No, they won't do the work for you, but the right supplements can fuel your workout to help you develop more lean muscle mass through exercise. What's more, some products may help you build more muscle than exercise alone. For the best muscle-toning results, combine these supplements with a resistance training routine performed two to four days per week, working every major muscle group. Always give muscles a full day's rest before training them again, and don't worry about gaining too much bulk; women don't have the testosterone required to build beefy muscles.
Protein plus resistance training equals more muscle, according to a study published in 2006 in the "International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism." The study followed male and female young adults who worked out and took either soy or whey protein during exercise, or no supplement at all. Both supplementing groups built more lean muscle mass than the protein-free bunch. Although research is limited, there is also some evidence that soy may help prevent breast cancer and osteoporosis in women.
Finally, you can feel good about your coffee cravings. While caffeine does not directly affect your muscles, it does provide energy to help sustain your during a tough workout. You may feel more eager to take on extra weight or extend your exercise time after a dose of caffeine. If you don't like coffee, try a cup of green or black tea, iced if you please. Just be sure to drink plenty of water, since caffeine can have a diuretic effect.
Creatine has had its fair share of debate in the fitness world, but the Mayo Clinic reports that multiple top-notch studies show this supplement increases lean muscle mass while improving strength. It may also increase bone mass, leaving you less susceptible to osteoporosis. When choosing a creatine supplement, take calories into account. Women have lower energy needs than men, so stay away from brands packed with sugar or other diet-busters.
Supplements don't undergo the same rigorous testing as medications, and safety is never a guarantee. It's a good idea to discuss supplement use and dosages with your health care provider, particularly if you have any medical conditions or are pregnant or nursing. Supplements often contain multiple active ingredients, so read labels carefully to understand what you are taking. Do your research, and stick with trusted brands. Never use supplements as replacements for prescription meds -- they aren't intended to treat or cure any illness.
- WebMD: Health Rules You Can Bend - Weights
- International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism/PubMed.gov: Effect of Whey and Soy Protein Supplementation Combined with Resistance Training in Young Adults
- MayoClinic.com: Soy (Glycine max)
- Stack.com: The Best Supplements for Building Muscle
- MayoClinic.com: Creatine: Evidence
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Using Dietary Supplements Wisely
Nina K. is a Los Angeles-based journalist who has been published by USAToday.com, Fitday.com, Healthy Living Magazine, Organic Authority and numerous other print and web publications. She has a philosophy degree from the University of Colorado and a journalism certificate from UCLA.