- A board-certified sports nutritionist said BCAAs, HMBs and beta-alanine supplements are not needed to build muscle.
- BCAA supplements contain the same amino acids as protein-rich foods and can be more expensive.
- Studies have not shown that HMB and beta-alanine help build muscle in healthy, well-nourished adults.
When it comes to building muscle mass, lifting weights is only part of the mystery.
What you need plays a big role in building lean muscle and encourages many gym visitors to turn to extra food, a market that has been growing in sales over the past few years.
Jason Makovsky, a certified sports nutritionist with the New York-based board of directors, said that while protein supplements and creatine help support muscle growth, other supplements sold to build muscle may not help.
Supplements sold to help build muscle mass, such as BCAAs, HMB and beta-alanine, are not as effective as consuming enough calories and getting enough protein in your diet, Makovsky said. But studies show that protein supplements and creatine can help with income.
A protein-rich diet is more effective than most supplements on its own to build muscle
Supplements that contain protein-forming acids such as BCAAs (chain chain amino acids) or that help break down muscles such as HMBs (beta hydroxy beta methylbutyrate) are referred to by retailers as muscle-building supplements. Some studies have shown that BCAAs have a greater effect on muscle growth than other acids, such as threonine, which prevents the accumulation of fat in the liver, or methionine, which strengthens the skin and nails.
But Makovsky said BCAAs were part of the protein, calling them “another source of protein.” Protein sources such as eggs, yogurt and chicken also contain BCAAs.
According to Machovsky, getting enough calories and protein from food is the most important part of building muscle mass along with strength training.
If a hard-working person can’t get enough protein through diet, Makovsky said he can understand his desire to get BCAAs, but supplements have very few calories and the body needs and enough calories to burn fat. The rest is left to build muscle, he said.
“I would also like to emphasize to people that if you take 10 grams of network amino acids, it’s 40 calories,” Makovsky said. “If you don’t get enough calories around you, your body will burn that protein for fuel.”
He added, “Actually, for the amount you’re getting, it’s cheaper to eat than to eat extra.”
Beta-alanine is also marketed as a supplement that can help increase muscle growth, but there is not enough evidence to support it, Makovsky said.
Studies around beta-alanine have shown that the amino acid improves a person’s anaerobic performance or high-intensity exercise, such as repeated sprints in a short period of time. However, current studies on beta-alanine, according to the International Society for Sports Nutrition, have not shown that amino acids help during strength training.
Finally, according to Makovsky, while HMB supplements restore strength in weak or elderly people, this is not indicated for young, well-nourished people.
Studies show that protein and creatine supplements help build muscle
Protein is especially important in building muscle, Makovsky said. Protein is a macronutrient made up of amino acids that nourish and maintain muscle, skin and other tissues.
Nutritionists recommend eating 1.2-2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight to build muscle. Although foods such as meat and Greek yogurt are high in protein, Makovsky said protein supplements can help meet the daily requirement of protein.
Creatine, according to Makovsky, is another science-based protein-building supplement that can help strength trainers build muscle mass.
Creatine is an amino acid stored in muscle tissue that helps the body produce a molecule called adenosine triphosphate, or ATP. ATP provides cells with energy during muscle movement, and the large number of molecules means that your muscles work harder over a longer period of time.
It has been further studied extensively and experts believe it is safe for most people, Scott Forbes, a professor and sports nutritionist at Brandon University, told Insider earlier.
“Creatine’s way of working is that it allows your body to recover a little better between strength workouts, so you get extra repetitions,” Makovsky said.