Whether it’s a classic physique, men’s physique or bikini physique, stepping out on stage after months of hard work and dieting in the best shape you’ve ever been in is a tough task to ask.
Your body has been through hell and back, hunger cravings, tiredness and muscle soreness are 3 things during your preparation that you just become immune too. Helping you push past these, and overcoming training plateaus can be your supplement stack. Not only do they help your body recover, but help to build and retain muscles during your bulk or cutting season.
Making sure you consume the best bodybuilding supplements can be the fine line between you finishing 1st or 2nd. If you’re putting the work in, then your body deserves a helping hand too.
We’ve selected the best bodybuilding supplements money can buy, backed by science with reasons why you need to add these to your stack if you’re serious about competing.
Best Supplements For Body Building
Wanting to get as big as possible or shredded to step out on stage? Get ready for muscle pumps and veins in places you never thought had veins. Take a look at the best supplements for bodybuilding below.
Protein in general needs to become a stable part of your bodybuilding diet. Supplying your muscles with amino acids through the day or post workout to help repair and repair micro-tears caused by working out.
Each type of protein you digest takes a different length of time for it to be broken down into amino acids for it to then stimulate protein synthesis. The quicker you can stimulate this, the better.
For example, a chicken breast takes longer to break down and digest, than for say a whey protein shake. Which is one of the reasons for consuming a shake post-workout. Ensuring your body receives instant protein after a workout is extremely important as it helps to kick start the recovery process as soon as possible.
If an athlete or bodybuilder is to consume an insufficient amount of protein in their diet it can develop a negative nitrogen balance (Phillips et al. 2016), indicating protein catabolism, slow recovery, (Phillips et al. 2011) and over time may lead to muscle wasting, injuries and even illness (Tipton, 2015).
Of course, depending on your height, weight, age and sex. It can determine how much protein you need to consume, with recent research indicating that athletes may benefit from consuming about two times the RDA to maintain a protein balance (Jager et al. 2017). Studies performed by Witard et al. (2016), Jager et al. (2017) and Tipton et al. (2007), have reported that current evidence shows that for optimal protein consumption should be between 1.2-2.0g per kg per day to help stimulate protein synthesis and help build muscle mass.
However, as stated, different protein sources are digested and absorbed at different rates, so this may influence what proteins you consume throughout the day, which can affect the bodies catabolism and anabolism and acute stimulation of muscle protein synthesis (Bucci et al. 2000). So this needs to be taken into consideration when choosing what you go for.
We’ve only scratched the surface of Whey Protein and it’s benefits to not just bodybuilding but also health and well being. Learn more here: ‘Everything You Need To Know About Whey Protein’.
Creatine monohydrate is hailed as the holy bodybuilding supplement. With the ability to increase energy, reduce fatigue and contribute towards muscle and power gains, there a reason why all your bodybuilding idols use this on a daily basis.
Found in pre-workouts or consumed on its own creatine monohydrate is incredibly versatile and should be consumed if you’re on the search for building serious muscle mass.
Creatine is thought to be one of the most researched supplements on the market. For those looking into creatine monohydrate and muscle gains, research has discovered that creatine supplementation increases body mass during training (Williams, 1999), with typical increases see between 1 and 2kg during 4-12 weeks of training (Kreider, 2002).
The Muscle mass gains are thought to be due to creatine having the ability to allow our muscles to perform at a higher intensity (Volek et al. 1999) enabling the athlete to train harder resulting in greater training adaptations and muscle hypertrophy (Olsen et al. 2006).
Creatine monohydrate has shown very positive results for bodybuilders and is a natural supplement you should be adding to your stack to reach your full potential. Creatine monohydrate helps to increase phosphocreatine stores which can then be used to produce more ATP, a key energy source for weight training and high-intensity exercises.
Creatine can be quite a complicated subject, we’ve tried to round up a couple of things above, but if you want a comprehensive look at this awesome bodybuilding supplement, click here: Creatine: The Ultimate Guide To This Well Known Supplement.
Branch Chain Amino Acid (BCAA’s)
Branch chain amino acid or BCAA as it is often referred to is a worldwide popular supplement. Used by the most elite athletes to your average gym goers for their muscle building properties. Found in several ratios, BCAA’s are an amino acid blend consisting of leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These amino acids all play an important role in our body and are more commonly known as the building blocks of muscles.
