What Are the Best Supplements for Muscle Growth?
Learn how to max out your gains and make your workouts as effective as possible with a little help from the best supplements for muscle growth.
If you're interested in putting on some serious muscle mass, you've come to the right place. In this post, we'll be discussing the best supplements for optimal gains.
In addition to frequent workouts, resting well, and getting plenty of hydration and nutrients, these supplements can have a major positive impact on overall muscle gain, endurance, and athletic performance.
How Does Muscle Growth Actually Work?
Your muscles grow and get stronger during a process called muscle hypertrophy. When hypertrophy occurs, your body is repairing muscle fibers that were torn during a workout and strengthening them. This process takes place after your workouts during the rest period between stints in the gym.
In order for muscle growth to take place, you'll need to put considerable strain on your body in the gym. Professional athletes and bodybuilders increase muscle mass by periodically adding to the amount of resistance that they take on in the gym.
Depending on what type of training you're doing, increased resistance might look like adding more weight to a barbell, increasing your reps of a certain exercise, or even running a longer distance than you'd previously gone.
Progressively building up the amount of resistance that your muscles face will keep them growing and reduce the risk of hitting a plateau in your fitness goals.
Muscle growth takes time. Because your muscles need to rest in order to grow, you'll need to make sure you're spacing out your workouts properly and making the most of your days off from the gym.
If you don't rest enough, you're potentially putting yourself at risk of experiencing muscle breakdown, excessive muscle soreness, fatigue, and even injuries.
So, make sure not to rush the muscle-building process and get plenty of rest and recovery time in between those gym sessions!
Which Supplements Can Help Support Muscle Growth?
Now that you have a basic idea of the science behind muscle growth, it's time to take a look at some of the best muscle-building supplements to add to your pre-workout and/or post-workout nutrition routines.
Whey is one of the key proteins found in milk. It contains all of the nine essential amino acids – tryptophan, valine, threonine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, isoleucine, and histidine – making it an ideal protein source to repair muscle tissue.
Whey protein powder is one of the most common post-workout supplements, with an average scoop of whey powder containing around 20 grams of protein. Many whey protein powders are also fortified with vitamins and minerals to aid in recovery and increase the overall nutritional value of the supplement.
Many athletes mix a scoop of whey protein with water or milk after a workout to boost muscle recovery. However, it’s important to note that whey protein powder isn't for everyone. If you're lactose intolerant, it's best to look for a dairy-free powder, as certain types of whey protein may contain higher levels of lactose than others. In addition, whey is known to cause nausea and an upset stomach in some people, so soy or a plant-based protein may work better in those cases.
Casein, in addition to whey, is the other type of protein found in milk. Unlike whey, casein is what's known as a “slow-digesting” protein. That means it takes longer for your body to absorb it, and that longer absorption period is thought to increase the benefits of casein for reducing muscle breakdown.
Like whey, casein is often taken in powdered form as a post-workout supplement. Both whey and casein-based protein powders can be excellent post-workout supplements, but there are a few stipulations to consider about them.
For one, these powders contain a noticeable amount of calories – usually between 100 and 250 per scoop – which means it's important to factor them in when calculating your daily caloric intake. In addition, as noted earlier, both whey and casein are incompatible with a plant-based diet or for those with dairy allergies.
Pea protein is one of the best vegan-friendly alternatives to casein and whey. This plant-based protein powder has many of the same benefits as its dairy-derived counterparts, and it isn't normally more expensive or harder to find than whey or casein.
A ¼ cup scoop of pea protein contains about 23 grams of protein on average, as well as significant amounts of fiber, vitamin D, vitamin K, vitamin E, and vitamin A.
However, some complain that the powder has a bit of a chalky aftertaste, so it's best to start with buying a small container and see whether the flavor and that particular brand’s formula appeals to you.
Creatine supplements are incredibly popular among bodybuilders and other professional athletes. This type of supplement is thought to increase your performance in the gym and boost your ability to put on muscle quickly.
Among nutritionists, the most-recommended form of this supplement is creatine monohydrate, which is often taken in powdered form. Creatine monohydrate can be paired with other supplements like whey protein powder for increased muscle protein synthesis, better recovery, and higher athletic performance.
If you're looking for a natural way to add some creatine to your diet, try adding a lean steak or two into your weekly diet plan. Red meat contains high levels of creatine, which makes it a favorite main course among bodybuilders.
This chemical is naturally produced by your brain, liver, and kidneys. It's sometimes recommended as a weight-loss supplement, but it can also be massively helpful in aiding exercise recovery and reducing muscle soreness after a tough workout.
