Making gains in the gym is simple; but not easy. Basically; a good workout regimen, proper nutrition, enough sleep and soon enough your pectorals should be stretching your shirt to its absolute limits right?
While this is true to some degree, most of us do not go the extra mile to try and understand the muscle building process. Going to the gym and pushing yourself is only going to get 50% of the job done. How you then proceed with fueling your body is going to cover the next 50%. Time and again you have heard of or seen people start a training routine but one month down the line they quit because they do not see any significant changes, or the gains are not coming as fast as they were anticipating. While building muscle does take time, you can accelerate the rate by adequate supplementation.
A dietary supplement, as defined by the Dietary Supplement and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994, is any food derivative that is ingested through the mouth and occurs naturally in food but not in sufficient amounts that can be used to supplement this deficit so as to achieve all the essential nutrients that the body requires.
These supplements include:
Vitamins: They are organic compounds that the body requires for normal cell functions. They are denoted by letters such as Vitamin C.
Minerals: These are inorganic elements such as Potassium that your body requires to function optimally. It cannot generate these hence you have to get them from your diet.
Botanicals: They are plant extracts derived from the leaves, roots, flowers, and bark.
Enzymes: These are catalysts that are required for certain chemical processes in the body such as cellular metabolism.
Metabolites, Constituents & Extracts: Your body does produce these naturally but when taken in supplement form, will help boost normal functions. These may include amino acids and creatine.
When it comes to creating muscle and boosting physical performance, supplementation is a necessity and not a luxury. Whole foods, as good as they are, are just not enough to cover everything. Supplements, especially protein supplements, are designed to enhance increased muscle growth when combined with a good workout plan. The following are the most essential supplements that you need to be taking.
1. Whey Protein
Protein supplementation is the cornerstone of making muscle gains. Whey protein is the most easily absorbed form of protein supplements. It contains a high biological value and is often taken together with meals for a sound protein balance. Due to its absorbable nature, it is rapidly taken in by the muscles where it has incredible anabolic effects.
To delve a little deeper, getting enough protein from whole foods is easier said than done. It means that you have to spend more time balancing out your macronutrients, shopping and preparing the food, and these foods are a small variety, namely; poultry and sea food. The protein powder is beneficial in that you will not have to be obsessed about your food intake. Studies have revealed that the best kind of whey protein is the whey isolate. It contains 90% pure protein , effectively ensuring that you get the best bang for your buck.
2. Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
Branch Chain Amino Acids have a tremendous effect on improving your muscle density and increasing your recovery rate. The essential amino acids in BCAAs are leucine, isoleucine, and valine which are taken from the foods we eat.
Leucine stimulates protein synthesis by activating the enzyme responsible for cell growth. Isoleucine enhances glucose uptake in the muscles and increases glucose metabolism. Apart from that, they help boost your immunity, minimize muscle damage and reduce the feeling of being fatigued. Additionally, they prevent muscle catabolism. There are so many BCAA products out there, it’s good to do some research first and find a high rated BCAA product before you buy.
L-Glutamine consists of over 60% free-form amino acids that are present in the muscle tissue. Other tissues will often use this amino acid for various functions. And they obtain it from the muscle stores. Supplementing it is therefore wise. If your body has an abundance of L-Glutamine, the muscles will be less likely to suffer from catabolism. Additionally, after hard workout sessions, your L-Glutamine levels are severely depleted. It is therefore strategic to these levels at optimum by regularly taking the supplement.
At its inception in the 90s, creatine quickly became the most sought after supplement by athletes all over the world; and it has a track record to show for it. Supported by numerous studies, it supports faster muscle building, greater strength gains, improved anaerobic endurance, and enhanced muscle recovery. The best part is that it accomplishes all these feats naturally and safely. Naturally found in meat, fish, and eggs, creatine is produced by the liver, kidneys and pancreas but in small quantities. It consists of L-methionine, L-arginine and glycine.
It is present in most cells where it acts as a source of energy. After its synthesis, creatine is transported to the muscle cells where it is changed into creatine phosphate. This is the form that produces ATP that generates power during intense activity. Hence more of creatine in the body implies increased performance. Unfortunately, relying on your diet to boost your creatine levels might be a futile attempt. Studies show that you might have to many pounds of beef just to get the equivalent of five grams of creatine monohydrate. Supplementation is vital to realize the full benefits of creatine. As with the above supplements, make sure you find a highly reviewed creatine product by doing research.
5. Omega-3 Fish oil
It is naturally found in fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel. However, gaining enough of these fatty acids from the fish might not be feasible. Fish oil, in its extracted supplemental form, gives you the best ratio of Omega-3 in its most pure and concentrated form. Omega-3 fatty acids assist in blood circulation and enhance the rate at which nutrients reach the muscle cells to exert their effects. They provide the best conditions for your body to perform at a high level. They have also been known to raise the body’s metabolic rate hence facilitating fat loss.
As with any other industry, the supplement industry has a dark side. Many entrepreneurs are creating products that are deemed supplements but in the real sense offer no benefits. An example of these is testosterone boosters. These products are designed on basis of the notion that testosterone levels in men are declining. It, therefore, sounds appealing to design a product that will boost these levels. Multiple studies have shown that obtaining testosterone naturally will have little to no impact on your muscle gains; if that is what you are after. The boosters, however, will have an effect on your libido in that it will improve. The only way to have the testosterone to work in your favor while building muscle is to induce it artificially through steroids. You can use testosterone boosters for your general health but not to induce muscle growth.
Supplementation will not ensure you definite gains, but it will make the process of getting there much easier. Combine a good training routine with good supplementation and you will realize your gains sooner.