Best supplements for muscle gain
One of the most common questions we get asked by a new member in the gym is whether or not they need to supplement their diet with a protein powder, how it will affect their body composition / performance goals, and which other supplements they should take.
So here’s the science.
If you have a body composition goal, your total net calories will be the biggest determining factor in whether you increase size or decrease size. Your physical and metabolic activity will determine whether or not that size comes from fat or muscle.
First things first. If you want to increase the size of your muscles, you will need to be in a calorie surplus. Which means that you will need to find out your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) and then ensure that you’re eating more calories than this.
Once you’ve established that you’re in a calorie surplus, it is advocated that you’re getting “enough” protein. This is because protein is the body’s most essential macronutrient because of its role in muscle growth and repair and therefore metabolism, which is why most nutrition plans favour protein as a priority.
As you train and create microtears and other metabolic damage within your body, protein is used as a growth and repair mechanism.
Essentially, if your body is lacking in protein storage, especially when undertaking physical stressors like weight training or even conditioning, there will be downstream effects resulting in muscle atrophy and catabolism (the breakdown of muscle tissue).
So, how much do you need?
The simple calculation is to take your body weight and multiply it by 2. E.g. 80kg man = 160g protein.
The scientific data has shown that you should aim to consume 1.2g-2.8g/kg lean body mass (LBM), with the idea being, make sure you eat “enough” without eating too much. (which is often quite hard to do given protein becomes very satiating and filling).
Do you need to supplement?
The age-old question of “do I need to supplement with protein powders” essentially comes down to simple mathematics.
Are you getting enough protein through your real food?
If yes, there is no need to supplement.
If not, then perhaps a powder based supplement will help you reach your targets as they can be more accessible.
There have been studies that show both real food and powder alternatives show no difference to the M-TOR pathways and signalling outcomes, therefore do not discriminate between real food and powder formats.
You’ll find that most people will use their protein shake as an insurance policy, to ensure they’re definitely not in a depleted state, or perhaps because it is a far more efficient way of getting protein in without the risk of unwanted calories or macronutrients.
E.g. You may have reached your limit for carbohydrates and fats for the day but still have 30g of protein to hit, so you can pick a steak or a shake.
So, which supplements should you take for muscle growth
Grab a protein that has the full essential amino acid profile, such as whey protein isolate (WPI). Whey protein is a quick digesting protein that has a high biological value and is rapidly shuttled into the muscles. We stock ours from trueprotein.com
Creatine increases our ability to produce short and explosive energy, allowing you to train harder, increase strength and total training volume, in turn leading to greater muscle growth and adaptations.
Do vegan protein supplements work as well as non-vegan supplements?
Typically, the reason why vegan protein powders aren’t as effective as regular protein supplements is due to their amino acid profiles.
Meat based proteins come with a higher spectrum of essential amino acids that the vegan counterpart can not compete with. Those of which are the amino acids attributed to muscle growth and repair, like leucine.
So, it is not that vegan protein powders will not work, they will just not be as efficient and you will need to take 3-4 x the amount of actual powder to get the same amino acid profiling that you would get from a standard scoop of whey protein.
We place supplements at the top of our nutrition hierarchy for a reason. They are there to exhaust all other options and to be seen as the icing on the cake once you have completed all preceding steps to their fullest capacity first.
There are no shortcuts.
Remember: there are no shortcuts.