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.
© 2019 Condé Nast. All rights reserved. Use of and/or registration on any portion of this site constitutes acceptance of our User Agreement (updated 5/25/18) and  Privacy Policy and Cookie Statement  (updated 5/25/18). SELF may earn a portion of sales from products that are purchased through our site as part of our Affiliate Partnerships with retailers. Your California Privacy Rights. SELF does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published on this website or by this brand is not intended as a substitute for medical advice, and you should not take any action before consulting with a healthcare professional.   The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of Condé Nast. Ad Choices 

The important role of nutrition in building muscle and losing fat means bodybuilders may consume a wide variety of dietary supplements.[41] Various products are used in an attempt to augment muscle size, increase the rate of fat loss, improve joint health, increase natural testosterone production, enhance training performance and prevent potential nutrient deficiencies.
The Branched-Chain Amino Acids, BCAAs for short, are leucine, valine and isoleucine.  Essentially, its a form of protein powder for muscle gain or other uses. These essential amino acids are not made by the body but are found in foods such as meats, dairy products and legumes. In medicine, BCAAs are used for a number of conditions, however, for many uses, further research is necessary to determine whether or not treatment is effective.
A dose of 5g daily has strong evidence supporting it not causing any adverse side effects[605] and 10g has been used daily for 310 days in older adults (aged 57+/-11.1) with no significant differences from placebo.[519] Such a dose has also been demonstrated for long-term safety for people with Parkinson’s disease,[606] and at least one small retrospective study in athletes (surverying people taking creatine for up to or over a year) failed to find any significant differences in a battery of serum health parameters.[502] Other studies measuring serum parameters have also failed to find abnormalities outside the normal range.[607]
Furthermore, because creatine can help restore ATP levels, increasing energy, it can lead to reduced amounts of heart muscle stress. More energy in your life will result in less pain, stress, and boost morale in everyday life which has a significant role in improving heart health. The increased capacity to exercise is also crucial in maintaining and improving heart health.
Now, if you are somebody that is more of the “do-it-yourself” type, check out our self-paced online course, the Nerd Fitness Academy. The Academy has 20+ workouts for both bodyweight or weight training, a benchmark test to determine your starting workout, HD demonstrations of every movement, boss battles so you know when you to level up your routine, meal plans, a questing system, and supportive community.

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.

Creatine is marketed as "nature's muscle builder" and "the most legitimate sports supplement around." Professional and amateur athletes alike are gobbling up this alleged ergogenic aid, hoping to increase their strength and performance. Creatine supplementation is claimed to increase muscle power by playing a role in the transfer of energy to help the muscle contract. Supplement labels state that "creatine is converted to phosphocreatine, which is important for short energy bursts such as sprinting and weight lifting" and that "depletion of phosphocreatine can result in muscle fatigue and fading muscle power." Claims are also made that supplementation increases muscle body mass.
Focus on form. Good form means you can reap all of the benefits of your workout and avoid injuries at the same time. To maintain proper form, pay attention to your posture (stand tall with chest lifted and abs held tight), move slowly (this ensures you're relying on muscles, not momentum, to do the lifting), and remember to breathe. Many people hold their breath while exerting, but exhaling during the hardest part of the exercise helps fuel the movement.
Vegetarians and other people who have lower total creatine levels when they start taking creatine supplements seem to get more benefit than people who start with a higher level of creatine. Skeletal muscle will only hold a certain amount of creatine; adding more won't raise levels any more. This "saturation point" is usually reached within the first few days of taking a "loading dose."
A quantitative, comprehensive scientific summary and view of knowledge up to 2007 on the effects of creatine supplementation in athletes and active people was published in a 100 citation review position paper by the International Society of Sports Nutrition[5]. More recent literature has provided greater insight into the anabolic/performance enhancing mechanisms of creatine supplementation [15,25] suggesting that these effects may be due to satellite cell proliferation, myogenic transcription factors and insulin-like growth factor-1 signalling [16]. Saremi et al [26] reported a change in myogenic transcription factors when creatine supplementation and resistance training are combined in young healthy males. It was found that serum levels of myostatin, a muscle growth inhibitor, were decreased in the creatine group.

Most experts recommend starting with your larger muscle groups and then proceeding to the smaller ones. The most demanding exercises are those performed by your large muscle groups, and you will need your smaller muscles to get the most out of these exercises. But don't feel limited by that. You can do your exercises in any order you like, and changing the order is a great way to challenge yourself in different ways.


Creatine supplementation has once been noted to improve wellbeing and fatigue resistance in people with DM2, but has twice failed for people with DM1. In all three studies, it has failed to improve power output. This is thought to be due to a reduction in the expression of the creatine transporter preventing an increase in muscular phosphocreatine content.


