Question:

Hi, what would be the best supplement to become leaner and cut muscle?

– Lito J.

Answer:

The leanest, most cut people are generally considered bodybuilders. They most commonly use arginine, beta-alanine, branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), caffeine, citrulline malate, creatine monohydrate, glutamine, and beta-hydroxy-methylbutyrate (HMB). Among these, creatine has been shown to be effective for muscle size and strength when added to a weight training program.1,2 The International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) states that “creatine monohydrate is the most effective ergogenic nutritional supplement currently available to athletes in terms of increasing high-intensity exercise capacity and lean body mass during training.”2 Beta-alanine further improves lean mass gains and body fat loss in conjunction with creatine supplementation.1  

Arginine and citrulline malate may have ergogenic effects but do not conclusively alter body composition. The BCAAs (leucine, isoleucine and valine) decrease muscle protein breakdown and increase skeletal muscle protein synthesis though these have not translated to increased lean mass. The stimulant caffeine, taken pre-workout, increases strength training performance which allows you to do more muscle-building work.

Read about related topics on our Living Healthy blog – overall supplements and nitric oxide boosters.

Resources:

  • Evidence-based recommendations for natural bodybuilding contest preparation: nutrition and supplementation. Helms ER, Aragon AA, Fitschen PJ. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. May 2014; 11:20. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-11-20
  • International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: Safety and Efficacy of Creatine Supplementation in Exercise, Sport and Medicine. RB Kreider, et al. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. June 2017; 14:18. doi.org/10.1186/s12970-017-0173-z

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

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