If you’re new to bodybuilding, you’ve probably already discovered that there are quite a few supplement choices out there. If you haven’t taken any supplements yet, or you just want to learn more about which ones to buy, this guide will help you get a grip on all of the basic and most important supplements with respect to bodybuilding.
Most people have a limited amount of money to spend on supplements, so you’ll want to make sure you’re getting the most from your dollar. I know it can be overwhelming with the vast array of supplements out there, especially if you’re new to it all. Luckily, there are a few basic supplements that can quickly give you some great results. These basics are the same supplements that most all pro bodybuilders use as the foundation of their supplement stacks, so you know they’re the real deal.
First and most importantly, you’ll need (other than a multivitamin) a quality protein powder. Without this, it’s pretty safe to say that any other supplements you spend your money on would be a waste. Protein helps with energy levels, recovery after workouts, and is essential for protein synthesis, which is how muscle is built. There are tons of protein powder choices out there, so let’s talk about what you want in a great protein powder.
If you’re buying your protein for bodybuilding purposes, you’ll need to use whey protein. Whey protein is the highest quality protein you can get. The reason is that it has a complete amino acid profile. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Don’t ever use soy protein unless you want your testosterone levels to drop, which is pretty much the worst thing that can happen when your trying to build muscle (whether you’re male or female). Whey protein powder can be either isolated or concentrated. By weight, isolated whey powder has the highest amount of protein.
Now, so far we want an isolated whey protein. What next? Well, if it’s something your going to be taking once or twice every day, which you should be if your serious about getting in shape and having high energy levels, then you probably don’t want to have to choke it down.
A good tasting protein powder will make you look forward to taking your protein shake, rather than dreading it. There are plenty of good tasting protein powders available, but make sure you buy one with no more than about 5 grams of carbs and 2 grams of sugar per serving. In general, you’ll want your protein powder to be mostly protein by weight, so it should have only a very small amount of carbs and sugar–if any.
Lastly, try to find a protein powder without any artificial flavors and colors. Your body doesn’t need that stuff, and if your working out to be healthy, you should try to keep your diet on point as well.
Artificial additives aren’t a part of a clean diet, so they shouldn’t be in your protein powder. Unfortunately, most protein powders out there do have some artificial flavors in them, so it’s not the end of the world if you end up buying one–don’t sweat it. However, my personal preference and recommendation is to use a protein powder that is free of artificial flavors.
So, we want a good tasting whey isolate powder with no artificial flavors and colors. And what would be a good price for that? You shouldn’t spend more than $10/lb. You can buy most brands of protein in a 5 lb size, which is usually much cheaper than buying the smaller 1 or 2 lb sizes. You may even want to go for a 10 pound-er to really save. Don’t worry about getting too much. Trust me, if you take it every day you’ll go through it pretty quickly.
So, is there a protein powder out there that meets all of these specs? I thought you’d never ask! And our winner, drum roll please…Optimum Gold Standard Natural 100% Whey! Out of all of the protein powders I’ve used (which is a lot) this is by far my favorite. It tastes great, I get great results, and it’s the most reasonably priced protein you can buy anywhere, guaranteed. You can buy protein powder at your local GNC/nutrition shop or you can purchase it online. I always buy mine online because it’s considerably less expensive.
Multivitamins are an easy way to make sure you get all of your daily requirements of vitamins and minerals. Many times, even if you have a healthy diet, you can still be lacking in certain nutrients. A deficiency in any of the necessary nutrients will interfere with your body’s ability to perform at its peak.
On the other hand, if your getting all your required nutrients, you will be less likely to get sick. Beyond your daily requirements, many multivitamins offer high levels of B vitamins for increased energy and other added nutrients that are not in a regular multivitamin.
These are known as high performance vitamins. Optimum has a high performance vitamin that boasts an impressive list of nutrients, including; phytonutrients, an amino blend, an enzyme blend, and a virility blend.
This is a truly complete multivitamin. I noticed a difference as soon as I started taking it, and I had already been taking a regular multivitamin. I had higher energy levels throughout the day and I noticed that I had increased endurance as well.
It’s definitely worth it to buy a good multivitamin; you won’t spend much, but you’ll feel better and more energized and you’ll improve your overall health. If you had to choose only one thing on this list to buy, I would choose the multivitamin, even over the protein, because it is possible to obtain enough protein from your food intake alone, although it may be more of a challenge if you’re trying to build muscle.
Right after your protein and multivitamin, glutamine would be your next most important supplement. Gluatime is an amino acid found in protein. Usually you’re getting about 4 grams of glutamine in a 25 gram serving of protein. So why do you need to supplement something that’s already in your protein powder? The reason it’s so important to take glutamine is that it comprises over 2/3 of the free form amino acids stored in your muscle tissue.
