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Building muscle offers its fair share of body-boosting benefits—and it’s not just about how good it will make us look. Working out and muscle hypertrophy is excellent for our health and longevity.
Powering through progressive sessions and focusing on getting the proper nutrition is essential if you want to make epic gains. Do it right and your body will thank you.
Our bodies naturally lose muscle from around the age of 25, and it declines even more rapidly from the age of 40. So getting into the driving seat and reclaiming your health is a good idea if you want to reverse the process and look and feel your absolute best. Stress, low testosterone levels, and certain illnesses can also contribute to muscle decline. And it’s not just a physical effect either, as our mental health can be affected too if we’re not feeling our absolute best.
Taking control of the process and building muscle means you can reverse the situation, getting your mental and physical health in great shape and potentially the best shape ever.
Yes, our body weight will increase through muscle rather than fat. When’s the best time to start? Now.
The sooner we start building muscle, the sooner we can reverse the muscle decline. Here’s our guide to the best bodybuilding supplements, dietary supplements, and the best sports nutrition and the benefits of using the right supplements.
The many benefits of bodybuilding
Building a muscular physique will make you look great, but bodybuilding offers many more benefits to your physical and mental health.
Muscle building reduces body fat
Muscle building is excellent for calorie burning, and your body fat will reduce as you add muscle.
You won’t necessarily lose weight, but what you lose in fat, you’ll make up for in strength. This means that your body composition will improve, and you’ll see a vast improvement in how it looks.
As you work out more, you’ll also find that you’re eating much better, watching what you consume, and thinking about the effect it will have on your body. Eating a healthier diet will also assist in muscle growth and fat loss. It will help to slow down the fall in your metabolism as you age. And, age is certainly just a number when it comes to health and fitness.
Building muscle increases your strength and endurance
Your strength will naturally increase as you work out, but in the early stages, it can take time to see a significant difference.
This is because your muscular system starts to adapt the muscles you already have to the workout you’re performing. Once your existing muscles have:
- Pushed your current strength to the limit
- Allowed your muscular system to cope with the new stress of the workout…
You’ll start to see an increase in bulk. After a month or two, you’ll notice you have more strength, stamina, and an improved physique.
You’ll be able to push harder for longer and cope with much heavier weights, too. Plus (and this is a big bonus), your recovery periods are likely to be shorter.
One of the hardest parts of bodybuilding is pushing through that initial stage where nothing seems to happen—the frustrating phase where you don’t appear to be gaining any muscle.
At this stage, you’re gaining strength from the growth of the new muscle fibers, and your body is learning to use energy more efficiently. This, in turn, will start to give you the eye-popping muscular physique you deserve.
FYI: Keeping things moving in the right direction is essential if you want to maintain muscle. And, pushing past your comfort zone is necessary to gain muscle.
Muscle building helps regulate blood sugar
Keeping in shape means avoiding the pitfalls of an unhealthy lifestyle, such as obesity, which is often linked to diabetes.
Taking in the correct amount of protein and carbs to build muscle actively will steer you towards a healthy weight and reduce blood sugar issues. Without exercise, your body can’t store carbs, so your blood sugar levels rise. Making use of those carbs by building muscle means you’ll have more storage space for glucose. Having better blood sugar regulation means better heart and brain health, too.
Muscle strengthens your joints
Weight training is a great way to strengthen your joints. Some can swerve these kinds of exercises because they have weak joints, but performing bodybuilding exercises is a great way to make them stronger.
Muscles will protect the joints as they help absorb the forces that impact them, and with strength comes better coordination, which will add further protection. We’re not considering that someone with weak joints goes right in at the deep end and starts pumping iron immediately—that’s an almost certain route to injury.
But, taking it slowly at the beginning and building up gradually can be a great way to get the joints working and strengthen them like never before. If you have particularly bad joint issues, it may be best to start weight training with a gym instructor who will guide you on how quickly you should progress.
Muscle building is excellent for bone strength
Resistance training stimulates bone density. As ripped muscles repair, your bones become more robust. Bodybuilding exercises promote growth and let your body know you want it to gain strength.
Muscle loss and loss of bone density go hand in hand, so if you’re building muscle, you can be sure your bones are getting stronger, too.
Bodybuilding is excellent for mental health
How many times have you thought you couldn’t be bothered with exercise, powered through a workout session and felt so much better?
Bodybuilding is one of the best exercises for getting the ‘feel-good’ factor, and a study in the Journal of Psychology showed significant improvements in mood after a single bodybuilding session. This is excellent news when it comes to performing more sets, too, as it means that if you’re feeling down before a workout, you can lift your mood with a single session, making it easier for the following ones.
