Depending on your goals, lifting puts undue stress on your body to repair muscles that you have damaged throughout the day, at the gym, or at home. This is the ultimate secret to fast muscle development, heavy workout, fulfilling your macronutrients, resting, and repeating. Unfortunately, a regular diet does not always contain enough of the "building blocks" necessary to get the maximum benefit on rest days, even after a long and satisfying workout. It is not how much you lift, but how much your body can recover and rebuild stronger and better so that it can lift more next time.
In this article, we'll go over some of the most important supplements that a bodybuilder can take, whether you are an avid gym-goer, a bodybuilder, or just looking to put on some lean mass.
The most important supplement that anyone looking to increase their muscle mass can take is a protein supplement. To get the most out of your exercise and to preserve and maintain gains, it is recommended to consume at least 1 gram of protein for every pound of body weight in each person. This is especially important for a vegan bodybuilder because the most accessible and well-known protein comes from animal products.
To start the list, the most important supplement that anyone looking to increase their muscle mass can take is a protein supplement. To get the most out of your exercise and to preserve and maintain gains, it is recommended to consume at least 1 gram of protein for every pound of body weight in each person. This is especially important for a vegan bodybuilder because the most accessible and well-known protein comes from animal products.
This is not entirely true, as multiple protein sources can be consumed in your regular diet as a vegan. Some high protein and vegan-friendly sources include nuts, seeds, beans, seitan, quinoa, artichokes, and pea milk.
Although you may do your best to fulfill these requirements through diet, it would take an enormous amount of pea milk and seeds to reach the necessary protein requirement, while not exceeding the fat contents and oils in your body. The best way to do this is through a protein powder. Protein is the primary macronutrient that is responsible for muscle repair and has a much bigger impact on your diet than carbs and fats. Vegan protein powder can even be made to taste better with some flavored and low-glycemic fruits.
Creatine is also widely known as a great workout supplement, but what you may not know is that it is naturally created in the body, and doesn't necessarily need to be used only as a pre-workout before your days at the gym. Creatine is a molecule that is found in the body. Its primary purpose is to provide the energy that is required for your tissues and muscles to work properly and to keep you going from point A to point B.
On the surface, creatine looks good, but it is one of the most important supplements to your diet and everyday life. This is because:
- Taking the supplement can increase the content in your body by 30-40%, which allows you to push yourself a little more every day.
- Creatine affects the performance of your muscle cells, which means that after taking the supplement, you are temporarily stronger and perform better.
- The temporary increase in strength allows for a further breakdown of your muscles, which leads to faster strength gains during rest periods.
- Creatine increases the water content in your muscles, which triggers more hormones in your body attributed to muscle growth (IGF-1)
- Creatine helps the body preserve more proteins, taking some of the pressure off your diet or protein supplement intake.
Beta-Alanine is a supplement that boosts your performance at the gym, on track, and even your mental focus. This amino acid boosts your carnosine levels, which reduces muscle fatigue and increases mass if you are consistently working out. Unlike creatine and protein, this should only be taken in conjunction with a regular diet and exercise regimen, as it will have no effect otherwise.
Beta-Alanine is often found in meat, so vegan bodybuilders must add this to their diet via supplements.
Leucine is an amino acid, more especially a branch chain amino acid (BCAA), which, like beta-alanine, is mostly found in animal products. Leucine plays a different, but equally important role when compared to the other supplements listed. Taking Leucine helps to reduce your muscle loss, and increase recovery time during rest days, which maximizes the benefits of your workout, creatine, protein, and other supplements that you are taking to lift more.
As it is also mostly found in meat, vegans should look for supplements that contain not just leucine, but most BCAA for essential amino acids.
When looking at supplements, we forget that our body is not just built for working out, it is built to carry us throughout the day and perform every other function other than the hours at the gym. Vitamin C, A, D, and B12 are especially important, as they help with protein synthesis, immune system recovery, muscle strength, mood, and healthy red blood cells. Additionally, magnesium and potassium minerals are often neglected but are extremely important in muscle contraction and energy levels, and to regulate anxiety and depression.
Can supplements cause weight gain?
As there are many supplements available, this question is dependent on the supplement that you wish to take. Mass gainers are specifically created for weight gain and provide those with extremely lanky builds or for a large bulk to increase their size. Other supplements listed, such as protein powder, creatine, and amino acids, do not directly affect your weight unless there are additives or eaten with calorie-dense foods.
Supplements, who needs them?
Supplements aren't just for weight lifting, they help to fill gaps in your diet. Someone deficient in certain nutrients and vitamins will have noticeable hits on their mental and physical health. For example, vitamin D deficiency is common, which can cause seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Are supplements HSA eligible?
Mostly, no. Supplements are viewed as additions to your nutritional diet, and usually do not qualify as expenses to your HSA. However, if you have a prescription from your doctor or a letter of medical necessity due to a real health-damaging deficiency, this can usually be expensed to your HSA.