In the world of muscle building supplements things can get very confusing very fast, between having to sort through claims like site-specific muscle growth such as building more muscles specifically on your chest and arms or other claims in which testosterone boosters promise to be as effective as steroids without any of the side effects, of course, it could become very difficult to sort out fact from fiction and to get the right supplements that have actually been scientifically proven to be effective.
1. Mass Gainers: Let’s start with a couple supplements that aren’t going to be worth your money. Mass Gainers are not going to be worth your money. There’s no doubt that they’ll provide you with the massive amount of calories but most of those calories are going to be coming from sugar so you really have to ask yourself what is it that you’re gaining – muscle or body fat? You’re better off making your own mass gainer by taking protein powder adding one to two tablespoons of peanut butter banana oat and whole milk and blending it all together.
2. Testostorone Supplements: Another waste of time supplement is pretty much every testosterone supplement on the market. Even the best testosterone supplements are usually only going to raise your testosterone levels by twenty to forty percent maximum. This is simply not high enough to notice any real changes in athletic performance, while there may be some ingredients in the testosterone boosters that will help improve your libido you shouldn’t expect any real muscle-building benefits from such an increase.
3. BCAA: Next is branched chain amino acids BCAA while bulking because you’ll most likely be getting all of your amino acids from the food you eat and especially if you also take a protein shake. An argument can be made for the effectiveness of BCAAs during a cut but while you’re in a calorie surplus trying to build muscle they’re not really necessary the same goes for l-glutamine L carnitine and L arginine.
4. Leucine HMB: Now the first controversial supplement that you may actually want to look into if you’re planning on training in a fasted state is HMB. HMB is a byproduct of the breaks out of leucine and leucine is the most powerful amino acid for muscle growth the HMB obtained from leucine can slow down protein breakdown rates and building muscle is all about decreasing protein breakdown rates while increasing protein synthesis rates.
However, when leucine is broken down only about 5% of the leucine is turned into HMB so supplementing with more about 3 to 5 grams depending on the study has been shown to increase the number of performance markers including strength speed muscle size endurance and your rate of recovery. The controversy lies in the fact that other studies have shown that HMB is not that effective so the results are mixed. However there has been enough evidence for the International Society of Sports Nutrition to make a position statement on its effectiveness.
This is something that the ISSN rarely does unless there’s a good amount of research supporting a supplement like there is with creatine for example. But based on the research they recommend that you should have about 38 milligrams of HMB for each kilogram you way to experience the benefits this will work out to a daily dose of about 3 to 4 grams for most people you can divide your daily dose in half or in 3 ways and spread it out evenly throughout the day but make sure you take one of those doses preferably directly before your workout this supplement is not as necessary for those of you training in a fed state but the anti-catabolic effect that it provides makes it ideal for those of you that are training in a fasted state and want something to reduce muscle breakdown rates during your workout. The last thing to keep in mind is that it may take up to two weeks of consistently taking HMB to see the full benefits.
5. Creatine: Now if you only have the money for just one supplement that’s made to build more muscle then you’re gonna want to go with creatine. According to a meta-analysis published in the Journal of physiology, creatine is considered the most effective natural muscle building supplements out there. And this meta-analysis wasn’t some small study – the researchers compared the effectiveness of 250 supplements for muscle growth and they found that creatine had the most significant impact on muscle mass!
Creatine will help give you more energy and it’ll help improve your performance during your workouts especially with high-intensity activities. It’ll also help increased strength lead to more favorable testosterone to cortisol ratio and help you recover faster. On top of that according to the center of human nutrition weightlifters that supplement for three months tend to gain between two to six and a half pounds of lean body mass compared to lifters that train without it.
The original and most studied form of creatine is creatine monohydrate but nowadays there are a ton of new creatine products to choose from. Creatine HCl is believed to dissolve better in water and can help reduce bloating and cramping and there’s also creatine ethyl ester as well as creatine nitrate which are believed to absorb better than creatine monohydrate – requiring smaller doses out of all of these. There’s no doubt that monohydrate is the most well researched, proven, and it’s also the cheapest. That said many people swear by these other forms of creatine so you may find some unique benefits by experimenting especially if you find yourself getting bloated or an upset stomach from creatine use. As far as how much to take you may choose to do a week-long loading phase where you would have 20 grams of creatine every day for five to seven days and then you would transition to only having 5 grams per day. While you can do that it’s not absolutely necessary if you just take 5 grams per day every day from the start instead of loading you’ll still saturate your muscles with creatine it just may take a little longer.
Some people choose to cycle creatine where they take it for six to 12 weeks and then stop for four weeks. While there is no conclusive evidence in favor of cycling or not cycling, if you choose to cycle you may want to do a loading phase at the beginning of each of your cycles. On the other hand if you consistently take it without stopping you may want to drop to only 3 grams per day rather than a full 5 as that should be enough to keep your muscles saturated with the creatine.
