Sally Conroy, fitness writer
If you’ve been on a quest to make the most out of every pull-up or deadlift at the gym, chances are you have considered or are taking supplements. However, they come in different forms and have specific uses, such as building muscle mass, improving performance and endurance, or losing weight.
Today, we will talk specifically about supplements that affect muscle build and their influence on your training performance and post-workout recovery.
What Are Muscle-Building Supplements?
The word supplements is thrown around often, especially among gym-goers, but what are they all about? Often called “ergogenic aid,” dietary supplements that boost muscle growth are common among athletes and people involved in rigorous training programs. Evidence suggests that paired with regular exercising, muscle growth supplements containing protein, creatine, collagen, amino acids, CoQ10, and DHEA have shown improved muscle performance and build.
Effects of Muscle-Building Supplements On Training Capacity
Creatine is a primary muscle-building supplement because it enhances cell energy production. How does that help? Our body creates energy naturally by producing the molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP), but it runs out quickly when we exercise.
This brings us back to creatine, which, upon consumption, turns to creatine phosphate, the molecule that replenishes ATP production, increasing the capacity of muscle cells to produce more energy. Using creatine during high-exertion exercise is most effective, considering studies have shown a 1-5% improvement on average among athletes. Despite its effects on performance, creatine also benefits muscle gain and strength.
Effects of Muscle-Building Supplements On Muscle Recovery
Regarding the effects of supplements for muscle recovery, there are two options: pre- or post-workout, and the benefits vary across different compounds. Muscle fatigue or soreness results from body exertion that creates lactic acid buildup. In addition, you may also experience DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), which lasts longer than acute soreness.
Supplements containing whey protein and amino acids are among the most beneficial for increasing protein synthesis for muscle growth and getting rid of lactic acid faster, which is quite helpful after a grueling workout. Creatine is another supplement that turns into creatine phosphate, a compound used by the body for energy and to improve muscle strength during the recovery phase.
Types of Muscle-Building Supplements
There are endless supplements out there, but experts and scientists popularly recommend these four if your fitness goals focus on muscle growth.
Our body naturally produces creatine, and it’s also present in fish and red meat. However, production is usually relatively low, so supplements for creatine are common. People who train for a low duration but at high intensity benefit from these supplements because they improve muscle performance and increase strength. Since it comes in powdered form, you can drink it with water, coffee, or even juice.
Leucine-Enriched Essential Amino Acid (LEAA)
Known to aid muscle conditioning while improving exercise performance and recovery, supplementing leucine before or during your workout decreases muscle protein breakdown for energy, reducing muscle fatigue and damage post-workout. Taking LEAA after your workout or before sleeping lessens soreness and speeds up muscle recovery.
HMB is a metabolite of leucine found in small amounts in eggs, seeds, legumes, and oats. Exercise beginners and older adults benefit the most from HMB supplements because they increase skeletal muscle growth, strength, and power. Dieticians usually suggest 0.5 grams to 1 gram daily, although the most sufficient amount is up to 3 grams. Since naturally converted HMB is relatively low, experts recommend taking it in capsule or powder form.
Essential Amino Acids (EAAs)
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein; when you consume protein, your body breaks it down into amino acids that help repair and grow muscle tissue. Among the 22 amino acids, EAAs contain the nine essential ones that naturally occur in beef, chicken, dairy, and eggs. The recommended intake is 6 to 12 grams of EEA supplements before strength training to stimulate protein synthesis while reducing muscle protein breakdown.
Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid that improves muscle performance by increasing carnosine, a vital antioxidant. Carnosine supports the contraction of muscles, delays muscle fatigue while training, and increases exercise capacity. Researchers suggest that 4 to 6 grams of beta-alanine will improve power output. It is available as a tablet or powder.
Although supplements do offer the benefits they promise, you cannot substitute them for nutrition through a balanced diet. They’re meant to be additional support to improve your performance, reduce injury risks, and speed up recovery. You must consult a dietician before taking supplements randomly, and do your own research too.