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  • The Best Scientifically-Supported Mass Building Supplements

    When it comes to building a strong, powerful, and lean physique, the first step should always be building an appreciable amount of muscle.

    Having more muscle mass obviously makes you look stronger, but it also does so much more than that. Muscle is highly metabolic tissue meaning that it uses a lot of energy every single day to sustain its physiological processes.

    This means that having more muscle can actually make the fat loss process easier.

    Moreover, you know that “defined” look that people are always trying to achieve? Well, that comes from having a good amount of muscle and a relatively small amount of fat -- which means it simply cannot be achieved without a little mass building.

    The kicker?

    Gaining muscle can be a little easier said than done. It takes a lot of hard training, in conjunction with adequate protein and a solid diet to see any results -- and even then, things can be slow going.

    Which is why we wanted to outline some of the best scientifically supported mass building supplements on the market at the moment.

    Scientifically-supported mass building supplements

    There are a number of different mass building supplements that actually have quite a bit of evidence to support their use -- and these are the ones that we want to highlight today.

    While these compounds will definitely not do all the work for you, they can absolutely give you a little a boost.

    The caveat is that for these supplements to demonstrate their effectiveness, you still need to be doing the right things. This means training hard on the regular, implementing progressive overload on a weekly basis, and eating enough to fuel your body.

    In this manner you can think of these supplements as the cherry on top -- the final piece of the muscle building puzzle, if you will.

    So, without further ado, the best mass building supplements on the planet.

    1.   Creatine

    Creatine is a compound made by your body and stored in your muscle tissue. With this in mind, it is actually broken down and used for energy during intense or explosive exercise -- like lifting weights, for example…

    Taking creatine increases the amount of creatine stored in your muscle. This provides an extra ‘reserve’ of energy that you can draw on during exercise.

    This improves your gym performance in a couple of different ways.

    Firstly, it causes an immediate increase in strength, meaning you can load a little bit extra on the bar. Secondly, it can increase the number of repetitions you can do per set.

    For example, without creatine you might be able to bench press 80kg for 8 repetitions. But with creatine, you might be able to bench press the same weight for 10 repetitions, or even 85kg for 8 repetitions.

    Both of which would cause an increase in the amount of total volume you perform each training session, which can lead to greater improvements in muscle size over the duration of a long term block of training [1].

    2.   Protein Powder

    Protein is made up of “amino acids”, which are often referred to as the building blocks of the human body. The reason being is that they are used to create every single one of your cells -- including your muscle cells.

    Every time you lift weights, you place your body under stress. This stress tells your body to adapt, causing your muscle tissue to grow bigger and stronger. However, if you are not consuming enough protein, this growth cannot occur, and you leave a heap of gains on the table.

    With this in mind, protein powders increase your daily protein intake and contribute in a meaningful way to muscle growth.

    In fact, there is a large body of research demonstrating that undertaking a weight training program with the addition of a protein supplement will lead to much greater increases in muscle size than performing that same program without a protein supplement [2].

    And regarding type, it doesn't seem to matter -- you can go with whey, pea, soy, or even rice -- just make sure you get it in.

    3.   Carb Powders

    Next up we have carb powders.

    These types of supplements are generally made from simple sugar molecules that are easily digested. As such, their consumption causes a quick increase in blood sugar, which in turn, causes an increase in insulin secretion.

    Because insulin helps shuttle glucose and protein into your muscle cells, this can have a profound impact on muscle growth.

    In fact, simply consuming a simple carbohydrate powder after training has been shown to cause a notable increase in muscle protein synthesis, without the consumption of any extra protein [3].

    As a bonus, carbohydrate powders have been shown to become even more effective when combined with a fast digesting protein powder like whey -- making them both a great option in your post workout shake [4].

    Some great carbohydrate powders include dextrose, maltodextrin, sweet potato powder, rice powder, and waxy maize powder.

    4.   MCT oil powder

    MCT Oil powder is a supplement that is composed entirely of highly concentrated medium-chain triglycerides -- which are a specific type of fat metabolized for energy in your body.

    While MCT oil powder is not often considered in most mass gaining supplement regimes, we would argue that they should.

    Firstly, MCTs are used for energy by the body after consumption. This means that by taking an MCT oil based supplement your body will use that for energy while “saving” the carbohydrates and protein for recovery and muscle growth.

    Secondly, there is some evidence to suggest that MCT oil supplements can improve exercise performance [5]. This means that it can help you get more out of your workout, this increasing muscle growth.

    5.   Beta-Alanine

    Last but not least, we have beta-alanine.

    Beta-alanine is most well known for its application as a primary ingredient in pre-workout supplements, where it can often cause a slight tingling sensation in the skin of your face and hands.

    However, it should be better known for its capacity to increase muscle growth.

    Beta-alanine is another specific amino acid that is found naturally occurring in your muscle tissue. During exercise, beta-alanine combines with another specific compound called “histidine” to form something called “carnosine”.

    So, how is this relevant to you?