Amino acids are found within proteins, however, BCAA’s are simply a concentrated blend of what you find in them. You may have heard of leucine before and it’s main ability to help stimulate protein synthesis. It does this through activating and stimulating our mTOR pathways. This is a regulator within our body that is related to cell health and growth. When the mTOR pathway is stimulated by leucine, it sends signals to promote protein synthesis and muscle protein synthesis, which is the ability for the body to repair and build muscle mass, helping you recover and make significant gains.
BCAA’s are used for 3 main principles when it comes down to bodybuilding.
1) Muscle Growth.
2) Muscle Soreness.
As a collective, these 3 will help contribute towards you being able to bring the best possible physique to the stage.
For example, a study discovered that those who consumed a BCAA drink post workout had a 22% greater increase in protein synthesis than those who consumed a placebo (Whitard et al. 2014). Positive reflections of BCAA’s have also been seen for muscle soreness, with individuals consuming BCAA’s after performing a leg workout reported less muscle soreness the day after than the placebo group. (Shimomura et al. 2010)
Taking a BCAA supplement at the correct times is vitally important to get the very most out of them, good job we’ve done the work for you, just take a look here: When To Take BCAA’s?
If a preworkout isn’t already part of your gym routine then it will be after reading this. Used to increase your energy and mental focus pre-workout is the ultimate PR smasher.
When hitting the gym, the hardest part is actually having the motivation to go. Whether you’re on a low carb day and have little energy or have spent the day at work and just don’t feel up for it, a pre-workout is the helping hand to lift your spirits and energy levels as you’ve never seen before. Professional bodybuilders swear by ours being their nutritional hero helping them through each workout.
Pre-workouts can be found in many different blends and often contain some of the ingredients in this bodybuilding list, from creatine monohydrate all the way to pump agents to help give you that Instagram worthy selfies.
You can find them without stimulants if late night workouts are your thing, though the majority will contain caffeine, a natural ingredient shown to help boost your performance in the gym.
As we said pre-workouts contain a lot of ingredients, all shown to help boost your biceps and give you energy like you’ve never felt before. We’ve listed some of the ingredients you can find in the very best pre-workouts below and their benefits for helping you reach your fitness goals.
Many athletes and bodybuilders take a pre-workout for its improvements on the ‘pump’ helping to fill those muscles with blood and giving you the impression of being Arnie himself. If you’re not too sure which is the best we’ve selected some of the best ones here for you :The Best Preworkout For Pump.
Caffeine has shown to have a positive impact on an increase in energy expenditure (number of calories burnt) and can promote weight loss (Goldstein et al. 2010), which if shredding down for your competition is what you need, it can help give you the edge when dropping the pounds.
As well as helping to improve your BMI, caffeine has shown to have a positive impact on your performance. Although the following studies were performed within a sporting scenario the principles are the same in which it can help you to perform exercises at a higher intensity. Caffeine supplementation drink was found to improve speed, peak power and mean power in trained cyclists (Wiles et al. 2006), this was also seen in a similar study conducted by (Ivy et al. 2009) that found consuming a caffeinated drink prior to a time trial showed improvements in performance, and repeated sprint performance in a separate study (Graham, 2001).
Caffeinated pre-workouts will give you the energy and motivation to hit your workout even when you weren’t quite feeling up for it. With nice additionals added into the mix to help you through your workout, you won’t be able to train without it the next time you go.
As well as containing the important ingredient caffeine, premium pre-workout powders also contain multiple energy and muscle building ingredients that all work synergistically together and can often save you time rather than having to consume a mixture of different supplements. For example, the best pre-workouts will include BCAA’s, beta-alanine, citrulline malate, creatine monohydrate, and glutamine. We will talk about some of their benefits below.
Want to learn a little more about caffeine? Take a look here: “Caffeine Supplementation”
For some beta-alanine may be a supplement you’ve not heard of, but the chances are you’ve consumed it at some point if you’ve had a pre-workout blend before. Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid and plays a role in carnosine synthesis. Carnosine is said to be one of the main muscle buffering substances, helping to reduce the chances of fatigue through a lactic acid build up, allowing you to perform more reps and build bigger muscles. Simple science really.
Studies have shown that by supplementing beta-alanine over a 28 day period is effective in increasing carnosine levels (Harris et al 2009), this increase of carnosine within the body has shown beta alanine to have an increase in the number of repetitions one can perform (Hoffman et al. 2009), increase lean body mass (Smith et al. 2009) and increase training performance (Hoffman et al. 2009). All these added together shows the importance of supplementing beta-alanine when looking at bodybuilding or getting show ready.
