How Supplements Help Build Muscle
by Benjamin Bunting BA(Hons) PGCert
Written by Ben Bunting: BA, PGCert. (Sport & Exercise Nutrition) // British Army Physical Training Instructor // S&C Coach.
There are plenty of misconceptions surrounding dietary supplements and how they work.
Perhaps one of the most alarming comes from people simply not knowing what’s in them, which can be the case when you consider the number of products which contain a proprietary blend of ingredients.
They are afraid that there are non-natural chemicals that can cause damage, but that is far from the truth in most cases, and if there are they are likley to feature in the banned substances list.
Therefore, it is ideal to cross reference anything you may be unsure of and keep diligent, especially if you are buying supplement for the first time, but don't worry, as we have a great guide, here.
After you have read this article, you should have more of an understanding of the impact of supplements on your body and how the muscles can benefit.
If you are still unsure of what a reliable and well developed supplement can do for you, then you should read about our guarantee by placing your trust in us with the formula that has been created to help improve your overall physical and mental performance.
Throughout this article, you will read topics on the following subjects:
- Defining muscle supplements
- Who needs supplements?
- Importance of protein
- How supplements enhance sport performance
- Popularity of supplements
If you have any more questions, then you can browse the blog.
There are topics relating to testosterone, as well as further information on dietary supplements and sports performance including the importance of hydration for athletes or how to claculate your VO2 max to measure your cardiovascular improvements.
Defining Muscle Supplements
The first major point to consider relates to understanding what muscle building supplements are and what they can do for you. Supplements work in different ways and can come in different forms. Ones that you are perhaps familiar with include powder, liquid, and pill form.
Some supplements will be packed with vitamins and minerals that the body needs to utilize to improve athletic performance. Some products may just have one sole ingredient, a great example is creatine monohydrate which you can mix with water.
However, other products may contain many different nutrients, all developed to harmonize they way your body operates and enhance muscle adaptations in response to exercise.
This could be vitamins, plant extracts such as mucuna pruriens, amino acids, and even enzymes.
Some of these nutrients can have effects on your hormone status, reduce inflammation or even muscle soreness. However, you need to check with some of the ingredients listed in some supplements to see if they have any scientific proof for their benefits.
There is nothing to hide with Military Muscle, where you can view all of the supplement ingredients so that you know what you’re taking ahead of time. We've included ingredients such as zinc, fenugreek, boron, vitamin D, and iron, to name a few, all of which are backed by science.
Who Needs Supplements?
Supplements are ideal for those people who are involved in lots of exercise,this could be a recreational gym user, military personnel, or other athletes.
As we exercise, particularly if it is of a high intensity there is an increased level of nutrient turnover (nutrient use by the body) therefore, we need more to either maintain our energy levels or build more muscle.
This could be an increased need for the following:
Supplements, or ergogenic aids as they can be referred to, may work differently for certain people, either due to the certain chemical or vitamin that they need, compared to others.
In addition some vitamins can be stored by the body, these are known as fat soluble such as vitamin A whereas other need replenishing more often (these are known as water soluble).
People may also consume many toxins from things such as alcohol, pollution and highly processed foods, and as such they would benefit from higher antioxidant intake which can be found in vitamin K.
If you’re unsure of what you’re lacking and what you need boosting, then you should consider speaking to a medical professional who can test your blood and do other tests to find out more.
However, one thing for sure is understanding your current calorie intake (energy from foods) versus your current calorie expenditure (energy used for your daily tasks).
Because if you want to build muscle you need to ensure that you are consuming enough calories to sustain growth created by muscle adaptations from your exercise regime, otherwise you will risk burnout and even muscle loss known as catabolism.
Therefore, a good guide as outlined by an article published in 2019 by the Frontiers in Nutrition Journal is that you should increase your intake by 350 to 480kcals daily.
You macronutrient intake is very important, so lets take a closer look.
Importance of Protein
You have most likely heard of protein, either through targeted adverts or from health experts. What you may not be aware of is why it’s important.
Proteins are something your body needs in life, with all of your cells having a part to play. You can think of proteins as the building blocks of life, with the basic structure of them being an effective chain of amino acids.
You will need protein within your diet with what you ingest to help your body recover quicker, help your body repair its muscle fibers when needed, and work to build new ones. As well as that, protein will be important for your overall growth and development at all ages.
It is recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine that anyone looking to build muscle consumes around 1.2-1.7g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight.
Furthermore, best results are obtained from eating a meal containing 20-25g of protein in a single sitting.
However, this amount of protein can be a challenge to consume, particularly in solid foods, that's why protein shake supplements are popular. However, in some cases, you may be better off drinking milk which is often much cheaper.
How it Works
Foods that contain protein will be broken down into amino acids when digested, with your body needing these amino acids in large amounts to improve your health. Supplements help bridge any gaps in your diet that are missing protein, amino acids, and vitamins in general.
Depending on what supplements you take, you will receive different benefits. It could be used to help build muscles or to offer protein to your lacking diet.
Carbohydrates found in foods such as bread, pasta and potatoes, but also sugars are converted in to glycogen which is stored in the liver and muscles.
When you exercise the glycogen is broken down and oxidized which produces adenosine triphosphate (ATP) molecules that provide the muscles with energy to contract.
Your stores of glycogen can last for about 90 minutes of high intensity exercise, once depleted, you will hit the proverbial 'wall'. This means you will feel exhausted, fatigued and unwilling to carry on further.
Taking on adequate carbohydrate has shown to improve endurance but also bench press performance.
