We often hear about workout supplements that promise to improve strength, muscle building, or endurance. The truth is, these products aren’t meant to replace a healthy diet or fitness routine, but to enhance performance and recovery. They can also help people avoid or deal with chronic health problems, like high blood pressure and osteoporosis, says Nicole Avena, PhD, an assistant professor of neuroscience at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.
If you’re looking to build muscles, protein supplements are an important part of your diet. Adding protein powder to your morning smoothie or post-workout drink can increase lean mass and improve recovery after a tough session in the gym.
It’s not enough, though: You need a sufficient amount of protein in your diet to get the most benefit from your supplementation. The average American should be getting 0.4 grams of protein per pound of body weight, but that number can go up for those who are active or trying to gain muscle, explains Albert Matheny, RD, CSCS, cofounder of SoHo Strength Lab in New York City.
You should also try to make sure you’re getting plenty of B-complex vitamins, which can boost your metabolism and aid in fat loss, according to the University of California San Diego Medical Center. You can also take niacin, which helps reduce inflammation and boosts immunity. You can get these vitamins from lean meats, fruits, and vegetables, or through supplementation.
Among the most popular workout supplements, creatine has been shown to increase strength and performance in athletes. It helps produce energy for high-intensity exercises, such as sprinting or weight lifting. It can also help you recover faster from exercise, which in turn promotes muscle growth.
Some people take it to boost their overall athletic performance, while others use it to maintain or lose weight. In fact, a small study found that taking creatine may help you achieve your weight loss goals better than a placebo.
It’s a good idea to talk to a doctor about these and other supplements before beginning any new workout program or taking any kind of supplement. They can help identify any potential nutrient deficiencies that you might have.
They can also help you decide what types of supplements are best for your body and training goals. If you’re looking for a supplement that will give you more energy during your workout or focus during your lifts, there are options that contain ingredients such as betaine and citrulline.
Other supplements for muscle building include beta-alanine, which helps you concentrate and boosts mental toughness, and amino acids, such as leucine and isoleucine, that increase your ability to repair muscle tissue after a workout.
These amino acids are found naturally in foods, so they’re often included in supplements for muscle growth, but some may be better than others for your specific needs. For instance, branched-chain amino acids can boost strength and endurance, while L-arginine can increase your tolerance to lactic acid, which is the primary cause of soreness after a tough workout.