Having the ability to perform more reps at a high intensity will allow you to increase your overall performance. More repetitions can equal a better contribution towards increasing strength, and overall causes more rips in muscle fibres, which once repaired will give you bigger muscles.
Beta-alanine is often combined with other supplements for the best possible chances of increasing muscle mass. Most commonly creatine monohydrate, as both have shown to work synergistically together, read more about it here: ‘Combining Creatine and Beta-alanine For the Best Results’
Citrulline malate is a non-essential amino acid, and as described can be found in many premium pre-workout supplements but can also be consumed on its own too. Citrulline malate is only found in very limited amounts in the body but very commonly known for being found in watermelon. We don’t recommend you eating a full one before workout out, purchasing the supplement on its own is much easier.
Citrulline malate plays some vital roles within the body. Its easily digested and absorbed into our bloodstream, which is then taken directly to our kidneys. Here citrulline malate is then converted into arginine at a better rate than what it would be if you just consumed arginine itself. Arginine is then converted into nitric oxide which is a powerful neurotransmitter that helps our blood vessels, but we will talk more about this below.
There are 3 major advantages of consuming citrulline malate if you’re looking to gain muscle mass and improve your workouts.
Increased NO Production
The sports nutrition world has flooded with nitric oxide supplements, but the one that stands out from the crowd has and always will be citrulline malate. Nitric oxide plays a role in regulating blood flow, oxygen delivery, glucose uptake, muscle firepower and muscle growth, among other psychological benefits too. What this means is that citrulline malate is able to dilate your blood vessels allowing nutrients and other supplements to reach muscle quicker and easier. Not to mention it will give you a bigger pump too and has also shown to increase the rise in growth hormones after exercise (Seureda et al. 2010)
Reduces Lactic Acid
So, Citrulline malate also plays a role in the urea cycle. This are of the urea cycle is a system within the liver that helps to deliver enzymes and helps them to convert and remove any waste from the body, that being lactic acid and ammonia. The build up of both even in the most elite athletes can cause extreme fatigue, and even dementia. By consuming citrulline malate you help to remove this excess waste, which helps to limit the chances of that dreaded muscle cramping. Less muscle fatigue and muscle cramps equals more reps and better gains.
Increases ATP & Phosphocreatine Recovery
Citrulline malate studies have also shown significant positive effects on the increased rate of our bodies ATP production and phosphocreatine recovery after workout (bendahan et al. 2009). ATP is a major key when it comes to energy production within the cell. This results in your muscles being able to work harder for longer, giving you a better chance of making those all-important gains.
If we combine all the above, you can understand why citrulline malate has become a force to be reckoned with. Due to this benefits now being shown through bodybuilding and athletic performance, citrulline malate has become THE supplement to conduct research on to see what else it can bring to the table.
In one study, it was found that weightlifters who had consumed a minimum of 8g of citrulline malate before a workout were able to perform 54.92% more repetitions compared to those who consumed a placebo drink. Being able to perform more reps results in tearing more muscle fibres, increasing strength and overall increasing muscle size (Pérez-Guisado, 2010)
We’ve covered quite a bit there, but if you still want a few more nutritional nuggets of information about citrulline malate, click here: “Citrulline Malate – A Muscle Builders Dream Supplement”
Glutamine is another amino acid (these seem to be the muscle building go to’s at the moment). Again these are often found within other supplements such as pre-workouts but can also be consumed on its own. Glutamine plays a key role in protein metabolism, cell volumizing and anti-catabolism. This is especially important during your competition cutting stage, as it helps to maximise your bodies ability to maintain its muscle as you start to lose body fat.
Though glutamine has many more benefits for the bodybuilding community than just helping to maintain muscles. Glutamine has also been shown to be extremely important for the immune system. As you workout, your body is put under a lot of stress and therefore its immune system weakens allowing bacteria and infections to take control. This would result in you becoming sick and taking time off from the gym. The worst phrase that can be said to any bodybuilder.
Studies have reported that if your body is to naturally produce less glutamine than what is required then it may start to break down protein stores, such as muscle to help release more of this amino acid (De-Souza et al. 1998), resulting in muscle wastage, weakness and even illness if lack of glutamine present in the body becomes a regular occurrence. Similar studies have also discovered that a lack of glutamine within the body can result in the immune system being compromised (Calder et al. 1999).
Although Glutamine is much easier to consume through supplementation, you can also increase your intake through the food that you eat. Take a read here at some of the foods that you’ll find high concentrations of glutamine in: ” Dietary Sources Of Glutamine“
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