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Muscle Gain: Herbs, Supplements & Diet Guidelines for Bodybuilding

Want to bulk up and gain muscle?

By far the easiest and most popular way to supplement ones diet when looking to gain muscle is to add powdered protein to the diet. Please do note at this juncture that you will not gain muscle even if supplementing with protein unless you are exercising correctly. Powdered protein is easily mixed with water, milk or juice to form a protein drink. Protein supplements should be consumed directly before, during exercise and can also replace a meal. The time at which protein is taken is also determined by the type of protein.

Whey Protein

Whey protein which is the most popular should be taken before and during exercise. The advantages of whey protein are that it contains high levels of all the essential amino acids, plus all the BCAAs or branched chain amino acids. The great thing is that whey protein contains all the necessary amino acids for muscle recovery. There are more and less concentrated forms of whey protein. Whey concentrate contains 30-85% protein by weight, but whey isolate is far higher at a concentrated 90% protein by weight. Finally one also gets whey hydrolysate which is a pre-digested form, and therefore more readily digested.

Casein Protein

The most popular alternate is casein protein from milk. This form of protein is not well tolerated by all and if you do not respond well to it there are numerous alternatives.


Hemp Protein

One of the best alternatives is hemp protein. Hemp is also a complete protein, as well as being readily digestible, plus hemp seed oil contains high levels of essential fatty acids.

Other Protein Sources

Also on the list of alternatives are proteins that are considerably less allergenic than whey or casein. For instance rice protein, from the wholegrain is a complete protein, while also easily digested. The only downside is that it is low in lysine, so it is recommended to combine it with pea protein to achieve a more complete amino acid profile. Pea protein is also hypoallergenic, and is not associated with the phytoestrogenic effects that are concerns with soy protein supplementation.


Please remember that although generally it is believed to be advantageous for athletes and body builders to increase their protein intake, exact dosages are highly individualised. The individualization is dependent on the type and duration of exercise, plus the physiological make up of each individual ie. the age, gender and body size. Consult with your trainer and nutritionist before commencing any supplementation.

More Supplements

After the basic protein supplementation there are some other alternatives, which can be stand alone or combined with protein supplementation dependent on the individual:


L-Glutamine is most abundant in muscle tissue and therefore the first on our list. It aids in the prevention of muscle wasting and improves recovery time. Quicker recovery times make for quicker returns to the gym. The only thing to note is that glutamine should not be supplemented at the same time as creatine as they compete for absorption. Always take glutamine pre-workout.


Creatine is still extremely popular among athletes, body builders and even regular gym goers. It aids in the increase of muscle mass, through the increase of ATP, the main energy source in muscles. This allows for increased reps, sets and even allows an increase in the amount of weight lifted. It also decreases recovery time and even seems to improve brain function. Arnold Schwarzenegger himself says “Creatine monohydrate is regarded as a necessity by most bodybuilders. Creatine monohydrate is the most cost-effective dietary supplement in terms of muscle size and strength gains. … There is no preferred creatine supplement, but it is believed that creatine works best when it is consumed with simple carbohydrates” in his book The New Encyclopaedia of Modern Bodybuilding. Remember creatine must be taken post-workout to avoid any clash with glutamine (see above point).

BCAAs (Branched chain amino acids)

Branched chain amino acids or BCAAs are namely leucine, isoleucine and valine. These are essential amino acids meaning that we do not manufacture them and have to either get them in through diet or supplementation with them. BCAAs are vital as they account for 35% of the essential amino acids in muscle proteins. BCAAs can promote muscle protein synthesis and increase muscle growth. While BCAA supplementation may be useful for gaining mass, more important is that they are especially helpful for maintaining muscle mass while on a calorie-deficit diet. This is worth mentioning at this juncture as many competitive body builders use calorie-restricted diets to achieve a lean physique.

Omega 3

One of the most important supplements for body builders to supplement with, besides protein and the above, are the essential fatty acids which are very necessary for various functions in the body. Essential fatty acids are vital for heart health, as well as for the cardiovascular system. It is also very important to note that many bodybuilders struggle with dry skin, food allergies and leaky gut syndrome, this is directly due to diets low in fat intake. This is where it gets more complex. Not just any fat will do! Omega 3 (comprised mostly of EPA and DHA) is the vital one to supplement with. Correct supplementation with the correct ratios of omegas has given the following results:

  • An enhancement in stamina by 40-60%
  • An improvement in both muscular development, as well as reductions in recovery times
  • An increase in the speed of recoveries from injuries
  • Improvements in skin conditions, cardiovascular functioning and even concentration

It is important to note that omega 3 turns on the genes involved in the burning of fat in the body, while turning off the genes involved in the production of fat in the body. All of this is a reminder of how vital the correct fatty acids are to our bodies.

Please remember that each of you reading this article is different and each of you have specific needs. Any supplementation is dependent on the type and duration of exercise, plus your age, gender and body size. Consult with your trainer and nutritionist before commencing any supplementation.


About The Author:
After eight years in the retail side of the health industry, much accumulation of knowledge and information I changed industries completely and gone back to my graphic design roots. I still wish to help inform people on natural alternatives, as well as help people when they are choosing to use natural alternatives to treat disorders, diseases and distresses.
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Posted in: Health by on December 16, 2014 @ 4:49 pm

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