Gain Mass: Big on a Budget

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Gain Mass: Big on a Budget

There are lots of supplements advocating increases in size and strength, but when you look at the science supporting the validity of these supplements that increase muscle mass, there are not many. Two supplements have consistently been shown to favor increases in lean muscle mass: Creatine and Whey Protein.


Several studies have found that whey protein supplements are associated with an increase in muscle mass, size, and strength. Whey is known as the “fast-acting” protein, it’s absorbed very quickly, as opposed to slow acting proteins such as casein. Supplementation with whey protein results in a high blood amino acid peak and stimulation of protein synthesis similar to a dose of essential amino acids. Whey protein containing meals provide a higher leucine content compared with casein protein making it more advantageous for muscle mass.

Whey has been advocated both pre and post workout for increases in muscle mass. Whey consists of a high branched chain essential amino acids, especially leucine, in particular. Whey protein enriched with Leucine has been extensively studied due to its roles in stimulating muscle protein metabolism, glucose homeostasis, insulin action, and recovery from exercise. A previous study reported that two whey protein shakes a day stimulate increases in lean muscle mass.



Whey Protein’s Powerful Muscle Building Effects

One of the best examples of whey protein’s powerful muscle building effects was demonstrated when subjects added two whey protein shakes a day to their resistance training routine. The subjects were randomly assigned to either a whey protein group, placebo group or a control group. During the 21-week-resistance training period, total-body heavy resistance exercise workouts were carried out twice a week. During the 21-week-resistance training period, total-body heavy resistance exercise workouts were performed twice a week. Either 15 grams of whey protein dissolved in water or an equivalent amount of non-energetic placebo was ingested immediately before and after each bout of resistance exercise in the gym. The researchers examined muscle growth, and muscle anabolic signaling genes, and also the muscle catabolism gene myostatin.

The major findings of the present study investigating both acute and long-term effects in previously untrained young men were as follows:

Both groups increased lean muscle mass, but the whey protein group improved significantly. At the end of the 21 weeks, the placebo group had gained 2.57 kg lean body mass. The whey protein group had gained 3.1 kg lean body mass. Timed intake of 15 g of whey protein both immediately before and after each exercise session further increased resistance training-induced vastus lateralis (i.e. quadriceps) muscle hypertrophy. Anabolic gene responses were further enhanced with whey protein compared to the control group.

In conclusion, high-quality whey protein intake before and after resistance exercise appears to augment further resistance training-induced muscle hypertrophy in subjects. Whey protein intake close to resistance exercise workouts may alter mRNA expression in a manner advantageous for muscle hypertrophy.


Creatine Increases Lean Muscle Mass

Creatine is a compound naturally produced in the body from reactions involving the amino acids arginine, glycine, and methionine. Creatine has previously been found to result in significant increases in muscle mass and strength. Emerging evidence now suggests that creatine supplementation, close to resistance training, is an important strategy for creating an anabolic environment for muscle growth.

Creatine not only increases workout performance, but also has recently been shown to increase muscle hypertrophy through activation of anabolic genes post-exercise. Another added benefit of creatine is that it may also reduce post-exercise inflammation and muscle damage. Creatine may have antioxidant properties which can have protective effects on muscle damage. Creatine also increases lean muscle mass by boosting intracellular water content, but other studies have shown that creatine increases the activity of satellite cells, which increases the potential for growth of muscle fibers and also aids in muscle recuperation.

Big on a Budget Stack: Creatine and Whey Protein Research

Creatine Monohydrate combined with whey protein also has been shown to augment muscle strength and lean body mass when compared with carbohydrate or whey protein supplementation. The Creatine and Whey Protein Stack comes from a couple of great studies. In a 10-week, single-blind, randomized study, 17 resistance trained males were matched for strength and placed in one of two groups:

  • A group that consumed a supplement containing protein, creatine, and glucose immediately before and after a workout or;
  • A group that drank the same supplement in the morning before breakfast and late evening each training day.

At the end of the 10 weeks of training, supplementation with whey protein and creatine before and after each workout resulted in significantly greater improvements in strength and lean body mass with a decrease in body fat percentage compared with those who took a supplement in the morning and late evening. The authors concluded a whey protein/ creatine/carbohydrate supplement may enhance the desired changes from strength training when taken immediately before and after a workout session.

In another metanalysis of studies examining the validity of whey protein and creatine, researchers examined whether whey protein-containing supplements, administered alone or as a part of a multi-ingredient (i.e. creatine containing) could improve the effects of resistance training on fat-free mass or lean body mass, and strength in resistance-trained individuals when compared with other iso-energetic supplements containing carbohydrates or other sources of proteins.

A structured literature search was conducted on all the available research from PubMed, Science Direct, Web of Science, Cochrane Libraries, US National Institutes of Health, SPORTDiscus, and Google Scholar databases. Main inclusion criteria comprised randomized controlled trial study design, adults (aged 18 years and over), resistance-trained individuals, interventions (a resistance training program for a period of 6 weeks or longer, combined with whey protein supplementation administered alone or as a part of a multi-ingredient), and a calorie equivalent contrast supplement from carbohydrates or other non-whey protein sources. Continuous data on fat-free mass and lean body mass, and maximal strength were pooled using a random-effects model.

Data from nine randomized controlled trials were included, involving 11 treatments and 192 participants. Overall, with respect to the ingestion of contrast supplements, whey protein supplementation, administered alone or as part of a multi-ingredient, in combination with resistance training, was associated with small extra gains in fat-free mass or lean body mass. Whey protein alone or as a part of a multi-ingredient (i.e. creatine) appeared to maximize lean body mass or fat-free mass gain, as well as upper and lower body strength improvement with respect to the ingestion of an iso-energetic equivalent carbohydrate or non-whey protein supplement in resistance-training individuals. This enhancement effect seems to be more evident when whey proteins are consumed within a multi-ingredient containing creatine.

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