So, I have stumbled upon a botanical herb that will increase your testosterone levels by 1000 times more than average people and make you put on 20 lbs. of muscle overnight! Interested? Although you know I am being sarcastic, you know you got a little excited.
The truth is that the quest for a powerful natural ergogenic supplement will always remain on the horizon. For now, we should work with what we have. This article will discuss a few muscle building supplements that I know for a fact work. I either have seen the effects with my own eyes on various people, have tried those supplements myself or know for a fact they work through clinical research.
Keep in mind that these supplements will only work if your diet and training regiments are already perfect. And please, do not expect miracles from these supplements or any other supplement for that matter, but they will surely give you a nice boost in performance and strength and thus help you build some muscle.
PS: This list is NOT a definitive list of supplements that work. Maybe there are many others out there that do work, however, I will only list what I have experience with and know for a fact that they work.
People from all ages who work out and don’t work out have at least heard of protein powders and protein supplements. Protein is obviously the most effective “supplement” you can get your hands on. Like I discussed here, protein is an essential macronutrient that you need for both survival and optimal functions. You need protein for literally everything you can think of and this includes muscle building.
Muscles are made up of protein (and water) and supplementing with additional protein guarantees that you will hit your daily target of protein intake with ease. Protein powders provide the ultimate alternative to those who have busy schedules and fast-paced lifestyles, they are a convenient and honestly extremely delicious way of consuming an adequate amount of protein without the calories coming from carbohydrates and fats.
If you are already consuming an adequate amount of protein through your diet, there is no need to supplement with additional protein through protein powders.
There are a few different “types” of protein powders out there; isolate protein, casein protein, blend protein and hydrolyzed protein. Essentially, they’re all protein and will do the same job, however, the difference is mainly the rate at which each protein “type” is broken down and absorbed.
Hydrolyzed protein is the fastest absorbed protein there is.
Isolate protein is also a fast absorbing protein.
Blend protein is merely a blend of all types of protein and it is the most basic and often recommended type.
Casein protein is the slowest absorbing protein and is naturally occurring in cottage cheese. Casein protein is usually broken down over 5-8 hours which supplies the body with a constant dose of protein during those hours. This is why gym bros often recommend consuming casein protein prior to going to sleep. “You must remain in an anabolic state all the time bro!”
Honestly, at the end of the day, they will all do the same job and no type is superior to another type. Just focus on hitting your daily protein target and you will be fine, I promise.
How to take protein powders?
Simply mix a scoop or two (25-50 grams of protein) with water or milk and drink that by itself or as part of a meal. Your job is done!
Creatine is literally the most researched ergogenic aid in history! No other dietary supplement even comes close in relation to the amount of research that has been conducted on creatine. Creatine is not only well-researched, but it’s also proven to work, cheap and completely safe despite some stupid myths floating around the internet. In fact, you already have creatine in your muscles as I am typing this article, but at very small amounts.
And flash news; whether you train or not, you consume creatine every time you eat meat, especially beef! Yes, there’s creatine in there, however, in small amounts. Creatine is a naturally occurring substance that converts into creatine phosphate upon ingestion. In turn, creatine phosphate is a precursor to adenosine triphosphate (ATP) which provides energy for muscle contractions.
Creatine is also a muscle volumizer, meaning that it pulls water into your muscles making them look fuller and stronger which helps you bang out a few more reps. Additionally, creatine also helps with muscular endurance. Guess what happens when you enhance your muscular endurance, strength and make your muscles more resilient to fatigue? If you guessed “build muscle”, you are correct! Ding ding ding! We’ve got a winner.
Since creatine is a muscle volumizer, it is perfect normal to see the scale move up by 3-5 pounds after you start using it. Over the recent years, many creatine forms have emerged claiming to be superior to basic creatine monohydrate since they don’t cause you to retain water.
Here is the thing fellas, if a form of creatine does NOT make you retain water, IT IS BUNK! Simply because creatine is SUPPOSED to make you retain extra water within your muscles. However, some people cannot tolerate creatine monohydrate, so they opt-in for other forms that have faster uptake which doesn’t cause them to feel nauseous. For majority of people, stick to basic creatine monohydrate.
