Just what muscle supplements do you need?
First of all, let’s get it straight. You do not need bodybuilding supplements. They are not a requirement to build a great physique.
The fact is that many past Mr. America physiques, bodies that would still be considered incredible on any beach today, were built before there were such a thing as bodybuilding supplements.
That being said, why do people use muscle supplements? The reason is that some of them actually do work. When you are training correctly, eating properly, getting enough rest and sleep you will get incredible results.
When you add in the right supplements to this mix the results are increased. This can translate into more muscle, faster strength gains, and leaner bodies. Also, the most effective supplements don’t cost a ton of money and they don’t make unrealistic promises.
Supplements should be regarded as just that, a supplement to an already spot on training and nutrition program. If you haven’t gotten the fundamentals down already, then buying supplements will be a waste of both time and money.
Real muscle supplements are not like anabolic steroids. They will not make up for a poor diet and ignorance of proper training.
So, before you read further about muscle supplements check out the following links on bodybuilding nutrition and real world bodybuilding workout routines:
Okay so you’re diet and exercise programs are dialed in. You are getting at least 8 hours of sleep per night and you are not over training.
Great! You are ready to consider adding in some quality muscle supplements for faster results and better gains. Read on.
General Bodybuilding supplements
There are certain supplements that are good for every type of exercise program. Whether your program is designed to build strength and mass, lean you down, or improve your cardiovascular conditioning these supplements will benefit you.
Even with a good diet some vitamins and minerals may be deficient because of modern farming, processing, and food storage methods. Mass farming fertilizers contain only a few minerals, enough to make plants grow and turn green, but they don’t add back all the nutrients that have long been pulled out of the ground from years of farming.
If it is not in the ground, it’s not in the plants, and it’s not in you after consumption. Supplementing with a high-quality multivitamin and mineral can ensure optimum bodybuilding performance.
When dieting down, multivitamins and minerals become more essential. The lower food consumption combined with nutrient burning workouts can deplete you and limit your progress. Supplementation with a one or two a day multi fills in the gaps and keeps your nutrient stores topped off.
2. Omega 3 Fish Oil
Fish oil is a great muscle supplement. It contains the essential fatty acids EPA and DHA. They are critically important for health. They control powerful hormones in the body. For bodybuilding purposes, this means they can make your anabolic hormones work more efficiently to build muscle and lean you down. For this alone they are a good choice.
The health-boosting properties of fish oil are many but are beyond the scope of this page. They do, however, make quality omega 3 fish oil atop muscle supplement for the growing bodybuilder.
4-6 gelcaps in 2-3 divided doses with meals are all that is typically needed.
Pollution, environmental toxins, and even our tough bodybuilding workouts put a great oxidative burden on our bodies. Free radicals from our environment and those produced in our bodies when we exercise cause damage and inflammation. Excess free radicals cause all kinds of damage and are even linked to cancer, heart attack, and other degenerative diseases.
We are all unwillingly supplemented daily with free radical causing chemicals in our environment. It is a no-brainer to counter that by supplementing ourselves with the antidote. Antioxidants quench excess free radicals before they cause too much damage.
Heavy lifting and cardiovascular workouts produce loads of free radicals. Taking a mixed antioxidant supplement is an insurance policy against these toxic molecules. For top performance and recuperation take them regularly.
An often overlooked muscle supplement is plain old water. While it will not dramatically increase your muscle gains or lean you out, just try attempting these feats without enough of it. Dehydration kills your strength, endurance, and your drive to work out.
Muscle is over 70% water after all! The dramatic muscle swelling effects of creatine are due to it attracting, even more, water into the muscle cells. Water is also the main component of the joint cartilage and surrounding fluid which lubricates the joint. Heavy training stresses joints hard. Keeping them hydrated will cut down on wear and tear.
All of your body’s processes depend on water. It transports nutrients in and waste products out. It aids in the digestion of muscle building foods.
Never go into a workout thirsty. By the time you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated to the point of reduced athletic performance. Your energy levels will be down. Weights and reps will be down and you’ll have a disappointing workout overall.