The creatine kinase (CK) enzyme in rat heart tissue appears to have a KM around 6mM of creatine as substrate.[280] and is known to positively influence mitochondrial function as higher cytoplasmic phosphocreatine concentrations (not so much creatine per se) increase the oxidative efficiency of mitochondria[280] This is thought to be due to the transfer of high energy phosphate groups.[280]

It has also been noted that supplementing creatine (which reduces internal synthesis of creatine and methylation requirements) preserved folate and tetrahydrofolate status (42% and 23%),[312] which acted to preserve methyl groups for other processes. Despite this effect, global DNA methylation decreases by 22% (assessed by the 5-methylcytosine/cytosine ratio) following creatine supplementation, which is usually seen as an anti-cancer effect in developed mammals.[461] This study was unable to demonstrate why this reduction occured[461] and opposing effects have been noted in females with Rett syndrome supplementing 200mg/kg creatine for 1 year, during which global methylation increased, secondary to preserving other methyl donors.[462]


It’s perhaps best known for the aesthetic benefits. Creatine increases muscle size relatively quickly and while that’s in part due to an increase in muscle water content — a good thing, since it means we’re better hydrated — it does indeed appear to lead to actual hypertrophy over time. And bigger muscles aren’t just aesthetic: larger muscles can improve work capacity, explosiveness, fat oxidation, injury resilience, and recovery.
A meta-analysis found that creatine treatment increased muscle strength in muscular dystrophies, and potentially improved functional performance.[57] Creatine treatment does not appear to improve muscle strength in people who have metabolic myopathies.[57] High doses of creatine lead to increased muscle pain and an impairment in activities of daily living when taken by people who have McArdle disease.[57]
The process of phagocytosis (a macrophage consuming a pathogen) in macrophages appears to be associated with an acute reduction in creatine phosphate stores (45%)[436] and an increase in creatine kinase activity,[290] although prolonged stimulation is met with an increase in creatine phosphate (20%).[290] The creatine kinase activity does not appear to be altered based on creatine availability,[290] but since ATP seems to be preserved in these instances,[436][290] the increase in phosphocreatine may be explained by an overall creatine pool paralleling that found in medium.[290]
No. It’s not easy for everyone to get the recommended amount of protein in their diets through good eating habits alone. Others may not have clinically low testosterone, but still benefit from boosting their levels to improve their muscle building capacity. You can fix these common problems through muscle building supplements. These easy to take pills and powders can also help you boost your performance at the gym which will, in turn, spur your body’s muscle building and recovery response.
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.
It’s not just about lifting—it’s about lifting safely and correctly. And if you’re not performing exercises properly, it’s impossible to make any progress. “When someone is just starting to work out, it can help to work closely with a knowledgeable personal trainer in order to learn proper form,” says Ingram. But that goes for experienced lifters, too. If you aren’t sure about a movement, it’s better to ask. “If you’re not working the correct muscles, you can’t expect them to grow,” explains Ingram.

If you are underweight or have a naturally scrawny build, you may struggle to gain weight, let alone muscle mass, no matter what you do. Eating at all hours of the day and night can be exhausting and require frequent trips to the grocery store. Unless you are overweight, you likely need to create a caloric surplus in order to gain muscle. With a weight gainer powder, you can supplement a healthy diet with the additional calories you need to gain weight in muscle.
Creatine monohydrate is the most common form of creatine, and if not otherwise mentioned is the default form of creatine used in most studies on creatine.[64] It has fairly decent intestinal absorption[65][12] (covered more in depth in the pharmacology section) and is the standard form or “reference” form of creatine, which all other variants are pitted against.
Creatine is used up as energy during high intensity exercise. Due to this usage, the amount of glucose required from glycogen is decreased a bit. This both preserves glycogen concentrations in skeletal muscle and reduces lactate production, which is produced when glucose is oxidized for energy. There do not appear to be any alterations in the bioenergetic status of muscle cells during low to moderate intensity exercise.
When assessing type I muscle (slow twitch) against type II muscles (fast twitch) in response to creatine supplementation, it seems that glycogen accumulation may only occur in the latter as assessed in rats,[359] where the soleus muscle is a model for slow twitch muscle fibers and the gastrocnemius is a model for fast twitch. This is similar to human creatine distribution, which seems to accumulate in type II muscles rather than type I.[367]
In a mouse model of allergin-induced asthma, where mice were sensitized by ovalbumin for three weeks and then given 500mg/kg creatine, supplementation induced an increase in asthmatic hyperresponsiveness to low but not high doses of methacholine.[440] This hyperresponsiveness was associated with increased eosinophil and neutrophil infiltration into the lungs, and an increase in Th2 cell cytokines (IL-4 and IL-5) alongside an increase in IGF-1,[440] which is known to influence this process.[441] Interestingly, there was a nonsignificant increase in responsiveness in mice not sensitized to ovalbumin.[440]

