Let’s be real. Bodybuilding is hard. You must train hard, eat a nutrient-dense diet, sleep seven to eight hours a night, and then use other recovery methods to ensure your body is primed for building muscle and strength.
Doing all of this can be overwhelming, especially for beginners. You’ve probably found yourself in a position where you wished there was a supplement that could turn you into a swole superhero. Lo and behold, you are scrolling through Instagram one fine day, and there it is, the versatile supplement that can help fix all your transformation voes staring you in the face.
I am sorry to break the news, but most of the fancy supplements you find online are nothing but fads. Sports nutrition companies have become really good at making up new supplements, advertising unproven benefits, and selling them to their loyal clientele.
These brands rope in some of the most popular bodybuilding and fitness social media influencers to push their products. The only bottom line these products push is that of these companies, whereas the returns on the user’s investment are close to zero.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to paint sports nutrition companies in a bad light. Some of these companies are doing a commendable job and delivering high-quality third-party tested products that deliver on their promises. However, I’m skeptical about some products that are pushed as the holy grail of natural bodybuilding but have no scientific research backing them.
Beware of Fad Supplements
If you have been following the fitness and bodybuilding space, you’ve probably heard of (or even tried) glutamine, arginine, and Tribulus. These supplements were promoted as the real deal until they were all disproven and lost their flair.
Remember, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate sport nutrition supplements. You must be extremely careful with how you proceed while buying bodybuilding supplements and only choose the ones with scientifically-proven results.
In this article, we dive into what it means to be a natural bodybuilder and reveal the best natural bodybuilding supplements that will help take your physique to the next level. We also shed light on some popular supplements that are on the banned substances list of popular natural bodybuilding federations. There is a lot to cover, so sit tight, and read on.
What is Natural Bodybuilding?
It depends on who you ask. Different people have varying definitions of natural bodybuilding. Armchair bodybuilding experts expect natural bodybuilders to reject any and every supplement. It means that if a product comes in a box, you cannot have it. However, this definition is half-baked.
According to the general bodybuilding consensus and drug-tested bodybuilding federations, a natural bodybuilder can use supplements containing ingredients that are found naturally. However, an athlete must abstain from using performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs).
Performance-enhancing drugs go by different names, such as steroids, gear, juice, and super supplements. Anabolic steroids are synthetic substances that mimic the effects of testosterone. These super supplements significantly boost the user’s muscle and strength gains.
Notably, virtually every bodybuilder on the Mr. Olympia stage (the most prestigious competition in pro bodybuilding) uses steroids. You could interpret this as if you want to make a living as a pro bodybuilder in the IFBB Pro League; you would have better chances of succeeding on gear.
Trivia: The eight-time Mr. Olympia champ, Ronnie Coleman, competed as a natural athlete in his first two Olympia competitions.
That said, it doesn’t mean that natties cannot build a fitness magazine cover photo-worthy physique; far from it. You can build a muscular, chiseled, diced, shredded, peeled, jacked, ripped, whittled, cut (you get the point) while staying natural.
At this moment, I must point out that building a Greek god-like physique requires much more than supplements. You must follow a balanced diet, training, and recovery program to carve a chiseled body and achieve your objectives.
How Do You Compete as a Natural Bodybuilder?
Drug use in bodybuilding is more widespread than most people think. Chances are, many jacked bodybuilders in your local gym are on juice. Interestingly, the bodybuilders that swear on being nattys usually aren’t.
But why do I bring this up, you ask?
I have nothing against people that use steroids. In fact, I think starting a gear cycle requires a different level of dedication and commitment.
However, when it comes to competitive bodybuilding, folks using roids have a significant advantage. Natural supplements are no match for the results of synthetic testosterone. All other factors being equal, nattys have no chance against enhanced bodybuilders in a competition.
Enter Natural Bodybuilding Federations
The INBA/PNBA, WNBF, and ANBF are the most popular natural bodybuilding organizations that hold drug-tested contests.
These drug-free federations use the WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) guidelines that include 10 years drug-free of prescription/pharmaceutical hormones and two years free of over-the-counter hormones, pro-hormones, or banned substances listed or their chemical counterparts.
These guidelines ensure that no enhanced athletes can compete against a natural bodybuilder; putting the nattys on a level playing field and giving them much-needed recognition.
The WADA guidelines are very stringent. They also prohibit cannabinoids use. Although CBD oil is not prohibited, some products contain THC and other cannabinoids that could result in a positive test for a prohibited cannabinoid. You must be 100% sure of what you put in your body if you are a competitive bodybuilder.
Best Natural Bodybuilding Supplements
The sports nutrition market is flooded with supplements. There are supplements that claim to boost muscle mass by improving your sleep and supps that are supposed to enhance your muscle-building potential by improving your gut health and immune function.
Bodybuilding supplements can burn a hole in your pocket if you go down the rabbit hole of everything the sports nutrition companies offer and their extravagant claims. To be honest, most of these supplements are nothing more than placebos.
This article aims to reveal the most effective natural bodybuilding supplements. I have no intention of pushing inconsequential supplements down your throat. As you’ll soon learn, the most effective muscle and strength-building supps are relatively inexpensive and will help you meet your training objectives without breaking the bank.
Without any further ado, here are the supplements that should be a part of your stack:
Protein is the building block of muscle. You break down muscle tissue during your workout; they grow back bigger and stronger during rest and with proper nutrition intake. A whey protein supplement contains all the nine essential amino acids (EAAs), which help build bigger and stronger muscles. Your body cannot produce the EAAs naturally; you must consume them through food.
