Without a doubt, you can add muscle simply by eating right and lifting weights. But to truly maximize your growth potential, supplements are a requirement. Hence, we've compiled a rundown of the 11 best mass-gain supplements on which to spend your hard-earned cash. They're listed in order of priority, from the absolute most critical, can't-do-without supplements to the less crucial yet still highly effective ingredients for packing on size. The point is to help those on a tight budget decide which supplements to buy. If money is no object, then by all means knock yourself out and use them all as directed. Because after all, as far as we're concerned, you can never have too much muscle.
We’ll define the “bigger muscle groups” as being chest, back, quads and hamstrings, and the “smaller muscle groups” as being biceps, triceps and maybe abs. Shoulders are really somewhere in the middle, though I tend to lean more toward the “smaller” guidelines. Calves, while technically small, are another muscle group that is somewhere in the middle, and I can really go either way depending on the needs of the person.
Spillane M, Schoch R, Cooke M, Harvey T, Greenwood M, Kreider R, Willoughby DS. The effects of creatine ethyl ester supplementation combined with heavy resistance training on body composition, muscle performance, and serum and muscle creatine levels. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2009;6:6. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-6-6. [PMC free article] [PubMed] [CrossRef]
On top of this, you’ll need to consume more calories than you’re burning. Burning more calories each day than you eat is a great way to lose weight, but if your goal is to put on muscle mass, this can make the process much harder. Your body requires calories to build new muscle tissue, but this can’t occur if all the body’s energy is being used up for daily processes. Because of this, some bodybuilding supplements include weight gainers to help you get more healthy calories in your diet.
A push–pull workout is a method of arranging a weight training routine so that exercises alternate between push motions and pull motions. A push–pull superset is two complementary segments (one pull/one push) done back-to-back. An example is bench press (push) / bent-over row (pull). Another push–pull technique is to arrange workout routines so that one day involves only push (usually chest, shoulders and triceps) exercises, and an alternate day only pull (usually back and biceps) exercises so the body can get adequate rest.
When Katula started his research on whether weight training would improve quality of life for seniors, he realized that many had never even picked up a dumbbell. “They first had to learn how to use these big intimidating weights and machines,” he says. He recalls the story of one woman who protested that she couldn’t do the leg press machine. Finally, Katula persuaded her to sit in the machine and set the weight at 50 pounds. “I couldn’t believe how fast she whipped out 10 reps,” he says, “When she got out of that machine, she was two inches taller just from increased pride.”
Many athletes follow a "loading" protocol of around 25 grams a day for five days, but this isn't essential. But as Ciaran Fairman notes in the article "Do I Need to Load With Creatine," you can also get the same benefits with around 5 grams a day, potentially with none of the mild side effects of the loading protocol, which include stomach pain and water weight gain. The catch is that you have to take it consistently. Don't skip it!
Cornelissen, V. A., Defoor, J. G., Stevens, A., Schepers, D., Hespel, P., Decramer, M., Mortelmans, L., Dobbels, F., Vanhaecke, J., Fagard, R. H., and Vanhees, L. Effect of creatine supplementation as a potential adjuvant therapy to exercise training in cardiac patients: a randomized controlled trial. Clin.Rehabil. 2010;24(11):988-999. View abstract.
Side-Effects: While the signs of a great body may make one think that there cannot be anything wrong with bodybuilding supplements, the facts speak otherwise. Bodybuilding supplements do have side-effects and you must listen to your trainer before giving in to the thoughts of buying one. Creatine can cause heart problems, kidney problems, dehydration, diarrhoea and muscle cramping. You must also discuss your medical history with the trainer.
Creatine has been shown to influence androgen levels. Three weeks of creatine supplementation has been shown to increase dihydrotestosterone (DHT) levels, as well as the DHT:testosterone ratio with no effects on testosterone levels. In contrast, creatine supplementation has been shown to increase testosterone levels when taken alongside a 10-week resistance training program. A study in male amateur swimmers also noted that a creatine loading phase (20g daily for six days) was able to increase testosterone levels by around 15% relative to baseline.
