Diet and exercise are unquestionably the foundation for building muscle mass and strength. But, to truly maximize your athletic performance and potential optimizing your nutrient intake is essential. Supplements are meant to be supplemental after all, and with the right ones, you can truly maximize your results and build more strength. But, with some many supplements to choose from, what are the best supplements to build muscle mass and strength?
Whey Protein Isolate
Whey Protein Isolate tops the list when it comes to the best supplements to gain muscle mass and strength. Whey protein isolate is a highly purified form of Whey Protein, which is rich in Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine, which are essential to help build, rebuild, and repair muscle mass.
Supplementing with Whey Protein Isolate stimulates protein synthesis (muscle building) and minimizes proteolysis (muscle breakdown), which are the two biological processes that are essential to building muscle mass and strength. What makes whey protein isolate one of the best supplements for building muscle is the absorption rate. Whey protein isolate digests faster than other forms of protein, meaning that vital nutrients are delivered faster to your muscle tissues, stimulating muscle protein synthesis [R].
In a study published in the Journal Of International Society of Sports Nutrition, thirty college-aged male and female subjects were administered 46g of Whey protein isolate immediately following exercise for a period of 8 weeks. According to dual emission x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) used to determine changes in body composition and maximum strength assessed by one-rep-max (1RM) for bench press (upper body) and deadlift (lower body) lean muscle mass increased by 4.7%, with an 8.3% decrease in body fat, coupled with a 19.3% increase in the bench press, and 17.6% increase in deadlift max [R]. If you want to build lean muscle mass, then you should probably get some Whey Protein Isolate, to make some serious gains.
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Milk is comprised of carbohydrates and two main dairy proteins: casein and whey. Both proteins provide critical amino acid delivery, which is essential for building muscle mass, however, the biggest difference between casein protein and whey isolate, is absorption rate and purity. Casein is considered a “slow-acting” or slow digesting protein as compared to whey isolate, since it gradually releases amino acids into the bloodstream [R]. Casein, also contains a different amino acid structure than Whey Isolate, and is particularly high in the conditionally essential amino acid, L-Glutamine [R]. Take a big heaping scoop of this bad boy before bed, and you'll be on your way to gainsville in no time.
Creatine is a non-essential dietary protein-like compound that can be found in foods such as lean meats and fish. Once ingested and inside the muscle cells an energy phosphate attaches itself thus turning into phosphocreatine (PCr) or Creatine phosphate.
Through this phosphorylation Creatine then donates the PCr molecule to create ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate), which is then utilized by the muscle cells for rapid energy use and muscle contraction. Therefore, having more creatine phosphate in muscle cells means more ATP can be rapidly produced during intense bouts of exercise, which can lead to gains in strength, power, and muscle mass.
Kre-Alkalyn Vs Creatine Monohydrate
First introduced in 1993, Creatine Monohydrate (CrM) has proven to be one of the most widely studied and effective sports supplements shown to enhance exercise performance, promote muscle strength, and increase lean muscle mass [R]. Studies have consistently indicated that CrM supplementation increases muscle creatine and phosphocreatine levels approximately 15-40%, enhances anaerobic training capacity and increases training volume [R].
However, despite the impressive clinical evidence in support of Creatine Monohydrates use for enhancing exercise performance, CrM does come with few drawbacks.
- Creatine Monohydrate can cause gastrointestinal issues such as bloating, stomach aches or cramping from converting creatine into creatinine (a toxic by-product of creatine conversion)
- Creatine Monohydrate requires a loading phase of 4-5 doses (typically 5 grams per dose) per day for up to 5 days and once a day thereafter.
- Creatine Monohydrate requires cycles, specifically 1 week of loading, 5 weeks of 4-5 weeks of maintenance, and 1-2 weeks off.
Kre-Alkalyn is a patented pH-corrected form of creatine. Kre-Alkalyn was created to address the negative side effects associated with Creatine Monohydrate, namely the toxic conversion to creatinine. This was accomplished through adding an alkaline powder such as (soda ash, magnesium glycerol phosphate, bicarbonate) to ordinary creatine (i.e. Creatine Monohydrate, creatine citrate, creatine pyruvate, creatine phosphate) in order to adjust the pH balance between 7-14. Kre-Alklayn, therefore, solves the problem with all existing creatine supplements; the inability to deliver concentrated amounts of creatine without toxic conversion to creatinine. Therefore as compared to creatine monohydrate;
- Kre-Alkalyn is not degraded to creatinine which subsequently leads to greater bioavailability
- Kre-Alkalyn solves for side effects such as bloating and cramping.
- 5 grams of Kre-Alkalyn is equivalent to about 10–15 grams of ordinary Creatine Monohydrate
- Kre-Alkalyn does not require a loading phase or de-loading phase
If you’re thinking about supplementing with creatine to help build muscle mass, Kre-Alkalyn will no doubt be the best option.