Restoring your glycogen stores after activity aids muscle recovery and there's suggestion that combining carbohydrates with protein may enhance hypertrophy.
How much carbohydrate is recommended?
This is dependant on activity levels, but it can range from 3-5g or carbohydrate per kilogram of bodyweight for low intensity exercise up to 8-12g per kg of bodyweight for extremely high intensity activity such as interval training, military exercises, marathons, rugby or cycling.
However, again, just like protein, it can be hard to consume these amounts of carbohydrates through solid foods and ergogenic aids such as carbohydrate gels or sports drinks are available which make it a bit easier to acheive the recommendations based on your activity levels.
An alternative to supplements are jelly candies/sweets or fruit juuices which are a much more cost effective solution.
While fats are often seen as the devil, our body needs them. However, you need to distinguish between the bad fats (saturated fats) that are predoninantly found in fried, unhealthy foods such as donuts, potato chips, fast foods etc and the good fats.
Good fats are foud in foods such as nuts, fish, eggs, seeds and avocados.
These are known as unsaturated fats, and our bodies needs them because some vitamins and minerals are fat soluble. This means those nutrients are stored in the fat tissues which can affect your testoterone levels.
A good guide is to ensure that your calorie intake consists of no more than 30% and no less than 20% of good, unsaturated fats.
We all need water to survive, that's a given. Yet those who are physically active will lose more fluid through sweat, urine and even vapor from breathing.
Therefore, an active person needs to hydrate to main optimum fluid balance within their body because the evidence shows that dehydration of just 2% of a persons body weight reduces performance.
Furthermore, if you are dehydrated by 5% of body weight your capacity to work reduces by 30%. That's a huge drop of performance for what seems like a small rate of dehydration.
We also need to consider that it isn't just your physical performance that deteriorates, but it also affects your mental capabilities. Recent evidence points towards 1% of bodyweight dehydration causing cognitive impairments. Therefore water is a highly prized nutrient for cognitive function.
It is also important to consider that muscle mass consists of around 76% water, and it acts as a lubricant for joints whilst transporting nutrients as well as preserving cardiovascular function.
Don't forget that many foods also contain liquid such as salad, fruits and vegetables which contribute towards your fluid intake recommendations. Also, some supplements such as gels, shakes or sports drinks are all water based.
Check out our guide about the importance of hydration and how you can calculate your sweat rate, here.
Depending on the athlete, the gender, and the sport some people are more susceptible to using or excreting vitamins and minerals than others.
For example, a person exercising in a hot environment is more likely to lose minerals and electrolytes through sweat which can reduce their performance.
Alternatively, females are more likely to experience iron deficiency than men due to menstruation.
Why is this a problem?
Micronutrients support athlete performance; for instance, zinc and vitamin D can support immunity and testosterone production whereas amino acids can improve muscle function and reduce fatigue.
Therefore, as you expend more energy and fluids, you need to replace the lost nutrients to support your performance.
How Supplements Enhance Sport Performance
One of the common themes you may have noticed is that to build muscle and to improve your physical performance, you need to consume more. More water, more carbohydrates, more protein, more nutrients.
However, an issue commonly faced by athletes is their inability to consume enough foods which can lead to fatigue.
This is particularly evident in female athletes who may not consume enough energy, have a low body mass and suffer from menstrual irregularities, this is known as the 'female athlete triad' which can lead to decreased bone mineral density.
Where do supplements fit in?
We would always recommend a 'food first' approach to sports nutrition.
This means that it is important to gain as much nutritional value that your body requires from unprocessed foods.
However, we understand this cannot always be achieved depending on factors such as living arrangements, kitchen availability, travel, emplyoment commitments or even menu fatigue.
This is where supplements come in to play.
Functional foods, i.e. those foods that contain a mix of macronutrients, micronutrients amino acids and other beneficial ingredients can help an athlete consume enough calories and nutrients that may otherwise be missed due to not being able to consume adequate foods.
This can include protein shakes, energy bars, sports drinks and other ergogenic aids in different forms.
For instance, if an athlete is finding it difficult to keep eating solid foods to get enough nutrients or calories, a high calorie drink which also contains carbohydrates, proteins and vitamins may be beneficial.
Alternatively they may have hit their calorie requirements but still want to make sure they have all the micronutrients and support from plant extracts which can be sourced from a pill based product such as Military Muscle.
Research published in 2006 highlighted the effectiveness of supporting resistance training with supplements to increase muscle growth and strength.
There's further evidence that plant extracts such as Ashwagandha when dosed at 600mg per day is associated with significant increases of strength and muscle mass. This is exactly the reason we have included it and the dose in our supplement.
Popularity Of Supplements
All of the reasons listed above is why you will have heard more about supplements in recent years, and why it continues to be popular with a wide variety of people, from athletes to casual people looking to get fitter.
Additionally, it has been noted that those looking to achieve muscle size (hypertrophy) such as bodybuilders are often deficient in many micronutrients, as such it is no wonder that many people are turning towards supplements to support their lifestyle goals.
To conclude, supplements mainly help boost your muscle growth and performance due to the vitamins and nutrients that are found within, often to support your additional requirements.
Sometimes it is difficult to consume all of the foods that you need, therefore supplements can provide the elements to prevent a deficiency.
As was mentioned earlier, you will still need to put the work in if you are looking to reap as many benefits as you can.
If you workout alongside taking muscle-building supplements, then this will prevent you from being in as much pain after working out and prepare your body for the next time it needs to work out by enhancing recovery.