and Training
- Men’s Fitness: Supplement Guide: Nitric Oxide