What Are The Best Muscle Building Supplements Available?
When you’re just getting started finding the best supplements to build muscle mass faster can be quite confusing. You’re most likely to be torn 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. I just put out this article with the facts to help you make an informed decision on what muscle building supplements you need.
Supplements That Aren’t Worth Buying
Let’s start with a couple supplements that aren’t going to be worth your money.
#1. Mass Gainers
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.
The question you need to ask yourself is whether you’re gaining muscle mass or body fat? You’re better off making your own mass gainer by taking protein powder, adding one to two tablespoons of peanut butter, a banana, oats and whole milk and blending it all together.
#2: Testosterone Supplements
Another mass gainer supplement that will waste your time 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, don’t expect it to be one of the best supplements to build muscle and you shouldn’t expect any real muscle building benefits from such an increase in performance in the bedroom.
#3: Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAA)
Next is Branched-chain amino acids (BCAA). Here’s why you don’t need BCAA while bulking. 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 supplements.
Best Muscle Building Supplements Worth Buying
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 (Hydroxy-Methyl-Butyrate). Is HMB one of the best supplements to build muscle and burn fat or is it just a waste of money? HMB is a byproduct of the breakdown of leucine. Leucine is the most powerful amino acid for muscle growth.
Now here’s the thing. The HMB obtained from leucine can slow down protein breakdown rates. You should know that building muscle is all about decreasing protein breakdown rates while increasing protein synthesis rates. However, when leucine is broken down only about 5% of it is turned into HMB.
Therefore supplementing with more, about 3 to 5 grams, depending on the study has been shown to increase a number of performance markers. These include strength, speed, muscle size, endurance and your rate of recovery.
Now 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 from 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.
However, based on the research they recommend that you should have about 38 milligrams of HMB for each kilogram you weigh 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. This 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.
Here’s the best supplement to build muscle…
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 supplement out there.
This meta-analysis wasn’t some small study. The researchers compared the effectiveness of 250 supplements for muscle growth. 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 a 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 different flavors of creatine available
The original and most studied form of creatine is creatine mono-hydrate. But nowadays there are a ton of new creatine products to choose from.
There’s KRE-Alkalyn and Creatine HCL which is believed to dissolve better in water and can help reduce bloating and cramping. 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. With 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.
How much creatine should you take?
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. 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.
Now 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. This means they won’t notice significant changes when taking this best supplements for muscle building.
#6: Pre-Workout Supplements
Now when considering the best supplements to build muscle, you need to look at pre-workout supplements from. An effective pre-workout supplement will help increase your strength and energy during your workouts. It will also 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 Mallate which can help improve blood flow, increased performance, improve recovery and even provide a slight boost in growth hormone during a workout.
The last ingredient you’ll definitely want is caffeine. This will be what’s providing most of the boost in your energy levels. The problem with pre-workout muscle building supplements is that they can get a little tricky. Why? 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.
#7 Protein Powders
Now you don’t need protein powder to build muscle since you can get all the protein you need from real food. The reason you need them is that it can still make a couple things easier for you. First of all you can take it on the go because it’s not always possible to prepare a high-protein meal on the go.
Secondly it can also help you meet your daily protein requirements without making you feel excessively full.
You want to have at least 0.7-0.8 grams of protein for each pound of bodyweight to give you the maximum muscle building benefits. 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.
Tips for choosing protein powders
When choosing the right type of protein you have a number of options. Your options include whey, casein, soy, rice, beef beans, eggs, pea and ham 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 a dairy based protein powder, studies show that they will typically outperform soy for muscle building purposes.
The 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.
Now this doesn’t mean that casein doesn’t offer its own unique advantages that may make you want to consider getting it too. 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 whey over casein.
Which whey protein is the best?
Now within the category of whey protein you have concentrate and isolate. While 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 way 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 pea and rice to get a more balanced amino acid profile.
#8. Vitamin D
The last of the best supplements to build muscle that you may want to look into if you’re in a cold climate is vitamin D. The reason is because most people don’t get enough vitamin D 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 vitamin D supplement into your plan.
Keep in mind that even the best supplements to build muscle like creatine and the others we have discussed so far can really help but no supplement will replace hard work in the gym combined with a solid meal plan. At the end of the day supplements will make up less than 5% of your results. The rest is up to your consistency in your diet and training.
You may want to check out our article on the best muscle building foods that will help you get the shredded bod you want to see in the mirror.
We hope this has helped answer some if not many of the questions you have when it comes to finding the best supplements to build muscle and shedding the fat. However, we do encourage you to share your experiences and recommendations with our readers. Feel free to do so using the comments section below.