Supplements for Building Muscle

July 8, 2008

Many athletes need to build more muscle at some point in their athletic career. Sometimes it is necessary for a competition or is a necessary part of a fitness goal. While exercise, changes in diet and regular weight lifting can produce the desired results, some athletes want to compliment the process of building muscle by taking natural supplements. Over the years, there have been a number of natural supplements which have been postulated to help build body mass without increasing fat. However, none of these supplements are a replacement for exercise or weight lifting. For the best results, try muscle building supplements along with a weight lifting regimen.

Most muscle building supplements are available via Internet or from health food stores. Several of the supplements that are currently available to increase muscle mass are covered in depth below.

Dietary protein: There are a variety of high protein drinks like Ensure, Nutra care and Glucerna which contain very high levels of proteins. These products are typically used to boost weight in ill patients. The products come in a variety of flavors and should be taken 2-3 times daily. They mimic a milk shake in taste and taste best when cold. An 8-ounce can contains 350 calories. Other ingredients found in the shakes include omega 3 fatty acids, antioxidants like vitamin C, selenium and iron. For the best results, one has to drink at least 2 cans a day while exercising. To make the protein milk shake more appealing, try different flavors regularly.

Whey protein is just a protein isolated from milk, and is known to help weight lifters build muscle more rapidly. It is usually made into shakes and drank after a workout.

Casein or milk protein is rich in glutamine and helps athletes recover much faster after an injury. It is widely used by athletes to inhibit protein breakdown. While there are a lot of concentrated casein products on sale, it is also possible to drink lots of milk instead. This is cheaper, safer and easily tolerated. Of course, individuals with lactose intolerance should avoid milk.

Soy protein is widely used to build muscle. The protein is known to contain a number of biologically active ingredients like enzymes. Soy products also contain antioxidants and isoflavones. Soy protein can help build muscle mass quickly when used along with weight lifiting. However, soy also commonly causes allergies in regular users.

B-hydroxy methyl butyrate (HMB) is a frequently used supplement by weight lifters. HMB is a metabolite of leucine. Leucine is an essential amino acid which is important for the synthesis of proteins and muscle. It is thought that HMB works by increasing the levels of growth hormone in the body. The product has to be taken daily for at least 2-3 months along with exercise before any discernible effects are seen. There are reports that excessive use of this supplement can lead to confusion and short term memory loss.

Creatine is covered on another page. There is a lot of data confirming that creatine helps build muscle without increasing fat. Creatine has also been shown to boost the exercise performance of athletes and today is one of the most widely used supplements by both amateur and professional athletes. There are reports of creatine products that may contain contaminants that have caused side effects. So always get your supplement from a reputable brand.

Glutamine containing supplements are also widely used by athletes. Supplements with glutamine not only help increase muscle mass but also boost the immune system. Some researchers have shown improved exercise performance when taking glutamine.

Branched chain amino acids like isoleucine, leucine and valine have entered the body building market. Work in the laboratory has shown that daily feeding of these compounds to animals leads to faster build up of muscle mass and rapid recovery after an injury. These branched amino acids are obtained from diets high in sea foods, chickpeas, fish and milk.

Prohormones are precursors to hormones and are widely used by athletes. These supplements undergo conversion to the active hormones in the body. Some of the products can be converted to testosterone and small amount of estrogen. There is no doubt that prohormones can help in the rapid building of muscle. Many professional athletes have reported that taking prohormones for a short time can help rapidly heal an injury. However, there is also evidence that these products may be harmful when taken for long time. One should be aware that almost every sports organization has now banned the use of these supplements for athletes. And in some states it is illegal to be in possession of such supplements. Testing for these prohormones both in the blood and urine is common at many sporting events.

There is no lack of protein and amino acid products that help build muscle quickly when used along with weight lifting, so the only issue is to buy an affordable, tasty and reputable brand.

References:

Clarkson PM. (1991). Nutritional ergogenic aids: chromium, exercise, and muscle mass.  International Journal of Sports Nutrition. Sep; 1(3):289-93.

Cope MB, Erdman JW Jr, Allison DB. (2008). The potential role of soy foods in weight and adiposity reduction: an evidence-based review. Obesity Review. May; 9(3):219-35.

Fischer-Posovszky P, Kukulus V, Wabitsch M.  (2008). Conjugated Linoleic acids (CLA) and their relevance in the reduction of body fat. A critical review of the currently available data. MMW Fortschr Med. Jan 17; 149 Suppl 4:128-31.

Position of Dietitians of Canada, the American Dietetic Association, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and Athletic Performance. (2000). Canadian Journal of Dietary Practitioner Research. Winter; 61(4):176-192.

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