Creatine monohydrate was the first creatine to come out and is the most researched form. Creatine monohydrate is available in powder, tablet, capsule and liquid form. Opt-in for powder form since it is the most stable and cost effective. In addition, make sure your creatine monohydrate is creapure, which is pretty much micronized creatine monohydrate. Creapure is effective and cheap.
How to use creatine?
Simply take 20 grams (4 scoops * 5 grams each) for the first week to load up your creatine levels fast then maintain that saturation level by taking 5 grams every day. That’s it! Nothing crazy or sophisticated. For maximum uptake, take your daily dosage of creatine immediately after training or with a large meal if you are not training that day.
Arachidonic acid has been the rage in recent years. With claims of naturally building pounds of muscle and increasing strength while having no side effects, its popularity skyrocketed faster than anyone had anticipated. So, what’s the deal with this guy? Arachidonic acid is yet another naturally occurring substance that we all consume daily as part of our diet.
Arachidonic acid is a polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid that is available in meats and eggs, but not in sufficient dosages to reap any performance related benefits. Arachidonic acid is responsible for inflammation within your muscles. When you train and damage your muscle tissue, certain enzymes start freeing the available arachidonic acid from the membrane which triggers a few local hormonal responses that ultimately result in DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) and increased rate of protein synthesis (muscle building).
Since we do not get a high enough dosage of ArA through our diets to reap its benefits, supplementing with additional arachidonic acid is the way to go.
Now, I have tried ArA on more than one occasion and from personal experience I experienced the following:
- Increased strength levels.
- Increased inflammation -Duh-
- Increased muscle soreness (not necessarily a marker for growth btw)
- Improved recovery and probable gain of muscle
As far as gaining muscle, I am assuming I have gained some lean body mass due to the nice boost in my strength levels when I supplemented with ArA. But, you won’t gain any steroid-like or significant amounts of lean body mass, thus its main benefit in my modest opinion is the strength you gain while using it.
That strength is also yours to keep, meaning that you won’t lose the newly-gained strength once you discontinue using ArA. One thing I did NOT like about Ara though was the increased inflammation level which is obviously supposed to happen. My skin got more oily than usual, my joints ached and I was just in a state of inflammation -I know when it’s high- which is eventually counterproductive and can cause a myriad of health and performance related problems.
Another annoying part of running Ara is the fact that you should minimize your omega-3 intake since it counters the effects of Ara. Keep in mind that the ration of omega-6 to omega-3 is the key to optimal health and performance like we discussed here. Thus, if you intend to experiment with Arachidonic acid, minimize your omega-3 intake since it’s a potent anti-inflammatory.
So, while Ara is indeed an interesting supplement and can increase your strength levels, I wouldn’t suggest staying in that “inflamed state” for a long time since it will be counterproductive and impact your health, performance and body composition. However, Ara is one of the proven muscle building supplements that me and many others have tried and liked.
How to use ArA?
You simply take 1-2 grams of ArA every day before your training session on an empty stomach for maximum absorption. If you plan on eating fish or consuming omega-3 in any form, make sure you do so 4-6 hours away from taking your daily dose of arachidonic acid. Take ArA for 50 days and then discontinue usage.
BCAA’s or branched chain amino acids are one of the most controversial supplements out there and for a good reason. Some claim they work wonders while others claim they’re complete bullshit. Who is wrong and who is right? In fact, both groups are right! Let me emphasize this: if you are consuming an adequate amount of protein on a daily basis, supplementing with additional BCAA’s will not further contribute to any muscle gain. Despite what you may have been told or head, that is the truth.
