A board-certified sports dietitian said BCAA, HMB and beta-alanine supplements are not needed for muscle building.
BCAA supplements contain the same amino acids as protein-rich foods and can be more expensive.
Research has not shown that HMB and beta-alanine help build muscle in healthy, well-nourished adults.
Lifting weights is just one part of the puzzle when it comes to increasing muscle mass.
What you consume plays an important role in building lean muscle, which is why many gym goers turn to supplements, a market that has been increasing sales in recent years.
Jason Machowsky, a New York-based certified sports dietitian, said that while protein and creatine supplements may help support muscle gains, other supplements marketed for muscle building may not be helpful, according to research.
Supplements marketed to help increase muscle mass such as BCAAs, HMB and beta-alanine are not as effective as consuming enough calories and getting enough protein in your diet, Machowsky said. But research has shown that protein and creatine supplements can help with gains.
A high-protein diet is more effective for muscle building than most supplements alone
Acid-containing supplements that form proteins such as BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids) or that help break down muscle such as HMBs (beta hydroxy beta methylbutyrate), are promoted as supplements for muscle building by retailers. Some research indicates that BCAAs may have a greater influence on muscle growth compared to other acids such as threonine, which prevents the accumulation of fat in the liver, or methionine, which strengthens the skin and nails.
But Machowsky said BCAAs are found in proteins, making them “just one more source of protein.” Protein sources such as eggs, yogurt and chicken also contain BCAAs.
Machowsky said getting enough calories and protein from food, combined with strength training, is the most crucial part of increasing muscle mass.
If someone who does strength training is not able to get enough protein through their diet, Machowsky said he could understand the desire to take BCAAs, but supplements have very few calories and the body requires an excess of calories both to feed the workouts enough to have enough to build muscle, he said.
“What I also need to emphasize to people is that if you take 10 grams of branched chain amino acids, that’s 40 calories,” Machowsky said. “If you don’t take in the right calories everywhere, your body will only burn that protein as fuel.”
He added that “the truth is that for the amount you receive, it is probably cheaper to eat the food than to have to get it through a supplement.”
Beta-alanine is also marketed as a supplement that can help increase muscle gains, but there is not enough evidence to support it, Machowsky said.
Research into beta-alanine has found that the amino acid can improve a person’s anaerobic performance or high-intensity exercises that occur over short periods of time, such as repeated sprints. But current research on beta-alanine has not shown that the amino acid helps during strength training, according to the International Society for Sports Nutrition.
Finally, Machowsky said, while HMB supplements can help frail or aged people regain strength, the same has not been shown for young, well-nourished people.
Research shows that protein and creatine supplements can help build muscle
Protein is especially important for building muscle, Machowsky said. Protein is a macronutrient made up of amino acids, essential compounds that grow and maintain muscle, skin and other tissues.
Dietitians recommend eating 1.2 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight to increase muscle. Although foods such as meat and Greek yogurt contain large amounts of protein, Machowsky said protein supplements can help meet the recommended daily protein needs.
Creatine is another science-backed protein-building supplement that can help strength trainers increase muscle mass, according to Machowsky.
Creatine is an amino acid stored in muscle tissue that helps the body produce a molecule called adenosine triphosphate or ATP. ATP provides energy to cells during muscle movements, and having more molecule means that muscles can work harder for longer periods of time.
The supplement has been widely studied and experts believe it is safe for most people, Brandon University professor and sports nutritionist Scott Forbes previously told Insider.
“The way creatine works is that it allows your body to recover a little better between strength training sets so you can get extra reps,” Machowsky said.
Read the original article in Insider