Supplements can be confusing. There are many, many types and brands and forms of supplements, so it can be easy to get overwhelmed. Women especially can be intimidated by supplements in general, but even more so muscle building supplements. Many women prefer to stay lean and toned without being bulky, so muscle building can come off the wrong way.
Muscle building supplements rarely work by directly building muscle size and mass. Instead, they work by increasing the amount of endurance, power, and focus felt by the athlete, which allows them to work longer and harder. Since women have lower testosterone compared to men, the ability to bulk is much, much lower.
Protein powders are the most common muscle building supplement. They are easily digested and come in a variety of types and flavors. Protein blends are often more “complete,” offering more essential amino acids that your body uses to support muscle growth and strength. Whey proteins are the most common, while casein tends to slowly release throughout the day.
Creatine monohydrate is another often misunderstood muscle building supplement. Creatine is not an illegal substance, and it is not a steroid. It is a supplement that increases power and endurance. Micronized creatine is a fine powder that is easily dissolved and absorbed by the body.
Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid that helps to increase endurance and reduce fatigue. Beta-alanine can cause tingling sensations, so start with small doses and see what you can handle comfortably.
Nitric Oxide Boosters
Nitric oxide boosters help to increase blood flow, endurance, and recovery. Types of nitric oxide boosters include arginine or citrulline. Citrulline malate helps to decrease soreness. Beetroot powder or juice can also help to boost nitrates and can be found in many supplements.
Pre-workout often contains caffeine, which can help boost power and focus. This is why stimulant pre-workouts often cause jitters. High doses of caffeine can cause stomach irritation or insomnia, so evaluate your tolerance based on how your body reacts.
Magnesium & Zinc
Magnesium helps to increase muscle oxygenation during high intensity workouts. Magnesium is a supplement that can cause sleepiness when overused, so a simple blood test can help define how much you need and if it can benefit your routine. ZMA is Zinc Magnesium Aspartate, which is a combined supplement. Zinc is known to help with protein synthesis.
Branched Chain Amino Acids are essential amino acids that help increase protein synthesis. Taking the three BCAAs – leucine, valine, and isoleucine – together helps to boost energy and support your workout endurance.
Arginine helps to increase blood flow which helps other supplements to absorb properly. Arginine is also a nitric oxide booster, but must be taken in combination with citrulline and nitric oxide for it to make a difference.