When it comes to making considerable gains in all muscle groups, it’s important to maintain an appropriate nutrient level—this gives workouts something to thrive on. Professional bodybuilders and mere enthusiasts alike are no strangers when it comes to accompanying their training with protein and amino acid-enriched shakes.
Of course, supplements aren’t necessarily mandatory for building muscle. Adopting a clean meal plan that contains only organic and nourishing foods is also an excellent approach if you just want a slower and more soft-core development.
In fact, I’ve already written about how you can bulk on a budget if you’re a college student or just broke, so don’t think that you need to purchase any supplements. Nevertheless, if going down the workout champion route is something you want to do, it’s important to choose an approach that suits your needs and goals best.
Here are the five most effective and widely-used nutritional supplements that are the best for gaining muscle fast.
Creatine is a molecule that is produced naturally by the body in order to energize muscles and other tissue. According to several studies cited by Healthline, taking it in supplement form increases content by 40%, which leads to bigger gains and more overall strength. Furthermore, it also influences water and hormone amounts, which promote growth as well.
If you’re looking for a reliable companion to your training, creatine is arguably the best choice because it’s incredibly safe and natural. This being said, there is some disagreement over the recommended dosage and the best time to take creatine, as well as some other issues such as cycling.
The most frequently recommended dosage of creatine is just 5 grams per day, but hardcore athletes and bodybuilders are known for going up to 10mg a day. As far as the timing, you can really take it whenever you want, but for optimal absorption it’s recommended that you consume it with a high carbohydrate meal.
The classic lifter supplement, whey fuels the body with enough protein and amino acids to give the anabolic process a jump-start. It is traditionally consumed post-workout in a dosage of 25 to 50 grams at once, but it shouldn’t replace traditional sources. Therefore, don’t skip on your meat and eggs because you’ve had a whey shake this morning.
That being said, high quality whey protein does have some serious benefits that you can’t get from solid food. First off, it’s digested within a matter of minutes rather than hours—this is critical if you’re going to be taking advantage of your body’s anabolic window. Where normal food takes 2-4 hours to digest, whey is digested within just 30 minutes.
Yet, not only is whey digested and absorbed faster than any other high protein food source, but it also supplies the muscles with leucine, which increases mass. What is more, is it also controls appetite, which is essential for staying fit and healthy. Knowing all this, it comes as no wonder that many bodybuilders resort to it.
Beta-alanine, or BA for short, is a non-essential amino acid that enters the human body naturally through protein-rich foods. This substance enhances performance by raising carnosine levels by as much as 60% in just one month. Furthermore, by creating a buffer around damaging hydrogen ions, BA prevents fatigue and increases endurance.
This isn’t just bro-science, though—there’s a hefty body of research to back these claims up. A 2011 study conducted on a sample group of college wrestlers and football players found that the group taking 4 grams of BA per day for a total of 8 weeks had gained more lean mass during their training than the control group who was administered a placebo.
Between 4 and 6 grams each day is more than enough to lead to palpable improvements. When taken in higher doses, a harmless tingling sensation can occur—this is why Jon’s top 5 pre-workouts often give you this sensation. Don’t worry though, it’s completely harmless—this tingling is simply due to increased blood flow throughout the skin.
Bodybuilders have been relying on glutamine for decades, and all for good reason. This amino acid is already found in the body in considerable quantities because it regulates muscle function. When taken in supplement form however, it increases leucine levels in the fibers, thus leading to growth. In addition, it also prevents muscle breakdown and boosts the immune system too.
Between 5 and 10 grams per day is more than enough glutamine to help you power through even the most intensive training sessions. Divide this quantity between breakfast, pre and post-workout shakes and your nighttime snack, provided you have one. By sticking to this routine, you will get cut in no time at all.
In fact, this was one of the first supplements I bought when I started working at a Max Muscle store in college. I’d never really heard of it, and hadn’t put too much faith in the guy who recommended it to me, but I was completely blown away by how effective it was.
I wasn’t a novice at this time either, mind you—even so it helped me pack on some serious muscle mass that led to me being a respected authority within our little community of bodybuilders. If you’re looking for a good brand, I highly recommend Bulk Supplements for their purity and low cost.
Did you know that caffeine is an integral part of many pre-workout formulas? A total of three studies comprised by Bodybuilding.com demonstrate that caffeine not only energizes you through your workouts, but it also decreases the feeling of perceived exertion, delays muscle fatigue and alleviates post-workout soreness by increasing endurance.
Discovering the appropriate dosage for you will be a bit of a trial and error process at first. According to Chris Lockwood, M.D., 2.5 milligrams for each pound of bodyweight is the accepted average. This means that a 150-pound individual should consume no more than 375 milligrams in one day.
To be fair, I’ve definitely cheated on this number. Hell, one pre-workout I took has a whopping 400mg of caffeine in it (from 8 different sources), and on some days I’ve exceeded 1200mg of caffeine. That being said, definitely stick with a doctor’s recommendation on this one—I may just be a caffeine junkie.
Nevertheless, depending on other influencing factors, even low amounts might leave some people feeling jittery. If that happens to you, lower the intake the next time around and tweak it until you achieve optimal results. It’s in your best interest to discover how much of the stuff actually improves your performance.
If you’re looking to take things to the next level, consider an ECA stack. I warn you though, don’t combine this with your pre-workouts and ONLY use it for a temporary period of time. ECA stacks are brutally efficient at shredding off fat, but should be used very sparingly (only a few months out of the year, MAX).
In short, many of these “best supplements for XYZ” articles are very similar—and is it hard to see why? When it really comes down to it, it’s the basic stuff that will get you the most bang for your buck. Whey protein, creatine, BCAA’s, caffeine, and a few other supplements are the foundation of any good bodybuilder.
Of course there will always be “next level stuff,” like steroids, SARM’s, and pro-hormones. If you’re just starting, or under 18, don’t worry about those. Hell, you can make really good progress for YEARS just as a natural bodybuilder. You don’t need fancy $2,000/month steroids or weird black market, deep web compounds.
Shaping the body and getting buff in the process is completely possible through diet alone. But if you want some additional help, each of the previously discussed supplements has been proved to be efficient and safe for use. All you have to do is stick to the recommended dosage and find a routine that will help you reach your goals.
Jon Anthony is a dating coach, fitness expert, and self-improvement guru. He dropped out of college to start Masculine Development in 2015, and has since been self-employed, helping men across the world achieve their best lives. You can best reach him on social media, or via email for questions.
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