The exercises that allow you to use the greatest amount of weight are the ones that help you build muscle the fastest. These also happen to be the lifts that allow for the greatest percentage of increases in loading. We’re talking compound (multi-joint) exercises here, done with free weights. You’re not going to grow at nearly the same rate with a workout comprising machine exercises and isolation movements.
Still, it's important to realize that for everyone, at a certain point, building muscle becomes more difficult. "We all have an endpoint to our genetic potential," Matheny says. "Someone who is starting strength training for the first time can build muscle with a lower percentage of their 1RM [the maximum amount of weight they can lift one time] than a more tenured athlete. The longer you train and the closer you to get to your natural potential, the more specific you need to get with your training and nutrition to keep making progress. And that week-by-week progress will likely be much smaller than it once was."
“Imagine you've fasted for over eight hours,” he says. “At breakfast, you're firing your metabolism off really high. If you don't eat for another five hours, your metabolism starts to slow right down and you have to try and kickstart it again with your next meal. If you eat every two and a half to three hours, it's like chucking a log on a burning fire.”
If you are doing this on your own, but are overwhelmed and confused about strength training, I know how that feels. It can be scary enough to keep MOST people from starting, which is actually why we created our 1-on-1 Coaching Program. Our coach gets to know you, builds a program based on your experience and goals, will check your form on each movement (via video), and keep you accountable and on track!
Creatine ethyl ester increases muscle levels of creatine to a lesser degree than creatine monohydrate. It may also result in higher serum creatinine levels due to creatine ethyl ester being converted into creatinine via non-enzymatic means in an environment similar to the digestive tract. At equal doses to creatine monohydrate, ethyl ester has failed to increase water weight after 28 days of administration (indicative of muscle deposition rates of creatine, which are seemingly absent with ethyl ester).
Creatine, which is synthesized in the liver and kidneys, is transported through the blood and taken up by tissues with high energy demands, such as the brain and skeletal muscle, through an active transport system. The concentration of ATP in skeletal muscle is usually 2–5 mM, which would result in a muscle contraction of only a few seconds. During times of increased energy demands, the phosphagen (or ATP/PCr) system rapidly resynthesizes ATP from ADP with the use of phosphocreatine (PCr) through a reversible reaction with the enzyme creatine kinase (CK). In skeletal muscle, PCr concentrations may reach 20–35 mM or more. Additionally, in most muscles, the ATP regeneration capacity of CK is very high and is therefore not a limiting factor. Although the cellular concentrations of ATP are small, changes are difficult to detect because ATP is continuously and efficiently replenished from the large pools of PCr and CK. Creatine has the ability to increase muscle stores of PCr, potentially increasing the muscle’s ability to resynthesize ATP from ADP to meet increased energy demands.
Many people eat two or three meals a day and the occasional protein shake (when they remember), and then wonder why they're not putting on weight. To increase muscle mass, you have to have excess energy (calories and protein) in your system - supplied by regular small meals throughout the day. Most people have no idea how many calories they need. Do you? You may find that eating until you're full is not enough, especially if you're eating the wrong sort of calories (i.e. all carbs and no protein!). Protein is the priority followed by carbs then fat, but all are important and play a part in building mass and size.
What happened was that, statistically speaking (less than 5% chance what was observed was due to chance means ‘significant’ for this study) there was no significant difference between pre- and post- workout, meaning that both were equally effective. This protocol did note that both groups found benefits with creatine supplementation, but they both found the same amount of benefit.
After a tough sweat, it's important to rehydrate your body: "Drink lots of water and thank your body for what it was just able to accomplish," says Davis. A balanced post-workout snack is also a good idea. Go for one with carbs refuel your glycogen stores (one of your body's main energy sources) and about 10 to 20 grams of protein to help build and repair your muscles. "Don’t overcomplicate it," says Davis. If you're lifting and weight loss is one of your goals, though, it's still important to keep calories in mind—a post-workout snack shouldn't be more than 150 to 200 calories. Here's a guide to how many calories you should be eating for weight loss.
