When it comes to gaining lean muscle mass, opinions will generally vary about the extent to which nutrition plays in the overall equation, but you will be hard-pressed to find anyone who denies that it is a key pillar to their success.
If you want to be a boss and maximize your growth potential, it is essential that you get your diet and nutritional intake handled. You’ve probably heard that you can – and should – get all of your nutrients from whole foods and while the idea is fine in theory, it’s virtually impossible in practice.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t focus on a nutrient rich diet. You most definitely should. However, when combined with a good diet, supplements can enhance your training and allow you to become as big and strong as your potential will allow.
The key to gaining that extra edge in your training is to invest in the right products. This can be a challenge for a lot of guys out there trying to wade through the thousands of different supplements on offer. And the truth is that not all supplements work for all people. Our bodies are unique and in many cases will respond differently to certain supplements. There are however a select few that across the board have been shown to give guys the greatest benefit and the best return on their investment.
These are the three best muscle building supplements that are going to help you maximise your gains.
The Importance of Protein
Anyone with a basic understanding of bodybuilding will know that protein is important, but exactly why is this?
Our muscles are made of two types of filaments (actin and myosin) which are both proteins. These proteins are made of amino acids linked together. In order to build more muscle, your body needs to make more actin and myosin by joining amino acids together inside the muscle. When we consume protein our digestive system breaks it down into amino acids, which our bodies can use for a range of functions, including muscle growth and repair.
So if you want to build muscle you need protein – period!
While you need to ensure that you’re getting these amino acids in their original form via protein-rich food, a protein supplement will help jump-start the muscle-growing process and whey protein is the ultimate king.
Whey protein is a mixture of proteins isolated from whey; the liquid part of milk that separates during cheese production.
It contains all of the nine essential amino acids, is low in lactose content and has been found to help in increasing strength, gaining muscle, losing body fat and enhancing recovery. It is particularly rich in Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s) like leucine which research has found is the most anabolic (growth promoting) amino acid available.
The general health benefits of whey protein have also been rigorously studied and clinical trials have found it to have therapeutic application in the treatment of many common conditions including heart disease, cancer (prostate and colon) and osteoporosis.
Not all whey proteins are equal and this is of particular importance when it comes to which type is going to be most effective depending on your individual goals. The three main types of whey protein – concentrate, isolate, and hydrolysate – can largely be distinguished by the way they have been refined and processed.
Concentrate is the least processed of the three proteins and contains higher levels of lactose, fat and cholesterol than the other two. While it is the cheapest option, whey concentrate is obviously not recommended for those guys who are lactose intolerant, or if you’re super-sensitive to the amount of fat and cholesterol content in your diet.
Isolate undergoes additional processing, removing a lot of the non-protein elements from the whey (carbs, lactose, fat and cholesterol.) It therefore contains a high level of protein and is a good option for anyone who may be lactose intolerant.
Hydrolysate is produced in a way that breaks apart the bonds linking amino acids allowing it to absorb more rapidly than the concentrate or isolate. All three are fast-digesting, but if you’re looking for a supercharged version, then hydrolysate is the way to go. Hydrolysate is also the most expensive of the three types of whey proteins.
So which whey protein should you consider? Well it ultimately depends on your personal goals and budget. For those just starting out on and wanting to maximize their muscle building efforts a blend of isolate, hydrolysate with a small amount of whey protein concentrate is likely to be the best option. If you are lactose intolerant, or you’re priority is to maximize your protein intake while keeping carbs and fat consumption to a minimum, then whey protein isolate, or hydrolysate may be preferred.
You’ll typically find though that most guys settle for a whey protein concentrate that contains at least 80% protein. It is the cheapest of the three options while still retaining the vast majority of the beneficial nutrients you need from a protein supplement.
When to Whey and How Much?
The amount of whey protein you should consume per day depends on a variety of factors including your age, height, weight, activity level and your overall protein intake from whole foods. On that last point, it is important to remember that the first source of protein should always be from real foods and whey protein should be used solely as it is intended – a supplement only.
If you take a look online you will find a number of good protein intake calculators that can give you a guide on just how much protein overall you should be consuming every day depending on your individual circumstances. For most guys a common dosage of whey protein is between 25-50 grams per day.
The most important time to consume protein is right after a workout where you are going to need instant nutrition for muscle recovery and growth and for mere convenience only is often a good time to take a whey protein shake.
Other critical times in the day for protein intake generally is just as you’ve woken up of a morning, 30-45 minutes before a workout and before bed. These times are designed to ensure your protein load throughout the day and night is constant for maximum results.
The Secret Is Out
Multivitamins are the most commonly used dietary supplements by the general population, but you would be surprised at just how many guys at the gym ignore multis in their overall supplement regimen. It is often thought that, compared to other supplements on the market multis, don’t have a huge impact when it comes to building muscle. Ask any seasoned bodybuilder however and they will tell you that multis are a crucial part of their training success.