Try to drink an extra 16oz glass of water every 3-4 hours throughout the day, especially in hot summer months. Make sure you drink a glass before your workout and sip some throughout. It is best to drink about 3-4 glasses more than is typically driven by your thirst.
The best part of this supplement is the price. It’s free. Plain clean tap water is fine. You do not need to pay premium prices for bottled water.
As a free bodybuilding supplement, water is the king! It keeps your workout intensity high, your muscles full, and your joints healthy. Drink up!
As you can see, these general bodybuilding supplements are good for your overall health and performance. They aid in recuperation and hormone function which translates into better results no matter what your bodybuilding goals are.
Now let’s take a look at the muscle building supplements.
The Muscle Supplements:
Muscle supplements are those which are designed primarily for adding muscle mass. They can also be used in a dieting phase to preserve muscle while burning excess fat. There are two basic muscle supplements that yield good results and are generally safe.
1. Creatine Monohydrate
For muscle size and strength, creatine monohydrate is still the king of the muscle supplements. It has been around as a bodybuilding supplement since the mid 90’s.
As previously stated, creatine increases size by drawing water into and swelling the muscle cells. This can mean pounds of extra muscle hanging from your frame with just one small scoop per day for a month.
Creatine also positively effects ATP production which increases anaerobic muscle performance. This means increasing those crucial last possible reps in strength exercises. Increased workout stimulation like that means more muscle tissue produced during rest.
Additionally, there is evidence that creatine swollen muscle cells resist being broken down while dieting. This could positively effect the ratio of fat to muscle loss while on a fat burning diet and exercise program.
A word of caution on creatine use as a muscle supplement. Dehydration can become an issue, especially in endurance training or cardiovascular conditioning. Painful cramping can result. If you use creatine while training like this, keep yourself very well hydrated.
It is probably best to cycle your use of creatine supplements. Ideally, use creatine when you are already lean and training primarily for strength and size to bring you to a natural peak.
Creatine supplements are found in many varieties. The best choice is just the regular Creatine Monohydrate version. Micronized powders, with the consistency of powdered sugar, are the easiest to mix and tolerate. Some grainy powders seem to cause stomach upset.
You do not have to take creatine monohydrate with sugar. Do not waste your money on mixed creatine products that are mostly sugar anyway. The only difference sugar makes, besides adding fat producing calories, is it increases your body’s immediate uptake of creatine. This means your body will reach saturation faster than taking creatine regularly in smaller doses.
The difference is really this. Taking 3-4 grams of creatine monohydrate per day with water will cause you to get all of the size and strength benefits of creatine within about a month. Taking 5 grams of creatine, with sugar, 3-4 times per day will get you the same results in a week or so.
The sugar will not yield more results. It will just get you to the same place a little faster. Either way, the results will only stick around as long as you keep yourself saturated.
Price wise, it is far better to buy the plain powder and take it in smaller amounts once per day regularly. You’ll save a lot of money that is just going towards teeth rotting, fat stimulating sugar instead of a tried and true muscle supplement.
2. Post Workout Drinks
The other muscle supplement proven to be effective is the post-workout recovery drink. Mainly a mix of easily digested whey proteins and simple sugars, this old-school meal replacement can really boost your recovery from heavy bodybuilding workouts.
After you workout, your muscles are drained of sugars and nutrients. They are also hungry for proteins, antioxidants, and water. Within an hour or so after the workout, the muscles are primed to absorb these nutrients at an accelerated rate.
This is really the only time you should consume a lot of simple sugars. The sugars cause an insulin spike. Insulin is a powerful anabolic hormone. It drives nutrients into muscle cells after a workout.
Without the stimulation of a workout, excess insulin just causes calories to be stored as fat. Immediately after a workout, however, this same insulin jams proteins and carbs back into the muscles. Properly dosed, the calories will all go into the muscles and not into fat storage. This can dramatically decrease recuperation times.
You see, muscles must first recuperate from the exhaustion of a workout before it overcompensates and adds the muscle stimulated by the workout itself.
If you miss this window of opportunity to shove nutrients back into the muscle right after the workout, then the process of recuperation takes longer as nutrients just trickle back in.
