The best muscle building supplements come from a variety of categories to choose from. However, you can also put together what is known as a supplement stack, which is the use of multiple supplements to achieve a set goal.
Muscle building is one of the most well-known uses for a supplement stack and is great for anybody looking to improve their chances for success at a faster pace. No supplement is a magic pill, though. Let’s take a closer look at the best muscle building supplements and find the one that’s right for you.
What Are Muscle Building Supplements?
You can find a wide range of products claiming to support muscle building, but anything can be related to growth, even a calcium supplement. Since this happens often, you will want to consider several product categories that have extensive research backing them. These supplement categories are:
- Nitric Oxide (N.O.)/Pump
- Pre Workout
- Testosterone Booster
Using a stack with most, or even all these types of products will improve muscular growth alongside a diet and training program.
Protein is the top supplement considered to work for muscle building since it provides the important nutrient necessary for this to occur. You will normally find this as either whey, casein, or plant-based protein, with whey being considered the most effective.
Whey protein makes up 80% of milk, and is heated up and filtered from this source to provide you with quick digesting nutrients. Casein protein makes up the other 20% found in milk, and is slower at digesting than its brother whey.
The slower absorption is used to supplement prior to bed while your body is hard at work to recover, repair, and grow each night. This is one reason 6-8 hours of rest are recommended for those seeking to develop muscle.
BCCAs are branched-chain amino acids consisting of leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Leucine has been shown to provide the best results for benefits against fatigue and muscular growth in higher amounts.
This is the reason you will see ratios such as 3-1-1, or even as high up as 10-1-1 for BCAAs. They are different from other amino acids because they contain branched-chain structures.
BCAAs are 3 of the 9 essential amino acids (EAAs) for protein synthesis to occur, and cannot be produced by your body, making them necessary to consume from foods. Their benefits are:
- Improve muscle repair and growth
- Reduce muscular fatigue
- Reduce muscle soreness
Consuming enough protein-rich foods can make it unnecessary to consume this supplement. Most people are not eating enough, though, which is where a BCAA supplement comes in. Amino acid supplements are great to still consider for extra absorption chances to support muscle building potential.
Creatine is the second most researched product to provide extensive evidence of its benefits. This can be found in various forms for better absorption, but the overall benefits are all the same:
- Speeds up muscle development
- Improved strength through increased ATP production
- Muscular endurance for intense workouts
These are the 3 primary reasons you would consume a creatine supplement for fitness goals. Creatine can be found in a variety of forms: monohydrate, micronized, and hydrochloride.
As mentioned, each one of these forms only differs from the other by how your body absorbs it. Hydrochloride studies show it to have better absorption capabilities, and that it’s easier on your gut during digestion.
Normal dosing for micronized and monohydrate daily is 5 grams, and hydrochloride needs only 2.5 grams instead.
Nitric oxide boosters, frequently referred to as “pump” supplements, are used to improve the blood flow throughout your body. This occurs through the ingredients widening blood vessels, which allows oxygen-rich blood to make its way to your muscles.
The reason this is called a pump supplement is because of the physical appearance of your muscles after consuming nitric oxide ingredients. Your muscles will appear fuller from the increased blood flow for a short period, and veins will bulge out, showing vascularity.
Ingredients that are commonly used for this type of supplement are arginine and citrulline, which are amino acids. Then there is agmatine sulfate being used often for this as well.
However, the physical change is not really the point for these products. Blood carries oxygen along with the nutrients your body needs for energy and recovery after a workout. Nitric oxide has also shown to help the cardiovascular system by reducing the blood pressure in your body. There are many benefits to taking a nitric oxide supplement.
Pre-workout supplements are one of the top categories being purchased today. Everyone wants to improve their training performance regardless if new to exercise or not.
The primary ingredient for a pre-workout is caffeine, which has shown to not only improve energy, but also increase your strength and muscle endurance slightly.
