Muscle-building supplements have become increasingly popular as people search for ways to enhance their fitness routines and achieve their desired results more efficiently. However, not all supplements are created equal.
In this article, we will focus on the natural ingredients found in the best muscle-building supplements, exploring their benefits, nutritional values, and the research that supports their effectiveness. It’s crucial to remember that while supplements can be helpful, they are not a substitute for a well-rounded diet and exercise regimen.
Creatine is a natural compound found in foods such as red meat and fish. It is also produced by the human body and stored primarily in muscles. Creatine supplementation is popular among athletes and bodybuilders for its ability to increase muscle strength and size.
Numerous studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of creatine supplementation in enhancing muscle strength, power, and size (1). A comprehensive review in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition supports these findings (2).
Nutritional Values: Creatine contains no calories or macronutrients, as it is a nitrogen-containing compound. Recommended daily intake is 5 grams.
Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid that plays a role in the production of carnosine, a compound that helps buffer acid in muscles and improves exercise performance.
Studies have shown that beta-alanine supplementation can increase muscle carnosine levels, which in turn can enhance endurance and reduce muscle fatigue (3). A review in the journal Amino Acids supports these findings (4).
Nutritional Values: Beta-alanine contains no calories or macronutrients, as it is an amino acid. Recommended daily intake is 2-5 grams.
Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
BCAAs (leucine, isoleucine, and valine) are essential amino acids that play an important role in muscle protein synthesis and energy production.
Research has shown that BCAA supplementation can promote muscle growth, reduce muscle soreness, and enhance exercise performance (5). A meta-analysis in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition supports these findings (6).
Nutritional Values: BCAAs contain 4 calories per gram. Recommended daily intake is 5-10 grams.
Protein powder is a popular supplement for those looking to increase their protein intake to support muscle growth and repair.
Protein supplementation has been shown to enhance muscle protein synthesis, support muscle growth, and improve exercise recovery (7). A review in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition supports these findings (8).
Nutritional Values: Protein powder varies in caloric and macronutrient content based on the source (whey, casein, soy, etc.). Generally, it contains around 100-150 calories and 20-30 grams of protein per serving.
HMB is a metabolite of the essential amino acid leucine, and it has been shown to enhance muscle protein synthesis, reduce muscle breakdown, and support muscle recovery.
Studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of HMB supplementation in promoting muscle growth, strength, and recovery (9). A review in the European Journal of Applied Physiology supports these findings (10).
Nutritional Values: HMB contains no calories or macronutrients, as it is a metabolite of an amino acid. Recommended daily intake is 3 grams.
L-glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in the human body and plays a crucial role in muscle repair, immune function, and gut health.
L-glutamine supplementation has been shown to support muscle recovery, reduce muscle soreness, and improve immune function (11). A review in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition supports these findings (12).
Nutritional Values: L-glutamine contains 4 calories per gram. Recommended daily intake is 5-10 grams.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish oil, flaxseed oil, and other sources, are essential fats that play a critical role in reducing inflammation, supporting heart health, and promoting muscle growth.
Omega-3 supplementation has been shown to enhance muscle protein synthesis, reduce muscle soreness, and improve exercise recovery (13). A review in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition supports these findings (14).
Nutritional Values: Omega-3 fatty acids contain 9 calories per gram. Recommended daily intake is 250-500 mg of EPA and DHA combined.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that supports bone health, immune function, and muscle function.
Research has shown that vitamin D supplementation can improve testosterone levels in the body, muscle strength and function, particularly in individuals with low vitamin D levels (15). A review in the journal Nutrients supports these findings (16). This is the reason, vitamin D is included almost in all the best testosterone boosters on the market.
Nutritional Values: Vitamin D contains no calories or macronutrients. Recommended daily intake is 600-800 IU (15-20 mcg).
L-carnitine is an amino acid-derived compound that plays a role in energy production and fat metabolism.
L-carnitine supplementation has been shown to improve exercise performance, reduce muscle damage, and support muscle recovery (17). A review in the journal Nutrients supports these findings (18).
Nutritional Values: L-carnitine contains no calories or macronutrients, as it is an amino acid-derived compound. Recommended daily intake is 1-3 grams.
Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb that has been traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine to support stress reduction, immune function, and muscle strength.
Ashwagandha supplementation has been shown to improve muscle strength, size, and recovery in resistance-trained individuals (19). A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition supports these findings (20).
Nutritional Values: Ashwagandha contains no calories or macronutrients. Recommended daily intake is 300-500 mg of a standardized extract.
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Natural muscle-building supplements can be a valuable addition to a comprehensive fitness routine. By understanding the benefits, nutritional values, and research behind each supplement, individuals can make informed decisions about which options may best support their goals.