The confusion merely emerges from a basic understanding of what BCAA’s are. BCAA’s are a combination of 3 essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine and valine. These 3 essential amino acids are the most powerful and anabolic amino acids out of the whole amino acid profile. More precisely, leucine is the most powerful amino acid and it is what directly triggers protein synthesis by activating mTor. In this article, I explained exactly how leucine stimulates muscle growth and how more is not better and won’t yield further results since there is a certain threshold. Make sure you read that article and you’ll understand why BCAA’s will probably do nothing for you!
Thus, if you eat protein -which I am assuming you probably do already- you already consume enough BCAA’s for FREE! HOORAY! If you are eating an adequate amount of protein daily, using BCAA’s will not do anything for you. Period. If you are not eating an adequate amount of protein, BCAA’s can help you reach your leucine threshold and thus activate mTor and protein synthesis. Simply, you turn the switch on your body’s ability to build muscle.
“The key to optimal health and performance is the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3.”
I don’t know how many times I have repeated this line, but it’s never enough to mention it one more time!
Fish oil is made from boiling fish together -yuck- and then compressing that to extract fish oil. Fish oil is packed with omega-3’s which is an essential fatty acid that is proven as a potent anti-inflammatory.
Due to our western diets, many of us rarely eat fish. This causes a critical imbalance of omega-6 to omega-3 ratio in our bodies due to our diets being extremely rich in omega-6 fatty acids.
To fix this problem, you have two options: eat more fish or supplement with fish oil. The latter is more convenient for most people, but let me say that eating fish (and food in general) is ALWAYS SUPERIOR to dietary supplements. When you eat fish, you know what you are consuming and you are guaranteed to be getting omega-3 fatty acids, however, when you pop a couple of softgels, there is no guarantee of the quality or the dosage of omega-3 fatty acids you are consuming, or trying to consume I should say.
In fact, in a recent study, the top 3 selling fish oil products in the U.S. were proven to be severely under-dosed and to contain mercury and other neurotoxic substances! Disgusting, I know. Anyway, this is far behind the scope of this article. Balancing your ratio of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3 fatty acids will make you feel much better, perform better, improve every bodily function you can think of and in turn make you build more muscle and lose fat faster. Thus, I guarantee.
If you plan on supplementing with fish oil as opposed to eating fatty fish, make sure you investigate the quality of the products on the market first and buy the highest quality one. You don’t want to jeopardize your health for a few dollars. If I am not mistaken, Barlean’s krill oil and fish oil are good products as well as Neptune’s krill oil.
Barlean’s Organic Oils Wild and Whole Krill Oil, 120 Count softgels, 500 mg ea.
Source Naturals NKO Neptune Krill Oil, Supports Heart Health & Cell Membrane Integrity
I have personally used Barlean’s krill oil a few months ago, and can vouch for its quality and probable potency.
How to use fish oil?
Simply take 3-5 grams of fish oil daily with a meal. Spread the dosages throughout the day for maximum absorption.
Vitamins and minerals are both essential micronutrients for human survival and optimal function. Being deficient in any vitamin or mineral will impact how well you feel and how well your body performs a certain task, thus it only makes sense to fix up any deficiencies you might have. If you have a solid diet plan, supplementing with a multivitamin will do little to nothing for you since you will be consuming plenty of vitamins and minerals through your diet, however, if your diet is not up to par, investing in a multivitamin can be beneficial.
When it comes to multivitamins, don’t overthink the quality or brand. This is not to say that quality doesn’t matter, but more so that they’re pretty cheap to manufacture so supplement companies will most likely not cheat as much as they would with other more expensive ingredients. However, anything is possible! So, shoot for a reputable company and buy their multivitamin. It’s that simple.
How to take multivitamins?
Follow the instructions on your product’s label! But, generally, you want to take your dosage of multivitamins with a big meal to maximize absorption.
Like I said, this is by no means a definitive list of all effective muscle building supplements in existence, however, these products are the most popular and effective ones. Keep it simple, folks. Instead, focus on perfecting your diet and training programs first.
You should now know what to invest in and what to stay away from. Don’t follow the hype.
The next step is to discuss another class of supplements that can be considered muscle building supplements, performance enhancers and even fat burners; welcome to pre-workout supplements!