Gaining muscle is one of the most common goals when somebody hits the gym. It takes hard work with heavy weight; and, it also takes a strict diet. Getting enough protein, carbohydrates and calories into your diet is paramount to slapping on some mean slabs of muscle.
However, sometimes food doesn’t provide enough nutrients to reach your goals quickly – this is when people will turn to supplements. One of the most popular supplements on the market is creatine. However, creatine can be intimidating to those who haven’t taken it before. If you’re not ready for a creatine supplement, there are other ways you can build muscle faster.
First, we’ll go over our favorite supplements to replace creatine. Then, let’s take a look at creatine both as a natural supplement and as a chemical compound.
Supplement Alternatives To Creatine
In addition to creatine, there are several muscle-building supplements on the market. They have different effects than creatine powder, but they all are used for the primary goal of gaining muscle. Here is a list of some good muscle-building supplements that can boost your gains:
Beta-alanine, like creatine, is a naturally occurring compound in your body. The different building blocks of protein are called amino acids, and beta-alanine is one of those amino acids. It works by raising the levels of carnosine in your muscles. If you’ve never heard of carnosine before, which I’m sure many people haven’t, carnosine is an acid in the muscle that affects your muscle fatigue. When you have a high carnosine level in your muscles, they fatigue more slowly and can effectively achieve a higher output volume.
Beta-alanine is a common supplement that is widely available and can elevate your workouts. Several lifters have also reported feeling more focused during the workout, as the chemical compound is similar to caffeine.
Supplements to Try
You’ve probably heard of BCAAs before, but didn’t give them much of a thought. However, supplementing with BCAAs (branched chain amino acids) can give a significant boost to your muscle growth. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, but several amino acids are stored in the liver before the body decides what to do with them.
Branched chain amino acids like leucine are expedited to muscle to aid in rebuilding and growing. Branched chain aminos aren’t stored in the liver for a long time like other aminos, they can go right to the muscle without waiting around for your body to decide what to do with them. Think of a road with no stop signs or traffic lights (with only one car on the road, of course); that car is going to move pretty quickly since it doesn’t have any hindrances.
This leads to gains in size and strength, and BCAA supplements are generally inexpensive and pretty tasty.
Supplements to Try
Whey protein is by far the most common bodybuilding and muscle growth supplement. Getting enough protein throughout your day to promote muscle growth can be difficult, especially if you’re a busy person, but protein powder is cheap, widely available and the taste ranges from awful to excellent, depending on the brand.
Getting enough protein is important because when you work out, you’re tearing your muscle fibers so that they can rebuild and grow – the main task of protein. If you’re not getting enough protein your body won’t be able to build upon the microtears in your muscle and you won’t get bigger. In fact, you may lose muscle mass because of the protein shortage.
Supplements to Try
See which of these two proteins is better in our Optimum Nutrition vs MusclePharm Whey Protein Comparison.
Creatine is a naturally occurring compound in your body that is responsible for supplying energy for muscular contractions.
Why You Need Extra Creatine
When you’re taking in extra creatine, you’re giving your muscles a boost of energy when contracting – which translates into the ability to lift heavier or crank out a few more reps. Creatine itself doesn’t make you grow, but it allows you to work your muscles harder to promote growth faster. Creatine supplements contain a high amount of this compound to kick your workouts into gear and help you be the most you can be under the bar.
However, some creatine supplements can cause stomach issues, especially for first-time users, or can simply be intimidating due to the fact that it contains a chemical compound and not just protein or carbohydrates. If you’re not supplementing with creatine but you still want to get a little bit extra from your workouts in terms of size and strength, there are some alternatives. However, be advised that there is no direct substitute for creatine powders, because nothing acts on the body like creatine.
Natural Sources of Creatine
If you’ve tried creatine powder and it didn’t agree with you, or you’re hesitant to take it due to creatine being a common cause of upset stomach in lifters, there are ways to get more creatine in your diet naturally – the key?
Wild game contains more creatine than any other food and can be a good way to boost your intake without relying on the powder form. Foods like venison, duck, rabbit and elk are fantastic sources of creatine, and can provide enough to give your workouts a boost.
Another food that contains natural creatine, that might be more cost-effective than wild game, is fresh fish. Fresh fish is not only high in protein and healthy fat, but it contains a good amount of creatine.
Creatine is completely safe. It has been subject to several studies and has found no harmful effects, besides maybe an upset stomach here and there (usually due to not drinking enough water with supplementation).
With that said, maybe you’re still not on board, which is fine. There are several supplements out there; and, while they don’t provide the exact same effect as creatine, many of them are great supplements for building muscle and improving performance in the gym.
Whether you supplement with whey, beta alanine or BCAAs, what matters is that you’re seeing results and aren’t getting any negative side effects – that’s what matters in a supplement.
Now mix up whatever single supplement or stack you’re using, knock it back and hit the weights.