As always, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen, and remember that supplements should be used in conjunction with a healthy diet and exercise program. Don’t forget to visit Muscle Stacks for the best muscle building tips.
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(2) Buford, T. W., Kreider, R. B., Stout, J. R., Greenwood, M., Campbell, B., Spano, M., … & Antonio, J. (2007). International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: creatine supplementation and exercise. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 4(1), 6.
(3) Hobson, R. M., Saunders, B., Ball, G., Harris, R. C., & Sale, C. (2012). Effects of β-alanine supplementation on exercise performance: a meta-analysis. Amino Acids, 43(1), 25-37.
(4) Artioli, G. G., Gualano, B., Smith, A., Stout, J., & Lancha Jr, A. H. (2010). Role of beta-alanine supplementation on muscle carnosine and exercise performance. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 42(6), 1162-1173.
(5) Shimomura, Y., Inaguma, A., Watanabe, S., Yamamoto, Y., Muramatsu, Y., Bajotto, G., … & Mawatari, K. (2010). Branched-chain amino acid supplementation before squat exercise and delayed-onset muscle soreness. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 20(3), 236-244.
(6) Wolfe, R. R. (2017). Branched-chain amino acids and muscle protein synthesis in humans: myth or reality? Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 14(1), 30.
(7) Cermak, N. M., Res, P. T., De Groot, L. C., Saris, W. H., & Van Loon, L. J. (2012). Protein supplementation augments the adaptive response of skeletal muscle to resistance-type exercise training: a meta-analysis. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 96(6), 1454-1464.
(8) Pasiakos, S. M., McLellan, T. M., & Lieberman, H. R. (2015). The effects of protein supplements on muscle mass, strength, and aerobic and anaerobic power in healthy adults: a systematic review. Sports Medicine, 45(1), 111-131.
(9) Wilson, J. M., Fitschen, P. J., Campbell, B., Wilson, G. J., Zanchi, N., Taylor, L., … & Stout, J. R. (2013). International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate (HMB). Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 10(1), 6.
(10) Durkalec-Michalski, K., & Jeszka, J. (2015). The efficacy of a β-hydroxy-β-methylbutyrate supplementation on physical capacity, body composition and biochemical markers in elite rowers: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 12(1), 31.
(11) Gleeson, M. (2008). Dosing and efficacy of glutamine supplementation in human exercise and sport training. The Journal of Nutrition, 138(10), 2045S-2049S.
(12) Legault, Z., Bagnall, N., & Kimmerly, D. S. (2015). The influence of oral L-glutamine supplementation on muscle strength recovery and soreness following unilateral knee extension eccentric exercise. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 25(5), 417-426.
(13) Smith, G. I., Atherton, P., Reeds, D. N., Mohammed, B. S., Rankin, D., Rennie, M. J., & Mittendorfer, B. (2011). Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids augment the muscle protein anabolic response to hyperinsulinaemia-hyperaminoacidaemia in healthy young and middle-aged men and women. Clinical Science, 121(6), 267-278.
(14) Lewis, E. J. H., Radonic, P. W., Wolever, T. M. S., & Wells, G. D. (2015). 21 days of mammalian omega-3 fatty acid supplementation improves aspects of neuromuscular function and performance in male athletes compared to olive oil placebo. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 12(1), 28.
(15) Ceglia, L. (2008). Vitamin D and its role in skeletal muscle. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care, 11(6), 527-533.
(16) Beaudart, C., Buckinx, F., Rabenda, V., Gillain, S., Cavalier, E., Slomian, J., … & Bruyère, O. (2014). The effects of vitamin D on skeletal muscle strength, muscle mass, and muscle power: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 99(11), 4336-4345.
(17) Wall, B. T., Stephens, F. B., Constantin-Teodosiu, D., Marimuthu, K., Macdonald, I. A., & Greenhaff, P. L. (2011). Chronic oral ingestion of L-carnitine and carbohydrate increases muscle carnitine content and alters muscle fuel metabolism during exercise in humans. The Journal of Physiology, 589(4), 963-973.
(18) Fielding, R., Riede, L., Lugo, J. P., & Bellamine, A. (2018). L-carnitine supplementation in recovery after exercise. Nutrients, 10(3), 349.
(19) Wankhede, S., Langade, D., Joshi, K., Sinha, S. R., & Bhattacharyya, S. (2015). Examining the effect of Withania somnifera supplementation on muscle strength and recovery: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 12(1), 43.
(20) Choudhary, B., Shetty, A., & Langade, D. G. (2015). Efficacy of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera [L.] Dunal) in improving cardiorespiratory endurance in healthy athletic adults. Ayu, 36(1), 63.