Ancient Greek sculptures also depict lifting feats. The weights were generally stones, but later gave way to dumbbells. The dumbbell was joined by the barbell in the later half of the 19th century. Early barbells had hollow globes that could be filled with sand or lead shot, but by the end of the century these were replaced by the plate-loading barbell commonly used today.
When endothelial cells have a higher creatine concentration, they appear to be mildly less permeable when incubated with 0.5-5mM creatine, while the higher concentration (5mM) is able to fully ablate TNF-α-induced neutrophil adhesion and both E-selectin and ICAM-1 expression. This effect was prevented with ZM241385, an A2A (adenosine) receptor antagonist, and since adenosine released by this receptor is known to be protective of endothelial cells, it is thought that creatine works vicariously through this receptor and adenosine release, thought to be due to releasing ATP (occurs in response to stress) which protects the cell via the A2A signaling system.
Stronger muscles improve performance in a variety of sports. Sport-specific training routines are used by many competitors. These often specify that the speed of muscle contraction during weight training should be the same as that of the particular sport. Sport-specific training routines also often include variations to both free weight and machine movements that may not be common for traditional weightlifting.
Wilkinson, S. B., Tarnopolsky, M. A., MacDonald, M. J., MacDonald, J. R., Armstrong, D., & Phillips, S. M. (2007). Consumption of fluid skim milk promotes greater muscle protein accretion after resistance exercise than does consumption of an isonitrogenous and isoenergetic soy-protein beverage. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 85(4), 1031-1040.
The incidence of liver damage from herbal and dietary supplements is about 16–20% of all supplement products causing injury, with the occurrence growing globally over the early 21st century. The most common liver injuries from weight loss and bodybuilding supplements involve hepatocellular damage with resulting jaundice, and the most common supplement ingredients attributed to these injuries are catechins from green tea, anabolic steroids, and the herbal extract, aegeline.
As you've probably heard from any muscle-bound behemoth you've ever encountered, protein is the key to building muscle. Just because the shake-pounding meathead has become a trope, however, doesn't mean they're wrong; protein really is the fuel your muscles need to grow. That's real capital-S Science, not just bro-science manufactured by supplements companies.
I learned from this to focus on the body weight exercises. I never understood why I could lift a lot of weight, but felt weak when it came to dips, pull ups, push ups etc. Normally I spend 2 hours in a gym: 20 min jogging, 80 min lifting, 20 min jogging, 5 days a week. After reading this I’m excited to incorporate HIIT training in addition to mobility training on my off days, because I think I was wasting a lot of time and effort. I can push way harder on lifting days without the jog beforehand, so I’ll also be able to make the most of 60 minutes…
Another study demonstrated that females receiving 4 days of high-dose creatine intake (20 g/day) followed by low-dose creatine intake (5 g/day) during 10 weeks of resistance training (3hours/week) increased muscle PCr concentrations by 6%. Also, maximal strength of the muscle groups trained increased by 20-25%, maximal intermittent exercise capacity of the arm flexors increased by 10-25% and fat-free mass increased by 60% .
If you have been struggling in the gym, getting over a plateau can seem very daunting. You are training hard, eating healthy, yet the results still aren’t coming. Creatine is a supplement which will help you gain strength, build muscle, lose fat, and give the energy you need to attack your workouts with an intensity that are guaranteed to give you results!
Gains will differ from one individual to another depending on body size and level of experience in the gym. To make sure you're gaining muscle, not fat, don't just consider your scale weight. Instead, rely on what you see in the mirror and use a tape measure twice a month to keep track of your waist and hips (you don't want to gain there) as well as your biceps, chest and quads. Also, don't think that you have to gain a set amount of weight each and every week. "Your mass gain doesn't have to be uniform," Aceto explains. That means you can gain 1/2 pound one week and 1 1/2 the next, perhaps none the third week and still remain on course. "Expecting uniform gains ignores the intricate makeup of the body and the way it gains mass - or loses fat - which is by no means in linear fashion," adds Aceto.
