A lot of the time, fitness articles online are dedicated to losing weight, getting back in shape, and so on. And it’s rare that we see good, professionally written, and well-researched articles on how to gain muscle in a healthy, gradual manner.
While it’s true that most individuals who are starting their fitness journeys do it because they want to lose weight, the reality is that there’s also a pretty large percentage interested in the topic of gaining muscle and becoming stronger overall. However, similarly to losing fat, building muscle is also a challenging goal that can seem to take forever for many. That’s why a lot of beginners, when they stop seeing sudden growth, begin to wonder whether they should start supplementing.
In this article, we’re going to talk about just that – is supplementation worth it for muscle gain, and what are the effects it may have on your body and your physique? So, if that sounds like your cup of tea, then keep on reading.
This article was written in collaboration with the experts at the weightlifting blog “Warm Body Cold Mind,” who are professional athletes with more than 20 years of experience in weightlifting and have won multiple championships in Europe and Olympic Games medals. The team also has experienced rehabilitator and power sports coaches who have trained many famous athletes.
What are the Most Popular Supplements for Muscle Gain?
There are several types of supplements that are commonly considered beneficial for muscle building. They include all kinds of protein powders, creatine, BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids), as well as hormone supplements such as DHEA, and fatty acids such as conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and lipoic acid. Additionally, Vital Amino Essentials are gaining popularity for their essential amino acids crucial for muscle repair and growth. Let’s take a deeper dive into each one of them.
Protein Powder Supplements
Protein powders present a terrific way to boost your daily protein intake while also helping you up your daily calories. Most muscle-building diets require a lot of protein so that muscle growth and repair can happen easily. And while getting enough protein from whole foods is certainly not impossible, some people find it harder to eat so much food in a diet, so a calorie-dense shake is a better option. That’s where products like gainers come into play, as they also contain carbohydrates, along with protein, making them more like a full-on liquid meal.
BCAAs (Branched Chain Amino Acids)
The easiest way to explain branched-chain amino acids is to say they’re molecules that combine to create protein simply. There’s a total of 20 amino acids, but only nine are considered essential to be obtained for the human body, as it cannot make them on its own. People often say that BCAAs help with reducing muscle soreness and recovery time. However, the reality is that BCAAs are not a necessary supplement if your diet is already rich in protein.
On the other hand, creatine is one of the most thoroughly studied supplements, and its positive effects on muscle-building have been proven. Creatine helps our bodies sustain energy for longer, thus making harder and more time-consuming workouts plausible. Along with that, it increases muscle glycogen storage, which can lead to an increase in lean muscle mass. There are countless online studies that prove the positive effects of creatine on muscle-building, and it’s one of the supplements you can be most certain about taking.
Alpha-lipoic or lipoic acid is naturally produced by our bodies, and it plays a vital role in metabolic energy production. Some new research shows that ALA can reduce inflammation and boost the recovery process, as shown in studies done on male resistance and endurance athletes. With that said, more research is required until it can be stated with certainty that supplementation with it will have positive effects.
Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)
CLA is made from linoleic acid that is found in animal products, typically meat and dairy. It has been widely marketed as a weight loss, fat-burning supplement. However, there’s little to no evidence of its effect at all – on neither muscle building nor fat loss.
This is the only hormone-stimulating supplement on this list, and it’s a steroid that your body naturally produces in the adrenal glands. In supplement form, people usually take it as a way to boost testosterone and estrogen levels, which could potentially lead to muscle growth. There’s very limited data that suggests DHEA has a positive effect on increasing muscle mass and bone density. However, most studies conclude there are little to no benefits for muscle building.
Is Taking Supplements for Muscle Gain Worth It?
If you have a good, healthy diet and you consume enough protein, supplementation is not necessary and won’t be extremely important for building muscle. You can use some supplements like protein powder and creatine to improve and make the muscle-building process more effective, but it’s still more of a “nice to have” than an absolute must-do. Additionally, you have to consider the fact that supplements won’t do the work for you – even if you take them, you still have to follow the right kind of eating plan and hit the gym with focus regularly.
You also have to remember that the muscle growth you saw during your first months of training won’t repeat again, and it’s normal that it slows down as you get stronger.
Similarly to fat loss, muscle-building is also a long, slow, and often frustrating process that often leaves people desperate for an easy and quick fix. That’s why many turn to supplementation, believing that it’s a cure for all their problems when, in reality, it can be considered just a tiny helper that can give you a little boost in the process. Hopefully, this article helped reaffirm your belief that a good diet, a solid workout plan, and consistency are the basic prerequisites for building muscle. The rest – protein powders, BCAAs, creatine, and so on might make the journey easier and more enjoyable, but they’re not miracle workers, so whether spending your hard-earned money on them is worth it is something you will have to decide.