Bodybuilding takes time, and most weightlifters want to get the best possible gains out of each workout. However, with so many myths about sports nutrition and weight training supplements floating around gyms and in advertisements, it is difficult to know which sports supplements actually work. In addition, sports supplements are costly. Finding what works through trial and error can get expensive. Fortunately, there are reputable institutions studying sports nutrition, and their results show there are some supplements that increase muscle gain.
Sports supplements that work
Creatine is an amino acid found in muscle tissues. It plays a role in energy production (ATP) for muscle contraction. This is one supplement that the body can store and use as needed. Several studies have found creatine to be effective in increasing muscle mass and strength gain. Some study participants had strength gains of up to 45 percent more than other participants who consumed a placebo.
Best results are obtained when creatine is taken at least 2 hours before working out; however, time of ingestion is irrelevant over the long-run as creatine’s effect comes from its storage in the muscle itself. What is important is maintaining adequate amounts in the muscle for energy production and recovery. In fact, one study found creatine “loading” to be more effective than simple daily ingestion. Creatine “loading” is taking 20 grams of creatine daily (5 gram doses 4 times a day) for five days then taking 2 grams per day afterward to maintain creatine levels.
HMB, or beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate, is a substance derived from the essential amino acid leucine. It plays a role in protein synthesis and helps prevent the muscle break down that typically occurs after an intense weightlifting session. This prevention of muscle break down, therefore, increases muscle mass by preventing loss that would normally take place after stressing muscles. Studies on HMB are somewhat limited compared to other supplements, but results so far have been very positive. Recommended dosage of HMB is between 1.5 to 3 grams daily.
Sports supplements that don’t work
Protein powder (whey protein, soy protein, etc.) is the most consumed sports supplement on the market today. It’s not that the body doesn’t need protein to build muscles – every 5th grader knows protein builds muscles – but the human body doesn’t need near as much protein as most people believe. Even if you are weightlifting every day, protein needs only increase slightly above the amounts recommended for the average person (0.56 grams per lb of body weight is the recommended daily allowance).
The average American already eats twice as much protein as recommended. Add protein from a protein drink to that diet and you end up with large amounts of protein being turned to fat, not muscle. The body can only implement a limited amount of protein at any given moment, consuming more protein than what the body can process will not help to build muscle.
For example: A single chicken breast has about 40 grams of protein in it. A bodybuilder weighing 200 pounds needs about 112 grams of protein per day. Three chicken breast (120 grams of protein) would more than meet the recommended daily allowance.
However, if you already have a large tub of protein powder on your shelf, don’t throw it away. Protein consumed within the first 2 hours after weigh training will be better absorbed and assimilated than at any other time. However, you probably don’t need the recommended serving size on the container. Ten to twenty grams is probably more than enough for an after workout protein snack.
Amino acids are derived from protein. If you consume the recommended daily allowance of protein, no additional amino acids are needed. Consuming additional amino acids will not increase muscle gain.
There are a multitude of other supplements on the market today that claim to build muscle – DHEA, ginseng, and various combinations of herbs, vitamins and amino acids. Some claim to increase testosterone, others claim to boost growth. Most have not been tested by third-party agencies using rigorous, scientific methods, and those that have been tested fall short. Your best bet, use your resources to purchase what has already been thoroughly tested and shown to be safe and effective.
Chromiak JA, Smedley B, Carpenter W, Brown R, Koh YS, et al, “Effect of a 10-week strength training program and recovery drink on body composition, muscular strength and endurance, and anaerobic power and capacity,” PUBMED
Rawson ES, Volek JS.,”Effects of creatine supplementation and resistance training on muscle strength and weightlifting performance,” PUBMED
“Creatine” MedlinePlus Suppliments
“Nutrition and Athletic Performance,” MedLine Plus
Iowa State University “Supplements,” Eat to Compete
Food and Nutrition Board, “Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids (Macronutrients), ” The National Academy of Sciences
Princeton University “Creatine,” WordNet
“HMB Supplement,” Peak Performance
Thomas D. Fahey, “Basic Weight Training for Men and Women,” McGraw-Hill