RELATED ARTICLE Kre-Alkalyn Vs Creatine Monohydrate
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Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) Help Build Muscle Mass
One of the best supplements to build muscle mass, are BCAAs. BCAA’s are the building blocks of protein. Unlike other essential amino acids, BCAAs have aliphatic side chains, with a branch or (a central carbon atom bound to three or more carbon atoms), distinguishing them molecularly and functionally. The use of BCAAs in sports performance is supported by a litany of clinical evidence and research that suggests BCAAs have positive effects on muscle protein synthesis, and preventing protein degradation, which provides benefits for increasing lean muscle mass, improving recovery, and increasing strength.
According to a research study published in the Journal of Nutrition BCAAs Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine, Leucine, in particular, has anabolic effects on protein metabolism by increasing the rate of muscle protein synthesis and decreasing the rate of protein degradation.
Therefore with the intake of Branched Chain Amino Acids during, or after exercise stimulates the rate of muscle protein synthesis and leads to positive protein balance, (i.e. the rate of protein synthesis is greater than the rate of protein breakdown). By adding BCAAs to your nutritional regimen, you’re creating a positive protein balance, or rate of protein synthesis, leading to increased lean muscle mass and strength [R].
RELATED ARTICLE Do BCAAs Really Work? And What Do BCAAs Do?
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Beta-Alanine Helps Build Muscle Mass
Beta-Alanine is a non-essential beta-amino acid, which has proven to be one of the most effective supplements in building muscle mass, endurance, and strength. Unique in its anatomy, beta alanine is a component of the histidine dipeptides carnosine and anserine, as well as vitamin B5, or pantothenic acid.
When taken as a supplement, beta-alanine passes through the bloodstream into skeletal muscle, via a beta-alanine and taurine transporter. Once in the skeletal muscle, it binds with the essential amino acid L-histidine, to form dipeptide carnosine [R]. So, how does this help you build more muscle mass? Beta-alanine raises blood carnosine levels. Carnosine is the bodies’ first line of defense against increased hydrogen ions, during high-intensity training [R].
The rise in hydrogen lowers muscle pH, which is correlated to increased muscle fatigue. Studies have shown, that supplementation with beta-alanine can increase muscle carnosine concentrations by up to 58 percent in just four weeks, and 80 percent in 10 weeks. Higher concentrations of carnosine, via beta-alanine supplementation, means less muscle fatigue, hard workouts, and more muscle mass and strength.
RELATED ARTICLE The Best Supplement For Muscle Endurance: Beta-Alanine
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Citrulline Malate (NO) Helps Build Muscle Mass
Citrulline Malate is a precursor to the cell-signaling molecule Nitric Oxide (NO). Citrulline Malate is one of the best supplements for strength because NO facilitates the dilation of blood vessels and decreases vascular resistance. In simpler terms, Nitric Oxide is a vasodilator that widens the blood vessels to improve blood flow and circulation to the muscle tissues.
This process lowers blood pressure and increases blood flow, thus more macronutrients such as proteins, fats, and carbohydrates are delivered to the muscle tissue, subsequently leading to increases in muscle mass, strength, and optimized recovery. Citrulline Malate also facilitates the process of protein synthesis, therefore resulting in a positive muscle metabolism increasing vital nutrient uptake for positive gains in muscle mass and strength.
RELATED ARTICLE The Best Supplement For CrossFit: Citrulline Malate
RECOMMENDED PRODUCT Citrulline Malate (100 Servings, Unflavored)
Best Supplements For Strength: Conclusion
The foundation of building muscle mass and strength is diet and exercise. But to truly maximize your performance and potential, introducing the right supplements for strength can truly optimize your results. Muscle needs an abundance of amino-acids to help build, rebuild, and repair to increase your strength. We all have gaps in our diet and we all have ways in which we can improve.
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- Wein, D. (2018). Whey Protein vs Casein Protein and Optimal Recovery. [online] NSCA. Available at: https://www.nsca.com/education/articles/whey-protein-vs-casein-protein-and-optimal-recovery/ [Accessed 13 Mar. 2018].
- Boirie Y, Dangin M, Gachon P, Vasson MP, Maubois JL, Beaufrere B. Slow and fast dietary proteins differently modulate postprandial protein accretion. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 1997, 94(26):14930-5.
- Gualano B, Roschel H, Lancha AH, Brightbill CE, Rawson ES. In sickness and in health: the widespread application of creatine supplementation. Amino Acids. 2012;43(2):519-29.
- Cooper, Robert et al. “Creatine Supplementation with Specific View to Exercise/sports Performance: An Update.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 9 (2012): 33. PMC. Web. 14 Feb. 2018.
- Blomstrand*†4, Eva, Jörgen Eliasson*†, and And Håkan K. R. Karlsson**. "Branched-Chain Amino Acids Activate Key Enzymes in Protein Synthesis after Physical Exercise." The Journal Of Nutrition (2006): n. pag. Web.
- Hobson, R. M. et al. “Effects of Β-Alanine Supplementation on Exercise Performance: A Meta-Analysis.” Amino Acids 43.1 (2012): 25–37. PMC. Web. 14 Mar. 2018.
- Lockwood, Chris. “Your Expert Guide To Beta-Alanine.” Bodybuilding.com, 3 Feb. 2017, www.bodybuilding.com/fun/your-expert-guide-to-beta-alanine.html.