Which Supplements for Building Lean Mass?
When you want to add quality muscle without unwanted body fat, the right choice of supplements is key!
Building lean muscle is the goal for most people who train with weights. Maybe you’re starting out in the gym and keen to add muscle to your frame. Or perhaps you’re a seasoned gym goer, looking to bring up lagging body parts. Are there any supplements which can help?
The Foundations of Adding Muscle
The fundamental keys to building lean muscle are training, diet, and sleep of course. Without those, no supplement can honestly help you build muscle. Are you consistently training hard, getting enough rest, sleeping well, and nailing your nutrition? Then supplements can help.
Train: follow a solid training plan which works every body part and includes periodisation, intensity, tempo, and recovery. Stick with it consistently, without chopping and changing.
Eat: take your nutrition seriously. Eat in a slight caloric excess to fuel your muscle gain without adding too much body fat.
Sleep: don’t skimp on sleep. Try to get 7-8 hours per night (more if you can) and focus on sleep quality as well as quantity.
Supplement: choose quality natural supplements to support lean muscle gain so you can see faster results for your hard work.
The Best Supplements for Lean Muscle Gain
Creatine is the most researched sports supplement on the market. Studies show it can help build strength and power, and therefore help you add muscle. Creatine can boost natural production of IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor) by more than 20% when coupled with strength training. Creatine is completely safe. In its natural form, it is in red meat, and in our own muscle tissue. 95% of the creatine in our bodies is in skeletal muscle tissue. Worried about side-effects? Some people report perceived water weight gain or bloating with creatine supplementation. But this could be because creatine increases muscle cell volume. In fact, that’s how creatine can help you get that workout pump. It can also increase glycogen storage, explosive power, and intensity in training. The benefits far outweigh any potential water weight.
How to take creatine: 3-5g per day, in your post-workout shake or at any time of the day. Consistency is more important than timing.
How to choose a creatine supplement: creatine monohydrate is the most popular and affordable type of creatine. It is a great choice for anyone wanting to support strength and muscle gain. Creapure is the purest form of creatine on the market and would be a good choice if you want to buy a premium creatine supplement.
Dietary protein is crucial for building muscle (as well as lots of other biological processes). When we eat protein, our body breaks it down into its component amino acids, some of which are called “essential” because the body can not make them. Our bodies use these amino acids for muscle building and muscle repair.
But it’s not always convenient to eat protein from whole food sources like chicken and eggs. Whey protein powder is a cost-effective and convenient way to get optimal amounts of protein when it is most important. Taking in protein around training helps stimulate muscle growth, and after training you need the amino acids quickly. Use whey protein rather than a solid meal. A protein shake is also a lot more convenient if you need to take protein with you, or eat on the go. Other benefits of whey protein are that it helps speed up muscle repair, is an excellent source of amino acids, can help combat cravings for sweet foods, and it easy to digest.
How to take protein powder: one scoop is typically 20-25g protein, so scale this up (or down) to suit you macronutrient needs. Mix with water, or blend with ice as a smoothie, or add the protein powder to oats.
How to choose a whey protein powder: go for the best quality whey protein you can afford. Look for the highest percentage of protein per 100g of dry product. Avoid excess added ingredients (such as thickeners, sweeteners, and bulking agents). If you want more of an all-round product, choose a mass gainer with added healthy fats and carbohydrates. If you are lactose intolerant, choose a plant-based protein instead of whey (which is a dairy product). Plant protein powders include brown rice, pea, soy, and hemp.
BCAAs are branch-chain amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These three are considered the most important amino acids for building lean muscle. Protein is made of amino acids. By using a BCAA supplement, you ensure that your body is getting the most fundamental amino acids in precise doses. BCAA supplements stimulate protein synthesis and can help offset muscle soreness and boost recovery. Take them before or during your workout, when they’ll serve as a low-calorie energy source. Or use them after training, or between meals, to keep muscle protein synthesis higher. They are particularly useful if you do fasted cardio.
How to take BCAAs: 3-5g is a good dose (scale up for higher body mass). You could take this dosage on waking, pre workout, intra workout, or post workout.
How to choose the best BCAA supplement: BCAAs come in capsule or tablet form, or as a powder which you can add to water. The choice is yours. Some people prefer the no-fuss style of tablets, but others like to drink their BCAAs, particularly throughout a workout. BCAA powder comes in lots of refreshing flavours and can make it easier to stay on top of hydration.
Leucine is one of the three BCAAs. It’s currently considered King of the amino acids for muscle gain, because it triggers mTOR signalling pathways which helps switch on protein synthesis. If you don’t want to use a BCAA supplement, consider taking leucine anyway. Research suggests that extra leucine, drip-fed throughout the day, has benefits for lean muscle gain.
How to take leucine: 3-5g throughout the day, ideally between meals (away from other protein feedings).
How to choose a leucine supplement: leucine in its raw state doesn’t mix well and doesn’t taste too great either! So take it as a capsule form, or add it to a flavoured drink and mix well.
Conjugated linoleic acid is a form of healthy fat which can actually help you lose fat and retain muscle. It is a naturally-occurring fatty acid found in foods like dairy and meat. But the supplementary form is derived from safflower, making it a good choice for vegans and vegetarians. CLA is an omega-6 fatty acid, which is a powerful anti-oxidant. Our bodies can not produce it, so it’s important to supplement with CLA. Studies show it can improve body composition, support muscle growth, and help decrease body fat (particularly on the abs).
How to take CLA: 1-3 capsules per day, according to the supplement instructions.
How to choose a CLA supplement: quality is key. Choose a high-quality CLA with good levels of purity from a supplement brand you trust.
Here’s a simple supplement most gym-goers forget. Even the best diet in the world can’t cover all nutritional bases. By taking a quality multivitamin, you can be confident that your daily diet has all the micronutrients, vitamins, and minerals your body needs. This is particularly important if you are eating to gain lean mass. Training hard puts a lot of stress on your body. Be sure to cover your nutritional bases with a daily multivitamin.
How to take a multivitamin: follow the instructions, most multivitamins need to be taken once a day.
How to choose a good multivitamin for sport: go for quality, and choose a multivitamin with added digestive enzymes to help your body absorb nutrition from your food.
Did you know about these simple supplements for lean muscle gain? If any of them are missing from your supplement stack, head over to our product pages to find the best quality supplements to fit your budget.