May 19, 2015 Comments (0)

10 Best Supplements for Muscle Building


A quality supplement is the third component of the muscle building triad, the other two being a good weight-training regimen and a healthy diet. To those who say that a supplement is unnecessary if you eat well and well-enough, here's a reality check.

Say you want to incorporate meat in your daily diet to pump up your muscles. An ounce of medium-fat meat will provide your body with four to seven grams of protein and about 130 calories. A protein shake has up to five times the protein content and the same amount of calories. What sounds like a better proposition, especially if you lead a busy lifestyle? We think you know.

Let your body benefit from an additional boost

Eating for your muscles becomes easier with a supplement. But what supplements are worth investing in and stacking up? Here are ten that assist extremely well with muscle growth, and can be considered by most people. We've mentioned the reasons for suggesting them in the first place, and the specific ways in which they can help you go from bean stalk to Bruce Lee.

Your next trip to the foods section of the supermarket or the never-ending catalog of an online store doesn't have to be bewildering. Let's get right to it then; here are the ten best supplements for muscle building in no particular order of importance.


Creatine is an organic acid that the liver produces to supply energy to muscle cells. Creatine comprises of three amino acids : glycine, L-arginine and L-methionine. The naturally occurring substance is found in raw beef, raw pork, herring, tuna and salmon. However, when the meat is cooked, its creatine level and quality changes. Creatine supplements overcome this challenge.

The benefits of creatine for body builders include improving strength, building muscle, enhancing anaerobic endurance and reducing muscle damage and soreness after an intense bout of exercise. Specifically on the topic of muscle gain, creatine works primarily in two ways :

  • Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the energy source used to contract muscle fibers during weight training. Each time the muscle uses ATP to contract, it loses a phosphate molecule, converting the ATP to ADP or adenosine diphosphate. To keep their performance up, muscles need to recycle the ADP back to ATP. Creatine – which is stored as creatine phosphate in the body – supplies its phosphate molecule to the ADT and converts it back to useful ATP that muscles can use to contract, and helps you push out additional reps for extra muscle and strength.
  • Creatine uses up large quantities of water to boost protein synthesis. This is why creatine supplements can result in light bloating and increase water mass. By keeping at weight training, you can lose the temporary weight gain and fuel your muscles for added strength. The good news is that creatine also makes muscle cells inflate, giving you a more muscled-up look. 

A reason why creatine supplements are so popular is because they can be used across the board by everyone from athletes and overweight individuals to seniors and those who are weak and living with one or more health conditions.

Whey Protein

Milk contains two proteins, whey and casein. Whey protein is a by-product of making cheese; it can also be removed separately from the casein in milk. A complete protein, it has all nine essential amino acids and a low lactose content.

Whey protein is a popular supplement used in accompaniment with resistance exercises to drive muscle protein synthesis (the amino acids in whey protein trigger cellular mechanisms, which promote the synthesis), help in muscle recovery after the stress of exercise and build lean tissue mass.

Muscle development depends primarily on two factors : how well your muscle tissues grow and whether or not your body is getting sufficient nutrition to aid the growth. As your muscle tissue comprises mostly of protein, it becomes essential to replenish with dietary protein, and whey – which is infused with all the amino acids and repairs the damage caused during exercise – is an excellent solution. Whey helps synthesize new muscle fibers while also supplying the protein strands necessary to enhancing the bulk of existing muscle fibers.

Once upon a time, you could tell a body builder by the whey protein he/she would be chugging on! Today, whey protein is used by fitness enthusiasts, athletes and everyone in between. If muscle building is a priority, consuming a quality whey protein powder is pretty much a no-brainer, keeping energy levels high and speeding up workout recovery time. To maximize the benefits of the protein, consume it within 45 minutes of your workout. You won't have to deal with sore muscle the next day either.



Glutamine is the body's most abundant free non-essential amino acid, with 60% concentrated in the skeletal mass and the rest of it scattered in the stomach, lungs and liver. Besides protein synthesis, glutamine helps in maintaining the acid-base balance in the kidneys. While the body naturally produces the levels of glutamine necessary for such functions, intense workouts can lead to glutamine depletion. A good glutamine supplement can counter this temporary state and aid muscle growth.