By cutting down on recuperation time your body can use more resources for adding the precious extra muscle you are really after. This process will happen a bit faster than normal allowing you to get back to the gym quicker for another bout of muscle stimulation. You may also find that a post workout drink can reduce delayed onset muscle soreness.
Carbohydrates should make up most of the drink’s calories. They should come mostly from maltodextrin with a little glucose and fructose added.
Hydrolyzed whey proteins or protein hydro slates should make up the protein portion of the drink. These are partially “pre digested” proteins that do not need to be broken down and are digested quickly. They have an anabolic effect on muscle tissue.
Post workout drinks that contain just whey concentrates or casein are not ideal. Hydrolyzed products are more expensive.
Depending on your workout style the post workout drink will vary. A HIT or High-Intensity Training bodybuilder will not burn the same amount of calories during a workout that a higher volume trainer will.
A HIT trainer should make a smaller drink with fewer calories and a smaller ratio of carbs to protein. Their needs may be in the 600-900 calorie range while a heavy volume trainer may need upwards of 1300 calories for optimal recuperation.
An hour or two after the post workout drink eat a small meal with a proper ratio of protein to carbs, approximately .75:1.
The only really effective products marketed as “test boosters” are not really test boosters at all. These products claim big results and they sometimes deliver more than you bargain for.
They are not really supplements at all. They are oral anabolic steroids. These are not the well known, and mostly illegal, steroids of old like Dianabol, Anavar, or Anadrol. These so-called supplements are slightly altered forms of these types of drugs to avoid identification.
Anabolic steroids are all just tweaked forms of the testosterone molecule. They are altered either to make them orally active or to cut down on the androgenic (masculinizing) side effects of testosterone while preserving the anabolic (muscle building) effects.
The legitimate anabolics from pharmaceutical companies were patented, registered, and sold for prescription use. They can be identified by the structure. Alter the structure, even slightly, and they can’t be identified by drug tests looking for known anabolics.
These were the kind of products the infamous BALCO was selling to top athletes. The altered anabolic steroids would not be identified in drug tests allowing the athletes to use steroids while testing “clean”.
At some point people realized that selling these drugs as supplements would yield bigger profits from a larger market than just the elite athletes looking to beat drug tests. This led to years of cat and mouse games between the makers of the drugs and slow-moving government regulatory agencies.
The company would market the “test booster”. Eager teens and twenty-somethings, who knew exactly what they were, would snatch them up. After a year or so the product would be banned and replaced by a slightly altered version marketed under a different name.
A review of forum chats on the subject shows a whole underground culture of steroid users bantering back and forth on how to use and abuse these products.
The problem with these anabolics is that they have all the potential side effects of the known oral anabolic steroids. Liver damage, acne, gynecomastia (male breast growth), high blood pressure, hair loss, and reduced sexual function from these products are all discussed on the forums. They are a reality of oral anabolic steroid use.
Far too many guys are using these drugs as a crutch. They do not learn how to work out properly and eat right for real muscle gains because the drugs produce results anyway. The drugs will add muscle in short periods of time and they will lean you out very quickly.
Of course, most of the results go when the drugs are stopped. Hair loss, gynecomastia, and some other side effects do not remedy themselves. Without more drugs to counter the shutdown of normal testosterone function users can look forward to shrinking weak muscles, lacking the sex drive, and sometimes depression.
As far as muscle supplements go we advise you to avoid the so called test boosters. The ones that really work are just anabolic steroids charading as nutritional supplements.
If you value your health and view bodybuilding as a lifelong healthy endeavor then do it without them. You will be better off in the long run learning how to build muscle naturally… The muscle that won’t go away when your product is banned.
As you can see, the list of truly valuable muscle supplements and general bodybuilding supplements is not a long one. We have listed the best “bang for your buck” types of supplements on the market.
There are many other popular products we did not mention because they are mostly gimmicks. A few may produce some benefits, but they just don’t do enough to justify buying them.
Most recreational bodybuilders spend their early years getting burned buying useless muscle supplements promising big results which just don’t work. There are never ending waves of new bodybuilding supplements every year. Very few of them work yet they all promise the world.
After years of this wasteful cycle, you look back at all the money you spent learning not be a sucker the hard way. We hope we have saved you some time.