Strength gains can come from a few different mechanisms in the body. They can come by increasing your muscle size and strength to generate greater power; they can come by increasing more available energy; or they can come by reducing fatigue, allowing you to train with greater weight for longer periods of time.
No matter which way you go about increasing strength, the bottom line is the more strength you have, the better your workouts are going to be. And better workouts equal better gains.
There are a number of supplements that can help you get there, most of which can be stacked together for even better results. Here are 5 strength-building supplements to add to your arsenal.
By far the most popular and most researched supplement on the market today, creatine has repeatedly shown to be effective for increasing muscle strength and size. Although creatine is produced by the body and can also be obtained by eating certain foods like steak and fish, those sources do not provide enough to elicit its powerful effects. When supplemented, creatine helps increase the amount of available phosphocreatine that is stored in the body. Creatine works by donating a phosphate group to ADP to generate ATP – muscles primary source of energy. With more available ATP, the muscles have more power and can push more weight for more reps. Creatine also works by increasing muscle cell volume, drawing water and more nutrients into the muscle cells, a process that has been shown to trigger muscle growth.
TRY THIS: Take 3-5g of creatine 15-30 minutes prior to training. Although at one time it was believed that a loading phase of 20 g of creatine per day for 5 days was necessary to successfully increase creatine stores, it’s been shown a simple supplementing protocol with just 3 to 5 g of creatine for 8-weeks will result in the same amount of creatine in the muscle.
This non-essential amino acid helps increase muscle carnosine by bonding with the abundant amino acid L-Histidine. Carnosine works by neutralizing the build up of lactic acid brought on by an intense workout. Less muscle burnout means less fatigue, which means more reps later in your workout, which means increases in strength, power and muscle size. In one study, supplementing with both Beta-Alanine and Creatine resulted in greater maximum strength lifts, increases in lean mass and loss of body fat versus supplementing with creatine alone. Some people are sensitive to the effects of Beta-Alanine and may develop a flush, often referred to as a ‘burning-rush’. This side effect, although common, doesn’t happen in everyone and can actually reduce and subside over time with repeated exposure.
TRY THIS: Take 2-3g of Beta Alanine about 15 minutes prior to a workout. For best results, stack with creatine.
3. D-ASPARTIC ACID
This non-essential amino acid has been shown to regulate testosterone production. Testosterone is the most anabolic hormone in the body, and is the key hormone involved in adding muscle size and, ultimately, muscle strength. DAA has been shown to elevate the hormones involved in testosterone production, including LH (luteinizing hormone), FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) and GH (growth hormone). DAA has been shown to up-regulate testosterone synthesis by stimulating the release of LH. In one study, short-term use of DAA was shown to increase testosterone by 42% after 12 days of supplementation, while decreasing to 22% after cessation of supplementation. Another study showed supplementing with roughly 3 g of DAA increased LH by over 30% and testosterone by over 40%.
TRY THIS: A short-term cycle with DAA may help boost testosterone and keep your hormone levels healthy, which in turn will lead to stronger muscles. Use 2.5 to 3 g daily for a minimum of 2-weeks to experience DAA’s benefits.
Also known as trimethylglycine, Betaine is a derivative of the amino acid glycine, and an up-regulator in the synthesis of creatine and carnitine. Creatine, as shown above, is important for increasing short-term muscle energy. Betaine is involved in the methylation of the amino acid homocysteine to form methionine, which is involved in the synthesis of creatine. Methionine is also involved in protein synthesis and in supporting healthy homocysteine levels. As for carnitine, it is important in fatty acid transport – providing energy to the powerhouse cells, the mitochondria – to generate energy that can be used during exercise. Studies on Betaine supplementation have shown less fatigue during exercise and greater power output. In one study, researchers found that trained athletes taking 2.5 g of betaine divided into two equal doses daily increased muscle strength by 25% and muscle power by 20%. In another research study on weight trained men using an undulating periodization workout supplementing with the same dose of betaine, subjects showed increases in muscle mass by four pounds and arm size by 10%, while subsequently reducing body fat by up to seven pounds.
TRY THIS: Add 1.25 to 2.5 g to a current pre-workout product, or look for it in an existing pre-workout product.
This protein has undergone a special enzymatic reaction, which breaks normal whey protein down into smaller peptide fractions. These peptides have an absorption rate that is much faster than regular whey protein, allowing them to be taken up and used by the muscles much quicker. Peptides have also been shown to have a greater influence on muscle anabolism, or muscle growth. In a double-blind study on male recreational bodybuilders their diet was supplemented with either whey hydrolysate or casein protein at a dose of 1.5 g/kg body weight per day for 10-weeks. The whey hydrolysate group experienced significantly greater gains in lean mass, a significant decrease in fat mass and significantly greater improvements in strength compared to the casein group.
TRY THIS: 20-25 of protein 30-45 minutes before your workout and 30-40g within 30 minutes post workout. You can find whey protein hydrolysate in many protein powder blends or you can find it sold separately. But don’t expect the same price tag as your normal protein powder due to the processing – whey protein hydrolysate is a bit more pricey versus regular whey protein.
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