When you workout you deplete these stores, and they need to be replaced. If your body needs more glutamine than it’s receiving, it will catabolize, or breakdown, your muscle tissue to get it. You never want your body to be in a catabolic state if you’re trying to build muscle.
So basically, glutamine will help keep your body in an anabolic, or muscle building, state and it will help you recover from workouts faster. There are also several other health benefits to taking glutamine. For example, it enhances your immune function which will prevent you from getting sick. Glutamine is even given as a part of treatment to burn patients, so you know it has some pretty powerful healing and recovery powers.
The best way to supplement glutamine is on an empty stomach. This allows your body to best absorb it. It’s good to take before and after workouts and between meals. If there is ever any time that you are unable to stick to your eating routine and you end up missing a meal, taking some glutamine will help prevent you from losing any of the muscle you worked so hard to build.
I recommend taking about 15 grams per day in addition to what you’re already getting from your protein powder and diet. Glutamine is my favorite bodybuilding supplement because it’s easy to take, and if your consistent about it, you’ll get really noticeable results.
Branch Chain amino acids are a group of three amino acids that are necessary for protein synthesis and thus muscle building. BCAAs make up the other 1/3 of the free from amino acids in your muscle tissue. They assist with recovery and performance in addition to preventing muscle breakdown.
These three amino acids, Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine cannot be produced by the body like many other amino acids and must be acquired from dietary sources. Throughout your day, you’re taking in BCAA’s as well as glutamine and most other amino acids through your diet without even realizing it. The reason it’s so important to supplement BCAA’s is because if your trying to build muscle, you’re probably not getting enough of these amino acids from your diet alone.
Take your BCAA’s on an empty stomach before and after workouts and between meals.Try to take about 15 grams per day. On a basic level, natural bodybuilding supplementation is all about getting enough of the right amino acids. Anything beyond amino acids is unnecessary; that’s not to say that there aren’t some very effective supplements in other categories.
All I’m saying is you that can gain massive amounts of muscle using only protein, a multivitamin, and amino acids along with a proper diet plan. If you had to pick only 4 supplements to use, these would be the ones. Now let’s move on to those other categories!
Creatine is a massively effective supplement for putting on mass, however, it is not an essential nutrient. It is present in protein rich foods, such as steak, but only in very small amounts, which is why supplementation is effective. Your body produces creatine from amino acids.
Creatine, itself, is not an amino acid, but rather a nitrogenous organic acid. If you’re trying to gain size and strength quickly, creatine can help – a lot. It will also help you recover more quickly from your workouts. Some people may experience some side effects such as back acne or kidney pain. If you experience any kidney pain you should stop taking creatine immediately.
The reason creatine can cause side effects is because your body will convert a large portion of it into creatinine, which is a byproduct of creatine. The creatinine then has to be filtered out through your kidneys and liver. The overall consensus though is that creatine is a safe supplement and will have no side effects for most people.
If you do decide to take creatine, the most important thing you can do is drink an abundance of water. Essentially, water is what activates the creatine. If you become dehydrated while taking creatine, the effects will be much harder on your body. The water you drink will be pulled into your muscle cells by the creatine and will help volumize them, which is how you will get bigger and stronger.
Your body is made up mostly of water, so whether or not you take creatine, you need to drink lots and lots of water to build muscle. A good thing to do if you are taking creatine is to just carry around a water bottle/jug with you. Although creatine can cause bloating from water retention in some people, you can minimize this by drinking ample amounts of water.
Creatine is a supplement that needs to be cycled, which means you can only take it for a certain amount of time and then you have to take a break from it for awhile. Usually, you’ll want to take off at least as long as you were on the cycle.
So, for example; if you do an eight week cycle of creatine you’ll need to follow the cycle with a minimum of eight weeks off before you can start taking it again. When you go off of creatine, expect to lose some of your gains. A percentage of the weight you gain on creatine is water weight which you will lose when you stop taking it.
There are many different types of creatine out there these days. It used to be that creatine monohydrate was the standard, and that was what everybody took. All of the different forms of creatine are just creatine molecules bonded to other types of molecules. So Kre-alkalyn, for example, is just creatine bonded to an alkyn molecule. The claim is that this type of creatine has a much higher absorption rate and thus creates no byproduct that is hard on your body.
Every type has a different claim and the drug companies that produce them all claim they are the best. Creatine monohydrate has been around the longest and has had the most data and testing done on it. It has proved to be effective for decades now. I would recommend either taking creatine monohydrate or using one of the creatine blends that are sold.
A lot of brands mix many different forms of creatine into one bottle for you. The idea is that you get the best of each world . Having taken several of these blends myself, I can tell you that, yes, they all work quite well.I didn’t notice a huge difference from one blend to the next. I have friends that swear by one type and other friends that swear by another.