More recent studies have shown that those who take part in regular exercise have reduced rates of depression and anxiety while boosting their self-esteem.
A physical transformation will also make you feel more confident. Your clothes will fit better and you’ll feel uplifted as you get fitter and stronger. Bodybuilding is great for self-confidence and mental toughness.
Remember: A strong body will help form a strong, healthy mind.
What are bodybuilding supplements?
Bodybuilding supplements are powders and pills that are manufactured using specific ingredients to help build a bigger, better body faster.
When pushing your body to the limit, you need to make sure you’re getting the nutrition you need to succeed.
You should be getting a certain amount of this from your food, which should contain a decent amount of healthy fats, carbs, and protein. To push things further, supplements are effective as they can increase energy, build extra muscle mass, and reduce muscle recovery times.
Why might you take sports supplements?
If you work hard at the gym, you can add muscle simply by eating healthily and lifting weights, but if you want to maximize your efforts, supplements can help you push past your limits and achieve much more significant gains.
If you want to make sure you’re consuming the right amount of nutrients to push your body to the extreme, you should consider supplements.
Supplements are designed to help your body keep pace with the demands of moving out of your comfort zone to develop muscle mass. Which supplements you decide to take will very much depend on the ingredients. Still, as a general rule, they should at least contain the ingredients to help give you extra energy, build muscle, and help repair damaged muscle fibers.
It’s important to note that you should always take supplements with a healthy diet to work, as you’ll need a mix of whole foods.
Your supplements should be based on your body’s need to progress to your chosen goals. If it’s energy you need, take a supplement containing the ingredients that will give you an added boost.
If you want to pack on muscle, check out those supplements that will help you grow and build muscle mass while repairing muscle fibers. Supplements are the perfect way to guide you through the tough sessions you’ll need to put yourself through to build your desired body.
The different kinds of bodybuilding supplements
The kind of supplements you choose will depend on the job you want them to do. Some people want supplements that tick all the boxes while consistently moving mountains in the gym.
Others prefer to concentrate on their weak spots. Some supplements are more popular than others, and these tend to be the ones that have stood the test of time. It can be a case of trial and error to find out exactly what works best for you.
Getting the right supplements that will support your strenuous efforts and provide maximum gains is essential. And, you must take them consistently to keep up with the rigorous demands of working out. Here’s our guide to bodybuilding supplements for your reading pleasure.
The first thing to note here is the legal issue regarding steroids. They’re legal to use, but it’s illegal to possess, import or export anabolic steroids with the intent to sell them. They’re technically a Class C drug, and the penalties are harsh if you’re found guilty. You can expect to spend up to 14 years in prison and stump up a substantial fine. If you’re competing and found guilty of using anabolic steroids, you’ll be banned for life.
Steroids increase muscle mass and decrease fat to improve physical performance and muscle bulk.
One of the big myths about steroids is that they can do the job independently without any exercise. This isn’t the case. When you take steroids. You’ll still need to put just as much effort in at the gym for them to work. Steroids are usually taken via an injection or a pill and occasionally as a skin cream.
Increased muscle mass
Enhanced athletic performance
- Legal issues
- Man boobs
- Testicle shrinkage
- Virus risk
- Possible risk of addiction
- Depression and mood swings
- Aggressive behavior
- Erectile dysfunction
- Possible infertility
- Increased risk of heart attacks and strokes
Human growth hormone (HGH) is often used to promote muscle growth as it can stimulate the growth of many tissues in our body.
It can be used to treat people suffering from growth hormone deficiency (GHD) or similar conditions that result in muscle wasting. They’re taken as a supplement by injection only. It’s often claimed that HGH is the best way to promote muscle growth through supplementation as it’s a fairly natural way to do it. Why? Because it helps the development of muscle tissue throughout our lives. It’s rumored to be widely popular in the bodybuilding world and touted as a drug that will help to shed fat while building muscle. But its primary function is muscle sparing, which means it reduces muscle breakdown more than allowing it to grow.
- Bigger bone density
- Increase exercise capacity
- More muscle mass
- Less body fat
- Potential risk of heart disease
- Higher risk of diabetes
- Possible blood clot risks
- Risk of issues from accidental high dose
- Nerve, muscle, or joint pain
- Possible swelling
- Can lead to numbness and tingling of the skin
- Can increase cholesterol levels
Protein supplementation is essential if you want to develop muscle strength. Whether you’re performing a high-intensity or moderate-intensity exercise, whey protein has got your back. Whey protein is a complete protein as it contains all nine essential amino acids. Muscle protein breakdown is necessary for muscle building as we adapt to training and increasing bulk.
