8 Essential Muscle Building Supplements
Proper supplementation can be the secret weapon that makes your goals a reality. These supplements are backed by research and shown to help you reach your muscle building goals.
People that are looking to build muscle work very hard in the weight room, and they eat big in order to get big. The missing component that may serve as the final piece of the puzzle can be supplementation.
Keep in mind that supplements aren’t used to replace something that is lacking. Supplements do just that – they “supplement” your training and nutrition efforts. If you’re not training properly and eating as you should, then supplements are a waste of time and money.
That said, if you’re doing everything else correctly, supplementation can be a great investment into your muscle building quest that will yield great returns. Listed below are eight supplement recommendations for individuals looking to enhance their muscle building journey.
When milk is curdled and strained, the remaining liquid is the whey. This is the most important part of it for athletes and people looking to add muscle size. Instead of drinking a lot of milk or consuming a lot of dairy products that would also include unnecessary calories, you can get whey protein in a supplement form.
The two most popular forms of protein are whey protein concentrate and whey protein isolate. The concentrated form is broken down, but still has some carbs and fat left over, which isn’t a bad thing for people wanting to gain size. Isolate is the purest form of whey, which is a premiere choice for people who want to lose weight or maintain a certain level of leanness.
Either form would be a great choice because whey protein has been shown to help improve body composition by adding fat free mass with no major addition of body fat.1
|MuscleTech Nitro-Tech||Whey protein isolate enhanced with creatine and aminos|
|Dymatize ISO100||Whey protein isolate with zero fat and ultra low carbs|
|Primeval Labs Whey||100% whey protein concentrate with added digestion support|
|Perfect Sports Apex Grass-Fed Whey||100% whey protein concentrate with 30g of protein and 14g of EAAs|
Editor’s Note: M&S carries hundreds of high quality protein products to help you achieve your goals. Shop now!
Another important form of protein is casein – which is a slower digesting form of protein. Casein protein can be enjoyed before bed so your body will maximize recovery while you’re sleeping. It can also help curtail cravings in the middle of the night since your body will be working longer to digest it.
Ending your day with whey and casein protein has been proven to help increase protein synthesis, which will then result in greater muscle gains.2 Many of the top supplement companies that make whey protein also produces a casein option. You can have one or the other, depending on which you feel would serve you better, but both is your best bet.
|AllMax Nutrition Casein-FX||25g of slow-release protein per serving with zero fat|
|Rule 1 R1 Casein||100% micellar casein with 5g of BCAAs|
|Dymatize Elite Casein||2.3g of L-Leucine per serving|
If you were to look at the greatest advances in supplementation, creatine would have to be at the top of the list. There are numerous studies that have shown that creatine monohydrate is a very effective tool that can help increase both muscle size and muscle strength in healthy adults.3
Some experts had said that you had to load creatine monohydrate by taking upwards of 20 grams a day for fine days before using maintenance phases of five days. That is optional. Taking creatine consistently is key, however, in maximizing its potential.
There have been other forms of creatine that have been released over the years such as creatine hydrochloride, but monohydrate is still considered the more popular form when it comes to helping those that want size as their prize.
|NOW Foods Creatine Monohydrate Powder||No additives or preservatives, micronized option available|
|Nutrex Creatine Drive||5g pure creatine monohydrate, unflavored|
|MuscleTech Platinum 100% Creatine||HPLC-tested creatine for quality and purity|
Essential Amino Acids
Protein is made up of 20 amino acids. Nine of those are considered essential. Those are phenylalanine, valine, tryptophan, threonine, isoleucine, methionine, histidine, leucine, and lysine. Three of those were combined to be released as branched-chain amino acids, or BCAA’s, which is sold in supplement form as intra-workout products.
Related: The Importance of Amino Acids in Muscle Gain and Fat Loss
In recent years, more companies have opted to focus on all nine EAA’s, and for good reason. A study in 2020 determined that “large increases in peripheral EAA concentrations are required to drive a robust increase in muscle and whole-body protein synthesis.4
Supplementing with EAA’s as your intra-workout beverage of choice can go a long way in helping you take in those higher concentrations so you can reap the most benefits. Thanks to modern technology, the taste of these products have improved as well.
|Primeval Labs EAA Max||Contains all 9 EAA’s, no artificial flavors|
|Rule 1 R1 Essential Amino 9||7.5g of all 9 EAA’s, 500mg of electrolytes for hydration|
|Nutrex EAA + Hydration||8g of EAA’s, contains 0g of sugar and 0 artificial colors|
Besides protein and proven supplements, vitamins are very important. However, they are often ignored. Part of this is because of less marketing combined with lack of knowledge being shared. One vitamin that doesn’t get nearly the credit it deserves is Vitamin D.
