You can without a doubt, build muscle and get stronger by training properly and following a healthy diet. However, if you want to reach your true potential, bodybuilding supplements are often needed. The problem is there are hundreds of different supplements available in South Africa all promising to deliver results. In this article, we will be discussing what supplements work.
What are Bodybuilding Supplements?
A bodybuilding supplement is a nutritional product that is used to help build muscle, increase strength or speed up recovery time. These types of supplements often come in the forms of powder, tablets or capsules and work by providing your body with extra protein, amino acids, increasing protein synthesis or by boosting testosterone levels.
No matter how hard you train or what supplements you use, without an adequate protein intake, your body will not be able to build muscle efficiently. Many bodybuilding websites recommend consuming around 2.2 grams of protein per kg of body weight to build muscle.
While there are many different types of protein available, whey protein is by far the more superior one. Derived from milk and containing all nine essential amino acids, whey protein helps build and repair muscle after intense workouts.
Whey protein can be broken down into three categories:
Whey protein concentrate – Also referred to as WPC, is a form of whey protein that contains low amounts of fat and carbohydrates (lactose) and contains anywhere from 30 to 90 percent of protein. Most whey protein concentrates available in South Africa contain around 70 to 80 percent protein.
Whey protein isolate – Also referred to as WPI, is a highly processed form of whey protein where all the fat and carbohydrates are removed. Whey protein isolate contains around 90 percent protein.
Whey protein hydrolysate – WPH is a predigested form of whey protein, allowing it to be absorbed faster than both whey protein concentrate and isolate.
Branched-chain Amino Acids
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein with BCAAs making up almost 35 percent of the muscle protein in your body.
BCAAs consist of three amino acids, namely; Leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These three amino acids are known as essential amino acids, meaning, your body cannot make them and you can only get them by consuming protein-rich foods such as meat, dairy, and eggs or from a BCAA bodybuilding supplement.
Branched-chain amino acids help stimulate muscle protein synthesis, which is a naturally occurring process where the body produces protein to help repair and build new muscle.
A study conducted in 2017 consisting of ten young, resistance-trained men, were given either a 5.6 gram BCCA or placebo drink to consume immediately after resistance training. The study concluded that the men who consumed the BCAA drink had a 22% greater increase in muscle protein synthesis compared to the people who did not consume any BCAA’s (1).
Testosterone is the primary hormone in males and is responsible for many physical characteristics such as facial hair growth, deepening of the voice, libido and muscle growth to name a few.
Studies have shown that higher testosterone levels lead to the faster growth of muscle tissue and increases in strength (2).
What is a Testosterone Booster
Testosterone boosters are natural bodybuilding supplements that contain many different ingredients to help increase testosterone production and the amount of free testosterone circulating in the body. This type of supplement usually contains ingredients such as Tribulus Terrestris, Zinc, Vitamin B6, Vitamin D3, Avena Sativa, D-Aspartic Acid, and many more.
If you suffer from low testosterone, not only can a testosterone booster help you build muscle faster, it can also help you feel more energetic, increase libido, improve mood, decrease fat, and many other benefits.
Creatine has been around for ages and is one of the most effective bodybuilding supplements for increasing muscle mass and strength. Creatine works by increasing the amount of creatine and phosphocreatine within the muscles; this helps maintain energy during intense workout sessions.
In a study conducted in 1995, eight subjects were given creatine monohydrate or a placebo to find out what effects creatine monohydrate had on anaerobic power indices, muscular strength, and body composition. The study showed that the people who consumed creatine saw significant increases in their strength and body composition (3).
How to use Creatine: There are a few different approaches that can be used when supplementing with creatine. A tried and tested method is the loading method. The loading method involves taking 20 grams of creatine daily for the first five days, followed by 5 grams a day. Creatine can either be taken before a workout, after a workout, or half before and half after a workout.
Also known as Ecdysterone or 20-hydroxyecdysone, beta-ecdysterone is an extract from the rhaponticum carthamoides plant. The anabolic properties of this extract were discovered many years ago by the Russians, who gave it to their athletes to improve their performance during competitions.
Simply put; Ecdysterone works by increasing nitrogen retention and protein synthesis, which leads to faster muscle growth and increases in strength.
In one study, rats were used to determine the anabolic properties of ecdysterone. The study concluded that anabolic potency of ecdysterone was comparable to anabolic steroids, SARMs or IGF-1. The study also suggested that due to the high anabolic potency of ecdysterone, it should be listed as an “S1 Anabolic Agent” in the list of prohibited substances provided by WADA (8).
Glutamine is a nonessential amino acid that makes up over 60% of skeletal muscle and plays an essential role in the recovery and repair of damaged muscle tissue.
During intense workout sessions, your bodies Glutamine levels drop rapidly, leading to a decrease in strength and recovery. Depending on your diet, it can take close to a week for Glutamine levels to return back to a normal level.
How to use Glutamine: The recommended dosage of Glutamine is 10 to 15 grams a day; this should be split up into 2 to 3 servings at 5 grams each.
Caffeine is a natural central nervous system (CNS) stimulant that stimulates the brain and CNS, which helps keep you alert. This stimulant is commonly found in tea, coffee, and cocoa, and is a popular ingredient in bodybuilding supplements such as fat burners and pre-workouts.
If you are looking for a workout boost, look no further than caffeine. There are countless studies out there, showing that caffeine can help increase focus, improve mood, help with fat loss (6), and enhance exercise performance (7). Caffeine is so effective at increasing exercise performance that it was on the WADA prohibited substance list up until 2004.
How to use caffeine to improve exercise performance: When supplementing caffeine for exercise performance, the recommended dosage is 1 to 3mgs per kg of body weight taken 60-90 minutes before exercising. Always start with a low dose to assess your tolerance. Taking more than the recommended dosage will not add any additional performance benefits and may lead to unwanted side effects.
Consuming up to 400mg’s of caffeine a day is considered safe for most healthy adults. If you drink coffee, tea or consume any other beverages or supplements with caffeine, you will need to take that into account when calculating your caffeine dosage before training.
Avoid using caffeine too late in the day, as it may affect your sleeping.
If you are looking for something to help give you an extra boost in the gym, look no further than pre-workout supplements.
Pre-workout supplements are usually available in the form of a powder, which you mix with water and drink before hitting the gym. Pre-workouts not only provide you with more energy to train harder, they also contain ingredients that increase blood flow to the muscles, assist with recovery, and protein synthesis. All of which play an important role in building muscle.
When to Take Pre-Workout
While the exact time will depend on what brand of pre-workout you are using, generally you would want to consume it 30-60 minutes before starting your workout. This will give enough time to allow all the ingredients to take effect.
Some ingredients found in pre-workouts become more effective as they build up in your body and so taking a pre-workout regularly will help increase the benefits.
Common Ingredients in a Pre-Workout: