Now that Thanksgiving is over, hopefully we have put down the fork and stopped stuffing our faces (no pun intended). One of the best ways to jump back on track is to increase lean muscle mass, which will help us rev up our metabolism, burn excess calories and sculpt our physique. To efficiently increase muscle mass requires the right combination of hard work, balanced diet and supplementation. While I’d love to say that we can avoid supplementation completely, it is extremely difficult to get enough nutrients into our body in a time- and calorie-efficient manner through diet alone. And it is difficult to know which are the best supplements for improving muscle mass because there are so many options out there…and honestly some supplements just don’t work.
My goal is to break it down so you can feel prepared the next time you enter a supplement store and be a more informed consumer. Finding the right stack or combination is essential; with this knowledge you can go forward into the gym, lift more weight, recover quicker and start achieving your fitness goals.
I do have to point out that you could follow all of the advice in the world when it comes to supplementation, but if your diet is irregular or just plain awful, then there is little to no hope for you. Supplements are not a magic cure, but simply an accessory to speed up the process of improving muscle mass. Let’s discuss five basic supplements that you should consider at least investigating as you make the journey to achieve bigger muscles.
Supplements That Help In Improving Muscle Mass
- Whey protein: This is one of the most commonly used proteins out there. It is rich in branch-chain amino acids (BCAAs) and is milk-based. It is easy to digest and quickly absorbed, which is extremely important if you want to make gains in the gym. If you’re lactose intolerant, you may want to consider a hemp or vegan protein. But please note that whey protein appears to be far superior gram for gram when it comes to improving muscle mass. One of the essential BCAAs in whey is leucine, which has been found to be a primary agent in muscle growth.
- Creatine: This is one of the most researched and respected supplements out there. Study after study shows that this supplement is very safe if used in an appropriate fashion and delivers trusted results. There are many versions of creatine available to consumers, but one of the most beneficial is creatine monohydrate. Creatine improves the body’s ability to perform at high intensities, increases lean muscle mass and speeds up the recovery process. These three benefits are a perfect combination when one is looking to improve muscle mass.
- Beta-Alanine: When you push your body hard and train at a level of intensity that breaks down the barriers of comfort, your body will reward you with improved strength and muscle mass. Beta-alanine is a supplement that has been shown to assist you when you want to train harder in the gym and take your body to new limits. Positive effects of beta-alanine use include increases in fatigue threshold, overall power output, endurance and total rep/weight lifted. And when you pair it with our second supplement on this list, creatine, you might be pleasantly surprised at how powerful it can be.
- HMB: HMB, or beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate, is a metabolite of leucine, which we discussed earlier as being one of the most important BCAAs. The beauty of HMB lies in its ability to prevent muscle breakdown along with improving muscle protein synthesis. While we often talk about building to improve muscle mass, we can’t overlook the repair process. This supplement appears to help with the post-gym period so we can get back into the gym quickly and recover in an efficient manner.
- Caffeine: I think we are all aware of this supplement! One of the oldest and most consistent out there, caffeine is somewhat of a matriarch when it comes to supplementation. As a pre-workout, caffeine assists with endurance, intensity, focus and muscle recovery, studies constantly show. Improving muscle mass requires intense workouts, the ability to endure and push through fatigue, and an adequate amount of time to recover. Caffeine seems like a fantastic muscle ally!
As a personal trainer I often suggest to my clients that they start small and do their research before taking supplements. I know there are enough combinations and brands out there to make our heads spin, but hopefully you feel a bit more informed about some of the “classics” and most fundamental supplements available to you. With a little bit of supplementation, a healthy diet, plenty of rest and a powerful work ethic in the gym, you’ll be right on your way to improving your muscle mass in no time!