L-Carnitine is found in abundance in foods like beef, pork, chicken, and milk, but you can also take it as a supplement. L-Carnitine supplements are sometimes recommended to vegans and vegetarians, who may not get as much of the chemical in their diets due to little or no consumption of animal products.
Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are a group of nutrients that include isoleucine, valine, and leucine. These amino acids have a positive impact on athletic performance, and they're also thought to reduce muscle fatigue and muscle breakdown after a workout.
BCAAs are common ingredients in pre-workout and post-workout supplements, and they're also found in a wide variety of foods. Some of the most abundant dietary sources of BCAAs are legumes, meat, and dairy products like milk and cheese.
You might already drink a cup of coffee (or two) in the morning, but did you know that caffeine can do more than just wake you up? As a stimulant, caffeine has a reputation for increasing mental function, but it also has benefits for physical performance.
Here’s how caffeine can positively affect your gym routine:
- Caffeine can help you focus better on your workouts. By stimulating your brain, caffeine can help you keep your head in the game when you’re at the gym. In addition, the stimulating effects of caffeine can help to motivate you to get started on your workouts on days when you’re feeling tired.
- Caffeine is thought to increase your body’s fat-burning abilities. Some studies of caffeine link the use of the stimulant to increased metabolism and a boost in your body’s ability to burn fat. If you’re trying to build some serious muscle, leaning out – i.e. improving the ratio of fat to lean mass on your body – is a must. It’s possible that caffeine could help you reach that goal.
When using caffeine to build muscle, the key to keep in mind is moderation. Too much caffeine can make you feel overstimulated and jittery, and those jitters may eventually give way to a massive energy crash.
If you’ve ever taken in too much caffeine at once before, you’ve probably experienced that crash. It’s no fun, and it’s definitely not doing you any favors in terms of athletic performance. To avoid crashing, we recommend being careful with the amount of caffeine you consume each day — the FDA recommends no more than 400 mg, or four to five cups of coffee.
Beta-alanine is classified as a non-essential amino acid, and it’s naturally produced by your body. It’s one of the amino acids that plays an important role in athletic performance and muscle endurance, which makes it one of the best supplements for muscle growth.
In addition to being available as a supplement, beta-alanine is also found in animal products like meat, fish, and chicken. Supplementing with the amino acid and getting enough of it from dietary sources may help improve your athletic performance, especially when you’re engaging in high-intensity exercises like sprinting or heavy lifting.
Are Supplements for Muscle Growth Safe?
In general, supplements are considered to be safe additions to most health and fitness regimens. However, it’s always wise to consult your doctor if you’re ever unsure about whether a certain supplement is right for you, or if you think it may interfere with other supplements or medications you’re already taking.
In addition, some supplements have the potential to produce unpleasant side effects – but these are relatively uncommon. If you do experience any kind of discomfort while using a muscle-building supplement, it’s important to discuss these symptoms with your primary care provider.
How Do I Know Which Supplement Is Best for Me?
Choosing the best muscle-building supplement for you largely depends on your lifestyle, preferences, and fitness goals.
Here are some considerations to make while choosing which supplement or supplements to add to your routine:
- Make sure they’re compatible with your diet. Some supplements contain animal-derived ingredients, including whey protein and casein protein. These supplements aren’t compatible with a plant-based diet, and they may also cause problems for people with allergies. If you eat any kind of restrictive diet, make sure the supplements you take don’t contain any offending ingredients.
- Base your supplement intake on your fitness goals. In general, pre-workout and post-workout supplements like BCAAs and protein powder can be beneficial for just about any lifter. Other more specific and specialized supplements, however, may be more suitable for endurance athletes.
How Long Will It Take To See Results?
Patience is key when it comes to building muscle! Even with diligent use of your supplements and hours logged in the gym, it can still take months to notice gains.
Don’t give up, though. Changing your physique is all about the journey, not the destination. Plus, you’re lifting for health, not just aesthetics. There’s more to it than looking good!
Another Way To Supplement
While protein powders are a common part of many bodybuilding routines, wellness IV therapies can also serve as a powerful tool to help with muscle recovery after a particularly tough workout. Especially in cases where your water bottle stayed a little too full or your body ended up a little too light on electrolytes, wellness IV therapy can help replenish the fluids and nutrients your body needs, quickly and efficiently.
ivee’s wellness IV therapies can deliver the nutrients and hydration your body needs to thrive directly into your bloodstream for near-immediate use. We even have a treatment specifically formulated for muscle recovery: The Athletic Recovery. Our blend of essential amino acids supports (and even speeds up) muscle repair, and the saline solution it’s delivered in helps to keep your body hydrated to help heal before your next sweat session.