As you probably know, there are lots of supplements out there. You’re not alone if you feel like sifting through all the options and recommendations feels, at times, overwhelming. While some supplements are one-size-fits-all, many fit into specific buckets. Are you a woman or man? How often do you workout? What are your current fitness goals? What results are you hoping to achieve? The questions to consider are seemingly endless.
But if you’re a guy with the simple goal of building (or maintaining) muscle, then there are a few staple supps + some optional boosters that you might consider. This month, in honour of all the men out there, we’ve done a roundup of our top 5 supplement choices that we think you should consider throwing into the mix to support your muscle building efforts.
It may seem obvious, but if you use just one supplement to support muscle gains, protein powder is it. Getting enough protein in your diet is essential, and a supplement can help ensure that you get there. Not only is it a critical player in helping to build & maintain muscle, but it is also vital for weight maintenance, blood sugar balance and required for the structure, function, and regulation of the body’s tissues and organs. And, research has linked post-workout protein consumption to bigger muscle gains in both strength and size.
There are a variety of powders out there to choose from including whey and plant-based options as well as meal replacement type powders. The best option for you can be driven primarily by taste, digestive comfort (choose one that doesn’t cause you to bloat) and how many grams of protein you’re looking for from each serving (aim for at least 25g per serving). Feel free to sample a few until you find one that’s the best fit for you.
Standard protein powders are a great foundation, but if you are really motivated to see gains, you should seriously consider including an additional booster of BCAAs (branched chain amino acids) to your supp regimen.
Three amino acids, leucine, isoleucine and valine, are known as BCAA thanks to their branched structure. What makes these specific amino acids unique is that the liver does not degrade them, meaning they enter directly into the bloodstream where they can have a direct impact on tissues and can be burned as fuel for energy.
BCAAs have been proven to stimulate muscle protein synthesis and recovery, reduce lactate levels (aka the burn), and increase growth hormone.
You specifically want to aim for 5 – 6g of BCAAs (12g max per day) per serving. Your protein powder will have BCAAs naturally occurring, but if you want to hit that 5-6g serving you may want to add in a separate BCAA supp either to your protein powder, or alone (pre, during, or post-workout).
Creatine is one of the most popular supplements for building muscle. It’s usually reasonably priced, easy to add into your daily routine, and it has lots of proven research supporting its effectiveness. In a literal sense, creatine works to increase your adrenaline triphosphate or “ATP” stores in the body. ATP is the chemical form of energy that your body uses when you move which means that creatine helps you have more power, especially for quick, intense movements.
Athletes love creatine because when it is working optimally in your body, you have increased energy that can translate into to increased intensity, duration and frequency of workouts and will also encourage faster recovery. It’s important to note that creatine is stored in the body so the best way to maximize those stores is by either taking a maintenance dose of creatine daily to slowly build stores over time (it takes about a month to load your body and start seeing full effects) or to do a short-term creatine load where you will ingest a higher dose for ~10 – 20 days followed by lower maintenance dosing.
While not essential for building muscle, glutamine can really help with supporting your efforts in the gym. Glutamine is the most common amino acid (yet another building block of protein) that’s found in your muscles. It is a non-essential, which means that your body can make it on its own and doesn’t require it from food. That said, intense exercise depletes glutamine stores more rapidly, and studies show that supplementing with glutamine can help decrease muscle breakdown and muscle fatigue. Studies also show that glutamine can give a boost to your immune system, preventing you from getting sick and missing a workout. You can add a supplemental dose of glutamine each day directly into your post-workout protein shake or take it on its own.
While perhaps not a supplement you would traditionally think of for muscle gains, adding a supplemental dose of omega-3s each day via fish oil will provide you with DHA & EPA, which are essential nutrients your body needs. From a muscle building perspective, both DHA and EPA have been shown to help reduce post-workout muscle soreness and reduce inflammation which means you’ll be able to recover faster and train harder at your next workout. Your best bet is to grab a capsule form that you easily integrate into your daily routine. Consistency is critical, people.
You probably know that you can’t build muscle just by simply adding supplements to your diet. But if you want the gains, and you’re putting in the work, supplements can help get you there (and sometimes get you there faster). Incorporating just 1 (or all 5!) of the recommended supps will help support your efforts in the gym and improve post-workout recovery, helping you see better results more quickly.
For all these supplements (or advice tailored specifically to your goals, Ladies, we’re here for you too!) head to your local Reflex store and chat with one of our experts who can help you create a plan that works for you and gets you real results. Your best starts here!
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