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9 Exercise-Enhancing Supplements to Gain Muscle

People often use supplements to help them increase muscle mass. These supplements are referred to as “mass gainers.”

Mass gainers help people get the extra calories they need to develop their muscles. Gaining muscle mass is typically safer.

Although food and exercise are essential to muscle growth, Supplements can also help by providing calories and nutrients.

1. Creatine

Creatine is one of the most studied supplements (1).

The compound is present in your cells and also in some foods naturally. The creatine content in your muscles will grow above normal levels when used as a supplement (2, 3).

Creatine has several important functions inside your body, including the rapid production of energy (4).

Studies have shown that creatine can improve the performance of exercise and muscle gain (1, 5).

While there are many creatine types available. However, creatine monohydrate has the most research to support its safety and effectiveness (6).

The dose for creatine is 20 grams per day, divided into four servings, for 5–7 days (1).

A regular dose is approximately 3–5 grams per day, or you can consume it indefinitely after this initial period.

2. Protein

Most people know that protein is a key component of muscle. Several studies show people who exercise and consume protein can gain more muscle (7, 8).

The most important factor, however, is your total daily intake of protein, rather than whether it comes from food or supplements (9, 10).

The general guideline is that 10–35% of your daily calories should come from protein. Most scientists agree that a daily intake of 0.6–0.9 grams per pound (1.4–2.0 grams per kg) of body weight per day suffices to promote healthy muscle gain (11).

If you can eat this recommended amount of protein from whole foods, you don’t need protein supplements. Many people believe that protein supplements, such as shakes or bars, are an easy way to add more protein to a busy schedule.

One way to help you decide whether you eat enough protein without supplements is to monitor your diet over a couple of normal days. It’s also vital to understand that eating a high-protein diet won’t help you gain muscle unless you consume enough overall calories.

Indeed, some studies show that high-protein diets can promote fat loss, possibly by making you feel more satisfied after eating and reducing the amount you eat (12, 13).

3. HMB

Your body produces beta-hydroxy beta-methyl butyrate (HMB) when the amino acid leucine breaks down (14).

After intense exercise, this compound can help with recovery and reduce muscle protein breakdown (15).

HMB supplements may improve muscle recovery and muscle gain, although results are not clear, especially in those without previous training experience (15).

Some studies claim HMB supplements are useless. However, we need more studies to explain their true effects (16, 17).

4. Citrulline

Citrulline is an amino acid produced in the body and found in food (18, 19).

One of its roles is to increase blood flow to tissues in your body (20).

Many studies have found that citrulline supplements can increase exercise timing done in a single session (21, 22, 23).

Long-term research is limited, but if it helps you to do more overall work during exercise, this supplement may help with muscle gain.

5. Beta-Alanine

Beta-alanine is an amino acid naturally produced in your body. This may help the muscles fight fatigue during exercise (23).

Taken as a supplement, beta-alanine can help to improve performance during intense exercise in a 1-to 4-minute time period (24).

There is evidence that beta-alanine can improve muscle gain while you are exercising. Therefore, we need more research that claims its effectiveness (25).

6. BCAAs

Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are essential to muscle growth and development (26, 27).

BCAAs are present in almost all sources of protein. You are most likely getting BCAAs every time you eat protein (28, 29).

Therefore, the evidence does not confirm the muscle-gain benefits of BCAA supplements.

In fact, if you eat enough protein, certain supplements are unnecessary for muscle gain.

7. CLA

Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) refers to a group of specific fatty acids with potential health benefits (30).

They have reported the effects of CLA supplements on muscle gain, with mixed results (31, 32, 33).

Some studies showed little benefit, while others didn’t. Several studies show CLA can promote fat loss (34).

Therefore, it is unlikely to cause muscle damage.

8. Testosterone Boosters

Testosterone is the hormone that plays an important role in your body’s anabolic processes responsible for muscle growth (35, 36).

Therefore, testosterone boosters make up a wide category of supplements that claim to increase this hormone and cause muscle gain. It is commonly found in these supplements, which include tribulus terrestris, fenugreek, D-aspartic acid, ashwagandha, and DHEA.

Overall, most of these compounds may not be beneficial for increasing testosterone or increasing muscle gain (37, 38, 39).

Some studies have shown potential benefits for some of these ingredients, but more evidence is needed (40, 41).

For those with low testosterone levels, some of these supplements might be more effective.

9. Caffeine

Caffeine consumption is increasing worldwide. Active people often take it before exercise in order to improve their exercise performance. Evidence has shown that caffeine is indeed successful in improving performance during exercise (42).

For example, it can increase power output, the ability of the body to generate energy, which is necessary for activities such as weight training, sprinting, and cycling.

Over time, heavy exercise because of the intake of caffeine could lead to better muscle gain. However, this will happen if you consume protein and other complete calories.

Conclusion

Sufficient exercise and proper nutrition are the most important lifestyle factors that allow you to gain muscle.

In particular, you need more calories to eat than your body uses and more protein to eat than your body breaks down.

Many dietary supplements, such as weight gainers and protein supplements, can be simple ways to help you consume more calories and gain muscle.

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