Everybody claims that their type of creatine works best. The type of creatine you are taking will determine your dosing amount. If you’re taking monohydrate, you should take 5-15 grams per day, depending on your your body size and how quickly you want to see results.
A couple types of creatine I can recommend, because I have used them personally, are BSN Cellmass and Optimium creatine monohydrate. Both of these will give you sizable gains in a pretty short time-span. A creatine that is very popular now, that I haven’t taken myself, is ProMera Health Con-Cret which claims that there is no bloating and that it doesn’t need to be cycled.
Finally the last “basic” bodybuilding supplement that goes on this list would be a pre-workout supplement. A pre-workout supplement will give you energy and “pumps” during your workouts. They are one of the most popular types of supplements. Chances are a good percentage of the people working out at your gym are taking one.
They usually contain caffeine, other stimulants, l-arginine, B vitamins, a small amount of creatine (Usually the amount of creatine in pre-workouts is small enough that you don’t have to cycle them) and possibly a few other ingredients.
Every pre-workout mixture is a little different and pretty much every supplement company has their own version of a pre-workout supplement. They all claim to give to the most energy, strength, pumps, endurance, focus etc. . . The stimulants and B vitamins will give you energy, focus and endurance and the l-arginine is what gives you that “pump.”
The pump is when your muscles fill with blood and feel very full and big. It is desirable to get a pump because having more blood diverted to your muscles while working out will give you more strength and endurance, and the blood carries nutrients to your muscles that will allow you to recover better.
Arganine is an amino acid that your body converts into nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a gas that opens your blood vessels allows more blood to flow to your muscles as you use them. l-arginine can even be supplemented on its own if you don’t want to take a pre-workout. You’ll still get the pump, but without the added stimulants, as I know, some people can be very sensitive to stimulants. Another benefit of l-arginine is that it increases your growth hormone levels.
Pre-workouts will make you hungry for the gym and you’ll get longer and better workouts in without getting tired. If you have trouble getting motivated some days this can help. I’ve tried quite a few different pre-workout supplements myself. Two of the most popular ones, both of which I’ve used, are 1MR and No-Xplode. No-Xplode is awesome for building muscle but its a little too intense for some people.
Its formula is extremely potent, so if you have an easily upset stomach or you’re sensitive to stimulants, you should probably use something a little milder. Also, if you take No-Xplode too close to your bedtime you won’t get any sleep (The effects last for awhile). I like 1MR a lot because there is nothing artificial in it and it’s a really clean and simple formula that will give you seemingly unlimited energy and pumps without the jitters, and it’s also an awesome muscle builder.
The above supplements stacked together will give you awesome results if you use them the right way and are consistent about taking them. In addition to those above, you can add a few other supplements, if you so desire, to make your muscle building stack even more potent. ZMA, which stands for zinc magnesium aspartate, is a blend of Zinc, Magnesium and B6.
Zinc is an extremely important vitamin for building muscle because it supports testosterone production. Testosterone is the king of muscle building. With low testosterone levels it can be extremely difficult to make any gains. I’ve taken this supplement and noticed a little boost in my strength. Even more noticeable was that I slept really well. The instructions are to take it on an empty stomach before bedtime and i found that it really helped improve my sleep.
If you need to lean up a little more, a powerful thermogenic fat burner can help. Thermogenic fat burners (which are fat burners that increase heat through metabolic stimulation) usually contain caffeine along with some other stimulants. They increase your metabolism which causes you to burn more calories all day long.
Side effects are that some people get a little bit jittery and they can make you sweat more. The only fat burner I’ve used is Hydroxycut Hardcore Elite, which did what it said it would. I was able to very noticeably cut down my body-fat. It also gave me clean energy and I didn’t feel like I was “on” anything.
Another Type of Fat Burner
CLA or Conjugated linoleic acid is a slightly altered omega-6 fatty acid. It can help keep your body fat levels down as you build muscle. CLA actually has many health benefits. It is a powerful antioxidant that enhances your immune system and increases your metabolism.
The way CLA works as a fat loss supplement is that it keeps your fat cells from increasing in size. It is a very reasonably priced supplement with a variety of health benefits. It can deliver outstanding results when stacked with another kind of fat burner like Oxy Elite Pro.
One Last Note
Keep in mind that no matter how many different supplements you use you won’t get any real results unless your diet and water intake are correct. Split up your calories at about 40% carbs 40% protein and 20% fat.
Make sure you are eating at least every 3 hours to keep your metabolism up and your body in an anabolic state and that you’re eating high quality calories (e.g. chicken breast, fish, turkey, eggs, vegetables, fruit, nuts, whole grains). It is important to monitor your saturated fat and sodium levels; They should both be very low. Drink at least 2 liters of water per day, every day because. . . and get this–your muscles are made up of over 70% water!