Sorry to burst your bubble folks, but there is no such thing as magic supplements for muscle gain. The supplement companies would want you to believe otherwise, but the harsh reality is that supplements are just supplements. They play a secondary role in your muscle building efforts and come after your dieting and training.
Only when you have your diet and training set in place, is it appropriate to start experimenting with supplements for muscle gain and even then, they will probably make a minimal difference.
Knowing this, it’s really entertaining to read the hyped-up descriptions of some supplements, which their companies promote as the next big thing. Here’s one example for your amusement.
A nitric-oxide supplement from Anabolic Designs
Stampede is the latest in pre-workout sports supplementation. Offering a complete spectrum of natural anabolic compounds to support explosive, unrelenting workouts delivering untamed raw power!*
For years athletes have been looking for that little something extra … that small edge over the competitors. Well forget it! Stampede is here. It’s not a little something extra, it’s not a small edge over others, it’s a full blown workout revolution.
There are many more funny examples I could mention, but this goes beyond the purpose of this article.
So now you’re probably wondering which the best supplements for muscle gain, that are actually worth your money?
Without further ado, here’s a list of top 5 supplements you should be integrating in your diet.
#1 Fish Oil
You want to consume fish oil every day, regardless if you’re training or not.
The two main ingredients in fish oils are EPA and DHA. EPA and DHA are long chain omega-3 fatty acids that are essential for the proper functioning of our bodies.
They’re essential because our bodies can’t produce them by themselves so it’s important that we eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Our bodies can greatly benefit from the consumption of essential fatty acids (EFA). Here’s how they benefit our health:
- they help prevent hearth and cardiovascular diseases,
- brain health (our brains are mostly made out of DHA),
- eye health,
- joint health
- helps fight inflammation (like DOMS – delayed on set muscle soreness)
The foods with the richest source of omega-3 fatty acids are fatty fish, which swim in cold waters like. Fish like cod, salmon, tuna, etc. contain good amounts of EFAs, but due to water pollution, more and more cold water fish are becoming contaminated with heavy metals like mercury thus making them unsuitable for our everyday diets.
The best way to get the recommended daily dose of omega-3 fatty acids, without the heavy metals, is to consume them as a supplement (soft gels or oils).
The best fish oil supplement available to my knowledge is NOW Ultra Omega-3. It’s the cheapest and has the highest content of EPA and DHA from all the other fish oil supplements and it’s also free of any heavy metals.
Recommended daily dose for an average person in 1,5-3 g/day. If you’re involved in some sorts of high intensity activity like weight training then your requirements for EFAs are higher. If involved with weight training try to get at least 5 grams of fish oil every day.
Since fish oil is a poly-unsaturated fat, try to keep it in a dark, cool place (refrigerator) so it doesn’t go bad.
#2 Protein Powder
Experience tells me that most people aren’t eating enough protein in order to gain muscle. The most common excuse is “Man, I just can’t eat that much meat” or “Man, I can’t afford to eat that much meat”.
If building muscle is your goal, then it’s recommended that you eat AT LEAST 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.
I encourage you to get your proteins from whole foods, especially meat but in case you’re not able to reach your daily quota of protein by eating regular food, then supplementing with a protein powder is a sensible idea.
Today, there are many types of protein powders available like whey protein (most popular), milk protein, egg protein, beef protein, soy protein, etc.
Even though whey is the most popular protein in use today by fitness enthusiasts, it’s not a good option for your default protein powder. Whey isn’t good because it gets absorbed too quickly into your blood stream. A slow releasing protein powder (like milk protein) is much more preferred because it takes much longer for our bodies to digest it.
I get my milk protein from MyProtein.com They have the best supplements in the whole European market.
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Creatine is one of the most researched supplements for muscle gain in the fitness industry. The effects of creatine are quickly felt (usually just after a few days/week) mainly in terms of strength gains.
Creatine is naturally produced in our bodies, primarily in the liver, and is stored in the form of creatine phosphate, mostly inside the skeletal muscle where it’s used to replenish our primary fuel system which is ATP.
