Anabolic Supplement: that which stimulate growth/building-up of tissue, specifically muscle and bone.
Ergogenic Supplement: that which enhances athletic performance or aids physical exercise
Besides Testosterone and Growth Hormone boosting products, there are many many more different supplements in the muscle-building category. There is the powdered variety (that you mix in a shaker-cup), which range from pre-workout mixes to post-workout shakes and include intra-workout drinks in between.
There are also capsule/pill based supplements designed to be taken with meals, and the have been formulated for muscle, strength and overall well-being support.
Pre-workout supplements generally include ingredients that offer some performance enhancement benefits during workouts. These ingredients might boost your power output, extend your muscle endurance, or enhance your mind-muscle connection. However they work, they are there to help you work harder and/or longer. This stimulates more improvement in the recovery period, in the form of growth, strength, endurance and more.
Intra-Workout, or Peri-Workout, drinks often consist of a blend of ingredients with energy and stamina boosting properties. There is also a high likelihood of some anti-catabolic (anti-muscle breakdown) and even anabolic agents in there as well. The main objective is to keep you fuelled inside the workout so your energy, intensity and general level of effort don’t tail off.
The supplements taken during a workout also help with recovery and growth in between workouts. This is especially good if you engage in lengthy workouts (longer than 45 minutes) as the physical stress can start eating into the gains you are trying to trigger.
Post Workout shakes mainly consist of protein, and sometimes some carbohydrates. They are the supplement most gym goers take, even if they decide not to go for a pre-workout or intra-workout.
Capsule supplements cannot fit as many ingredients as the shaker-cup type so they mostly contain more exotic compounds that work with the body in different ways. For example, where a post-workout protein shake will literally provide material for muscle growth, a capsule supplement might contain a testosterone booster, an HGH booster or a nitric oxide booster etc.
It’s worth mentioning that all of these may be present in some form inside the pre-workouts and other shaker-cup products, though they tend to be more ‘specialist’ ingredients that go into capsules.
These types of ingredients stimulate other processes, which themselves have knock-on effects. Down the chain, however, they might have just as much effect as 30g of protein powder.
What are the Types of Anabolic Ingredient?
I’ve already mentioned a couple above, but there are some stand-out categories that fit into this parent category of anabolic supplements (aside from Testosterone and HGH boosters):
Nitric Oxide Boosters – aka NO booster – refers to ingredients that can give you a bigger ‘Pump’ or make you ‘Swole’. Apologies for the vernacular but if you read current muscle-building literature (magazines and such) or listen to bodybuilders, then you might have heard these terms.
The ‘pump’ and being ‘swole’ are two in the same really. They refer to the feeling of your muscles being pumped up during and just after a workout. NO boosters enhance this effect by widening your blood vessels (this is called vasodilation), thereby shuttling more oxygen and nutrients to the working muscles.
mTOR Boosters – the Mammalian Target of Rapamycin – is an only half-understood pathway via which protein synthesis, muscle growth and repair and many other benefits are triggered to start. mTOR is a like the master controller of the anabolic growth response of resistance training.
It has many inputs, including insulin and growth hormone but also responds to the mechanical act of lifting something heavy. mTOR supplements are sort of new on the market and sort of not new. For example, the amino acid Leucine has been on the market forever but it’s now being called an mTOR stimulator because it plays a role in that pathway. New hype, old science!
Performance Enhancers – I suppose Nitric Oxide boosters could go in this box, but this is mainly for the power, energy and stamina boosters. In some way they will make you dig deeper in the gym.
The important thing to remember is that weight lifting, and exercise in general, only stimulates improvement, and it is not improvement itself. In fact without proper nutrition and sleep, exercise would actually damage you.
Being able to exercise more intensely as a result of using one of these performance enhancers should trigger better results from the training. Some examples:
- Citrulline Malate
- L-Arginine Alphaketoglutarate
……and so on
How Do I Get The Most from Supplements?
A product which makes provides you with more energy and power for your workouts, for example, is not going to be enough to grow bigger muscles.
The fact that you lifted more total weight or ran further will stimulate a bigger growth response, but the raw material with which to do it comes from your overall nutritional intake. And the period in which it happens is mostly while you rest.
Some Anabolic Supplement Links
Supplements and Ingredients
Diet and Nutrition