Do muscle-building supplements really work? Many uninformed individuals will be quick to tell you they don’t. They’re wrong. Most good muscle-building supplements do everything they are meant to do. The problem is, some people buy supplements in the mistaken belief that the supplement will do all the hard work for them.
Word up! Life doesn’t work that way. Human biology doesn’t work that way. There are no free rides. The best muscle-building supplements can boost your gains in many ways but they won’t do the work for you.
Pick any sport and you’ll find top athletes using supplements of one kind or another. Do you really think they would waste their time with anything that doesn’t work? Of course not.
And don’t go getting the idea that all bodybuilders are “big” on steroids. Back in the 70s, that may have been the case, but steroids are dangerous. They can shrink your testicles, damage your organs and screw you up in lots of other ways. Nobody wants that.
Thanks to advancements in supplement technology, steroids are yesterday’s news. Modern-day bodybuilders use high-quality supplements instead. These days, it is possible to get bigger and stronger and look more ripped and defined without having to gamble with your health.
There’s no big secret to muscle growth. If you want big muscles you need to do three things.
- Train right
- Eat right
- Get plenty of rest
Do these things and your muscles will grow. If you don’t they won’t and the best muscle building supplements will not make much difference. Neither will steroids, by the way.
However, when you do these three things and use a quality muscle-building supplement, it’s a little like fitting a turbocharger to your car.
The Real Role of Supplements in Muscle-Building
Most muscle-building supplements come in the form of a pill or a powder, but forget that for a moment. Think of the word “supplement.” A supplement is something that enhances something else or adds something to it. I know. I own a dictionary and I looked it up.
That free magazine you get with your Sunday paper is a supplement. You can supplement your income with a part-time job. The best muscle-building supplements enhance the growth you are already attaining by training right, eating right, and getting plenty of rest. They give you an additional edge.
How Do Muscle-Building Supplements Work?
Supplements that build muscle work in a number of different ways. Some supplements feed the muscle by providing extra protein, others make the body more efficient at doing the things it normally does anyway such as produce testosterone and make cellular repairs.
Take CrazyBulk for example, here is a company that has built a reputation selling supplements that effectively negate the need for dangerous steroids.
They use wholly natural ingredients in their product formulas that are focused towards bulking, fat burning and natural testosterone production.
Protein Powders and Amino Acids
There are several different kinds of protein powder, but whey tends to be the most popular. It’s also the type that’s easiest for your body to process.
Protein powders are one of the most commonly-used muscle-building supplement in the world. They provide a quick and convenient way to get extra protein into the body.
Some people say protein is the building blocks of muscle, but that’s not strictly true. Amino acids are the real building blocks, the protein from food and protein powders only provide them.
After consumption, the human digestive organs break protein down into smaller particles called amino acids. These pass through the intestinal walls and enter the blood. The blood then carries the amino acids to the muscles.
Exercise causes muscle tissue to break down. This creates a need for repair. Amino acids are the raw material the body uses to make the repair. It achieves this via a complicated process known as protein synthesis.
Protein powders and other supplements that provide amino acids can be valuable muscle-building aids. Supplements of this nature can work especially well when taken shortly after training. With the correct timing, they provide the muscles with the nutrients they need at the time they need them most.
Testosterone is the male sex hormone but it does a lot more than just deepen the voice and help men develop other male characteristics. It’s also an important anabolic hormone that boosts vitality, assists fat burning, supports healthy sex drive, and increases protein synthesis.
The surprising thing is, women produce testosterone in their bodies as well. They produce less than men do, but they still need it and for all the same reasons.
Testosterone boosting supplements work by providing sophisticated combinations of natural ingredients that help the body to produce extra testosterone.
You may be surprised to learn certain vitamins, including magnesium and vitamins B6 and B12, can boost testosterone. Zinc is particularly good. In fact, the reason oysters are such a good aphrodisiac could be due to their high zinc content.
Certain plant extracts, such as fenugreek and nettle leaf, have the ability to boost testosterone levels as well. Of course, the presence of good ingredients is no guarantee a supplement will work. The inclusion rates need to be good too. As does the formulation as a whole.
Steroid alternatives are a special type of muscle-building supplement designed to mimic the specific combination of benefits associated with certain steroids. They do the same thing without presenting any of the dangers.
Many steroid alternatives contain ingredients that boost testosterone. That’s not surprising because most steroids are synthetic forms of testosterone. Steroids work by taking on the role of testosterone. In so doing, they suppress natural testosterone production within the body.
