Best Muscle Building Supplements: What Should You Take For Growth?

Man using muscle building supplements

Muscle-building supplements are designed to boost growth alongside a balanced diet and exercise regime. Here we’re going to tell you all you need to know about choosing as well as taking muscle growth supplements—the Smart way.

We know that working to your limit but not seeing the results can be frustrating. Hours spent trying to build muscle while guzzling litres of whey protein, with minimal results.

The truth is, there’s much more to increasing muscle and lean body mass than pumping out endless dumbbell curls.

Let’s start with the key fact: Muscle plays a pivotal role in overall health, allowing the body to move freely, maintain its strength and even prevent injury. There’s a crucial process that needs to take place to increase muscle mass and promote muscle growth.

This is what we call muscle hypertrophy—but we will get on to that in more detail later.

Along with consistent training, a balanced diet, and a regime that involves a dynamic mix of resistance movements, there’s a wealth of dietary supplements for building muscle available to help you achieve your desired results.

The trouble is, it can be tricky to wade through the limitless pit of information, products, jargon and lingo online. 

That’s where we step in. We’re here to make the process simple, allowing you to kickstart your journey to muscle growth and start seeing real results (big gains are coming your way).

As well as pointing you in the right direction when it comes to choosing the best muscle growth supplements and key advice to boost muscle recovery and reduce fatigue, we also believe in understanding how this all works. That way, you’ll be fully aware of the processes involved—not just what to take.

Ready to start grabbing those gains? 

Let’s dive right in.

The science behind muscle growth

On the surface, muscle growth requires three main components…

  • Eating more calories than you burn
  • Consuming more protein than you break down
  • An exercise program that challenges your muscles

Your muscle size will see an increase if you challenge your muscles to deal with higher levels of resistance—a process also known as muscle hypertrophy.

This is a term well known within the bodybuilding and fitness community. But not everyone understands the mechanics behind it—so we’re here to break it down in a way that makes total sense.

Let’s go.

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Muscle hypertrophy

It’s a term synonymous with building muscle, scattered across Instagram pages headlined by shirtless demigods with biceps that threaten to smash through your phone screen.

Hypertrophy is the scientific term for muscle growth and the physiology of gains—the process of tissue stimulation and repair and the growth of muscle cells through exercise.

When you’re hard at work in the gym, small micro tears are created within the muscle cells, and the recovery process rebuilds these tears. In turn, makes them grow back bigger and stronger.

This is how the stimulation and repair process goes…

  • Your muscles are like a team of powerful fibres, bound together in bundles of tissue. They're the force behind your strength and movement
  • When you put those muscles to work, something remarkable happens. Those dormant satellite cells within the muscle fibres wake up and get activated by the trauma you provide—like a few sets of squats, for example. It's a wake-up call that triggers your incredible immune system to kick into gear and start repairing the damage
  • Next, your body goes into overdrive, releasing the ultimate tag team: testosterone and growth factors, working together to achieve hypertrophy
  • Testosterone gets to work by boosting protein synthesis. It's like a factory, creating those precious protein molecules that your muscles need to repair and get stronger. Meanwhile, growth factors step up and give instructions to the satellite cells, telling them to thicken those muscle fibres
  • The end result is something straight out of your dreams (ideally)—bigger and stronger muscles that can handle heavier loads. Picture yourself conquering those weightlifting goals and feeling more powerful than ever

Muscle protein synthesis

As well as consistent resistance training with a focus on lifting gradually heavier weights, protein intake is also crucial when trying to optimise muscle growth.

Here's the deal: Your body has a limit to how much protein it can synthesise to repair and grow your muscles. Imagine your body has a muscle-building budget, and you want to make sure you're spending it wisely.

This leads us to question the importance of protein timing and amounts, as well as how to best stimulate those muscles to reach their full potential.

The magic combination for muscle growth lies in the powerful duo of resistance training and protein intake . It's a dynamic duo that can work wonders for your gains.

That's where muscle protein synthesis comes in. But how do we stimulate muscle protein synthesis? 

Muscle protein synthesis is a physiological process that serves as our litmus test for how well our efforts are paying off. 

This process is closely linked to improved muscle growth and is a naturally occurring metabolic process in which protein is produced to repair muscle damage caused by exercise.

Now, you might think the breakdown of muscles sounds like a negative thing. But in reality, it's a necessary part of building stronger, more powerful muscles.

When muscles are damaged, they use protein to build back larger and stronger—but only if you consume enough calories and protein to repair and grow that muscle tissue.

By increasing your protein intake through protein supplements immediately following exercise, you can help enhance muscle protein synthesis and give your muscles the fuel they need to grow and become stronger. 

Those essential amino acids from protein work together to replace what was lost during exercise, helping your muscles grow and thrive. 

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The importance of nutrition

Your body needs the correct amount of fuel both before and after workouts to function fully.

When it comes to fueling muscle growth, nutrition plays a vital role.

