This month we’ve been focused on the keys to more muscle growth and today we’ve arrived at the final piece of the puzzle: supplements.
While there are a ton of hyper-marketed products on store shelves these days, at Strong Athlete we like to keep things simple. Our criteria for using and/or recommending supplements is good old-fashioned science and personal experience. If a supplement has been researched and tested by smart people in lab coats and we’ve personally used it, we recommend it to our athletes.
If muscle growth is your goal, the following six supplements have stood the test of time and are your best investment:
Protein is one of the three macronutrients (along with carbohydrates and fats) utilized by the body for various chemical and metabolic functions, including muscle protein synthesis (i.e. growth). While it is possible to get your protein requirements via whole foods, protein powders provide a convenient and rapidly absorbing source, which is very advantageous to athletes. The post-workout period is ideal for you to make use of a protein powder. During this period, protein synthesis is elevated and your muscles are in an ideal state to absorb nutrients, some of which will be used for muscle growth. When selecting a protein powder, do your research and choose quality over price. Our favorite types of protein powder include grass-fed whey protein (New Zealand source); pasture raised goat whey and organic brown rice protein.
Carbohydrates are often misunderstood, but they play a vital role for health and performance. This macronutrient is used to provide energy to muscles, supplies energy to the brain and nervous system, enhances performance during training and aids recovery from training. Carbohydrates also help to prevent protein breakdown, thus creating an ideal environment for muscle growth to occur. For maximum musclebuilding effects, we suggest combining your carbohydrate powder with a high quality branched chain amino acid product to be consumed during training. Our favorite types of carbohydrate powder include maltodextrin, waxy maize and Vitargo.
Creatine monohydrate is one of the most well researched, battle tested, and safe musclebuilding products available on the market. Creatine serves to supply energy to cells, including muscle. Creatine acts as a reserve power source, and helps to replenish ATP, which is the primary energy source of the body. For hard-training athletes, the benefits of creatine supplementation include increased strength, explosive power, speed and lean mass (muscle). Pound for pound, creatine is hands down the most effective musclebuilding supplement money can buy.
Branched-Chain Amino Acids
Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are essential amino acids (meaning they cannot be produced by the body) that consist of leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Leucine plays a very important role in muscle protein synthesis. A growing body of research suggests that BCAA supplementation may contribute to the musclebuilding process by increasing protein synthesis and can aid in recovery from training by supporting glycogen resynthesis. BCAAs consumed during training can delay the onset of fatigue, allowing you to train harder and trigger exercise-induced muscle growth signals. We recommend choosing a BCAA product with a 2:1:1 ratio (leucine-isoleucine-valine) as this is the precise ratio occurring in nature. BCAAs are ideally consumed with a high-quality carbohydrate powder during training for optimal results.
Beta Alanine is a beta amino acid that is the precursor to a molecule called carnosine. Research shows that carnosine acts as a buffer in muscle, aiding performance by increasing muscular endurance. This benefit can enable you to train harder, which will indirectly lead to greater muscle growth. When combined with creatine, beta-alanine has been scientifically shown to deliver increases in lean mass (muscle) greater than taking creatine on its own.
Caffeine is not traditionally thought of as a muscle builder. However, caffeine is simply the single most scientifically researched, proven and effective performance-enhancing compound there is. Caffeine increases strength, power, speed, muscular endurance, and aerobic endurance, delays the onset of fatigue, improves reaction time and enhances brain function. These benefits are well documented in literally thousands of university and clinical studies. Caffeine will enable you to train at much higher intensities (heavier weights & higher volume), which will indirectly lead to greater musclebuilding results.
A final note: while we are big believers in high-quality supplements, they are not a magic pill and cannot make up for being lazy with the other musclebuilding laws. If you fail to eat enough calories and protein, if you do not train SMART, and if you fail to recover properly, all the supplements in the world cannot help you grow more muscle. Supplements backed by science are great and can give you a major advantage, but just be sure to follow the Laws of Muscle Growth and you’ll be on your way to huge gains!
Once again, the Laws of Muscle Growth are:
- Consume More Calories Than You Expend
- Increase Daily Protein to 1 gram/lb. of Bodyweight
- Train SMART, not HARD
- Optimize Recovery with Sleep, Hydration & Fuel
- Use Proven Musclebuilding Supplements
P.S. We’re super excited about the launch of our Bigger Arms in 28 Days Program! If you’re looking to add more muscle to your arms, this is the program for you. The Bigger Arms in 28 Days program is based on science and our decades of experience training elite athletes. Did I mention we’d like to give it to you for FREE? Just click on the image below to access your free Bigger Arms in 28 Days program!