If you’re no stranger to the weights room then you probably know just how hard it can be to pack on size. At first glance, the size of bodybuilding pros like Arnold and Dorian Yates is impossible.
Okay, so the pros generally use anabolic steroids, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other bodybuilding supplements that can help you on your way.
The sports nutrition market is one of the fastest-growing markets and is expected to reach over $33 billion by 2028. Such a huge market means a lot of different products to choose from. This is great if you know exactly what you’re looking for.
To get you started, let’s take a look at the most effective ones out there.
If you’re looking to pack on muscle then your protein intake needs to be high on your priority list. Insufficient protein intake means that your muscles can’t recover and grow after exercise. If you’re not getting enough protein then you’re eventually going to crash.
If you’re a 180lb aspiring bodybuilder then you should be consuming something in between 215-270g of protein every day. That’s the equivalent of almost 1kg of chicken breast every day!
This is where protein supplements come in. While it’s important to get as much protein as you can from real food, trying to consume 200g of protein just from meals can be overwhelming and expensive.
Protein supplements come in various forms. Most people know them as whey protein. They offer around 24g of protein and 120 calories per serving. They’re the most affordable type of protein supplement for general use.
Mass gainers are also popular products that usually offer around 40g of protein per serving as well as up to 1000 calories. These are great for anyone looking to get big fast. It is however worth noting that a lot of mass gainers are just packed with sugar (maltodextrin) so consuming them regularly can soon lead to excess body fat.
Creatine is widely accepted as the most effective bodybuilding supplement available. It’s been subject to a lot of research and is considered well-tolerated.
Creatine is created naturally in the human body, but when we exercise we deplete our body’s stores. It is responsible for helping your muscles produce energy during your grueling workouts.
Creatine can be sourced naturally from milk, meat, and some fish. However, one pound of steak only yields around 2g of creatine and the recommended daily amount is 5g.
This is why most bodybuilders supplement creatine monohydrate powder daily. There are some theories about loading up with large amounts of creatine for two weeks and then lowering the dose. But the most popular method is to simply take 5g of creatine daily.
Supplementing creatine will help you develop build muscle mass as well as increasing your strength and power.
If you’ve ever had a pre-workout and felt your skin tingling, that’s beta-alanine. Beta-alanine is the secret to exercise endurance. It works by helping to produce carnosine, which reduces the amount of lactic acid build-up in the muscles.
Beta-Alanine allows you to put more work in at the gym, which is the number one key to bodybuilding success. Most people will take around 3g of beta-alanine around 30 minutes before each workout.
It can also be used post-workout to assist with replenishing carnosine levels in the body.
There’s a lot of talk around BCAAs and EAAs, especially as to which are best. Branch chain amino acids (BCAAs) consist of three amino acids:
Whereas, EAAs consist of these three and an additional six amino acids:
As you can imagine, BCAAs are cheaper to buy, but EAAs generally get more good press. The argument for EAAs is that they offer a more complete amino acid profile. But, if your diet is high in good quality proteins then there’s very little chance that you need any extra, and BCAAs will suffice.
EAAs are more geared towards individuals who train fasted in the morning, as they help to reduce muscle breakdown during fasted exercise.
Citrulline Malate is what’s known as a vasodilator. It works by widening the arteries and veins which results in better blood flow around the body.
Not only does this help you achieve that ‘pumped’ look in the gym, but it means oxygen and nutrients can get around your body to where they’re needed most during exercise.
One study found that citrulline malate increased the maximum number of repetitions on one exercise by 53% against a placebo. It also significantly reduced muscle soreness after exercise.
It’s recommended that you take between 6-8 grams of citrulline malate one hour before exercise.
SARMs deserve a mention as the middle ground between what’s available at your local bodybuilding supplements store and anabolic steroids. To be honest, it’s not possible to obtain a Mr. Olympia-worthy physique without the use of steroids. But not everyone is willing to take the risk. This is where SARMs come in.
Selective androgen receptor modulators (SARMs) work in a similar way to steroids, but they only target androgen receptors in the body. This means that they have a similar effect to steroids, but with much fewer side effects.
SARMs can be used to help build lean muscle, burn fat and increase your work output in the gym. They will also help you recover so that every time you hit the gym you feel your best.
SARMs are not regulated by any official bodies so it’s important to do your research if you’re going to consider them. The most popular SARMs include:
- Ostarine (MK-2866)
- Cardarine (GW-501516)
- Ibutamoren (MK-677)
- Testolone (RDA-140)
- Ligandrol (LGD-4033)
While SARMs offer similar results to steroids with fewer side effects, they can still have adverse effects on the body when used at higher doses.
Most SARMs require PCT (post cycle therapy) after completing a SARMs cycle. Be sure to find out more about PCT before you start using SARMs.
Choosing Your Bodybuilding Supplements
When it comes to finding the right bodybuilding supplements for you, doing your research is paramount. There are a lot of different supplements on the market, and not all of them are what they’re cracked up to be.
Be sure to take the time to find recommendations and reviews from people who are well-known and respected in the bodybuilding industry.
For more tips and tricks towards becoming the best version of yourself, be sure to take a look at our other articles.