It stands to reason the body isn’t going to produce testosterone if it thinks it already has enough. Here lies one of the big problems with steroids. When people stop taking them it takes a long time for natural testosterone production to kick-in again.
Without testosterone, the body is robbed of vitality and existing muscle tissue diminishes. That’s why steroid users need to do a post-cycle therapy (PCT) until natural testosterone production is restored.
It’s not just the way they suppress testosterone production. Steroids do a lot of bad things to the body. That’s why they’ve become yesterday’s news. Steroid alternatives are natural products that enhance muscle growth without any of the nastiness.
A Look at the Science Happening Behind the Scenes
During a workout, the intense physical activity breaks down muscle tissue to release the energy necessary to power muscular motion. This process of breaking down muscle has a special name. It’s called catabolism. Protein synthesis is the important anabolic process the body uses to repair the damage and make the muscles stronger.
Like most things that happen in the body at a cellular level, muscle-building is a complicated affair. It’s not just a case of getting the right nutrients to the muscles at the right times, the environment has to be right too.
Protein Synthesis (Puts Nutrients to Work)
Human muscle tissue contains 20 different amino acids, in varying quantities. Nine of them are “essential amino acids”, the other 11 are “non-essential amino acids.”
The body is capable of manufacturing the non-essential amino acids. It cannot do this with the other nine so it’s “essential” you get them from food and/or supplements.
The source is not important, but supplements are easier to digest so they can get the amino acids to the muscles faster.
When the amino acids arrive at the muscles, via the blood, the body combines them in the correct ratio needed to make the protein we call muscle. This is protein synthesis in action.
Thirty-three percent of human muscle consists of a combination of leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These three essential amino acids are the “branched-chain” amino acids (BCAAs) you may have heard people talking about.
Leucine has an especially important role to play in protein synthesis. In fact, it could be seen as being the key to muscle growth because it sets protein synthesis in motion by triggering the mTOR enzyme.
The problem is, protein synthesis requires a nitrogen-rich environment.
Nitrogen and Muscle Growth (The Importance of Environment)
Nitrogen (NO) is an important component of amino acids so most of the time your muscles have enough.
That changes when you train your muscles hard. Nitrogen levels can drop quite fast. This limits training ability. It also hinders protein synthesis.
The relationship between nitrogen and protein metabolism is well known. That’s why so many bodybuilders use special nitrogen-boosting supplements. This type of supplement is also known as an NO booster.
NO boosters also provide a benefit known as vasodilation. When you take supplements of this type or eat nitrogen-rich foods, like beetroot, it relaxes the blood vessels. In their relaxed state, the blood vessels expand. This lower the blood pressure. More importantly, it improves circulation.
By improving vasodilation, nitrogen allows the muscles to benefit from a better supply of nutrients. It helps the muscles to get extra oxygen too. This combination improves protein synthesis. It also makes it easier to train longer and harder before tiredness sets in.
Why Some Muscle-Building Supplements Don’t Work
Protein powder is probably the most reliable type of muscle-building supplement. I’ve yet to come across anyone complaining they bought a protein powder that didn’t work.
That’s not surprising. Protein powders provide protein. It’s muscle food. Things can become trickier with more complicated supplements. These types of supplement aim to improve protein synthesis and/or provide other benefits that encourage superior muscle growth.
Muscle-building supplements that don’t work often contain the wrong type of ingredients. They may also contain good ingredients that are diluted with ones of questionable virtue.
Some supplements contain only good ingredients and still fail to work. This usually happens when manufacturers buy poor quality ingredients to keep their costs down. Supplements can also fail when manufacturers skimp on ingredients and bulk their products out with cheap fillers. They often hide this by using proprietary blends.
Ingredient quality is an important consideration. That’s why it’s best to only use supplements that come from respected suppliers.
As far as the quality goes, if you think all ingredients are the same, think again. When you buy supermarket own-brand tea bags or coffee, are they as good as the respected brands?
Top supplement suppliers only use quality ingredients taken from trusted sources. That’s why they are the top supplement suppliers. It’s about customer satisfaction. People are happy when they find products that work.
It is possible to find muscle-building supplements that work. You just have to be choosy which ones you buy. It’s also important to remember what a supplement is and what it does. Muscle-building supplements add extra value to your existing efforts. They won’t turn you into the Incredible Hulk by themselves.
If you want people to turn green with envy when they see your physique, you will need to train, right, eat right, and get plenty of rest as well.
If you are serious about maximizing your muscle growth by using supplements, you may want to consider using a good whey protein powder alongside a more specialist supplement such as a testosterone booster or steroid replacement. Doing so will improve protein synthesis and help you reach your goals in the shortest space of time.