Any trainer, nutritionist, or body builder worth their salt knows one thing for sure: Building muscle takes more than just pumping iron. There are best practices related to diet, sleep and even natural supplements for muscle growth.
Of course, you’re not going to experience any serious muscle growth – in strength or size – if you don’t exercise at least a little, but relying just on lifting heavy weights doesn’t always guarantee you’ll build muscle like the Hulk. Most gym goers or health conscious eaters include supplements to build muscle in their diets.
Serious body builders know the importance of fueling muscle growth properly. Eating a high protein, clean diet full of healthy fats and veggies may help you lose fat while simultaneously giving your muscles the nutrients they need to repair and rebuild. But sometimes there’s only so much muscular hypertrophy—or muscle building—one can achieve when relying on a whole-foods diet. You need a little help. That’s why many gym-goers turn to natural supplements to help them achieve their goals, whether it be fat loss, an increase in muscle mass, or greater endurance.
But not all natural supplements, protein powders and pre-workout mixes are created equal and some are better at building natural muscle than others. Check out our five favorite natural muscle building supplements.
A common amino acid found in muscle tissue, glutamine sources are depleted when muscles are worked to exhaustion. That can lead to decreased strength, endurance, and recovery. Not good if you’re trying to get big! Supplementing with glutamine replenishes the muscle building supplement and may increase muscle tone.
Add a scoop to a glass of water after a workout, or take it in pill form.
Recommended source: Wellmade L-Glutamine
Already the darling of the Paleo world, dietary collagen is a building block of healthy muscle, tendons, ligaments, and fascia, making it an important supplement for recovery and natural muscle builder. Strenuous exercise like repeatedly lifting heavy weights (or any type of endurance training, for that matter) can help you build muscle. But this comes at the price of breaking down the collagen in your body, meaning those tissues can’t rebuild themselves as quickly. Adding a collagen supplement into your diet may help repair and build tendons and ligaments.
Add a scoop or two into your morning smoothie, or take it in pill form.
Recommended source: Great Lakes Wellness Collagen Hydrolysate
The medium chain triglycerides that make up MCT oil deliver energy straight to the muscles you’ll work in the gym. Plus, because building muscles increases metabolic rate—which means you’re burning more calories—most lifters need to increase their daily calories, too. Natural MCT supplements are an easy way to get more calories per day without feeling like you’re force-feeding.
Mix a tablespoon into your coffee, or use it in a salad dressing.
Recommended source: Thrive Market Organic MCT Oil
With 20 grams of protein per serving, whey protein is the natural muscle builder of choice for most professional and new athletes alike. Not only does protein help build muscle mass, but whey protein offers branch chain amino acids, another building block of muscle. We opt for this healthy organic supplement for building muscle because it tastes great and doesn’t have any unnecessary fillers. Plus, it’s made from whey concentrate which means it’s less processed than whey isolate products.
Add a scoop to your smoothies, or make protein pancakes.
Recommended source: Thrive Market Organic Whey Protein, Vanilla
Wanna get your daily dose of protein but find that whey supplements give you “bathroom problems”? First off, that’s pretty normal. Because lactose and casein are two of the main components of protein in whey, they can cause some serious indigestion and bloating in those with a milk sensitivity.
Check out this raw vegan plant protein. At 30 grams of protein per serving, this natural supplement outperforms its whey protein counterparts. Plus, it naturally contains probiotic powers that help keep gut bacteria healthy—which is super important if you’re downing more food than usual or trying to burn fat.
Recommended source: Vega Sport Performance Protein
Creatine supplements may increase your stamina during high-intensity workouts by helping your cells produce more energy. This natural supplement also supports overall strength performance during your workouts, and can support muscle growth afterwards. This popular supplement may be a great addition to your regimen if you’re trying to build more muscle.
Add 1 scoop to 8 ounces of juice or water 30-90 minutes before or after exercise.
Recommend Source: Thorne Creatine Powder
Getting into awesome shape doesn’t require crazy chemical-laden powders and pills—you’ll find that you can get the same results without the detrimental side effects by going clean and organic. Focus on these natural supplements for building muscle for a few months and monitor your results.
Here’s to your fittest year yet!
Photo credit: Alicia Cho
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