    Well, carnosine plays an important role in energy production, where it reduces the accumulation of lactic acid in your muscle tissue during exercise. This prevents the buildup of fatigue during exercise, which improves your exercise performance.

    Now, under “normal” circumstances, the volume of beta-alanine stored in your muscle tissue is much smaller than the amount of stored histidine. This quickly puts a ceiling in your capacity to produce carnosine, making you more susceptible to the fatigue related effects of lactic acid.

    With this in mind, the supplementation of beta-alanine increases your body's carnosine production, improving your fatigue resistance.

    In a very similar manner to creatine, beta-alanine supplements increase the number of reps you can perform per set, leading to an increase in training volume, which contributes to long term improvements in muscle growth [6, 7].

    As a bonus, while they do somewhat similar things, beta-alanine and creatine work via two completely different pathways. This means that their supplementation becomes complimentary with respect to gym performance and muscle growth.

    Summary

    If your goal is to put on some serious size, then you need to make sure your training and diet is on point. However, once you have got those covered, there is no reason you shouldn't look to supplements for a little boost.

    And the five great options listed in this article should be your first point of call.

     

    References

    1. Cooper R, Naclerio F, Allgrove J, Jimenez A. Creatine supplementation with specific view to exercise/sports performance: an update. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2012;9(1):33. Published 2012 Jul 20. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-9-33
    2. Morton, Robert W., et al. "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 medicine 52.6 (2018): 376-384.
    3. Roy, B. D., et al. "Effect of glucose supplement timing on protein metabolism after resistance training." Journal of applied physiology (1997).
    4. Tang, Jason E., et al. "Minimal whey protein with carbohydrate stimulates muscle protein synthesis following resistance exercise in trained young men." Applied physiology, nutrition, and metabolism 32.6 (2007): 1132-1138.
    5. Gomes, Rodrigo Vitasovic, and Marcelo Saldanha Aoki. "Does medium chain triglyceride play an ergogenic role in endurance exercise performance?." Revista Brasileira de Medicina do Esporte 9.3 (2003): 162-168.
    6. Hobson, R. M., Saunders, B., Ball, G., Harris, R. C., & Sale, C. (2012). Effects of ?-alanine supplementation on exercise performance: a meta-analysis. Amino acids, 43(1), 25-37.
    7. Kern, B. D., & Robinson, T. L. (2011). Effects of ?-alanine supplementation on performance and body composition in collegiate wrestlers and football players. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 25(7), 1804-1815.
  • Protein supplementation and muscle mass

    Oral administration of amino acid mixtures have been shown to stimulate post-workout muscle anabolism hence leads to lean muscle gain. Amino acids are the basic building blocks of proteins, so do supplementation of whole protein products have the same effect as amino acid supplements?

     

    The answer is yes. It has been found that the supplementation of protein during exercise can enhance aerobic performance in cyclists compared to the placebo (Ivy et al 2013, International Journal of Nutrition, Exercise and Metabolism); the supplementation of protein-carbohydrate drinks during resistance training can reduce muscle damage and soreness but does not improve performance (Baty et al 2007, Journal of Strength and Conditioning); protein supplementation during resistance training promotes lean body mass gain (Volek at al 2013, Journal of American College of Nutrition); and protein supplementation immediately after resistance exercise can also promote muscle protein anabolism (Reidy et al 2013, Journal of Nutrition).

     

    The majority of the evidence to date indicates that protein supplementation is beneficial for post-exercise muscle gain. However, different types of proteins have different amino acid compositions, and thus may have different effectiveness on muscle protein anabolism. Studies compared whey and soy proteins and found that whey protein is the more effective at promoting muscle mass gain than soy protein in resistance trainers (Volek at al 2013, Journal of American College of Nutrition; Philips et al 2009, Journal of American College of Nutrition). Compared to casein/milking proteins, whey protein supplementation resulted in a higher net muscle protein balance for 1.5 hour after ingestion; however, the effect of casein protein is more prolonged (Tipton et al 2004, Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise). Therefore, which protein product to use is really up to what works best for you.

     

    There is a short period (generally 30-180 minutes depends on the study) where muscle protein synthesis can be stimulated after protein supplementation. After which the muscle will become refractory to elevated amino acid concentrations. By the same token, above optimal amount of amino acid intake does not stimulate additional muscle grown compared the optimal level. This is often dubbed as the "muscle full" phenomenon. Exercise and resistance training can significant modulate the level of the muscle's capacity to utilize amino acids/proteins, but there is still a limit. Excessive protein intake can add load to your kidneys and thus should be consumed wisely.

  • Gaining Muscle: Challenging the Training Norm

    A study at Mcmaster University finds that the assumption of gaining muscle mass requires lifting heavy weights to be inaccurate.
  • Impediments To Muscle Hypertrophy

    Reviewing impediments to muscle hypertrophy should keep you on the right muscle growth track!
  • Will protein powders make you gain muscle?

    Although protein powders can be highly convenient and effective, protein powder supplements can be misunderstood to assume that they necessarily result in muscle gain. This is not so.
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