After an intense workout, your body requires more glutamine than what it naturally produces. If it cannot access it from the bloodstream, it will turn to the major store of glutamine – your muscles. In fact, glutamine levels can drop by up to half after intense training. Consuming a glutamine supplement immediately after your workout will move protein into muscle cells where it will be synthesized for muscle growth. Without a supplement, your body may take hours or sometimes days to bring glutamine levels back to normal, thereby affecting muscle recovery and development. In a severe case, the catabolic (break down) state brought on by low glutamine levels can lead to muscle loss.

Additionally, glutamine supports the transportation of nitrogen throughout the body during workout, which aids muscle gain. By maintaining a positive nitrogen balance, glutamine supplementation can promote muscle growth.

A good way to incorporate a glutamine supplement is to add it to your post-workout shake.



Comprising 35% of the body's muscle mass, branch chain amino acids (BCAAs) are regarded as the building blocks necessary for molecular development. Cell building and tissue repair are the primary functions of BCAAs. Additionally, they are part of your endocrine system, form antibodies and support the transportation of oxygen throughout the body.

In contrast to many other amino acids, BCAAs are metabolized inside the muscle tissue and undergo oxidation to release cellular energy in the form of ATP, the main energy repository fueling muscle contraction needed for bicep curls and weight-lifting exercises. BCAA metabolism increases during periods of high intensity training, delivering the energy necessary for muscles to work hard and enhancing your performance to support muscle gain. BCAAs not just serve as energy sources but also promote fat oxidation in a glycogen depleted body, enabling you to train harder and for a longer time without feeling fatigued easily.

Proper supplementation counters the breakdown of BCAAs in muscle tissue. BCAA supplements are generally recommended before, after and during exercise to improve performance, recovery and muscle growth.



Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid occurring naturally in the body. You can also get beta alanine from your diet through carnosine, a dipeptide found in beef, chicken, pork and fish. Carnosine resides primarily in brain and muscle tissues that have high energy demands.

Carnosine plays an important role in body-building by helping maintain the acidity balance in your muscles. During high intensity training, acid build-up occurs in the blood and muscles, which is experienced as a burning sensation at the end of an exercise. When the acid levels spike, the capacity of muscles to do more work decreases.

Supplementation with carnosine can address acid build-up and prevent a performance drop-off. However, as most of the carnosine is eliminated in the gastrointestinal tract, muscles cannot get enough of it directly. Supplements were therefore formulated for muscles to take up beta-alanine directly and then get converted to carnosine.

Studies have shown that performance enhancements with beta-alanine supplementation works best for anaerobic exercises associated with high levels of acid release. By enhancing your muscles' ability to increase the amount of exercise done in a session, beta-alanine aids muscle strength and growth.

Nitric Oxide Boosters

Nitrous oxide (NO) is more popularly known as laughing gas. But its benefits for the body and for body-builders is no laughing matter. Nitric oxide plays an important role in many cellular activities, which includes helping the immune system fight bacteria, transmitting information between the brain's nerve cells and dilating arteries to regulate blood pressure. In the body-building community, NO supplements have a special place; here's why.

Nitric oxide's vasodilatory property promotes the flow of oxygen and blood to the skeletal muscles. This helps in removing the lactic acid build-up in muscles during bouts of intense physical activity. You don't feel fatigued easily and your recovery time doesn't suffer either.

After intense workout, your body needs more oxygen, blood and nutrients, which an NO supplement can provide for more strength and quicker, faster recovery. An increase in blood flow to the muscle tissue makes pumps appear more pronounced. Nitric oxide, therefore, also acts as a good muscle pump, giving your muscles a fuller and tighter appearance.


ZMA stands for zinc monomethionine aspartate and magnesium aspartate, a combination of zinc, magnesium and vitamin B-6. All three are important for body-builders with intense workout regimens. ZMA helps the production of free testosterone, aids recovery and increases muscle strength. For many body-builders, ZMA serves as a reliable night-time supplement, aiding quick and effective recovery whilst they sleep.

If intense physical exercise will be a sustained, priority activity, you will need a supplement that revives fatigued muscles, counters loss of nutrients and makes muscle repair a natural, seamless process. ZMA supplements promote optimal and fast muscle repair, helping you move your workout efforts a few notches higher.