Whey protein is the most popular of all supplements because it’s packed with the essential amino acids needed to recover torn muscle fibers and rapidly boost muscle bulk.
Yes, it’s an all-around hero that helps you to increase strength, improve endurance, and gain serious muscle mass. It’s packed with powerful nutrients which have majorly positive effects on size and bulk.
The good news is that hundreds of studies back up these claims. It’s one of the best pre and post-workout supplements around. Post-workout nutrition is essential to repair the muscle cells as quickly as possible.
Whey protein is the liquid part of milk that separates during cheese production and contains two main protein types: casein protein and whey. Cow’s milk consists of around 80% casein protein.
The whey is processed and becomes what is known as whey protein powder—a supplement that you can readily consume in several ways—including protein shakes, cereals, and smoothies.
Getting a decent protein intake from quality whole foods each day is vital—but a dose of whey can significantly increase our protein intake to help us cope with the demands of a punishing exercise routine.
Proteins are essential for building muscle mass in our bodies. If we can boost the intake of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), we can keep the building process going without any delays and reduce the chances of injury.
There are nine amino acids that are considered essential, and whey protein contains a high percentage of all of them. Whey protein is perfect for stimulating growth, so we must keep our levels up.
There are three types of whey protein:
The difference between them is simply the way each one is processed. Whey concentrate contains around 80% protein, and whey isolate is at least 90%.
Hydrolysate is slightly different as some amino bonds have been broken through exposure to heat. So, it’s technically pre-digested, which means it can be absorbed far more swiftly.
The whey protein you choose will depend on how much of a protein-to-fat ratio you need. And, this will depend very much on your personal body-boosting goals.
- It gives you a massive boost of protein and amino acids to aid muscle growth
- It helps to release hormones that stimulate growth
- It’s excellent for muscle protein synthesis
- It’s fast-absorbing
- It helps with antioxidant defence
- It can cause digestive issues in some people, especially if you’re lactose intolerant
- Some whey protein supplements can contain unhealthy additives
- It’s essential to read the ingredients list, as some products may have harmful additives like refined sugar.
- Unflavored whey protein can be unpleasant to taste. It can literally make you wince
Creatine supplementation is essential if you want to push yourself beyond your usual limits. And, for that reason, creatine is a great pre-workout supplement.
Your body contains a regular store of creatine, made naturally and gained by eating specific foods such as seafood and meat.
It’s stored in our muscles so that we have ready access when we need rapid, high-intensity movements, which we perform when weightlifting. It’s great for endurance and high-intensity exercise. If you want to enhance your performance, creatine is one for the shopping list.
It’s also beneficial for other activities where rapid movement is essential, like running, cycling, and boxing. It’s a great way to get an additional energy boost to push harder, increase stamina, build extra muscle, and drive down recovery time. The bigger the creatine stores you have, the longer you’ll be able to go without getting tired.
But, there’s a limit to the amount of creatine monohydrate you should supplement with, as going above the recommended dosage can lead to its fair share of side effects. Creatine works by helping your body’s energy metabolism. It does this by allowing it to produce more ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which is our primary energy source. Muscle glycogen stores are broken down during intense, intermittent exercise and prolonged physical activity. This produces glucose molecules that muscle cells oxidize to produce the adenosine triphosphate (ATP) molecules required for rapid muscle contraction.
It’s used for short bursts of energy but runs out after a short period. So, topping up with creatine means you can continue giving the same amount of effort for longer. Studies show that using creatine can help us build up to twice as much muscle as we would have without it. Not surprisingly, creatine is one of the most researched gym supplements in the bodybuilding industry.
Did you know? One study found that creatine monohydrate was the most beneficial of all fitness supplements for helping muscle gain. It’s also great for recovery, as studies have shown that muscle cells repair faster with a decent amount of creatine stored in the system.
- Increased energy and better energy expenditure
- Reduced recovery times
- Improved athletic performance
- Increased muscle
- Reduction of soreness and injuries
- Prevent severe muscle injuries or reduce the severity of muscle injuries.
- Better toleration of intense exercise
- Reduce dehydration and cramping
NOTE: These side effects can occur on occasion when going above the recommended dosage.)
- Stomach pain
- Muscle cramping
Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
Branched-chain amino acids refer to leucine, isoleucine, and valine. This should be an essential part of your supplement regimen.
Leucine can stimulate muscle protein synthesis on its own—but when all three work three together—they help to aid muscle growth, increase energy during workouts, and enhance performance. Whether you’re looking for a lean muscle mass or a hefty bulk, BCAA’s should be on your list.
