Though weight loss is a very common goal, many people actually want to gain weight.
Some common reasons include improving daily functioning, looking more muscular and enhancing athleticism.
Typically, those who want to gain weight should focus on gaining muscle. It’s usually healthier to gain most of your weight as muscle rather than fat.
While food and exercise are most important for gaining muscle, supplements may also help by providing calories and protein or by allowing you to exercise harder.
Here are 4 supplements that may help you gain muscle.
Most people know that protein is an important muscle component.
Several studies have shown slightly more muscle gain in exercising adults who consume protein supplements as part of their diet.
However, the most important factor is likely your total daily protein intake rather than whether it comes from foods or supplements.
As a general recommendation, the Institute of Medicine suggests that 10–35% of your daily calories should come from protein.
Many scientists agree that a daily intake of 0.6–0.9 grams per pound (1.4–2.0 grams per kg) of body weight per day is appropriate to support muscle growth in active adults.
If you are able to consume this recommended amount of protein from whole foods, protein supplements are not necessary.
However, many people consider supplements in the form of shakes or bars a convenient way to fit more protein into a busy schedule.
One way to help determine if you are eating enough protein without supplements is to track your diet on a few typical days.
It’s also important to realize that eating a high-protein diet will not cause weight gain unless you consume enough calories overall.
In fact, some studies show that high-protein diets can promote fat loss, possibly by making you feel more satisfied after eating and decreasing the amount you eat.
Creatine is one of the most-researched supplements and one of the few sports supplements with very strong research support.
This molecule is found naturally in your cells and in some foods.
When taken as a supplement, the creatine content in your muscles can increase beyond normal levels.
Creatine has several important functions in your body, including rapid energy production.
A substantial amount of research has shown that creatine supplements can improve exercise performance and muscle gain over time.
While several different types of creatine are available, creatine monohydrate has the most research backing it as safe and effective.
When taking creatine, it’s typically recommended to begin by taking a loading dose of approximately 20 grams per day, split into four servings, for 5–7 days .
After this initial period, a maintenance dose of approximately 3–5 grams per day can be taken indefinitely.
To gain weight, you need to consume more calories than your body needs for normal functioning. However, how much extra you have to eat can vary between people.
Weight gainers are a broad group of high-calorie supplements that are marketed to those who have trouble gaining weight.
Similar to protein supplements, there is nothing magical about these supplements. They simply are a convenient way for some people to get more calories.
Typically, weight gainers are shakes very high in carbohydrates and high in protein.
For example, one popular supplement contains 1,250 calories, 252 grams of carbohydrates, and 50 grams of protein per serving.
While adding weight gainers to your diet can certainly increase the number of calories you are eating, some people find the taste and consistency of these products unpleasant.
Though these supplements can be convenient when you’re on the go, another option is simply to eat more real food, which would also provide other beneficial nutrients.
Very few, if any, supplements lead to substantial weight and muscle gain without exercise.
However, several supplements exist that may help you exercise harder, which could lead to more muscle gain over time.
Caffeine is consumed widely around the world. Active people often take it before exercise to improve exercise performance.
Research has shown that caffeine is indeed effective at enhancing exercise performance.
For example, it can improve power output, the body’s ability to produce force quickly, which is important for activities such as weight training, sprinting and cycling.
Over time, exercising harder due to caffeine consumption could lead to better muscle gain. However, this would only occur if adequate calories and protein are consumed.
Citrulline is an amino acid that is produced in your body and found in foods.
One of its functions is to increase blood flow to your body’s tissues.
Several studies have found that the amount of exercise performed in a single session may be increased when taking this supplement.
Long-term research is limited, but this supplement could help with muscle gain over time if it allows you to perform more overall work during exercise.
Beta-alanine is another amino acid produced naturally in your body. Among other functions, it can help your muscles fight fatigue during exercise.
Taken as a supplement, beta-alanine may help improve performance during intense exercise that is carried out in one- to four-minute bouts.
Although more research is needed, there is evidence that beta-alanine can enhance muscle gain while you exercise.
Beta-hydroxy beta-methylbutyrate (HMB) is a molecule produced when the amino acid leucine is broken down in your body.
This molecule may help with recovery after intense exercise and reduce the breakdown of muscle proteins.
While mixed results have been reported, HMB supplements may improve muscle recovery and muscle gain, especially in those without previous training experience.
However, the studies showing the greatest benefits of HMB supplements have recently been questioned, and more information is needed to clarify their true effects.
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