Whey protein supps are the cornerstone of muscle-building supplements. They come in different forms (concentrate and isolate) and flavors. Because of their fast-digesting nature, most lifters prefer consuming protein shakes right after their workout.
Check Out: Awesome Whey Protein Powders Reviewed
Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
BCAA supplements consist of three essential amino acids — valine, leucine, and isoleucine. This supplement promotes muscle protein synthesis, reduces muscle breakdown, and supports quicker recovery. 
Like all amino acids, your body uses BCAAs to make protein, which can help build bigger and stronger muscles. Most lifters sip on a BCAA supplement intra-workout, as it can help kickstart recovery. Plus, they can reduce fatigue during exercise by lowering serotonin production in your brain.
Check Out: Best BCAA Supplements on the Market
Creatine is one of the most studied and safe bodybuilding supplements. This compound occurs naturally in the body. It can boost muscle mass, strength, and endurance and is abundant in seafood and red meat. 
There are two ways of supplementing with creatine — loading and maintenance. The loading phase requires you to consume 20 grams of the supp for 5–7 days and then switch to a 3–5 gram dosage. On the other hand, the maintenance phase requires you to take 5 grams consistently.
Creatine is one of the most budget-friendly supplements on the market. A high-quality creatine supplement can cost you $0.15 per serving. This supplement is incredibly versatile and can be consumed with other supps.
Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid — and a godsend for endurance athletes. This supp boosts exercise endurance by delaying lactic acid buildup, which can help you maintain a high training intensity. 
Besides its performance-enhancing abilities, beta-alanine has been shown to improve body composition by promoting lean muscle mass build-up. Plus, beta-alanine has anti-aging and immune-enhancing properties. 
Check Out: 10 Best Beta-Alanine Supplements
Although this article lists the five best natural bodybuilding supplements that will help you achieve your training objectives, you don’t have to take all of them at once. Use your discretion to select the supplements that fit your lifestyle and fill the voids you cannot achieve through your whole-food diet. Furthermore, you can start with one supplement and add more supps if needed.
Caffeine can significantly boost your exercise performance by increasing energy, focus, concentration, and alertness. Furthermore, it can delay the onset of fatigue, which can help you do more quickly. 
You could consume caffeine in the form of coffee or tea before a workout for optimal results. On the flip side, you can use a stimulated pre-workout supplement, which can deliver additional benefits like mental clarity, enhanced endurance, faster recovery, and better blood flow for insane muscle pumps.
Check Out: Best Caffeine Pills Reviewed
Banned Substances in Competitive Bodybuilding
Although most drug-tested bodybuilding organizations follow the WADA doping guidelines and prohibited list, some have additional rules that the bodybuilders must follow. Here are a few substances banned by the World Natural Bodybuilding Federation (WNBF):
- All anabolic steroids
- Human growth hormone
- Prohormones and steroid precursors
- Ephedrine, ephedra, and most stimulants
- Cannabinoids (including CBD)
How do I know if a product or ingredient is on the WADA prohibited list?
If you have to ask this question, chances are that the product in question is probably on the banned list. You must always check the WADA and relevant bodybuilding organizations’ prohibited list before starting a new supplement, especially if you are a competitive bodybuilder.
Beyond Bodybuilding Supplements
Building your dream physique requires much more than a few daily scoops of magic powder that are supplements. Here are the four factors that you must consider:
Follow a nutrient-dense whole-food diet to build a chiseled physique. Determine your daily caloric intake goal and break it into a suitable macronutrient split to fast-track your strength and muscle gains. You can use a whey and casein protein supplement to fill the protein void in your diet.
Most lifters make the mistake of following a cookie-cutter training program, which leads to suboptimal results. You must follow a personalized training regimen to fix your weaknesses and polish your strengths. Drinking a cup of coffee or using a caffeinated supplement before a training session can boost your performance. Beta-alanine supplements also increase your endurance, which can help you get more done quickly.
Sleep at least seven to eight hours each night to give your body enough time to rest and recuperate from your workouts. Self-myofascial release, massages, and cold plunges are excellent ways to boost your recovery. Whey protein and BCAA supplements also help in this regard.
Switch to an active lifestyle to build a shredded physique. Take the stairs instead of the elevator and bike to work when possible. These lifestyle habits will help keep your metabolism high, which will help you burn calories throughout the day.
Do I need supplements to build a chiseled physique?
No. You can build a jacked body by following a balanced training, diet, and recovery program. Use supplements to fill the voids in your diet.
Can I become a pro bodybuilder without using supplements?
Bodybuilding requires much more than supplements and steroids. Your genetics will dictate your potential as a pro bodybuilder. Plus, the organization you choose to compete in will also dictate your performance if you stay natty.
You can turn pro in the IFBB Pro League (non-tested) while staying natty. However, it is highly unlikely that you will ever win the coveted Mr. Olympia title. On the other hand, natty bodybuilding organizations are reserved for natural athletes.
Which supplements should a beginner start with?
It will depend on your starting physique and training objective. Assuming the individual already consumes caffeine in some form, they should start with a whey protein supplement and stick with it for six to eight weeks. They can add more supplements to their arsenal after assessing their progress.
The initial progress as a natty is usually slow, which pushed many bodybuilders to go the steroid route. However, the risks of using gear are not worth the reward for most lifters.
Contrary to what most people think, you don’t need a cupboard full of supplements and a sponsorship to build a natural physique. Following a balanced diet, training, and recovery program, and using natural bodybuilding supplements, such as whey protein, creatine, BCAAs, caffeine, and beta-alanine, might take some time to work their magic, but it should be the way to go for you if you lift to improve your overall health, well-being, and longevity. Best of luck!
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