Caffeine normally found in this type of product ranges from 150-350mg. A good way to think of caffeine dosage needed is by referring to a cup of coffee. The normal cup is 50-75mg of caffeine. If you think two cups of coffee get you amped up, then anything over 175-200mg of caffeine may be too much.
Along with caffeine are several other ingredients that improve your focus, strength, and endurance. These extra ingredients may include:
- Beta Alanine
- Arginine and Citrulline
- Betaine Anhydrous
There are more ingredients that can be found in a pre-workout. Simple ingredient profiles are generally the best. You will receive the proper dosage for each ingredient, as opposed to brands placing a lot of under-dosed ingredients to save money and trick you into purchasing their product.
Natural Testosterone Boosters
This section is for men. Testosterone is the primary hormone used for the male body to function properly. Studies show that testosterone production lowers 1% each year after you reach the age of 30. This will definitely affect your muscle building and energy levels.
Benefits from a healthy testosterone production are:
- Improved strength and endurance
- Increased natural energy levels
- Decreases lethargy and everyday fatigue
- Regulates a healthy libido (sex drive)
- Stimulates better muscle production
- Improved mood
The answer is yes. Natural testosterone supplements are composed of legal ingredients that help stimulate normal testosterone production. This is not a steroid and does not require the use of needles.
Capsules and tablets normally have Chinese herbs for the ingredients because these have shown to provide benefits shown above. Test boosting ingredients include:
- Tribulus Terrestris
- Velvet Bean Extract (Mucuna Pruriens)
- D-Aspartic Acid (DAA)
- Vitamin D
These ingredients show lots of potential for improving your natural testosterone levels, which results in better training and muscle building potential.
DAA is the only one that has a catch to it. Studies show that only those with very low testosterone levels benefitted from DAA, but improved natural test levels beyond regular amounts saw little to no results.
The purpose of a test boosting supplement is to improve levels slightly higher than regular amounts for maximum results.
It seems a little basic for a muscle building supplement, but the basics are usually overlooked. A multivitamin contains all the micronutrients (smaller nutrients) that your body needs to live.
A deficiency in micronutrients will cause you to have low energy levels, and make muscle building difficult to achieve. Vitamins and minerals are what make up micronutrients. Consuming whole foods rich in nutrients is the best method for a diet, but most do not consume enough food.
Many physicians recommend a daily multivitamin to supplement the diet for anything that is not being consumed enough. A supplement like this will make a big difference for your muscle building program due to the intense training needed.
How To Use A Muscle Building Supplement Stack
All muscle building supplements will give you directions for use. However, you are going to find that the directions normally give you options instead of a set time. In order to make better use of muscle building supplements, you will want to take them at appropriate times of the day instead of all at once.
Start Of The Day
Multivitamins are best consumed at the start of the day. This gives your body the nutrients necessary to provide natural energy alongside a small meal. Your body will have time to make use of these nutrients before your training takes place.
However, some get upset stomachs and may even feel nauseous from using a multivitamin. If this applies to you and your doctor doesn’t feel it is a negative reaction, then consider consuming prior to sleep, so you do not feel the effects.
Before A Workout
This is the time to use your pre-workout supplement 20-30 minutes prior to training. During the warm-up process, your body will begin increasing blood flow, which leads to improved digestion. The pre-workout ingredients will activate sooner and lead you into the workout energized.
Several pre-workout supplements will state to use the product on days you do not train as well during the day. This is counterproductive and usually a waste of money. The only ones that make sense to take on non-training days are pre-workouts that contain natural testosterone ingredients.
Intra workout means to use during your workout. This is the best time to consume BCAA/EAA products, nitric oxide, and even creatine as well.
A pre-workout may contain all the nitric oxide you need for the day, so ensure you check to see if this applies to the supplement you consume. N.O. is better to take intra workout because it will improve the recovery process that takes place after training.
Creatine is an ingredient that is loaded into your muscles. Aside from not consuming at night, there is no specific time frame to use creatine. However, the best time is during intra or post-workout because your blood is pumping more.
