Whey Protein is a very popular supplement used in the fitness industry, as it has seen to be one of the most effective. Athletes and gym goers are constantly chugging down protein shakes throughout the day, and it is the one supplement that everyone seems to have. The question is why? What does it do for your body? Whey Protein stimulates the process of protein synthesis in your muscles, in which the amino acids (BCAAs in particular) are used to repair and build the muscles used while training. Whey Protein has an anabolic effect on your muscles, which means that it promotes the growth and repair of the muscles rather than the breakdown of them. Once consumed, the protein also increases the blood flow to your muscles which means that they can receive more nutrients, amino acids and oxygen at a speedier rate. This means that your muscles will be stronger and will increase in size faster than a non-supplemented athlete.
Whey Protein should be consumed as a post workout protein, compared to casein protein. This is due to the absorption rate. Whey Protein in particular is absorbed quickly which means that your muscles can be attended to shortly after your workout. There are different types of Whey protein, the most popular being Whey protein Concentrate and Whey protein Isolate. The difference comes in with the fat, protein and carbohydrate levels. Whey protein Concentrate has lower fat levels but higher levels of carbohydrates, with protein content by weight at 30% to 90%. Whereas Whey protein Isolate removes the fat and lactose (therefore removing the Carbohydrates) but has protein content by weight of 90% or more. Therefore, one would choose a Whey Protein that is suitable according to their fitness and body goals.
BCAA – Branched-Chain Amino Acids:
BCAAs are your Branched Chain Amino Acids which are the building blocks of protein. The key amino acids are L-Leucine, L-Isoleucine and L-Valine. Most supplements that are designed for muscle building will have a BCAA ratio of 2:1:1. The most popular amino acid with the highest ratio is Leucine. Leucine is the amino acid which stimulates the protein synthesis in the muscles which promotes muscle cell growth and repair. Isoleucine focuses on the supply of energy of your muscle tissues by improving your glucose mechanism, meaning that it tries to prevent your muscle size from decreasing by ensuring your body doesn’t access stored energy in your muscles while training. Valine is an amino acid which supports energy levels in your body to assist the body in muscle growth, strength, speed and power. Both Valine and Isoleucine can be converted to glucose, and used as a source of fuel for energy during training.
BCAAs are the driving force behind getting the nutrients to your muscles for growth and recovery. BCAAs as a supplement (versus in a supplement as an ingredient like Whey Protein) should be consumed as they are a different form of amino acids. These are free-form amino acids which are absorbed into the bloodstream at a faster rate, and to a much greater extent.
Creatine (in particular Creatine Monohydrate) is also one of the most popular supplements for muscle building. It has been researched countless times, and the benefits have been repeatedly proven. How does Creatine work? There is a long and complicated scientific explanation for how Creatine works, but in simple terms, Creatine is a molecule which is naturally produced by the human body. It can also be found in foods such as meat and fish. It acts as an energy reserve within your cells, which is one of the first to be used up while training. By using a Creatine supplement, the Creatine stores are increased which means there is an increase in energy stored. With this energy, you are able to train for longer periods of time and can improve the workout intensity as time to fatigue is lessened.
There are many benefits to supplementing with Creatine. Creatine boosts your exercise performance, improves your strength levels, increases your water retention which makes your muscles look and feel larger, supports nitrogen balance in your muscles and supports protein synthesis which helps repair and grow your muscles. Creatine as a supplement needs to be taken for a long duration of time. Your muscles need time to be saturated in order to experience the full benefits of Creatine. This is also why some individuals Creatine load by consumed a large dosage of Creatine for 5 days (about 15 to 25mg) and then dropping to a maintenance level thereafter of about 3 – 5mg. Creatine should be taken post workout as it will be absorbed more efficiently by the body.
Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid naturally produced by the human body. Beta-alanine works by raising the muscle Carnosine concentration once it’s consumed (this is because once it’s consumed, Beta-alanine is converted into Carnosine). Carnosine works wonders while training, as it boosts your stamina levels, increases your strength and therefore leads to a larger muscle development. Carnosine is a peptide, and it effectively acts as a defense against the build up of hydrogen ions that are formed during high intensity workouts. Due to this defense, your muscles fatigue at a much lower rate. Carnosine is also a powerful antioxidant. Therefore by supplementing with Beta-Alanine, you will be able to improve your performance during high intensity workouts.
Beta-Alanine is more widely known as that tingling feeling you get once you consume a pre-work out. It seems to give off a caffeine-like effect on the body, but has been researched to be harmless on the body. It can be consumed before your workout (most pre-work outs will have Beta-alanine as an ingredient). To get the full benefits of beta-alanine, it is recommended to consume over a long duration of time versus a smaller time period. This is because the benefits are based on the raised muscles Carnosine concentrations, and they are raised higher the more it is consumed.
Glutamine is one of the most abundant and common amino acids in our bodies. When we workout, our Glutamine levels are greatly depleted but with very slow restoration rate (up to 6 days), which means that our stamina and strength decreases. Since Glutamine is responsible for the repair of muscles, promoting a positive nitrogen balance and promoting protein synthesis, it’s important that we keep our Glutamine levels raised. That is why using a Glutamine supplement while working out is beneficial while training, as it rapidly improves the restoration rate back to normal and prevents the loss of muscle.
Glutamine has anti-catabolic abilities and supports protein synthesis. All of these are highly beneficial for an individual who wants to build strong, lean muscle. It allows you to burn body fat without losing any muscle. The increase in muscle, with the decrease in body fat gives your body a stronger, healthier body composition. Aside from the benefits Glutamine gives your muscles, it is also an important nutrient for your intestine and boosts your body’s immunity.
All of the above are key ingredients for those individuals who have a goal of building muscle. The key to building muscle is to ensure than your muscles are repaired properly, and are receiving the right nutrients. By promoting healthy muscle repair and protein synthesis, you will be able to recover and grow your muscles at a speedy rate. The increase in stamina, strength and endurance will push you beyond your ordinary limit and will lead you to be the best possible version of yourself.