Beta-alanine is a naturally occurring non-essential amino acid that comes into the body through foods that are rich in protein. The performance-enhancing aspect of beta-alanine (BA) is due to its ability to increase intra-muscular levels of carnosine. Increasing beta-alanine through supplementation may raise carnosine levels by over 60 percent in as quickly as four weeks.
A: At the end of the day, the most important variable regarding weight gain or loss is calorie consumption. However, meal frequency and timing around activity can both influence workout intensity and duration thus potentially allowing for further improvements in body composition. Remember, muscle growth isn’t a pulsatile process, it doesn’t just acutely spike and then return to baseline so if there aren’t circulating amino acids within the blood stream then they’ll have to be broken down from muscle as this is the highest form of concentrated amino acids within the body. That being said, it would probably be a good idea to consume anywhere from 3-6 meals spread throughout the day depending upon your schedule and preference. Ideally, we want to stimulate anabolism through food every 3-5 hours.
In otherwise healthy adults subject to leg immobilization for two weeks while taking 20g creatine daily during immobilization and then 5g daily during eight weeks of rehabilitation, it was noted that the creatine group failed to reduce atrophy during the immobilization (10% reduction in cross sectional area and 22-25% reduction in force output) despite preventing a decrease in phosphocreatine, yet experienced a significantly enhanced rate of regrowth and power recovery. A similarly structured and dosed study has also noted greater expression of skeletal muscle, GLUT4 expression, and a 12% increase in muscle phosphocreatine content.
Bodybuilders have THE BEST mind to muscle connection of any resistance-training athletes. Ask a seasoned bodybuilder to flex their lats or their rhomboids or their hamstrings and they will do it with ease. Ask other strength athletes and you will see them struggle and although they may tense up the target muscle they will also tense up about 15 other surrounding muscles. This is because strength athletes train MOVEMENTS. They don’t care about targeting their lats. They just want to do the most pull ups. They don’t worry about feeling their quads. They just want to squat maximum weight. Although this is an expected and positive thing for the most part, there are real benefits to being able to isolate and target muscles.
Women who train hard and reach low body fat levels, say under 10 percent, may be at risk of losing their periods as a result of hormonal disruption to estrogen production. Exercise-induced estrogen declines can result in bone loss in a way similar to that which occurs at the menopause. Loss of periods from athletic training is not uncommon but does require that you see a doctor, or better still, a sports physician and sports nutritionist to assess what is required to address the problem. Calcium supplements may be a part of the solution if bone health is likely to be affected.
Safety. In general health terms, most medical opinion is that up to three cups of coffee a day are not harmful, and may even have some benefits, although some people respond to the stimulant properties with more problems than others. Heart palpitations and restlessness are experienced by some caffeine drinkers. In pregnancy, one or two cups each day are thought to be without harm to the fetus.
MET-Rx Advanced Creatine Blast also contains a lot of ingredients that work synergistically with creatine. There’s the 33 grams of carbohydrates, which may help to drive creatine to the muscles, plus there’s some taurine to help with recovery and two grams of branched chain amino acids, which may help with muscle retention. However, it contains creatine ethyl ester, which is probably less effective than monohydrate.
Now that you've got the training part down, it's time to stretch it out. (Can you say ahhh?) Stretching while your muscles are warm can help improve your flexibility, says Davis, not to mention it just feels phenomenal after you've pushed yourself hard. A light cool-down is also great for calming the nervous system. While dynamic stretches should be your go-to during a warm-up, the cool-down is where static stretching comes in—this means holding a stretch for 20-30 seconds. These four passive stretches will do nicely.
One pilot study using 150mg/kg creatine monohydrate for a five day loading phase followed by maintenance (60mg/kg) for the remainder of the five weeks noted that supplementation was associated with fewer muscle symptoms and complaints alongside improved muscular function, yet a later trial trying to replicate the obsevations using 150mg/kg daily for five weeks noted the opposite, that creatine supplementation exacerbated symptoms.