There is a strong relationship between adequate Vitamin D consumption and improvement or maintenance of muscle size and strength, even with hemodialysis patients.5 The US FDA recommends 800 IU of Vitamin D a day for healthy adults and children over four. Active adults and athletes may need more.
Vitamin A is a key vitamin that helps with protein synthesis, which is essential for people wanting to add muscle size. Men should pay extra attention to their Vitamin A levels because it also helps with testosterone production. As men age, the chances of their testosterone levels decreasing are high. Being deficient in Vitamin A makes matters even worse.6 Vitamin A supplementation can delay that process, thus making it less difficult to maintain or even improve hypertrophy.
900 micrograms, or 3,000 IU daily is the recommended amount for healthy men, while women should focus on having 700mcg or 2,300 IU every day. Most multivitamins offer these amounts, but they can also be taken independently.
Your performance in training matters because giving your best effort helps ensure that you break down muscle fibers so the nutrition and supplements you choose to have can help promote recovery.
Two to five grams of beta-alanine can be a great addition to your supplement stack because it was shown to improve exercise capacity and performance in a study conducted in 2016.7 Beta-alanine can be found in most pre-workout supplements, but it can be used on its own as well.
|AllMax Nutrition Beta-Alanine||3.2g of beta-alanine per serving, unflavored|
|MAN Sports Beta-Alanine||HPLC-tested for zero impurities and potency|
|NOW Foods Beta-Alanine Capsules||CarnoSyn® beta-alanine, high-potency vegetarian formula|
When you train, you’re moving blood to the working muscles. This is why you feel that pump that so many people boast about when they train. Aside from the pump itself, that blood circulation can be very important. L-citrulline can be a great ally for that reason. Even though it isn’t an essential amino acid, it can still be very beneficial.
Citrulline can help you improve your training performance and recovery, which we already established plays a big role in your chances of muscle building success.8 That is why you can also find that in many of the popular pre-workouts on the market. Taking a pre-workout that has both citrulline and beta-alanine could be easier on both your process and wallet.
Nutrition, sleep, and training are all fundamentally important if you’re looking to get bigger. However, supplementation with products such as those above can be the final secret weapon that makes your hypertrophic goals a reality. As long as you use them in addition to the food you eat and the way you train instead of in place of them, you would be wise to place an order for any combination of these 8 supplements.
- Duarte NM, Cruz AL, Silva DC, Cruz GM. Intake of whey isolate supplement and muscle mass gains in young healthy adults when combined with resistance training: a blinded randomized clinical trial (pilot study). J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2020;60(1):75-84. doi:10.23736/S0022-4707.19.09741-X
- Tipton KD, Elliott TA, Cree MG, Wolf SE, Sanford AP, Wolfe RR. Ingestion of casein and whey proteins result in muscle anabolism after resistance exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2004;36(12):2073-2081. doi:10.1249/01.mss.0000147582.99810.c5
- Wu SH, Chen KL, Hsu C, et al. Creatine Supplementation for Muscle Growth: A Scoping Review of Randomized Clinical Trials from 2012 to 2021. Nutrients. 2022;14(6):1255. Published 2022 Mar 16. doi:10.3390/nu14061255
- Church DD, Hirsch KR, Park S, et al. Essential Amino Acids and Protein Synthesis: Insights into Maximizing the Muscle and Whole-Body Response to Feeding. Nutrients. 2020;12(12):3717. Published 2020 Dec 2. doi:10.3390/nu12123717
- Gordon PL, Sakkas GK, Doyle JW, Shubert T, Johansen KL. Relationship between vitamin D and muscle size and strength in patients on hemodialysis. J Ren Nutr. 2007;17(6):397-407. doi:10.1053/j.jrn.2007.06.001
- Livera G, Rouiller-Fabre V, Pairault C, Levacher C, Habert R. Regulation and perturbation of testicular functions by vitamin A. Reproduction. 2002;124(2):173-180.
- Saunders B, Elliott-Sale K, Artioli GG, et al. β-alanine supplementation to improve exercise capacity and performance: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Sports Med. 2017;51(8):658-669. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2016-096396
- Gonzalez AM, Trexler ET. Effects of Citrulline Supplementation on Exercise Performance in Humans: A Review of the Current Literature. J Strength Cond Res. 2020;34(5):1480-1495. doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000003426