Even the most amateur athlete knows that fitness is nothing without the right kind of fuel. Whatever your weight, body, or overall fitness goals, you need to make sure that you’re eating the right sort of food to maintain your progress and keep everything consistent.
Every athlete has different goals, and thus different nutritional requirements.
For example, runners will need more carbs to keep up their energy, while bodybuilders need more protein to build and repair muscles.
If you fall into the latter category, you’re going to need a bit of familiarity with supplements.
Even the most well-balanced diet won’t provide enough fuel for muscle-building, which is why we’ve put together a brief guide to the most important supplements for muscle-building below.
Let’s start off with creatine.
If you’re trying to pick out your first muscle-growth supplement, it’s likely that you’ve seen this kind floating around.
Many people might think that creatine can replace protein in a muscle-building program, but that isn’t strictly true.
Creatine is made up of amino acids, and can help form adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is essential for producing energy during exercise.
In our post on ‘How Does Creatine Work’, we list out a few of the common benefits to adding creatine into your regular supplementation.
It improves performance, aids in high intensity work, and can help increase muscle strength and size. If you’re planning to increase your workout intensity, creatine is essential.
If you’ve put creatine into your regular rotation of supplements, you’ll probably want to boost its effectiveness with beta-alanine.
A non-essential amino acid, it can help boost the power of creatine, allowing you to increase strength and power more than just creatine would be able to on its own.
Beta-alanine converts into carnosine, which helps reduce that enemy of athletes everywhere— lactic acid.
Men’s Journal lists a few of beta-alanine’s other benefits, including its ability to fight muscle fatigue and increase HIIT endurance.
If you find yourself hitting a wall in your recent workouts, beta-alanine is pretty much the key to helping you push past it.
It’s also great for building muscle in general, and can help you bulk up in addition to your other supplements.
Of course, you can’t talk about muscle-building supplements without talking about the most famous one of all: protein.
Protein supplements come in a variety of different kinds, with popular favorites being whey protein, casein protein, and plant-based proteins.
Protein supplements are packed with amino acids, which are the building blocks for muscle growth.
While you’ve definitely seen exhaustive lists of different kinds of protein supplements, you may want to try out collagen supplements for size.
Collagen is usually known for its skin benefits, but it actually makes up 90% of the protein we have in our bodies.
A post about the best time to take collagen on Brightcore, outlines that collagen can not only improve your skin condition, but can also relieve joint pain, aid in weight loss, and of course, boost muscle.
4. Branched-Chain Amino Acids
Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs, for short) are essential amino acids that are involved in the production of protein in the human body.
They’re found in several different food types such as dairy products, meat and meat products, and plant-based protein sources like legumes.
While they’re definite athletic boosters, early research has found that BCAAs also have a ton of other health benefits.
On the athletic front, however, BCAAs are another kind of supplement that can aid your muscle-building journey.
Verywell Fit reports that BCAAs can help promote muscle recovery, and even decrease soreness after exercise.
This means that you recover much quicker, allowing you to exercise safely and consistently without fear of injury.
Plus, amino acids are essential for muscle building, making BCAAs a two-for-one deal for recovery and gains.
5. Fish Oil
Fish oil is a great and convenient source of Omega-3 fatty acids, which have an extensive background of health benefits: improving cognitive capacity (study); help decrease risk factors of cardiovascular diseases (study); and anti-inflammatory benefits (study, study).
They have also been shown to act as a natural lubricant for joints (article) – which is extremely important for maintaining healthy joints especially for someone who exercises on a regular basis. No matter how much you want to build muscle, you should not sacrifice your joints in the process.
What’s most exciting is that with recent studies, Omega 3s have shown a lot of positive muscle building properties by improving mTOR activation.
I am not going to bore you with the scientific talk, you can read more about it in our article “Does Omega 3 Help Build Muscle?”.
What you should remember is that participants in this study, increased their muscle growth potential with 50% just by adding Fish oil to their daily supplements.
Omega 3s have also been shown to decrease muscle soreness and improve muscle recovery after a workout (study) – which means that you can increase the intensity of your workouts.
And, they help improve energy expenditure (study), which also allows for more intense workouts and better muscle growth.
The supplements listed are what I like to call “the 5 essentials to muscle building”.
They help improve muscle growth, improve your health and are relatively inexpensive: If you were to buy all 5 of them, it’d probably cost you around $76.
That being said, are you going to see results without them? Of course you will. Especially if you’re a beginner and you’re just starting off.
Supplements are nothing more than…supplements. They’re purpose is to help support your fitness goal, not be the reason behind it.
Your two most important priorities are a good workout regime and a good diet.
However, if you were to add these products to your arsenal what you can expect is better and faster muscle development.