Best Supplements for Building Muscle
In the noble quest to build muscle and losing fat (and I truly believe it’s noble), introducing a couple of basic supplements into your routine is a great way to jump-start your progress. The problem is that when you ask many people why they’re taking what they’re taking, many simply respond that it’s what their trainer or nutrition store employee told them to take. I think it’s very important that everyone have at least a basic understanding of EVERYTHING they put into their body, so I’ve decided to share some of the supplements I’m currently taking and the knowledge I’ve gained surrounding each.
What is a Supplement?
According to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) a dietary supplement is defined as “a product taken by mouth that contains a dietary ingredient intended to supplement the diet”.
The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994 defined the term “dietary ingredient” to be one or any combination of the following substances:
- a vitamin,
- a mineral,
- an herb or other botanical,
- an amino acid,
- a dietary substance for use by man to supplement the diet by increasing the total dietary intake (e.g., enzymes or tissues from organs or glands), or
- a concentrate, metabolite, constituent or extract.
Dietary ingredients that meet the above definition, but that were not sold in the U.S. prior to October 15, 1994, are categorized as “new dietary ingredients”.
Companies that manufacture dietary supplements are not required to obtain FDA approval prior to marketing their products, however they do bear the responsibly of ensuring that their products are safe. They are also required to ensure that claims surrounding their product(s) are not false or misleading by substantiating such claims with adequate evidence.
What I’m Taking
- Protein Powder – Many people incorrectly include protein power under the term supplement, when it is in fact considered a food. As I’ve mentioned in past posts, adequate protein intake is a foundation for building your muscle mass. It’s also important to note that it’s possible to get enough protein simply by eating a lot of lean protein like chicken and fish, but I personally find that whey protein shakes are much more convenient. If you’re taking protein shakes be sure to check your ingredients list to see what supplements are included in the blend, and then take these amounts into consideration when establishing your supplement needs. I know that the protein powder I take contains relatively small amounts of both glutamine and BCAAs, which are covered below.
o Nerdy accountant’s note: Roughly half of the states do not have a sales tax on food, so you’ll notice that you are not charged sales tax on your protein powder purchases. You will however be charged tax on anything deemed a “supplement”.
- Creatine – From the Greek word for meat (kreas), creatine is a nonessential amino acid that is produced by the human body from L-arginine, glycine, and L-methionine. Despite the fact that the body can produce creatine, about half of the creatine stores found in the body are derived from food (mainly meat sources). Creatine is currently allowed by the International Olympic Committee, National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), and professional sports, but the NCAA has banned colleges and universities from supplying creatine to their students using schools funds. You want it; you have to pony up the funds yourself.
The main stores for creatine in the body, the skeletal muscles, are only able to maintain a finite level of creatine. Building the muscles up to this point of saturation is a process typically referred to as loading. It’s important to note that mimicking the exact program of someone who has successfully introduced creatine supplementation into their training does not guarantee you the same level of success. Everyone’s body is different and has different naturally occurring levels of creatine in their bodies, so someone who has a naturally higher level of creatine may not experience the same energy-boosting effect.
I personally took about 20 to 25 grams per day for the first 7 days (the loading phase), and now take about 5 to 7 grams per day.
- Glutamine (L-Glutamine) – While this nonessential (meaning that it can be produced by the body) amino acid is the most abundant in the body; glutamine is regularly considered an essential nutrient in cases of increased physical stress, such as exercising, and building some mean muscle. Studies in various publications, including The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, have indicated that loading with glutamine may stimulate the anterior pituitary gland, which as a result increases plasma human growth hormone (HGH).
- Natural sources of glutamine include: beef, chicken, fish, eggs, milk, cottage cheese, cabbage, yogurt, and raw spinach.
- Note: Don’t use hot beverages to ingest your glutamine supplements, as heat destroys this amino acid
Other benefits shown include:
- Boosts Endurance
- Boosts Immune System
- Promotes lean body mass during weight loss
I personally take about 5 grams of glutamine with my morning protein shake, with my post workout shake, and before I go to bed.
- BCAAs – Branched chain amino acids (commonly abbreviated as BCAAs), are among the nine essential amino acids required by the body. Studies have shown that BCAAs can encourage the body to start building muscle by stimulating protein synthesis. In a study presented in The Journal of Nutrition subjects that were given 35 mg of BCAAs showed a suppression of muscle-protein breakdown. These subjects also reported noticeable reductions in muscle soreness, which was attributed to the ability of the BCAAs to suppress muscle-protein breakdown.
Other benefits include:
- Boosting the immune system
- Boosting endurance
- Promoting Weight loss
- Promoting Post workout recovery
I personally take 3 BCAAs capsules per day after my workouts, which is a single dose that contains 1,200 Mg of L-Leucine, 600 Mg of L-Isoleucine, and 600 Mg of L-Valine.
What are some of the supplements you’ve added to your fitness journey?
What benefits (if any) have you experienced?
Stay tuned to BLMM.net for some BIG updates that will be live in the beginning of June!
Keep on rockin!
Protein powder may not “technically” be a supplement, but I include it in the list. I do so as a post-workout shake.
I also take a quality multi-vitamin, and glutamine (helps my old knees feel better after being abused in the squat rack. 🙂
Totally agree with the protein view Todd, that’s why I put it on the list and crossed it out like a smart ass. 🙂
One of the criteria that the FDA uses to define supplements is that they’re not intended to be the primary source of nutrition. While protein powder is not considered a supplement, I’m pretty sure you’d die or look like you had if you only “ate” protein powder.
I just got back from an hour long leg/core session, and let me tell you the protein/glutamine is loved by my body right now!
Thanks for stopping by.
Great overview of supplements.
I didn’t know where the word Creatine came from, cool.
I do not take supplements, try to work on a balanced diet as my goal is not muscle mass.
Rick Kaselj of http://ExercisesForInjuries.com
I’m a not so secret history geek, so I just couldn’t resist the opportunity.
Couldn’t agree more Rick. A balanced diet is crucial!
I’ve pretty much tried them all, but nowadays I much prefer to focus on just eating a good diet rich in nutrients. It’s helped me get leaner and wealthier too.
I think it’s important to remember that to build muscle you have to create the optimum conditions in your body and so that means getting your nutrients in is your foundation. That means “boring” sounding things like a multivitamin, and cod liver oil (vitamin A is crucial to producing testosterone) shouldn’t be ignored.
Thanks for stopping by Michael. I’m not sure if you truly meant “wealthier”, but I guess health is wealth so who cares. 🙂
You hit the nail right on the head when you said “…to build muscle you have to create the optimum conditions in your body.” Strength training is essential for building muscle, but a HUGE building block of getting lean, muscular, and healthy is proper nutrition.
If you train and take all the supplements in the world, but eat nothing but fatty sugary crap, you’re certainly not going to get the results you’re longing for.
By definition supplements are NOT meant to replace a proper diet.