By: Tim Rigby (Courtesy of Inside Fitness)
If you train with intensity and consistency, but you’re not satisfied with the size of your muscles, then the group of supplements classified as muscle builders are for you. Naturally, this group includes protein, the king of supplements, in its many forms. If you simply consume one protein shake a day, however, you may well likely be limiting your gains. Many other supplements work synergistically with protein to help support muscle growth further, and make all your hard work in the gym pay off even better. These include BCAA's, Glutamine and HMB. Now we’re not suggesting that taking every one of these is requisite for achieving optimal size, however, the combination of one or two of these along with protein can really help work wonders when it comes to adding size.
Your choices of proteins are numerous and include whey isolate, whey concentrate, milk, egg albumen, collagen and vegan-based options. For convenience, these also happen to come in ready-to-drink (RTD) boxes and bars, in addition to the standard jugs. It’s important to remember that protein by itself will not magically cause you to grow muscle; you have to do your part and work out with intensity, tear down the fibres in your muscles, and put them in a state to grow as a result of protein consumption. An additional benefit of protein as a supplement is that it reduces your level of ghrelin (aka “the hunger hormone”). This means it can help blunt your appetite and hunger (in particular, cravings for sweets).
Standard Dosage: 30 to 40 grams per serving
Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA's) are an excellent adjunct to protein for their role in building muscle. They’re comprised of the amino acids leucine, isoleucine and valine. Leucine is known in the fitness community as the “ignition key” to muscle growth, since its effect on repairing post-workout muscle fibres is unmatched – and how about its effectiveness when taken along with protein? A recent study from The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that taking leucine-enriched amino-acid supplements during exercise enhances protein synthesis by more than 30 percent. For their part, isoleucine and valine are also very effective at putting your muscles on course for growth; the ideal ratio is two parts leucine to one-part isoleucine and one-part valine.
Standard Dosage: 5 grams per serving at a 2:1:1 ratio
Did you know that 61 percent of your skeletal muscle is glutamine? It’s not difficult to appreciate the importance of this powerful amino acid when it comes to helping support the muscle-building process. Supplementing with glutamine regularly can be an effective tool for you when bulking up, but also when you’re cutting down by reducing your caloric intake. For this latter purpose, supplementing means you’re less likely to experience muscle catabolism. Glutamine also happens to be comprised of 19 percent nitrogen, and as such is the primary transporter of nitrogen to your muscle cells.
Standard Dosage: 5 grams per serving
Beta-hydroxy beta-methylbutyrate (or simply HMB) is a metabolite of the amino acid leucine, whose role in muscle building we’ve already discussed. Developed some 25 years ago, HMB as a metabolite displayed promise as a supplement even superior to leucine in setting the course for muscle growth. Its effectiveness has been confirmed in studies. In a recent study in the scientific journal Nutrients, researchers from Poland discovered that supplying HMB to combat sports athletes promoted advantageous changes in body composition and stimulated an increase in aerobic and anaerobic capacity.
Standard Dosage: 3 grams per day in divided doses