Effective Body Building Supplements for Muscle Gain
It is important to note that supplements are no replacement for good nutrition and before incorporating supplements into your program you should make sure you are eating the right amounts of protein, carbohydrate and fats. This is outlined in the article Building Muscle through Nutrition.
Supplements for muscle gain tend to focus of one or more of three key aspects; improving muscle repair and growth, increasing the body’s levels of human growth hormone, or increasing the body’s energy production during training.
Those that centre on muscle growth and repair tend to be either protein based or muscle protection supplements that prevent the muscle tissues being broken down.
Supplements for Muscle Growth and Repair
Branched Chain Amino Acids
Protein supplements are the main and most common ones in this area. They contain highly bio-available forms of protein from hydrolysed whey isolate that are easily absorbed. They contain large amounts of Branched Chain Amino Aids which are the three amino acids that make up muscle tissue. These are Valine, Leucine and isoleucine. Supplementation of BCCA’s during or immediately after exercise has been shown to reduce exercise induced muscle damage and increase protein synthesis.
HMB is a natural anti catabolic compound which prevents the breaking down of muscle tissue after exercise and is a metabolite of the amino acid Leucine. Studies have shown that HMB when combined with a rigorous strength training routine can reduce muscle catabolism and increase lean muscle mass by almost double that of placebo. This is shown in one of the original studies into HMB, ‘The Effect of the Leucine Metabolite Beta-Hydroxy-Beta Methybutyrate on Muscle Metabolism during Resistance Exercise Training’ by Nissen et all 2004. Optimum dosage is 3 grams per day.
Creatine Supplements for Increased Energy Production
Creatine is a natural compound that increases energy availability in high intensity, short duration exercise such as weight lifting. Creatine extends the energy available for exercise thus allowing more stimulus to be exerted on the muscle, which in turn allows greater performance gains. Creatine is well researched and proven and is a staple supplement in the athletic fraternity. It should be cycled with periods of use and relief. An initial loading over 5 days of 3-5 doses to saturate the muscle then 1 dose per day for maintenance is usual although some products do not require the loading phase.
Supplements to increase Human Growth Hormone (HGH)
GABA is a neurotransmitter amino acid that promotes Human Growth Hormone during sleep to aid in muscle growth. There are many studies showing its ability to increase HGH production up to 5 fold with doses of 2 – 5 grams. It has few side effects, one however is tiredness. Despite this, GABA is now banned from sale in the UK.
Arginine / Ornithine
Both these amino acids have been shown to increase production of HGH both when taken orally and intravenously. However, high doses are needed of up to 10grams which has been known to induce diarrhoea and vomiting. Arginine has been shown to promote outbreaks of herpes in those susceptible to the virus. Doses should be take prior to sleep or prior to training for best results.
Insulin is known to be highly anabolic; however, intravenous insulin is dangerous unless you are a diabetic. It is known that when insulin levels rise growth hormone rises and increased protein synthesis can occur. Immediately post exercise when blood glucose levels are low, glucose supplementation in combination with protein can increase serum insulin causing faster uptake of glucose and amino acids into the muscle cells. Post exercise carbs should be simple sugars that break down and are absorbed quickly to produce an insulin spike.
While there are many other supplements available there are few that are backed by scientific research. It is useful to note that those which are proven to work tend to be naturally occurring compounds such as amino acids or their metabolites.