Understanding Supplements for Bodybuilding and Muscle Growth
Anyone that’s serious about bodybuilding or building muscle knows the importance of fuelling their body with the right nutrients. While it is possible to source the nutrition you need from your regular meals alone, incorporating supplementation into your bodybuilding nutrition plan will ensure your body gets everything it needs to build muscle optimally and fast-track your training.
If you want to know how supplementation can help you reach your bodybuilding goals sooner, here’s what you need to know…
How does your body build muscle?
The muscles in our bodies are highly adaptable. They grow larger when put under stress (known as muscular hypertrophy), and shrink smaller when left unused (known as muscular atrophy).
To stimulate a state of muscular hypertrophy, your muscles essentially need to be damaged or broken down (catabolism) to trigger the body’s natural repair processes.
When you overuse a muscle through something like resistance training, it leaves very small tears in the myofibrils that form the muscle fibres—it is this damage to the muscle fibre that’s responsible for the muscle soreness you’re likely to feel after a strenuous gym session.
To repair the damaged myofibrils, the body’s immune system kicks in by providing cytokines (small proteins which are secreted by cells) to repair the muscle. The cytokines activate satellite cells which multiply, fuse with and rebuild the muscle fibre by depositing synthesised protein into the muscle cells. During this process, the muscle is built to be bigger and stronger than it originally was to be able to handle greater amounts of stress or resistance.
When this process is repeated over an extended period of time, the muscles gradually adapt to not only increase in size and strength, but also in terms of endurance and functional efficiency.
The role of testosterone in bodybuilding
The testosterone hormone plays a crucial role in bodybuilding by increasing protein synthesis (the process that produces protein to repair muscles), and therefore muscular hypertrophy.
Testosterone is also believed to increase neurotransmitters (the body’s chemical messengers) to encourage tissue growth, increase levels of Human Growth Hormone (HGH), increase bone density and fat metabolism.
While both men and women have testosterone, males naturally have much higher testosterone levels compared to women, which is largely why their bodies tend to have a higher proportion of muscle and a lower proportion of fat.
How rest helps to build muscle
Resistance training sessions need to be adequately spaced apart to allow time for the muscle fibres to repair and grow. It’s recommended that you wait at least 24 hours between working the same muscle group to prevent injury and yield maximum muscle growth benefits.
A significant amount of the muscle repair work undertaken by cytokines occurs when you are asleep—in fact, sleep is the most anabolic period of your day with an estimated 40 to 60 percent of muscle growth and recovery happening during this time.
How supplements help you build muscle quicker
No matter how hard you train, muscle growth simply isn’t possible if your body lacks the essential nutrients (primarily protein) that it needs to repair and rebuild the muscle fibre damage inflicted during each work out.
While it is possible to source all the nutrition you need from your regular diet, it requires substantial forethought and planning to be able to get it right. Most foods also contain a variety of micronutrients, some of which could work against you.
Supplements remove the guesswork by providing complete control and visibility of what you’re putting into your body. Whether you’re bulking, cutting or shredding, supplements allow you to measure the exact dosages you need to ensure your nutrition is optimally balanced to your individual weight, training regime and goals.
The best supplements for bodybuilding
Muscle growth is only possible when the body has a positive protein balance (more protein synthesis than muscle protein breakdown). If your body is not sourcing enough protein through your diet, protein balance will be negative (or catabolic).
High quality protein supplements including Whey Protein Isolate (WPI), Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC), Casein and Soy are an excellent way to achieve a positive protein balance and build muscle.
Muscle protein metabolism lasts for between 24-48 hours following a resistance session, so it’s good to use a combination of both fast-acting and slow-digesting proteins to provide sustained nutrition throughout the entire cycle and maximise growth.
There are also benefits to opting for a protein supplement that includes a good proportion of carbohydrate, as this combination can support protein uptake and increase protein synthesis while replenishing glycogen (a valuable energy source) following a lengthy or high-intensity workout.
Read our Ultimate Guide to the Best Protein Powders to find out what to look for in a protein supplement.
Creatine is one of the most valuable supplements for bodybuilding as it provides more energy and strength for intense workouts to improve performance and promote lean muscle gain.
Creatine supplements increase the body’s phosphocreatine stores—a form of energy which is stored in cells that supports the production of Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP), which is integral to being able to perform at your peak.
Creatine also allows you to boost your workload while improving cell signalling, increasing anabolic hormones, increasing cell hydration, reducing protein breakdown and lowering myostatin levels.
Creatine Monohydrate supplements are most effective when taken around one hour before a workout, but can also be taken post-workout or throughout the day.
As mentioned earlier, testosterone helps to increase protein synthesis and muscle growth, so it’s common for bodybuilders to include a testosterone booster in their nutrition plan to help build lean muscle and maximise results.
Tribulus Terrestris, D-Aspartic Acid (DAA) and Fenugreek are all excellent testosterone regulators that contribute to muscle gain.
Testosterone boosters are generally best taken post-workout or throughout the day.
Taking a pre-workout supplement packed with ingredients like Citrulline, Betaine, Agmatine, Caffeine, Beta Alanine and Potassium Citrate around 20-30 minutes before a session is an excellent way to increase your performance.
They dramatically enhance energy and blood flow while helping you maintain clearer focus, allowing you to push yourself to higher levels and yield maximum gains.
Intra-workout energy extenders provide valuable amino acids and can be consumed gradually throughout a training session to increase power and maximise intensity while maintaining peak performance from the beginning to the end of the session.
Recovery is just as important as training for building muscle. Post-workout recovery supplements such as Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) and Glutamine formulas can be invaluable in helping you reach your goals sooner—BCAA supplements help to maximise energy while aiding recovery and protein synthesis, while glutamine supplements can help to prevent muscle breakdown, stimulate muscle growth and reduce post-workout muscle soreness.
Optimal nutrition for maximum gains
If strength and size is the goal, at Max’s, we’ve developed a complete range of supplements for bodybuilding that will help you reach your goals sooner.
Our products are specially formulated to deliver optimal nutrition using only premium-quality ingredients, and even better, they’re produced right here in Australia!