ATP or adenosine triphosphate is the body’s principal fuel source in all tissues. ATP can be converted from carbohydrates, fat and oxidation of leucine. It’s the primary fuel source for all energy requirements in the body.
There are various forms of creatine available on the market. The most common and widely used creatine is Creatine Monohydrate. There are also other variants of creatine available for purchase but none of them have been thoroughly researched as creatine monohydrate.
I’ve only had experience with creatine monohydrate and I can say that for me, it works wonders. I noticed strength increases in all of my lifts just after a week of supplementation.
Through testing I’ve found out that the best dosage for me is two 8 gram doses a day (16 grams total). I take 8 grams of creatine first thing in the morning on an empty stomach and the other half, I take it with one of my meals. On training days I take the second half immediately after my workout.
Figuring out your ideal dose is no rocket science. Start by taking 5 grams per twice per day and see how it effects your training. If after a week or two you don’t see any strength increases, try upping the dose a little (+2 grams).
In the past I’ve even experimented with “extremely” high dosages of creatine (40 grams/day) but I didn’t see any benefit to it. I’ve found that 15-20 grams a day hits the sweet spot for me.
I also get my creatine monohydrate from MyProtein.com.
#4 BCAA – Branched Chain Amino Acids
The BCAAs are a group of three essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine and valine. They’re essential because our bodies can’t produce them so we need to ingest them through the food we eat.
BCAAs are primarily used in the skeletal muscle as a fuel source under heavy loading. Besides being used as a fuel source BCAAs are also used for the following metabolic purposes (Silveira, 2010):
- Substrate for energy production,
- substrate for protein synthesis,
- precursor for the formation of other amino acids, primarily alanine and glutamine,
- metabolic signaler of protein synthesis (Primarily Leucine),
- stimulates protein synthesis through insulin secretion/activation of the PI3K pathway,
- stimulates leptin expression in adipocytes through activation of mTOR.
Basically BCAAs are important because they prevent the breakdown of your muscle cells during high intensity exercises.
The best time to use BCAAs is 10 grams 10-15 minutes before your workout, if training on an empty stomach, or 5 grams 10-15 minutes before each meal. Since the amino acids don’t need to be broken down by our digestive system, they get quickly transported into the muscles where they’ll be needed the most.
When buying BCAAs make sure (if available) to buy BCAA with the ratio 4:1:1 instead of 2:1:1 (industry standard). The 4:1:1 ratio describes the composition of the three ingredients of the BCAA which are leucine:isoleucine:valine.
You want to make sure that you get a higher percentage of leucine in your BCAA since this is the amino acid that gives you the biggest anabolic effect.
A word of warning must be said about the taste of BCAAs. The first time I tried them I almost puked. The taste is really bad but if you keep persisting you’ll quickly get accustomed to it.
My results with BCAAs have been nothing but spectacular. Usually when I did heavy deadlifts I could barely walk the next day because of the delayed onset muscle soreness. After I started taking BCAAs I didn’t feel sore the following day even though I broke my PR on the deadlift and other main exercises.
I buy my BCAAs from MyProtein.com but there’s a twist to it. MyProtein doesn’t have the ratio of aminos I want (remember the 4:1:1 ratio). In order to get the necessary ratio I simply order 2 kg of BCAA and 1 kg of leucine. When I get the stuff I simply mix the two together and presto, I get BCAAs with the right ratio (4 leucine : 1 valine : 1 isoleucine).
When you’re weight training your vitamin and mineral requirements increase accordingly. In order to maximize your muscle building potential it’s a wise idea to include multivitamins in your supplementing regiment.
Even though I’m a bit sceptical about the usefulness of multivitamins I still use them. Better safe than sorry.
A simple multivitamin package like Beverly International Vitamin Mineral Pack is all you need in order to reach you daily vitamin and mineral quota.
These are the best supplements for muscle gain and probably the only ones you’ll ever need.
For people located in the US, a good vendor of bulk powders is TrueProtein.com All of the supplements mentioned in this article can be bought also on TrueProtein.
Do you have any other recommendations or maybe even questions about the supplements described above? If so please post your questions in the comments section below and I’ll make sure to answer your question in the shortest time possible.
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