Free UK delivery on orders over £50 & Free Worldwide shipping on orders over £75

Blog

The best supplements for building muscle

November 11, 2022

Best muscle building supplements

Building muscle isn’t easy. We spend countless hours in the gym, more hours than we’d like in the kitchen, and too much time eating, all in a bid to pack on the muscle mass.

We all know that diet is king; with the fundamental factor in building muscle is eating more calories than you burn – thus being in a calorie surplus.

Putting this to one side, if supplements are available that are going to help us along the journey, we should grab them with both hands – every little helps!

A quick google search for best supplements for building muscles reveals endless options that claim to increase muscle mass, but truth be told, most of them are simply marketing ploys.

With so many products available on the market, it's hard to know which ones will help with building muscle, and which ones we should avoid.

Luckily for you, we have whittled it down to the top 5 supplements for building muscle.

 

Creatine

Creatine is one of the most popular supplements when it comes to gaining muscle.

Creatine is a chemical compound that occurs naturally in the body. It is made up of the amino acids L-arginine, glycine, and methionine and is produced in the liver, kidneys, and pancreas.

ATP is your muscle's energy source for short, high-intensity work such as weight lifting. When working out you break down ATP thus reducing the energy available to perform the lifts. Creatine works by binding with a phosphate molecule to restore ATP. When ATP is restored, you have more energy to perform so that you can perform more reps of high-intensity exercises.

As creatine stores become depleted, energy availability diminishes due to the inability to restore ATP at the rate required to sustain high-intensity exercise [1]

Research has shown that supplementing on creating can increase creatine content within the muscles by up to 50% [2]. But this responsiveness to creatine depends on other factors such as intramuscular creatine levels, muscle fiber properties, and dietary creatine intake [3].

Numerous research studies have concluded that supplementing on creatine promotes significantly greater gains in strength, fat-free mass, and performance of high-intensity exercise [4].

A study was conducted to investigate the influence of creatine supplementation on muscular performance during repeated sets of high-intensity exercise training. The subjects were split into 2 groups; one was supplementing on creatine and the other was given a placebo. The subjects were tasked with doing 5 sets of jump squats and 5 sets of bench press. The group who supplemented on creatine saw a significant improvement in peak power output during all 5 sets of jump squats. They also saw a significant improvement in all 5 sets of bench press. [5]

In addition to strength gains, research has shown that creatine supplementation may provide additional benefits including injury prevention, rehabilitation, and post-exercise recovery. [6]

Moreover, creatine supplementation has been found to increase levels of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) which is a vital hormone involved in muscle growth [7].

Creatine is one of the most researched supplements on the market today. It’s arguably the best supplement you can take to increase power output and increase muscle mass.

Our favourite: 

creatine for muscle mass

Click to Buy

 

Whey Protein

If you ask any gym goer what’s a bodybuilding supplement they couldn’t live without, they’re like to reply, “whey protein” and there’s a good reason why.

Whey protein is considered one of the highest quality proteins due to its amino acid content (it’s high in essential, branched-chain amino acids, especially leucine).

Given that amino acids are the building blocks of muscle, getting enough amino acids through your diet is essential for muscle growth.

In addition, whey protein is absorbed quickly by the body. This means that consuming a shake post-workout can help kickstart the anabolic muscle-building process and repair the muscles that were broken down during the workout.

On top of that, whey protein has been found to stimulate muscle protein synthesis (the muscle-building process) to a greater degree than other proteins such as casein and soy, making a whey protein supplement the favourable choice. [8]

Consuming enough protein daily is crucial for gaining muscle. Sometimes it’s difficult to hit our daily targets, we might have been stuck at our desks all day and haven’t been able to consume good quality protein sources. A protein shake is a great way to work towards your daily protein target, with some brands boasting a 90% protein content, 1 scoop of protein can deliver a decent 25grams of protein.

A systematic review on the effects of protein supplementation on resistance-training induced gains in muscle mass concluded that protein supplementation significantly enhanced changes in muscle strength and size during prolonged resistance training in healthy adults. [9]

Our favourite:

protein supplements for muscle mass

Click to Buy

 

Beta-Alanine

Beta-Alanine is a non-essential amino acid that is created by the body. It aids in the production of carnosine which gets stored in the muscles.

By increasing muscle carnosine content, we can enhance intracellular muscle-buffering capacity thereby delaying fatigue during high-intensity exercise. [10]

What this means is that because we can reduce exercise-induced fatigue, we can increase the amount of work we do during our workouts.

A study conducted in 2007 found that supplementing with beta-alanine for 10 weeks significantly increased muscle carnosine levels by up to 80%! [11]

The same study recorded a 13% increase in total work done after 4 weeks of supplementing on beta-alanine with a further 3% increase at 10 weeks.

 Our favourite: 

beta-alanine for muscle mass

Click to Buy

 

Weight Gainers

Gaining muscle requires you to be eating more calories than you consume. Easier said than done. 

Weight gainer shakes combine protein, carbohydrates, and fats in an all-in-one weight-gaining shake. They’re full of calories (often more than 1000kcal per serving) and help towards putting yourself in that all-important calorie surplus required to build muscle.

These weight-gaining shakes do not necessarily have any special muscle-building properties other than they can help to increase calorie intake. If you were to eat food instead with the same macros, you’d gain comparable amounts of muscle.

Saying that, these weight-gaining shakes are ideal for when you can’t eat. Say you’ve got a meeting at work, you can’t exactly start munching on your pre-prepared chicken and rice, whereas you probably can sip on your shake. Or you’ve got a 5-hour drive across the country, sipping in a weight-gaining shake is a convenient way of getting in those all-important calories.

