Top Five Supplements for GROWTH
The supplement game is BIG. All it takes is to search fitness online to see a multitude of supplement companies pushing their blends to enhance your physique, drop the kilos and add weight to all your lifts. With that, there seems to be blurred lines and a lack of transparency regarding supplements that are scientifically validated and worth the spend.
I want to first of all start out by saying that I'm not a Dietitian meaning that I'm unable to provide specific recommendations regarding nutrition and supplementation. However as an Exercise Physiologist I am able to interpret and understand scientific literature and provide suggestions to my clients in order to assist them in achieving their physique and performance goals.
Assessing the reliability of research means ticking off a number of boxes. The most reliable research compares the test ingredient to a placebo and is double-blinded meaning that both the participants and researchers are unaware of who's taking what. Additionally, there are enough participants in the study for the results to be substantial and the study has been replicated numerous times all of which demonstrate similar trends.
With that being said, here are the top five supplements I believe to be beneficial for building lean muscle mass based on supplementation research.
1. Protein Powder
You guessed it. The most widely purchased and consumed supplement on the planet and there's a reason for it. Protein is a macronutrient found in numerous foods and acts as an integral structural component of tissues. It's most commonly known for it's role in building lean muscle mass. The International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) recommends individuals who exercise consume between 1.4g to 2.0g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight . Consuming at least 20g of protein post-workout is linked to increasing Muscle Protein Synthesis (MPS), improving strength and recovery in those that lift weights . As of current, literature supports whey protein as being the highest of quality when compared to powder alternatives  .
2. Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
BCAAs consist of the amino acids Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine, all of which make up 3 of the 9 Essential Amino Acids (EAAs) we need purely from the foods we consume. BCAA consumption is associated with increasing lean muscle mass as well as improving recovery by decreasing pain associated with Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). The amino acid Leucine is found to be one of the main stimulators of Muscle Protein Synthesis (MPS) when consumed in dosage of at least 3g per serving, however is less effective when consumed without Isoleucine and Valine. Currently, research points to Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine be consumed as a 2:1:1 ratio respectively . Supplementing with BCAA’s can be beneficial for those who find it difficult to consume enough daily protein. BCAA’s therefore provide little to no benefit for those consuming an adequate amount of protein.
3. Creatine Monohydrate
One of the most well-documented supplements for improving strength and lean body mass. Creatine Monohydrate acts to increase our storage of Phosphocreatine, an immediate energy source used in fast explosive type muscle contractions . There are many supplement companies that advocate for different types of Creatine, however there is no recent research to suggest any comparative superiority. In addition Creatine Monohydrate is one of the most inexpensive supplements on the market. I believe the famous phrase goes, 'If it's not broke, don't fix it.'
4. Citrulline Malate
A relatively new ingredient gaining traction in the world of supplementation. Citrulline Malate is linked to an increase in Muscle Protein Synthesis (MPS), lean body mass and resistance to fatigue associated with both anaerobic and aerobic exercise  . Citrulline Malate when metabolized converts to L-arginine. Consuming L-arginine is less effective than Citrulline Malate as it is quickly metabolized by the liver, which does not allow enough time for it to effectively carry out it's function . Currently, science supports a 6g dosage of Citruline Malate to be optimal, though smaller dosages have also been shown to be beneficial  .
Easily one of the most consumed ingredients in the world (as I drink my morning coffee). Although not directly linked to increasing lean muscle mass, caffeine is a supplement that has been shown to improve fatigue resistance and performance in both anaerobic and aerobic exercise  . With volume being the main driver for muscle hypertrophy and strength , it can be postulated that caffeine consumption can assist in improving the quality of your workouts, increasing your performance and training volume as well as one's overall positive training adaptation. Research supports consumption of caffeine for performance to be within a 3-6mg/kg dosage, with consideration to individual tolerances  .
There are a number of supplements not mentioned in this list that also provide benefit, however for the purpose of this article I've chosen those most scientifically validated and are able to fit nice and snug in your gym bag.
by Daniel Chapelle, AES, AEP
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