Regardless of which creatine you get or how much you take you should know that about 20 to 30 percent of the population is considered non-responsive to creatine use which means they won’t notice significant changes when taking this supplement.
6. Pre Workout Supplement: Another supplement that you may want to consider is a good pre-workout supplement. An effective pre-workout supplement will help increase your strength and energy during your workouts as well as give you a better pump. Great pre-workouts will typically contain ingredients like beta-alanine which will delay the onset of fatigue and increase muscular endurance, citrulline alley which can help improve blood flow increased performance improve recovery and even provide a slight boost in growth hormone during a workout.
7. Caffeine: The last ingredient you’ll definitely want is caffeine, as this will be what’s providing most of the boost in your energy levels. The problem with pre-workouts is that they can get a little tricky because if you take them too often you’ll feel like you can’t work out without the boost that they provide. You’ll literally feel sluggish and tired in the gym on the days that you don’t take it. So to avoid this and to get the maximum benefit out of a pre-workout I recommend only taking it two to three times a week on the days that you’re really gonna push yourself in the gym.
8. Protein Powder: Let’s move on to protein powder now even though you don’t need protein powder to build muscle since you can get all the protein you need from real food protein powder can still make a couple of things easier for you. First of all, you can take it on the go and it’s not always possible to prepare a high-protein meal on the go it can also help you meet your daily protein requirements without making you feel excessively full.
You want to have at least point seven two-point eight grams of protein for each pound of bodyweight to give you the maximum muscle-building benefits and if you’re cutting you may want to have a little more than that. The protein will be used in a process known as protein synthesis to repair and build muscle as long as protein synthesis rates are higher than protein breakdown rates you’ll have a positive nitrogen balance putting your body in a more ideal state for growth. This is also why it may be a good idea to have a protein shake after your workout when you workout protein breakdown rates will rise you can slow this down and increase protein synthesis rates. Just by having a protein shake soon after your workout if you workout in a fasted state then having that protein shake soon or after a workout rather than later can really help with building muscle. However, if you have some protein before your workout you don’t have to worry so much about how soon you take down that protein shake even if it’s hours later.
When choosing the right type of protein you have a number of options including whey, casein, soy, rice, beef, egg, pea, and hemp just to name a few. Now just to make it super simple for you – studies show that animal-based protein powders lead to higher protein synthesis rates when compared to plant-based sources. This doesn’t mean that you can’t go with a plant-based protein powder like soy rice or pea as long as you have a variety of plant-based sources throughout the day. You can actually achieve a more balanced amino acid profile. With that said if you can have dairy-based protein powder, studies show that they will typically outperform soy for muscle building purposes.
Two main dairy-based protein powders are whey and casein whey protein has a faster digestion time allowing it to get into the bloodstream quickly on the other hand casein takes longer to digest sometimes taking up to four hours whey is better if you’re having it after workout not only because of its faster absorption rate but also because it has a better amino acid profile for building muscle to be more specific it’s one of the best sources of leucine which as we discussed is the most important amino acid for muscle growth.
This doesn’t mean that casein doesn’t offer its own unique advantages that may make you want to consider getting it to taking casein before bed has been shown in studies to help increase type 2 muscle fiber size as well as overall muscle strength this may be because you’ll be able to maintain a more positive protein balance while you sleep if you consume a slow-digesting source of protein beforehand however if you’re only looking for a post-workout supplement or you can only choose one of the two I recommend way over casing now within the category of whey protein you have concentrate and isolated while a concentrate will probably be the cheaper of the two it will also contain less protein and more carbs and fats instead besides concentrate and isolate there’s also hydrolyzed whey which is believed to be even faster absorbing and more bioavailable but it’s a lot more expensive.
Given the fact that regular whey is already over 96% bioavailable and there’s no scientific data showing that hydrolyzed whey will absorb even faster than regular isolate I recommend saving your money and sticking with isolate if you’re lactose intolerant I recommend an egg protein powder because of its high bioavailability and if you want a plant-based protein source you should get one that includes multiple plant-based sources like a mix of pee and rice to get a more balanced amino acid.
9. Vitamin D: The last supplement that you may want to look into if you’re in a cold climate is vitamin D and the reason is because most people don’t get enough vitamin D and daily especially in cold climates your body normally gets a vitamin D from the Sun but if you don’t get enough sun exposure you probably don’t have optimal levels if you’re deficient in vitamin D your testosterone levels will be impacted in a very negative way so if you don’t get much sunshine you may want to consider adding this relatively cheap supplement into your plan.