Do your regular weightlifting sessions comprise of rest pauses, drop sets and supersets? Keep in mind that they stress out your immune and central nervous system. ZMA does a good job of alleviating the oxidative stress and inflammation in your body resulting from such weight-lifting techniques.

Regular weight training is associated with a loss of minerals and vitamins from the body occurring due to muscle contractions and perspiration. ZMA supplementation can be extremely helpful in addressing the deficit of zinc, magnesium, folic acid, B6, B12 and other nutrients.

Casein Protein

Casein makes up 80% of the protein found in milk while whey accounts for the other 20%. It is whey's slow brother but by no means less efficient in building muscle mass. Unlike whey, which is digested by your body in just under an hour, casein is digested over many hours as it curdles in the gut and breaks down slowly.

A balance of protein synthesis and breakdown is essential for effective muscle growth. For muscle gain, you need to increase protein synthesis and decrease protein breakdown. The first function is accomplished by whey while casein takes care of the latter, helping maintain the balance necessary for muscle growth. That's why it makes sense to incorporate protein shakes based on whey protein as well as those based on casein.

As a slow releasing protein, casein is best suited to carry out muscle repair and re-growth when you're sleeping. That's why casein protein supplements must be taken before bedtime. Only three to four hours after consuming casein protein do blood amino acids and protein synthesis reach peak levels, and require up to seven hours to be completely absorbed by the body. In comparison to whey, casein makes you feel less full, making it a good snack between meals.



Carnitine is a natural substance found in literally every cell in our body. Synthesized from amino acids methionine and lysine, it aids energy production by transporting fat into the mitochondria or the digestive system of cells. Carnitine is formed in the kidneys and liver but stored in the muscle tissues of the brain and heart, and also in the sperm. You can get your dose of carnitine from red meat, soybeans and avocado.

Body-builders use carnitine to restrict fat gain during bulking periods and burn fat during the cutting period. Carnitine has also been found to increase blood flow to the muscles, delivering hormones and nutrients during strenuous physical activity. In doing so, it reduces oxidative stress that can lead to nitrous oxide (NO) depletion. At the same time, it activates the enzyme necessary for the production of NO, thereby giving your body an energy boost and aiding fast, effective post-workout recovery.

Studies have shown that carnitine can reduce fatigue-causing lactic acid levels in muscles during workout. By delaying build-up, carnitine helps you perform harder for longer, providing extra energy for more repetitions or greater bursts of strengths. Additionally, carnitine's vasodilatory effect can protect muscle tissue against damage caused by intense exercise. Carnitine supplementation boosts blood supply to working muscles and helps in clearing waste products from metabolism.

Carnitine is a good post-workout supplement. You can consume it throughout the day with a high-protein meal. In its acetyl-L-carnitine form, the supplement can be stacked with other fat-burners between meals.



You cannot give multivitamins a skip and still hope to maximize your body's performance potential. Even if you follow a balanced diet, you may not get all the vitamins and minerals necessary to make your body perform at its best. Multivitamins should be part of every body-builder's and athlete's supplements arsenal.

Multivitamins comprise of individual vitamins and minerals. From the perspective of muscle strength, calcium and iron are the key minerals that aid recovery after strength training. Others such as lutein, nickel and molybdenum assist with several functions, including maintaining eye, kidney and liver health, and supporting healthy skin and bones. As far as vitamins are concerned, the following assume the most importance for bodybuilders :

Vitamin C : Strengthens your immune system and promotes healthy blood vessels, which in turn support the muscles' oxygen and nutrient needs.

Vitamin D : Helps in the proper utilization of phosphorus and calcium necessary for muscle contraction and bone strength, as well as energy metabolism and ATP production.

Vitamin E : Helps cell membranes recover from oxidative stress and promotes cellular growth. Omega-3 fats : Decreases the breakdown of muscle protein by improving insulin sensitivity and resistance.

Zinc : Helps you sleep well, which is important to effective muscle growth. During intense workout, the microscopic tears occurring at the cellular level must be repaired to strengthen and grow your muscle tissue. This is reserved for a restful or higher anabolic state, where large molecules are formed by the body to repair your muscular, nervous and immune systems.

We hope that our top ten list of supplements will help you make informed choices, and support your muscle-building goals in a meaningful way. Which supplements do you find it hard to train without?


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