I have had some soldiers ask me what supplements they should be taking to gain muscle. Well the answer is simple that there isn’t a pill out there to take that will make you magically stronger; you have to maintain a healthy diet and exercise. But if you don’t have access to certain healthy foods or lean protein then supplementation might be for you. I have evaluated 3 different products that claim to help build strength and here is what I have found.
Glutamine seems to be thrown around a lot on bodybuilding.com as a great supplement to take for strength training. However studies show that while glutamine is a nonessential amino acid it can be found in high concentrations in our muscle tissue where it is synthesized and is a major means of fuel to the immune system. One other study done by Abcouwer and Souba noted that while glutamine was important for our immune system it didn’t show any improvements for strength or increasing muscle mass. One of the many reasons athletes take glutamine is because they are constantly working their bodies and overtraining because glutamine strengthens the immune system not the muscle tissue.
Creatine however is not an amino acid but a nitrogen containing compound called amine. Creatine can be found in meat. It is usually sent straight to the muscle, where it can then be turned into phosphocreatine. Several studies show that creatine has positive effects on exercise and strength improvement. Here is one study, Creatine improved total and maximal force in repetitive isometric muscle contractions, improvement in muscular strength and endurance in isotonic strength tests, improvement in muscular force/torque and endurance in isokinetic strength testing, improvement in cycle ergometer performance in maximal tests ranging from 6-30 seconds. So take your creatine and follow instructions on the back of your supplement if taking one or just eat your meat!
Protein anyone??? Yes you need protein, you should be able to get all the protein you need from your diet but it all needs to be lean protein. If it isn’t lean I wouldn’t eat it I would just take my protein supplement. Make sure you are buying lean protein. Here is a question that was asked to the American College of Sports Medicine, the American Dietetic Association and the Dieticians of Canada. Do individuals in strenuous physical training, including the developing adolescent athlete, need more protein in the diet? Answer- YES. Studies suggest that strength training athletes need 1.6-1.7 grams more protein per kilogram of body weight while endurance athletes needed 1.2-1.4 grams per kilogram.
So what have we learned? First all of these can be found in your diet so be sure to ask your doctor before you start taking supplements you might be consuming enough already. Creatine and Protein are good to use for strength training, Glutamine is used to keep the immune system healthy. Remember to ask your doctor before starting any supplements or just to ask your doctor what exactly every supplement out there is really used for.
References – Nutrition for Health, Fitness, & Sport; Ninth Edition. By Melvin H. Williams.