Q: What are your favorite supplements for muscle building? I’m new to bodybuilding and want to get a head start.
A: Before you head down to your favorite health food store, try focusing on eating clean, whole foods with attention to getting optimal proportions of macronutrients. A low-protein, high-carb diet won’t do you any favors unless you’re looking to become a contestant on “The Biggest Loser.” I also believe that you need to take a good multivitamin and consider supplementing with vitamin D, zinc and magnesium as well. Be that, here are a few good supplements that I believe will give you the most bang for your buck:
BCAAs and leucine. Leucine can increase protein synthesis by as much as 145 percent when you take it after strength training. Although leucine is the branched-chain amino acid responsible for activating mTOR, the primary muscle-building pathway in the body, supplementing with leucine alone is not the best plan.
It’s better to take leucine-enhanced BCAAs—more specifically, BCAAs with a 4-1 ratio of leucine to valine and isoleucine—because that formula has been shown to be most effective for muscle building. When leucine intake is out of balance with the other BCAAs, it can lead to an imbalance in the blood amino acid levels, which reduces the anabolic response.
The benefits of leucine-enriched BCAAs include less muscle damage, less pain from training, greater time to exhaustion on all-out exercise tests and greater muscle growth.
Creatine. This is the most researched performance-enhancement aid available. It’s your primary fuel for explosive, high-intensity exercise, and supplementing with creatine has been shown to double muscle gains. In fact, one review found that athletes gained an extra two to four pounds of muscle during four to 12 weeks of training.
Beta-alanine. Beta-alanine is stored in the fast-twitch-muscle fibers as carnosine, and that helps the muscle contract with more force and prolongs peak performance. Another reason that beta-alanine enhances performance is that carnosine helps stabilize muscle pH during exercise by eliminating excess hydrogen ions that make your muscles burn and ultimately fatigue.
Carnitine. Carnitine has been relied on for years as a nutrient that can help decrease bodyfat; however, most studies have supported peripheral mechanisms for improving body composition. For example, we know that taking carnitine can increase blood flow, leading to greater muscle recovery and growth, since more nutrients and hormones are getting to the muscles. Research also shows that carnitine raises testosterone as well as IGF-1.
Editor’s note: Charles Poliquin is recognized as one of the world’s most suc-cessful strength coaches, having coached Olympic med-alists in 12 different sports, including the U.S. women’s track-and-field team for the 2000 Olympics. He’s spent years researching European journals (he’s fluent in English, French and German) and speaking with other coaches and scientists in his quest to optimize training methods. For more on his books, seminars and methods, visit www.CharlesPoliquin.com. Also, see his ad on the next page. IM