An athletic young man drinking a protein shake in the kitchen.

Best supplements to help build muscles

You can add muscle to your body by eating a healthy balanced diet and working out.

However, if you really want to get the most from your exercise and build your muscle quickly and effectively, you can also add supplements to your diet.

You might think supplements are only for body builders or elite athletes but they can also be taken by anyone who is on a muscle building diet or just looking to build lean muscle.

But with so many supplements available on the market, it can be difficult to know which to choose.

Here, we have broken down some of the most popular supplements, to help you find the right one for you.

Whey protein

If your aim is building muscles then whey protein is a great place to start.

Whey protein is derived from milk, as a liquid by-product of the cheese making process.

Whey protein contains all nine of the essential amino acids which form the building blocks of our muscles.

Whey can help you increase strength and gain muscle fast, as well as losing significant amounts of body fat, when teamed with a regular exercise routine.1

Best taken: Whey protein can be mixed into shakes, smoothies, juices and even porridge. It is best taken either before, immediately after exercise or as a meal replacement.

Suggested supplement: PE Nutrition Simply Whey

Casein

Similar to whey, casein is also a protein from milk. Casein is the solid curds which are removed from curdled milk when cheese is made. It has the same amino acid protein as whey but it absorbed less quickly.

Since it has a slow absorption rate, casein helps your cells to synthesise protein, even when your body might usually be breaking down muscle to feed itself..2

Best taken: Casein powder can be added to shakes, smoothies and even ice creams. It should be taken before bed as it is slow to digest. Casein powder helps with muscle recovery and delays muscle breakdown.3

Suggested supplement: Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Casein

Creatine

Creatine is one of the most effective supplements you can take to increase physical performance during high-intensity exercise.

Creatine is a chemical protein, which is found naturally within the body in muscle cells and within the brain. It helps to produce energy for everyday tasks, as well as exercise.

Because it provides your muscles with more energy, you will be able to exercise for longer.

Monohydrate creatine is the creatine that is contained in most supplements.

Best taken: Creatine comes in a powder or tablet form. The powder can be mixed into shakes or smoothies. It is best taken shortly before or after exercise, or with food on rest days.4

Suggested supplement: PE Nutrition Simply Creatine Powder

Weight gainers

If you are looking to gain mass then this is the supplement for you.

Weight gain supplements, also known as mass gainers, are the ideal choice if you are very slender and struggle to put on weight or if you want to build a lot of muscle and quickly.

Mass gainers are an excellent addition to a bodybuilding diet.

Weight gainers are very similar to other protein supplements. However, they are very high in carbohydrates and calories which helps you to gain weight.5

In order to build muscle whilst using weight gainers, you need to ensure that you can do the training to match.

Best taken: The best time to take a mass gainer is either before or after your workout. A mass gainer protein powder can be mixed into a shake.6

Suggested supplement: Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass Powder

Vegan protein supplements

You may be wondering which muscle building supplements are suitable for vegans. Since both whey and casein proteins come from milk, these are unsuitable for anyone following a vegan diet.

However, most creatine supplements are vegan-friendly - just be sure to check the ingredients before you buy. Creatine is perfect for vegan bodybuilding.

There are lots of other vegan protein powders available which used plant-based protein. The most popular ones include soy protein, pea protein, hemp protein and rice protein.

Suggested supplement: PhD Smart Protein Plant

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Last Updated: 3rd February 2021

bhupesh-panchal2

Author: Bhupesh Panchal, Regulatory Affairs

  • Joined Holland & Barrett: April 2019
  • Qualifications: Masters Degree in Toxicology, BSc Hons in Medical Biochemistry

Bhupesh started his career as a clinical toxicologist for Public Health England, advising healthcare professionals all around the country on how to manage clinical cases of adverse exposure to supplements, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, industrial chemicals and agricultural products. After 7 years in this role and a further year working as a drug safety officer in the pharmaceutical industry, Bhupesh joined Holland & Barrett as a Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate in 2019.

Bhupesh specialises in vitamins & minerals nutrition, health benefits & safety of botanicals and traditional herbal medicines. View Bhupesh's LinkedIn profile. In his spare time, Bhupesh likes to cycle and has been learning to speak Korean for several years.
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