The best supplements for building muscle are there for just that, supplementation – something to add as an extra element in your nutrition. Do not rely on supplements to build muscle, because you require more than that.
How to Build Muscle
I will look at how to maximize building muscle, which requires a balance between nutrition and training. In your nutrition, you have to consistently eat more calories (energy in food) than you burn daily. You also have to eat more protein than you break down. In training, you must lift weights (ideally heavy) to ensure that you’re maximizing muscle tear for growth.
It is relevant to inform on the basic nutrition foundation to build muscle before the supplementation.
Best Food for Building Muscle
Since you’d be looking to eat in a calorie surplus, it’s common sense to eat food that is high in calories. The macros which are the highest in calories are carbohydrates and fats. It is wise to choose the more nutritious macro options, here’s a list you could add to your diet:
The ratio of how much you should eat of each macro is dependent on your goals, how much you exercise and your body type. The general one is that 45-65% of your calories should come from carbs, 10-25% from protein and 20-35% from fats according ACE Fitness.
There are vegan and vegetarian options to choose from, which I haven’t covered here but you can check them out at Medical News Today.
Training for Muscle Gain
You will not build muscle without having some sort of resistance or weight training that induces muscle tear. Your muscle needs to tear in order for your muscle to grow. When they recover, the muscle fibers fuse causing the increased size in the muscle cells. This whole process is called hypertrophy.
Hypertrophy training is something that I learned back in high school. It is the use of heavy weights to build muscle, which is the best way to maximize muscle growth. The ideal sets and reps are 3-5 and 6-12, respectively with a maximum of 2 minutes between rest as seen below.
The Best Supplements for Building Muscle
There are a couple supplements that you can use to build muscle. These are ones which I have used recently and in the past which have been effective in no specific order:
1. Protein Supplements
Protein supplements can be made from animal and plant sources. You must have a high protein intake to gain muscle, consuming more protein than your body breaks down. You can get all the protein you need from high-protein foods like the above, but some people require supplementation for various reasons. If this sounds like you, there are options you can choose from; protein concentrates (whey), protein isolates or protein hydrolysates are common options.
One that I recommend is whey protein concentrate, because it is usually cheaper than the others and still effective. Ensure that the one you choose has at least 20g of protein which is a benchmark amount for a good protein supplement. Be aware that it contains lactose though, which can be difficult to digest for some people and cause bloating.
Creatine is a natural compound mostly found in our muscles. It is what helps your body produce more ATP, which is another natural compound in our bodies that provides energy to our cells. This in turn provides energy to our muscles during exercise, increasing our performance.
Another great factor about creatine is that it also retains your water content. Our muscles are made out of more than 70% water, therefore when you train to build your muscle, the water retention causes your muscle cells to swell and promote muscle growth.
3. Mass Gainers
They can sometimes lead to excess weight gain due to their high calorie content, that in turn results in fat gain. This is why it is recommended that they are used by highly active individuals or people that struggle to eat enough food or make gains.
There are other options out there that can help you build muscle, but I think for starters, these are easy and simple with side effects not hectic. Always read the packaging and take the recommended doses.
Should You Take Supplements to Build Muscle
This is all based on your goals, if you’re looking to build muscle, a calorie surplus is required for the best results. If you’re someone that struggles eating food for a calorie surplus, having supplements in liquid form can be helpful. If you struggle with time for making muscle building foods, do meal preparation. There is always a way to work in your nutrition to build muscle.
The best supplements for building muscle are all dependent on what your calorie and macro goals are and if they fit with what is required to achieve them. The bottom line is supplements cannot replace a well balanced diet as most supplement packages I’ve seen state that too and a training routine that induces hypertrophy is a necessity.