When it comes to building muscle, there’s no substitute for getting in the gym, lifting heavy things and putting in work. But there are ways to speed up your progress.
Optimal nutrition is a big part of getting results in the time frame you desire. And alongside eating clean, whole foods, smart supplementation can also help you build muscle faster and more efficiently.
Read on to learn the best supplements to take if you’re trying to build more muscle in less time.
Whey Protein Isolate
The first supplement on our list, and a must for anyone with the goal of building muscle, is whey protein.
Protein is the body’s building block for muscle growth. When the muscles get stretched, torn and broken down during a training session, our body uses protein to rebuild them to be bigger and stronger.
The body produces some protein naturally, and we get some from our diet. But to support an active training regimen and accelerate muscle repair and growth, you’ll need to add some supplementary protein.
Of the different types of protein supplement, whey protein isolate is the most popular. Whey protein is a fast-digesting protein source, which means the body can utilize it much quicker than other forms, such as casein protein and plant-based proteins. Whey protein supplements come as either whey isolate or whey concentrate, with whey isolate being more popular due to a higher protein content with fewer carbs and fat.
Add two or three whey protein shakes per day to your nutrition routine to boost your protein intake, and you’ll see faster recovery and bigger gains.
Creatine is another must-have supplement for lifters, another supplement that’s naturally produced in the body, but that offers significant benefits from increasing your intake.
The role of creatine in the body is to help produce adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, which is the main source of energy for muscle cells. Higher creatine stores means more ATP production, meaning you’re able to perform at a higher level physically, for longer.
Creatine is one of the most-studied supplements on the market, and these studies have shown significant benefits for muscle strength, power, recovery and and the prevention of muscle breakdown from exercise. All this while being safe to take regularly.
A few grams of creatine every day can be enough to keep your creatine stores topped up and give your muscles the energy they need to fire in your workouts.
Naked Creatine is the highest-grade, fastest-dissolving creatine monohydrate available in the market.
Next up are BCAAs, or branched-chain amino acids.
We talked about protein already, and amino acids are closely related. Each protein molecule is actually made up of amino acids, and our body needs a wide range of amino acids to support everyday bodily function.
BCAAs are a unique subset of three “essential” amino acids (those which our body doesn’t produce naturally, thus we need to get them from external sources like food or supplements).
Their branched-chain structure helps the body absorb and utilize them fast, and as they make up around 35% of the muscles’ amino acid content, BCAAs play a key role in muscle growth and recovery.
If you eat a balanced diet, you likely get some BCAAs already, but if you’re training regularly you can benefit from extra supplementation.
Zinc is a lesser-discussed supplement for muscle growth, but one that has an important part to play.
One of the main functions of zinc is to support immune function. Regular, intense training can deplete your immune system, thus making it important to top up immunity with diet and supplementation.
Zinc’s benefits don’t stop there, though. Zinc is also important for a number of other biological processes, including hormone production, and getting enough zinc has been linked to healthy testosterone production, which leads to increased athletic performance and better muscle growth.
Hydration is vital when you’re getting to the gym and working up a sweat regularly, and hydration is more than just drinking water. It means replacing the vitamins and minerals you lose in sweat. These are known as electrolytes, and include compounds such as calcium, sodium, and potassium.
Electrolytes are important for many bodily functions, but most importantly support normal muscle function.
If you’re sweating a lot and not replenishing your electrolytes, you’ll struggle to maintain optimal muscle function through to the end of your workout, thus limiting your output, and as an extension, your gains.
Losing electrolytes without replenishment will also leave you sluggish and tired after your workout, and increase the time until you’re fully recovered and ready to go 100% again.
You can front load your electrolytes by taking them before you work out, take an electrolyte drink during your workout, or take an electrolyte supplement after your workout. The most important thing is that you don’t leave yourself deprived of these electrolytes for too long.
Magnesium is an electrolyte, which means it could be included in the section above. But it’s possibly the most important of all, and warrants discussion on its own.
Magnesium is particularly important for muscle function and recovery. It helps sustain muscle movement, along with aiding in supplying oxygen to the muscles, which provides the muscles with energy.
Magnesium also helps the muscles relax after intense bouts of muscle contraction (like an hour-plus long lifting session). This relaxation is vital for the body to properly recover after a workout, and this is the time when muscle growth happens.
Like calcium, sodium, and potassium, you’ll get magnesium from your diet, but like these compounds you also lose a lot of magnesium in your sweat. You’ll need a higher magnesium intake if you work out, which means a daily supplement can work wonders.
Generally speaking, most people don’t need supplements. You can get anything you get from supplements in your diet. But getting optimal nutrition to support a heavy training schedule is a full-time job, and most of us just don’t have time to dedicate our whole day to it.
That’s why we can benefit from taking supplements. They’re not a replacement for a healthy diet of whole foods, but they can help you top up your nutrient intake and get more results at a faster pace.