They may be considered “boring” but we already know that getting all the essential vitamins and minerals from a regular diet is virtually impossible to achieve. The increased activity level and extra stress of working out already means you’re going to be burning through a larger amount of vitamins than the regular Joe sitting at a desk all day. Add to that other factors such as soil depletion from food production, together with the use of toxins in the food chain and the environment in general and you’re going to have a nutritional deficiency that needs attending to.
A deficiency in one or more vitamins or minerals can seriously reduce your performance whilst training, slow down muscle growth and hamper your recovery. This is where multivitamins can play a crucial role in giving you the right nutritional foundation to meet your muscle building goals.
Will Any Multivitamin Do?
In short, no. The generic multi you find at your local drugstore or grocery store is not going to cut it. For the serious gym-goer, you’re going to need a full spectrum multivitamin, designed specifically with athletes and bodybuilders in mind and that will be absorbed quickly
More specifically you are going to want to pay particular attention to a multi that addresses as many of these micronutrients as possible:
– Vitamin A
– Vitamin B2, B3, B6, B12
– Vitamin C
– Vitamin D
– Vitamin E
When to Take A Multivitamin and Dosage
In most cases you will only need to take a multi once a day. In terms of timing, it generally makes little difference when you take it, but for effective absorption it is best to take it with a meal.
Bodybuilders are notorious for overlooking their intake of micronutrients which are key components of growth and performance. As with any supplement, trying to maximize your intake of these micronutrients in your regular diet is important. A multi on its own is not going to do the job, but regardless of how good your diet is, you’re going to need a good quality supplement to kickstart your muscle gaining efforts.
Is There An Easier Way?
If you’ve spent any time looking online to research the best muscle building supplements you need to be taking to achieve massive gains, then chances are you already know there is no shortage of advice out there on the “must-have” supplements out there.
Much of the advice you’ll find recommends upwards of ten or more supplements which for most guys is ultimately unnecessary. If you’re just starting out the journey of getting massive, and assuming you’re not in the middle of training for the next Mr. Olympia competition, your initial priority should be focused on your diet more generally and actually spending quality time at the gym, getting your technique perfected and lifting progressively heavy weights.
One great alternative to loading up on a stack of individual products is an all-in-one supplement that can deliver some tremendous results when combined with a comprehensive nutritional plan.
Benefits Of An All-In-One
Obviously the convenience of being able to get all of the supplement power you need from just one product thus decreasing the time and effort required to ensure you are taking all of the supplements you need is the greatest benefit of an all-in-one
The cost factor is another significant advantage especially if you’re on a budget. Unless you have managed to get everything else handled first, buying the full complement of commonly recommended individual supplements will likely leave you with a seriously depleted bank account with little to show for it in return
So for those guys who don’t have an endless supply of money and are unable to spend all their waking hours in preparing and taking numerous supplements (hoping that you don’t ever accidentally forget one) then an all-in-one is going to be something you want to seriously consider.
What To Look For
What you ultimately need to be looking for in an all-in-one supplement is one that delivers a comprehensive array of nutrients that helps to promote muscle growth, maintenance and recovery. Naturally you’re going to want to make sure it has a quality source of protein (preferably whey) essential for growing lean muscle mass and recovery post-workout. In addition, creatine monohydrate is another key ingredient you want in an all-in-one for its ability to improve your energy levels, allowing you to be able to lift heavier for longer periods of time. Finally, you want a supplement that contains L-Glutamine for its role in minimizing the breakdown of muscle and improving protein metabolism.
Protein, creatine and glutamine are really the three major components of an all-in-one supplement you need to look for, but on top of that it’s worth noting the percentages of protein, BCAA’s and other amino acids listed on the label. Something with super quick absorption rates is also an advantage.
When To Use
As any good doctor will tell you – “take as directed,” but typically twice a day is recommended. On training days you’ll likely need to take a serving before and after training.
It’s important to note that despite it’s “all-in-one” status, you will need to still look at including a multivitamin into your arsenal to ensure you also meet your micronutrient needs. And at the risk of becoming repetitive, don’t forget to take the time to make sure you’re getting as much of the essential protein, carbs, vitamins, amino acids and other essentials from your regular diet. An all-in-one product is simply the icing on the massive muscle cake you are building.
Go Big or Go Home
Whether you’ve been hitting the gym for a short time or a long time, you’re probably overlooking aspects of your nutritional intake that is preventing you from getting optimal results. At some point in time you’ve probably heard the phrase: “You can’t out-train a lousy diet!” And it’s true. You can workout all you want, but if your diet isn’t in check you’re always going to find it hard to reach your muscle building potential.
This is where supplements can play an important role to make up for the inevitable deficiencies that arise regardless of your best efforts. The supplement industry is a multi-billion dollar marketplace keen to get you to invest your hard earned cash on the latest and greatest products on the market. In order to make the greatest gains though it’s not necessary to throw out all the food in your pantry and replace it with fifteen different supplements. The three muscle building supplements we’ve reviewed above are going to be the staples of most guys and are absolutely ideal for any guy who doesn’t have a lot of time, who is training like a beast and requires functional gains to maximize their muscles and gain strength.