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You train hard and eat right, but sometimes you need a little extra boost to help you get the results you desire. Whatever you goals, these are the five must-have muscle-building supplements to aid in fat loss and help sculpt the look you’ve always wanted.
What is it? Creatine’s main function is to supply muscles with fast energy, which will allow you to train longer and harder once your natural stores of creatine diminish. Produced naturally by your liver, kidneys and pancreas, creatine also can be found in most animal proteins such as meat, fish and poultry. It also holds water within the muscle not under the skin, keeping your muscle bellies full while increasing their size. Supplementing with creatine helps you train harder longer.
How to take it: Women do not need to “load” creatine, meaning you don’t need to take large doses for several days to “saturate” the muscles, which can cause bloating and an upset stomach. Instead, a daily dose of 2.5 to 5 grams either preworkout or postworkout is adequate. If your liver and kidneys are healthy, creatine use will not cause damage to those organs. You also don’t need a fancy expensive creatine either. A simple monohydrate will work perfectly. There is also a new topical creatine that you can use along with your monohydrate in order to get more energy and strength from your workouts.
What is it? DHEA, which stands for dehydroepiandrosterone, is a hormone produced by your adrenal glands, which sit on top of your kidneys. DHEA functions as a precursor to male and female sex hormones, including testosterone and estrogen. Precursors are substances that are converted by the body into a hormone.
DHEA is the most prevalent hormone in the body, and production is highest in your 20s — the average adult produces about 25 milligrams of DHEA per day — but that decreases with age. Your adrenals also produce cortisol and adrenaline, so during times of high stress, the body simply can’t manufacture enough DHEA to maintain a healthy hormonal balance, causing everything from extreme fatigue to a decrease in muscle mass.
Supplementing with DHEA can help naturally raise your testosterone levels in order to build more muscle mass.
How to take it: It can be taken daily in amounts ranging from 50 milligrams up to 200 milligrams, depending on your goals. Higher amounts will help build more lean muscle.
What is it? Generally thought to be the gold standard of proteins, whey is a fast-digesting protein, meaning it quickly floods the bloodstream with amino acids. It’s ideal for promoting muscle synthesis, and it also aids in postworkout recovery. Paired with a simple carbohydrate (preferably fruit), the absorption rate is even quicker. Whey protein is also ideal to consume preworkout, bringing nutrients to muscles before strenuous activity.
How to take it: One scoop usually yields about 20 to 25 grams of protein. Take it preworkout and postworkout or in between meals as a snack to assist with weight loss.
Branched-Chain Amino Acids
What is it? Branched chain amino acids consist of three essential amino acids: leucine, valine and isoleucine. Your body isn’t able to create BCAAs, making it necessary to get them from dietary sources instead.
In addition to maintaining your existing muscle tissue, BCAAs keep your muscles fueled while you train and keep exercised-induced muscle fatigue at bay. Leucine is responsible for protein synthesis, which in turn promotes muscle growth. BCAAs aid in muscle recovery and help reduce soreness.
How to take it: BCAAs can be taken as a tablet or powder that you can put in your preworkout and/or postworkout shakes, or you can put flavored BCAAs in your water and drink while you train. Flavored BCAAs are excellent to drink in between meals to keep hunger and unnecessary snacking at bay. Take 5 to 10 grams of BCAAs with preworkout and postworkout shakes.
What is it? Glutamine is a nonessential amino acid, which simply means that your body makes it. Glutamine is also the most abundant amino acid within the body. You’ll find it in two places: your plasma (blood) and skeletal muscle. It’s easily depleted by stress, illness or intense workouts. During times of stress, glutamine becomes a conditionally essential amino acid, meaning that you need to take in foods or supplements containing glutamine to help replenish levels. Glutamine aids in muscle recovery and has been shown to increase levels of growth hormone.
How to take it: Supplementing with glutamine all yearlong, especially during cold and flu season, will keep your immune system going strong. Glutamine will keep your gastrointestinal tract functioning properly, and it will calm down any GI problems you may be experiencing. A suggested daily dosage is 10 to 15 grams daily. You can add glutamine powder to preworkout and postworkout shakes. Be careful not to heat it (i.e., putting it in your oatmeal before you add hot water) because it will destroy any of the benefits.
Using all the supplements listed above will aid in building the strong and fit body you envision along with a good gym routine and proper nutrition. As with any new supplement program, always be aware of any reactions you may experience. If you have any pre-existing health conditions, always speak to your qualified health-care practitioner before starting any new supplement.