- Bigger muscle growth
- Delayed muscle soreness
- Reduced fatigue
The only real con of taking BCAAs is that it can cause possible nausea and headaches if you take too high a dose.
L-arginine and Citrulline
These are two of the best pre-workout supplements around and are great for anything from moderate-intensity exercise to extreme workouts.
Studies have shown that nitric oxide is highly effective in improving blood and oxygen flow throughout the body as well as numerous other essential roles, including the production of growth hormone and insulin.
It’s also been shown to help digestion and increase inflammation to fight infections. Certain amino acids you can take will help promote the production of nitric oxide in our system, such as l-arginine and citrulline.
Nitric levels can be raised by eating certain foods containing nitrates (nitrogen and oxygen compounds). A high percentage of nitrates are found in leafy vegetables. If we’re pushing ourselves hard in the gym—it’s a good idea to top up nitric oxide levels by taking supplements that help promote it.
Both l-arginine (a non-essential amino acid) and citrulline have been shown to help raise nitric oxide levels—and the benefits of working out are plentiful. Finding an excellent nitric oxide booster will be a huge plus for your workout.
- Improves blood flow
- Can reduce hypertension
- Enhances exercise performance
- Reduces recovery time
- Gives you a more effective training session
Taking this stuff can sometimes cause nausea and stomach upsets if you take too high a dose.
If you’re looking to improve athletic performance, it’s a good idea to closely examine beta-alanine supplementation, which has long been used to help athletes push themselves to new levels.
Studies show that beta-alanine can make a big difference to your overall health. Beta-alanine is an amino acid that, unlike most amino acids, is not used to synthesize proteins.
Instead, it helps to produce carnosine in our bodies, which reduces lactic acid accumulation, allowing us to work and push harder for longer. We carry around a low amount of beta-alanine in our bodies, meaning the carnosine we produce is relatively low.
Supplementing with beta-alanine means overcoming this lack of carnosine production and working for longer. This means more sets and more reps.
Did you know? A recent study showed that six weeks of taking beta-alanine increased fatigue delay by 19% during high-intensity interval workouts.
- It increases carnosine production to enable us to work harder when we exercise
- It improves athletic performance
- It can increase your strength
- It benefits longer and shorter duration exercises
- It boosts training performance and reduces fatigue
- It may improve your body composition
- It can react with certain medications
- It may not be suitable for those with cardio issues
How to choose the best supplements
Choosing the right supplement is down to the individual and based on what that individual wants to achieve. If you’re going to bulk up and improve your body composition, you’ll need the nutritional tools to do it.
Choose supplements that work with your body and what you’re trying to get done. Ensure that they look after your body and help repair the muscle fiber damage caused by intense exercise. Your supplements of choice should contain plenty of amino acids to help repair the damage and reduce recovery times.
Your supplement choice should enable you to push harder and further than you’ve done, as you’ll not progress unless you push yourself out of your comfort zone.
The right supplements should be able to help increase your high-intensity exercise capacity and endurance and sustained periods of long, strenuous workouts. And, if you’re looking to build over the long term, they must contain natural ingredients and produce few or no side effects.
Having a goal and knowing exactly what you’re hoping to achieve from your hard work is essential. Ensure you have enough of the supplements to keep you going while you go through your workout schedule.
Who should take sports supplements?
Diet and exercise will certainly go some way to helping you build muscle. But, if you want to go that extra mile and get ripped—you’ll need some supplementation along the way.
If you’re disciplined and keep working out and making the right dietary choices, you’ll progress at a much slower pace than without supplements. You’ll also have a greater risk of injury and a lower recovery rate without the boost of supplements.
The right supplements will help you increase muscle mass, reduce body fat, and give you the energy as well as endurance to push harder and further than you have before. This doesn’t mean you should ditch your healthy diet—far from it.
Maintaining a healthy balance of carbs, protein, and healthy fats (look for omega-3 fatty acids) through whole food is the backbone of your nutrition. And, supplements are what give you the extra push to get you moving at a faster rate. It’s a good idea to look for both a pre-workout and a post-workout supplement and some carbs immediately before and after training sessions, which will help reduce protein breakdown.
Making gains is about taking things one step at a time, and supplements are not there to help you rush to the finish line.
It’s essential to take things steadily. The most important thing here is to look after your general health.
Exercise and diet are your first choices and will move you in the right direction. Supplements will help you to pick up the pace, and if you choose correctly, you can expect them to help you maximize your gains considerably over the long term.
Taking safe, natural supplements means you’ll be able to keep going with little or no side effects and reduced injury risk.
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