On the surface, building muscle seems like it should be easy.
Step 1: Go to the gym
Step 2: Results!
Unfortunately, while pretty much any exercise is good for you, muscle growth isn’t always guaranteed. Plenty of people experience a period of “beginner gains” when they first start working out but quickly these gains begin to plateau, and they wind up feeling frustrated.
Workout supplements are designed to promote muscle growth. In this article, you’ll learn about the 5 best supplements for building muscle, so you can finally get off the plateau and on to the next level of your fitness journey.
How Do Muscles Grow?
Muscle growth is a 3 step process. The first step is Muscle Tension. When we lift weights or otherwise exercise, we put stress on our muscles. This stress creates micro-tears between the filaments of whatever muscle we’re using.
That brings us to the second step: Muscle Damage. The soreness you feel after a workout is the result of micro-tears in your muscles. In response to the micro-tears, the body dispatches teams of enzymes to stitch them back together. This is the third step: Muscle Repair.
Altogether, this process is called Muscle Protein Synthesis. It’s a cycle of breakdown and repair that repeats itself over and over, with your muscles growing stronger each time.
Top 5 Workout Supplements
Workout supplements are designed to stimulate Muscle Protein Synthesis usually by enabling you to lift more (increasing Muscle Tension/Damage) or by improving Muscle Repair.
This is the big one. Whey protein digests quickly and is rich in all 9 essential amino acids your body needs to build and maintain muscle. As its name suggests, whey protein is derived from milk.
While shopping for whey protein, it is likely that you come across some labeled “Whey Isolate” and others labeled “Whey Concentrate.” Isolate is more highly processed and contains more protein, less fat, less carbs, and less lactose than concentrate (often less than 1%). However, isolate also tends to be the more expensive of the two options.
Because of its quick digestion time, whey protein tends to be used as a pre/post-workout supplement.
Creatine is one of the most thoroughly researched and tested supplements in the world, and its benefits are well documented. Whether you’re a hardcore athlete or just someone trying to stay fit, creatine has what you need to take your exercise performance to the next level.
Whether you’re a hardcore athlete or just someone trying to stay fit, creatine has what you need to take your exercise performance to the next level.
Creatine is especially useful during high intensity exercise. Carbohydrates—the body’s most common energy source—burns slowly compared to creatine. In a lot of ways, comparing the two is like comparing coal and gasoline. One burns longer but the other burns hotter and faster.
Citrulline is an amino acid used to boost circulation, increase energy, and boost exercise performance.
After consumption, your body transforms L-citrulline into another type of amino acid, L-arginine. Strangely, supplementing with L-citrulline has been shown to raise L-arginine levels more effectively than taking L-arginine itself.
L-citrulline has been shown to improve blood flow. After being converted to L-arginine, it is used to create nitric oxide. Nitric oxide dilates the blood vessels, improving circulation of oxygen and other nutrients.
It’s not always easy to find the motivation to exercise. You might be tired from a long day or exhausted because it's 5am and the sun isn’t even up yet. Pre-workout supplements can be a good way to kick your motor into gear.
Pre-workouts are loaded with stimulants (though non-stim versions are available). Some people are scared off by the high caffeine content of many pre-workouts. However, exercise increases caffeine metabolism, meaning that you can crush the caffeine jitters by crushing your workout!
Pre-workouts often contain nitric oxide boosting compounds such as L-citrulline and L-arginine to improve blood flow and performance. Besides offering a little motivation, the stimulants found in pre-workouts also improve performance, helping you get the most out of your training.
Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are one of the most popular amino acid supplements on the market for improving exercise performance, fat loss and recovery.
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, and proteins are the building blocks of the body. Proteins are the primary component of muscles, bones, organs, skin, and nails. Your body needs 20 amino acids in order to create the protein it needs to function properly.
If you haven’t been seeing results at the gym, don’t get frustrated! If you’re putting in the time and effort, then all that’s holding you back is what you’re putting in your body.
Workout supplements work by increasing performance and promoting recovery. As your muscles break down and repair themselves, they become stronger and (so long as they have the right fuel) bigger! This process is called Muscle Protein Synthesis.