Most supplement companies will tell you: bodybuilding and supplements go together like two peas in a pod. Without supplements, you are unable to grow a muscular frame. But is there truth to this claim? Do you really need to rely on supplements to increase muscle mass and build a muscular physique?
The quick answer is no, supplements are not necessary to boost muscle mass. Most fitness experts will tell you that supplements may help increase muscle mass, but they are not everything. All you need to increase muscle mass is to increase your caloric intake and that’s it.
The Importance of Proper Nutrition in Muscle Building
We get energy and important nutrients from the food we eat. And these nutrients include amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. We need amino acids to generate more muscle fibers and repair damaged ones. There are 23 amino acids that exist naturally, but only 8 are essential to the human diet.
The reason why supplements are sold as separate products is that they offer an isolated and concentrated level of amino acids whereas harnessing these nutrients from the food you eat entails consuming more calories. Depending on your fitness goals, increasing your caloric consumption might be a good thing or a bad thing.
But when you think about it, supplements are just food. The real benefit of these products is that they provide key nutrients that build muscles. But you can achieve the same effects if you plan your meals very well. Essentially, you want balanced portions of lean protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats to build bigger muscles. You can always boost your diet with supplements to improve your chances of gaining more mass.
Lean protein like poultry, beef, fish and nuts help increase the body’s ability to generate more muscle fibers and repair worn out ones. Because red meat is high in saturated fat, we recommend alternating between red meat and fish each week.
There are two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates provide quick boosts of energy while complex carbohydrates stabilize the glucose level in the blood. Mangoes, banana, yogurt, and milk are great sources of simple carbs. Green vegetables, whole grains, lentils, legumes and starchy vegetables are loaded with complex carbs. Between the two, complex carbs burn slowly to prolong the feeling of satiety.
You need a balanced amount of monounsaturated fats, essentially fatty acids, and a little saturated fat to keep the muscles and joints healthy. Plant-based oils – such as olive and canola oil – are packed with monounsaturated fats. Oily fish, nuts and grains are packed with omega-3 fatty acid. This beneficial fat protects the muscles and joints from inflammation. Saturated fats have their own benefits and drawbacks.
A reasonable amount of saturated fat keeps the liver healthy and even promotes immunity. Saturated fat also triggers the release of testosterone, boosting the body’s ability to repair muscle tissues and increase mass. This type of fat is only found in animal-based products such as red meat, butter, chicken with the skin on, and full-fat milk. Palm oil and coconut oil also contain saturated fat.