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Top 3 Supplements to Build Muscle Mass
Top 3 Supplements to Build Muscle Mass
Check out the labels on many pills or powders touted to build muscle mass, and you’ll see an ultra-ripped man or woman on the package. The implied promise: After a few doses, you’ll transform yourself from cream puff to beefcake.
It’s smart to be skeptical, says Charles Poliquin, a strength trainer for professional athletes and Olympians and founder of The Poliquin Strength Institute in East Greenwich, R.I. Some bodybuilding supplements don’t deliver what they promise, he says, but that doesn’t mean all of them are ineffective.
While diet and exercise are key to building muscle mass, “Research-backed supplements are the cherry on the sundae,” Poliquin says. “They’re not the sundae by any means, but would I send a top athlete to the Olympics without supplements? Definitely no.”
Poliquin is a fan of multivitamins—not only because they help your entire body function optimally, but also because they contain biotin (vitamin B7), which several animal studies show improves insulin sensitivity. Muscles use glucose as fuel, and insulin helps transport glucose into the muscles. So in order to build muscle, “your body needs to be highly insulin sensitive,” he says.
Along with a daily multi, the following are Poliquin’s top three supplements to build muscle mass.
“This will do far more for your physique than any protein powder,” Poliquin says. “Fish oil decreases inflammation, which helps you lose fat and build muscle.”
A study published in February 2011 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil boosted muscles’ ability to synthesize protein and thus increase their size.
Noting that decrease of muscle mass is a problem in the elderly, the researchers gave 16 men and women age 65 and older either corn oil or fish oil (containing 1.86 grams of the omega-3 EPA and 1.5 grams of the omega-3 DHA) daily for eight weeks. Measurements showed that the fish oil group had better muscle protein synthesis than the corn oil group. Overall, the study offers “compelling evidence of an interaction of omega-3 fatty acids and protein metabolism in human muscle,” the researchers concluded.
Dosage: Two studies—one published in October 2010 in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition and another published in February 2011 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition—found that 4 grams (4,000 mg) of fish oil daily significantly boosts muscle protein synthesis.
Muscle fibers are made up of protein, so it’s a no-brainer that boosting your protein intake will help build muscle. The key is to make sure it’s high-quality protein, Poliquin says.
A new study that was presented at the American College of Sports Medicine meeting in May found that a blend of proteins is more effective than just whey protein powder for building muscle. The researchers reported that a powder that was 50 percent casein, 25 percent whey and 25 percent soy protein extended the release time of amino acids to the muscles post-exercise, which increased the body’s “anabolic window”—the amount of time needed to build muscle.
The researchers speculate this trio is so effective because each protein is digested at a different rate, keeping the anabolic window open longer than a single protein would. However, because whey and casein are milk proteins, people who are lactose intolerant should consider protein powders made from rice and peas fortified with amino acids, Poliquin says.
Dosage: For men, Poliquin recommends 0.25 grams of protein powder per pound of body weight (50 grams for a 200-pound man). Women need 0.15 grams (15 grams for a 100-pound woman). Mix the powder in water and consume right after exercising.
Research shows this amino acid increases the body’s sensitivity to both insulin and androgen, a hormone that helps muscles recover more quickly so you can exercise more frequently.
In a study published in February 2011 in the Journal of Physiology, 14 male triathletes took either a placebo or 2 grams of carnitine twice a day for 24 weeks. Researchers found that the carnitine group boosted their performance on exercise tests by 11 percent and increased the glucose metabolism that helps build muscle.
Dosage: Carnitine comes in various forms. Poliquin recommends 3 to 6 grams of L-carnitine tartrate daily. “Take it before 4 p.m. because it’s too energizing otherwise,” he says.
By: Vicky Uhland
Vicky has 26 years' experience as a professional journalist and has written about healthy living topics for a variety of publications and websites, including Men's Journal, Natural Health, Vegetarian Times and Revolutionhealth.com.
July 19th, 2012