Gaining muscle is a lot harder than it is made to seem, especially for women. It is a long and arduous process and you need a lot of patience, but after a while, your hard work will pay off. There are supplements that can help you along the way, which will aid your healthy weight gain in a sustainable way without eating a lot of junk food. We explore some of the best weight gain supplements on the market.
Whey protein is the biggest contender when it comes to protein synthesis. Protein synthesis is the process needed to build new muscle, so when it comes to gaining weight, it's crucial. The reason whey is the best type of protein for this is because it is fast to digest and contains peptides which help to increase blood flow to the muscles.
When to take: Research has shown a high protein breakfast can help to maintain lean muscle. Combine a scoop of whey protein with your morning oats for a muscle building breakfast. Whey is best consumed post-workout as this is your ‘anabolic’ window, where the protein will be used to repair the muscles used in your workout. 1-2 servings of a clean protein shake should be taken within 30 minutes of training, but whey can also be used as a snack at any time throughout the day to keep your protein intake high.Try to buy a protein which is as organic as possible and always read the ingredients to check it has a high protein content rather than cheaper less effective mixes. Some whey protein supplements will also contain carbs and fat which will help you to gain weight faster, but always check to make sure you know what you are consuming.
Casein Protein is a slow digesting protein ideal for bedtime use. This type of protein takes up to 8 hours to be digested, so it is suggested that you take a casein shake before bed so that your body digests it as you sleep and you don't go catabolic overnight.
When to take: Casein is best taken as a shake about 30 minutes before you go to bed.
Creatine is a naturally occurring amino acid found in meat and fish as well as being naturally produced by the body in the liver, kidneys, and pancreas. Creatine is converted to creatine phosphate, which we use for energy during high-intensity, short duration exercise, such as sprinting or heavy weight lifting. Creatine supplements can be bought in various forms, from flavoured powders to pills. They are taken in order to enhance the body's ability to create energy and increase muscle mass. The increased energy from creatine enables users to lift more in the gym and, therefore, create more muscle mass. Creatine also increases weight gain by drawing water into the muscles, giving the illusion of a fuller, swollen physique, this stretch on the cell encourages more long-term growth.
When to take: It is recommended you take 2-5g of creatine immediately before workouts. This helps keep your muscles saturated with creatine and provides extra energy to perform more explosive heavy lifts. Post-workout, consume another 2-5g as creatine will be rapidly taken up by muscle cells during this anabolic window. On rest days, it is recommended that a creatine cycle is maintained by taking 2-5g of creatine with a breakfast that contains carbohydrates.
BCAA stands for branched chain amino acids. These are composed of 3 of our 9 essential amino acids, essential because our bodies do not produce them naturally and, therefore, they have to be sourced through diet. BCAA supplements are made up of valine, leucine, and isoleucine. Leucine is the most important of the three, as research shows that it can stimulate muscle protein synthesis on its own. Despite this, it's still best to take all three, since they work together to provide muscle growth, increased energy during workouts and decreased DOMS (delayed-onset muscle soreness).
When to take: It is recommended that you take BCAAs either between meals, 30-45 minutes before or immediately after your workout.
Beta alanine is an amino acid which, when combined with histidine, forms carnosine. Carnosine has been shown to increase the muscle fibre's ability to contract with more force for longer and without tiring. However, supplementing with beta-alanine can take some getting used to. Around 15 minutes after ingestion, you may experience an extreme itch; typically a prickling/sensation is felt on the surface of the skin, which may be uncomfortable but is harmless.The beta alanine itch is the result of nerve endings underneath the skin being stimulated and firing at a higher than normal rate. It is not a cause for concern and is experienced by the majority of beta alanine users. Research found that 3.2 grams of beta alanine supplemented on a daily basis raised intramuscular carnosine levels by around 80%, leading to increases in muscle size and strength.
When to take: Take 1 serving prior to your workout and test your sensitivity, gradually increase to 2 servings.
Remember, food supplements are not to be used as a replacement for a varied, balanced, and healthy diet. Supplements should be taken in addition to a healthy diet and do not exceed the recommended dose.