It's not just about pumping iron. It's also about nourishing your body with the right kind of food. 

Think of it as a powerful partnership between your workouts and your plate. If you neglect one, you might miss out on unlocking your full muscle-building potential.

Here's the deal: consuming macronutrients—carbohydrates, fats, and proteins—in the right proportions is key. 

They're like the building blocks that your body needs to construct and repair those beautiful muscles of yours.

If you don't give your body the right fuel, you could end up losing muscle tissue, even if you're rocking your strength training routine.

SmartTip: Check out our Smart Guide on the best muscle-building foods to add to your diet for top nutritional tips.

What foods to eat to aid muscle growth?

Building muscle takes real dedication and effort, but you already know that.

It's not only about hitting the gym but also about nourishing your body with the right foods. If you want to pack on some serious muscle mass, you'll need a winning combination (2) of strength training, cardio exercises, and a healthy, balanced diet.

The amount of protein you need varies from person to person, depending on factors like your lifestyle, genetics, and fitness goals.

Feeling hungry for growth? Here’s a host of the best protein-rich foods that are always great options to consider.

Lean meats

The likes of chicken and turkey are excellent choices when it comes to animal products packing a healthy dose of protein.

Both provide a low-fat choice brimmed with amino acids, vital to the support of muscle growth and recovery.

If you’re a steak lover, sirloin steak offers a leaner choice whilst maintaining its great flavour, and don’t forget pork. But, go for the leaner pork loin chops, pork top loin or pork tenderloins if that’s your preference.

Fish

Packed with an impressive protein content and omega-3 fatty acid content - which play a vital role in our overall health - there’s more than one reason to introduce fish into your diet.

The likes of salmon, yellowtail, mackerel and tuna all tick the boxes, and get this; they all boast a type of polyunsaturated fat found to help reduce muscle loss and function, potentially increasing muscle mass (3).

Dairy products

The unsung hero of muscle growth foods, dairy contains both a high-quality protein offering and a mixture (4) of fast-digesting whey protein and slow-digesting casein protein.

When it comes to the key players in the dairy field, Greek yoghurt often contains approximately double the amount of protein compared to a normal counterpart, while one cup of low-fat cottage cheese packs 28 grams of protein and a dose of amino acid leucine.

Eggs

Eggs are packed with high-quality protein, which means you're getting all the essential amino acids your body needs to repair your muscles. Eggs are also a fantastic source of healthy fats that support your overall wellbeing.

But, they bring more than just protein and healthy fats to the table. They're also loaded with other important nutrients, like B vitamins and choline which aid energy production (5).

Variety of legumes
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Lentils and beans

The power of plants. These legumes are powerhouses of protein, and they work wonders as meat substitutes in a variety of dishes, especially when paired with cereals like rice.

There are other vegan protein sources, including tofu, a versatile and protein-rich food that can be used in everything from smoothies to salads. And let's not forget about nuts and seeds—they're not only flavorful but also loaded with protein and healthy fats, making them a great addition to any meal.

Whole grains

Whole grains, like brown rice and bread, are champions when it comes to providing you with a steady supply of energy.

These carbohydrates are the fuel your body needs to power through your day with vitality. Plus, they're packed with fibre, which not only helps keep you feeling satisfied but also supports a healthy digestive system.

When you feast on these delicious whole grains, your body responds by releasing insulin (6), a hormone that plays a crucial role in utilising nutrients, like glucose from carbohydrates.

What are the best supplements for muscle growth?

If you're ready to take your growth potential to new heights, supplements that build muscle are essential.

After pushing yourself to the limit in a high-intensity workout, it's crucial to give your muscles the recovery they need. Believe it or not, workout recovery is just as important as the workout itself.

There's a whole world of muscle-building supplements out there that can boost your exercise performance and support your body's recovery process.

These supplements have the incredible ability to enhance muscle growth and repair, and when combined with a solid resistance training program and a healthy diet and lifestyle practices, the results can be truly remarkable.

Protein powder

As we’ve mentioned, protein is a crucial building block for any healthy diet—a vital component of every single cell in our bodies, making up our organs, muscles, hair, and skin. 

Without enough protein, our muscles simply can't repair and grow as they should.

That's where protein powders come in. These concentrated forms of protein are derived from animal or plant sources rich in protein.

Let’s look at the three main types of protein powder:

Protein concentrates

Concentrates are typically 60 to 80% protein, with the rest made up of fat and carbs.

Protein isolates

Isolates go through an extra filtering process, resulting in a protein composition of about 90 to 95%.

Protein hydrolysates

Hydrolysates are made by breaking down the bond between amino acids, offering the fastest absorption rate by your muscles.

No matter which type of protein powder you choose, the benefits are clear. By supplementing your diet with protein powder, you're giving your muscles the fuel they need to repair and grow, boosting your fitness gains to new heights.

