By Nmami Agarwal
THE TRUTH ABOUT MUSCLE GAINERS
The supplement industry is huge, promising you to gain muscles like your favourite Marvel superstar or to lose fat in return of muscles like magic. But how many of these actually work.
We have already spoken about “Fat Burners” in our previous post, this time we are throwing light on some of the most popular and most readily available Muscle Gainers. Do they live up to their promise? Read on to know more.
- BCAA (Branched Chain Amino Acids) -Amino acids are required by your body to manufacture protein. There are two categories of amino acids required by your body to function, these are termed as “essential”- the ones your body cannot synthesize and hence have to be taken from an outside food source, and “non-essential”- the ones that your body can manufacture within itself. BCAA are a group of three essential amino acids- leucine, isoleucine and valine, comprising of around 35% of your body’s muscle protein. A good BCAA supplement must contain leucine, isoleucine and valine in a ratio of 2:1:1. Their benefits are: enhanced muscle protein synthesis and reduction in muscle protein breakdown. BCAA are efficiently claimed to enhance muscle growth when combined with weight/ resistance training. They also help in maintaining glucose levels. Five to seven grams of BCAA can be taken post-workout as the supplementation will ensure they are readily absorbed by body and used rapidly to derive energy.
BCAA are also found in many food items like: chicken, fish, egg, lentils, soy, beans and dairy products.
BCAA supplements are prescribed on a vast scale to people who regularly workout in an intense manner (HIIT) or are competitive athletes. Although, the toxicity of BCAA is not reported, it can cause adverse effects like- fatigue, loss of concentration, and nausea. BCAA are also not recommended for people with Diabetes, and females during the course of pregnancy and lactation.
- Glutamine– Glutamine is a type of amino that falls under the non-essential category but is sometimes termed as conditionally essential, meaning its requirement comes up during certain situations of body’s demands. It is the most abundantly found free amino acid in the body (around 60 percent of intramuscular amino acid), however, its levels might deplete during the periods of illness or regularly doing intense workouts.
Glutamine is involved in various body functions like- protein synthesis, regulation of acid-base balance, precursor to neurotransmitter glutamate which further regulates cellular metabolism. Glutamine also helps in weight loss while keeping the muscle mass intact.
Glutamine is found in many natural food sources like – eggs, beef, corn, beans, beets, cabbages, fish, chicken, dairy products, Brussel sprouts, and parsley.
For people opting for Glutamine supplementation, it can prevent their muscles from being broken down (catabolized), and it also boosts the immune system. It also helps in muscle recovery after an intense workout. But, since Glutamine is readily available through many food sources, it is better to opt for them first instead of going for the supplement and as stated, the supplementation should be done under the supervision of a qualified nutritionist/ dietitian only.
- Creatine: Creatine is one of the most popular supplements amongst athletes, body builders and gym goers. It is a substance naturally synthesized by your body in kidneys, liver and pancreas. Ninety five percent of creatine is stored in your muscles and five percent is in brain, liver and kidneys. Certain studies have shown it to enhance exercise performance, muscle mass and strength. Creatine increases the stores of phosphocreatine which helps the body produce more ATP (high energy molecule that aids us perform almost all of the functions we do). Thus, it aids muscles to produce more energy, boosts muscle growth and helps in muscle recovery after an intense workout.
Creatine is found most abundantly in red meat, fish, eggs, milk, beef and salmon.
Researchers have shown that taking three to five grams of creatine can increase strength in muscle mass, if you regularly workout. The reason why supplementation is taken is that it increases your exercise duration as it boosts you up with sufficient energy during a workout.
FDA has still not approved creatine to be safe or effective. The most common side effect of creatine supplement is weight gain as it can increase water weight in your body. People with kidney diseases or diabetes are cautioned against its usage. In higher doses, creatine can lead to low blood glucose (hypoglycaemia), high blood pressure, kidney stones, bloating, dehydration and liver damage.
So, take this article as a word of caution against the usage of creatine supplement, unless prescribed under guidance.
- Hydroxy Methyl Butyrate (HMB): There is a wide speculation around that HMB is a type of steroid. No, it is not! HMB is a metabolite (breakdown product) of essential amino acid leucine. Its supplementation is promoted to enhance strength and lean muscle mass during resistance training. It acts by minimizing protein breakdown from muscles. It can also prevent muscle atrophy. If you work out on a regular basis, HMB supplement is recommended to be taken in a dose of three grams per day as it can induce gain in muscle size, muscle strength, improve lean muscle mass and reduce skeletal muscle damage.
High leucine levels will mean higher levels of HMB In body. So foods such as fish, milk, meat and egg can provide your body with necessary leucine to produce HMB in turn.
HMB supplements are available in tablet and powder forms. They are recommended to be consumed pre- workout. But these are generally sold at a hefty price and there are many claims that deem them overrated and overpriced for the results they produce. If you are taking BCAA supplement that already contains leucine, you might not want to consider taking an additional HMB supplement.
HMB causes no serious harm but cases have been reported to cause low blood pressure when consumed for a long run.
Over to you
We hope to have addressed to some of your queries regarding the usage of commonly available supplements. However, you should be aware of the fact that a bad diet can never be out done by the usage of supplements. Your first focus should be on deriving nutrients from natural food sources, and if you are considering supplements then you must also consider consulting a qualified dietitian first.