In humans, studies that investigate links between serotonin and creatine supplementation find that 21 trained males, given creatine via 22.8g creatine monohydrate (20g creatine equivalent) with 35g glucose, relative to a placebo of 160g glucose, was found to reduce the perception of fatigue in hot endurance training, possibly secondary to serotonergic modulation, specifically attentuating the increase of serotonin seen with exercise (normally seen to hinder exercise capacity in the heat[233]) while possibly increasing dopaminergic activity (conversely seen to benefit activity in the heat[234]).[155]

References to any non-Onnit entity, product, service, person or source of information in this or any other Communication should not be considered an endorsement, either direct or implied, by the host, presenter or distributor of the Communication. The host(s), presenter(s) and/or distributor(s) of this Communication are not responsible for the content of any non-Onnit internet pages referenced in the Communication. Onnit is not liable or responsible for any advice, course of treatment, diagnosis or any other information or services you chose to follow without consulting a qualified medical professional. Before starting any new diet and/or exercise program, always be sure to check with your qualified medical professional.


Don’t take sets to the point of failure—where you absolutely can’t perform another rep. You should never get to where you’re turning purple and screaming like you’re getting interviewed by “Mean” Gene Okerlund before WrestleMania. Most of the time, you want to end your sets two reps before total failure. Not sure when that is? The moment your form breaks down, or you’re pretty sure it’s going to break down, end the set.
Creatine helps create essential adenosine triphosphate (ATP). This is the energy source of muscle contractions. By upping your levels, you can increase the amount of energy available to your muscles, boosting your performance. Because your muscle strength and size increases when you add weight and reps, improving your performance can be a game changer in terms of increasing your muscle mass. If you’re able to lift longer and harder, your muscles will grow. Creatine is certainly a winner among muscle building supplements.

Multivitamin supplements may help you reach the recommended daily intakes for vitamins and minerals if you have a less than ideal diet, travel impairs your diet, or strenuous exercise increases requirements. I consider a multivitamin good insurance in these circumstances against possible deficiencies. Choose a reputable brand. You should choose a good all-around supplement with a balanced formula.
A maintenance phase of 2g daily appears to technically preserve creatine content in skeletal muscle of responders either inherently or after a loading phase, but in sedentary people or those with light activity, creatine content still progressively declines (although it still higher than baseline levels after six weeks) and glycogen increases seem to normalize. This maintenance dose may be wholly insufficient for athletes, a 5g maintenance protocol may be more prudent.
If you’ve been training longer than 6–12 months, you can split your workouts into upper- and lower-body days. The most common setup is to train upper body one day and lower the next so that each area gets trained twice in one week. If you train four days per week, you can train upper body on Monday, lower Tuesday, rest Wednesday, and then do upper body again on Thursday, lower body on Friday, and then rest on the weekend.
Compound exercises work several muscle groups at once, and include movement around two or more joints. For example, in the leg press, movement occurs around the hip, knee and ankle joints. This exercise is primarily used to develop the quadriceps, but it also involves the hamstrings, glutes and calves. Compound exercises are generally similar to the ways that people naturally push, pull and lift objects, whereas isolation exercises often feel a little unnatural.
Besides the high-quality protein content of casein/whey, the newer formulations have little or no lactose (i.e., milk sugar), which some people have negative reactions to. The native milk proteins also provide a host of smaller proteins called peptides, many of which, such as lactoferrin, have vital health benefits. The rich cysteine content of whey acts as a precursor of glutathione, a primary endogenous antioxidant and liver detoxifier in the body.
A push–pull workout is a method of arranging a weight training routine so that exercises alternate between push motions and pull motions.[28] 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.[29]
^ Mangano, Kelsey M.; Sahni, Shivani; Kiel, Douglas P.; Tucker, Katherine L.; Dufour, Alyssa B.; Hannan, Marian T. (February 8, 2017). "Dietary protein is associated with musculoskeletal health independently of dietary pattern: the Framingham Third Generation Study". The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 105 (3): 714–722. doi:10.3945/ajcn.116.136762. PMC 5320406. PMID 28179224 – via ajcn.nutrition.org.
How to maximize its effects: Take 20 grams of whey protein powder in the 30 minutes before working out, and take 40 grams within 60 minutes after training. Also consider taking 20-40 grams of whey immediately upon waking every morning to kick-start muscle growth. Your best bet is to choose a whey powder that contains whey protein hydrolysates (whey protein broken down into smaller fragments for faster digestion) or whey protein isolate.
×