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Creatine 

Creatine is a blend of three powerhouse amino acids…

  • Arginine
  • Glycine
  • Methionine

These are produced by your liver, pancreas, and kidneys. Once consumed, creatine is delivered straight to your brain and muscles.

SmartFact: A staggering 95% of the creatine in your body is stored in your skeletal muscle.

While consuming seafood and red meat can help you boost your natural creatine intake, many athletes and fitness enthusiasts turn to creatine supplements for an extra boost. 

It’s proven to enhance athletic performance, boost muscle growth, increase strength, and more—so it's no wonder it's become such a hugely popular muscle builder supplement among the fitness community.

The most popular form of creatine supplement is creatine monohydrate.

This incredible supplement can be that extra push you need to take your fitness game to the next level. 

With its ability to improve athletic performance, increase muscle mass, and support strength gains, creatine monohydrate is an essential tool in any fitness arsenal.

BCAAs

SmartFact: Your body is equipped with a whopping 20 different amino acids. 

Together, they create the thousands of different proteins that keep everything running smoothly inside you.

Out of those 20 amino acids, nine are considered essential.

What does that mean, you ask?

Well, it means that your body can't produce them on its own, and it's up to you to get them through your diet. These essential amino acids are like the VIPs of your nutrition game.

Out of those nine essential amino acids, three take the spotlight as the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). The trio of leucine, isoleucine, and valine have a unique chemical structure, earning them the fancy name of BCAAs.

You can find BCAAs in various protein-rich foods, such as juicy meats and wholesome eggs, but if you're looking for a convenient way to ensure you're getting enough, BCAA supplements are a popular choice.

They usually come in the form of a powder, making them super easy to incorporate into your routine.

Ways to boost your recovery

Aside from taking supplements for muscle growth and eating a diet rich in protein, there are other ways to help your body and muscles recover.

It’s not all about what you put in: Applying a consistent approach to your overall lifestyle, sleep, and habits also harness the potential to elevate your muscle growth.

Prioritise more sleep

When you exercise intensely, your body undergoes tremendous strain and stress. That's why you need even more rest than the average person.

Think about it—you're pushing your limits—challenging your muscles, and breaking them down to build them back up stronger. 

Research (7) has uncovered some fascinating findings. When you deprive yourself of sleep, it can actually impair your body's inflammation reaction and disrupt the production of hormones that aid in muscle growth. 

In other words, lack of sleep can throw a wrench in your muscle recovery process.

Stay on top of your hydration

Dehydration can throw a wrench in your muscle recovery process, impairing your body's ability to repair muscles, meaning you might not see the gains you're working so hard for.

The American College of Sports Medicine has our back and recommends a simple rule of thumb. For every pound you lose while exercising, aim to replenish your body with 16 to 24 ounces of fluid (8). 

That way, you're hydrating like a champion and giving your muscles the support they need to bounce back stronger than ever.

Get a massage

In a 2020 review (9) of studies, our trusted sources have found that massage has a small but significant effect on two key things: improving flexibility and decreasing that pesky delayed onset muscle soreness. 

By adding a massage into your training routine, you're giving your muscles the love and attention they deserve.

You're promoting flexibility, making it easier for your body to move and perform at its best. 

Plus, you're saying goodbye to that unwelcome soreness that can sometimes linger for days after intense workouts.

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No need to choose with the bundle

Not sure where to start? Let us help you sculpt your body the Smart Way with our top products for building and maintaining lean muscle mass.

Building muscle doesn’t have to be a chore. You just need the right plan and the best supplements for muscle gain to get you pumped up, fully fuelled, and ready to go again and again. 

That’s why we’ve created The Build Muscle Kit: a triple-threat muscle-boosting combo designed to make it as easy as possible for you to get those gains.

To power that lean muscle growth, we’ve included our Whey Complete protein concentrate powder.

Then there’s our Peak Performance creatine powder, so you can keep smashing your workouts and repeatedly put in stellar showings at the gym. It helps you enhance your output so that big results can come your way.

Finally, we’ve rounded out the kit with The Electrolyte. What you do after your workout is just as important as what you do during it, which is why we’ve included this delicious mixture of electrolytes, BCAAs, and vitamins.

Sources

Smart Protein is committed to sourcing only the best and scientifically-backed research in our articles.

1. Mdpi

https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/10/2/180

2. Ncbi

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6566799/

3. Frontiers In Nutrition

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnut.2020.569270/full

4. PubMed

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4924180/

5. Ncbi

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26828517

6. CSN Supplements

https://www.cardiffsportsnutrition.co.uk/blogs/articles/insulin-glucose-and-muscle-growth

7. Medicine and Science in Sports & Exercise

https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/fulltext/2020/02000/effects_of_sleep_deprivation_on_acute_skeletal.28.aspx

8. American College of Sports Medicine

https://journals.lww.com/acsm-healthfitness/fulltext/2013/07000/exercise_and_fluid_replacement__brought_to_you_by.3.aspx

9. PubMed

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7228568/

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