Our favourite: 

Weight gainer shake for mass

Click to Buy

 

Caffeine

Caffeine is a naturally occurring substance that can be found in up to 60 plants including

  • Coffee beans
  • Tea leaves
  • Cocoa pods
  • Kola nuts

Many of us can’t function without our morning coffee, but what we probably don’t appreciate is the benefits it can have on our training.

A study was conducted in 2019 which included members of the Spanish national team. Participants were split into 2 groups, the first group was given caffeine before a session and the second group were given a placebo (A substance known to have no effect). The results found that those who ingested caffeine saw an increased power output and improved anaerobic performance – this bodes well for muscle building. [12]

Another study, looking at the effects of caffeine on fatigue was conducted in 2017 [13]. The results show that those who ingested caffeine before exercise saw increases in ‘Time to exhaustion’ of up to 12% and documented a decrease in subjective fatigue. If this allows us to push out those last extra reps, then it’s worth considering.

A separate study conducted in 2017 was conducted to assess the effects of caffeine on muscular strength and power, muscular endurance, rate of perceived exertion (RPE), and pain perception (PP) in resistant trained men. Those who consumed caffeine saw an increase in their back squat 1 rep max and bench press 1 rep max. A reduced RPE was also noted on the back squat 1 rep max.

Arguably the second most important element when it comes to muscle hypertrophy is progressive overload. If caffeine can help reduce fatigue, increase power output, and reduce exercise recovery, then this puts us in the best position to enable progression each week.

There’s no need to go out and buy a caffeine supplement. Although it’s found in the majority of pre-workouts on the market, a good old cup of coffee can do the trick!

 

Final Muscle Building Thoughts

Bodybuilding supplements alone are not going to get you stacked. Firstly, your diet needs to be on point, and you need to be in a calorie surplus to build muscle. Secondly, you need to be following a sound training program that implements progressive overload.

Once you’ve got these 2 in check – you can look to supplements to give you a helping hand on your journey.

Are you currently trying to build muscle? If so, what do you think is the hardest part? Let us know in the comments!

 The best supplements for building muscle

 

References

[1] Chanutin A. The fate of creatine when administered to man. J Biol Chem. 1926;67:29–34

[2] Roger C. Harris, Karin Söderlund, Eric Hultman; Elevation of creatine in resting and exercised muscle of normal subjects by creatine supplementation. Clin Sci (Lond) 1 September 1992; 83 (3): 367–374. doi: https://doi.org/10.1042/cs0830367

[3] Candow DG, Forbes SC, Chilibeck PD, et al. Variables influencing the effectiveness of creatine supplementation as a therapeutic intervention for sarcopenia. Front. Nutr. 2019; 6:124.

[4] Kreider R. B. (2003). Effects of creatine supplementation on performance and training adaptations. Molecular and cellular biochemistry244(1-2), 89–94.

[5] Volek JS, Kraemer WJ, Bush JA, et al. Creatine supplementation enhances muscular performance during high-intensity resistance exercise. J. Am. Diet. Assoc. 1997; 97:765–70.

[6] Hall, M., Manetta, E., & Tupper, K. (2021). Creatine Supplementation: An Update. Current sports medicine reports20(7), 338–344. https://doi.org/10.1249/JSR.0000000000000863

[7] Burke, D. G., Candow, D. G., Chilibeck, P. D., MacNeil, L. G., Roy, B. D., Tarnopolsky, M. A., & Ziegenfuss, T. (2008). Effect of creatine supplementation and resistance-exercise training on muscle insulin-like growth factor in young adults. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism18(4), 389–398. https://doi.org/10.1123/ijsnem.18.4.389

[8] [Devries, M. C., & Phillips, S. M. (2015). Supplemental protein in support of muscle mass and health: advantage whey. Journal of food science80 Suppl 1, A8–A15. https://doi.org/10.1111/1750-3841.12802]

[9] [ Morton, R. W., Murphy, K. T., McKellar, S. R., Schoenfeld, B. J., Henselmans, M., Helms, E., Aragon, A. A., Devries, M. C., Banfield, L., Krieger, J. W., & Phillips, S. M. (2018). A systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression of the effect of protein supplementation on resistance training-induced gains in muscle mass and strength in healthy adults. British journal of sports medicine52(6), 376–384. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2017-097608]

[10] Hoffman, J. R., Varanoske, A., & Stout, J. R. (2018). Effects of β-Alanine Supplementation on Carnosine Elevation and Physiological Performance. Advances in food and nutrition research84, 183–206. https://doi.org/10.1016/bs.afnr.2017.12.003

[11] Hill, C. A., Harris, R. C., Kim, H. J., Harris, B. D., Sale, C., Boobis, L. H., Kim, C. K., & Wise, J. A. (2007). Influence of beta-alanine supplementation on skeletal muscle carnosine concentrations and high intensity cycling capacity. Amino acids32(2), 225–233. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00726-006-0364-4

[12] San Juan, A. F., López-Samanes, Á., Jodra, P., Valenzuela, P. L., Rueda, J., Veiga-Herreros, P., Pérez-López, A., & Domínguez, R. (2019). Caffeine Supplementation Improves Anaerobic Performance and Neuromuscular Efficiency and Fatigue in Olympic-Level Boxers. Nutrients11(9), 2120. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11092120

[13] Smirmaul, B. P., de Moraes, A. C., Angius, L., & Marcora, S. M. (2017). Effects of caffeine on neuromuscular fatigue and performance during high-intensity cycling exercise in moderate hypoxia. European journal of applied physiology117(1), 27–38. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-016-3496-6

 


Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.