Extra blood flow will absorb and transport creatine to your muscles effectively, especially if you consume carbs like juice with creatine to shuttle the nutrient faster to your muscles.
Post refers to after your workout is complete. During this time frame, your body has been depleted of nutrients and needs to be replenished to encourage muscle repair leading to growth.
Protein supplements fit into this portion of your supplement stack to ensure its presence during protein synthesis. This is the process of converting protein to be used by cells.
Without protein present through absorption, your body will recover by using the protein found in your muscles for the recovery process. This results in muscle loss as opposed to muscle building.
Best Muscle Building Supplements
Below are the best supplements to consider for muscle building, especially if you desire to purchase a stack. They contain simple ingredient profiles for proper dosing and the ability to stack with other products. Supplement companies are aware of their consumers and the desire to use multiple products.
Optimum Nutrition 100% Whey Protein
Optimum Nutrition is one of the leading supplement companies that have been around the longest. Their products are considered to be high quality, and have thousands of consumer reviews rating most of them to be 4-5 stars.
Their 100% whey protein is a blend of isolate, concentrate, and peptides. This keeps the product affordable, but also gives your body a variety of methods to absorb the protein being consumed. The usual amount per serving is 24g of protein.
Legion Pulse Pre Workout
Legion is a highly rated pre-workout that has been around for several years. The ingredient profile is perfect for stacks and can be manipulated for your needs as well.
Directions are using two scoops per serving, which makes it 21 servings per container. However, the ingredient profile is quite high for most to need two scoops. You will possibly benefit more from only using one scoop.
The reason for this is the caffeine anhydrous amount is 350mg. This is quite high for a simple energy boost to workouts, and can cause negative crashing effects following training. Using one scoop makes it only 175mg of caffeine.
Citrulline is dosed at 8g per serving, and beta alanine almost 4g. Getting half the amount of these will still be beneficial and gives you room to use an intra workout instead.
Dymatize Nutrition All 9 Amino
Dymatize is quite popular for its supplement line, and has produced the best amino product that contains an EAA profile at an affordable cost. Normally brands like to separate EAA and BCAA products, which really does not make much sense since BCAA makes up 3 of the 9 EAA.
Each serving contains 7.2g of quality BCAAs, and 2.8g of the other essential amino acids. You also get Vitamin C, B6, B12, and other micronutrients to better support the rest of your workout.
MuscleTech Platinum 100% Creatine
MuscleTech offers a variety of fitness products, such as Clear Muscle, Clear Muscle Next Gen, and this Platinum Creatine supplement. Bypassing the sales label claiming ultra-pure creatine, you will still find that this product gives you exactly what you need for an affordable price.
Micronized creatine, in the end, is a better quality of creatine monohydrate, and many brands produce this type of ingredient. However, they attempt to sell it for 2-3 times more than the product should cost.
MuscleTech offers an 80 serving container for around $10. Each serving is 5g of creatine monohydrate, which is the recommended daily amount to see results.
AnimalPak Animal Pump
Animal Pump comes from the brand Universal Nutrition, which is a direct competitor with Optimum Nutrition in quality and brand existence. However, instead of being corporate based, AnimalPak is known as a family owned company. They have quite a few other fitness products, including Animal Stak, Animal Cuts, and Animal Pak.
Animal pump is a full-scale nitric oxide booster. Ingredients found inside are forms of creatine, citrulline, arginine, caffeine, and theobromine. Amongst several other ingredients, you will receive both an energy rush and improved blood flow from consuming this product. This can be a pre-workout supplement and pump all-in-one.
PEScience High Volume
You can make better use of your supplement stack by having your N.O. ingredients outside of your pre-workout for intra workout use. PEScience has a highly reviewed pump supplement without any caffeine present.
The ingredient label shows citrulline, arginine, HydroMAX, and agmatine sulfate. All ingredients well researched to improve blood flow and possibly result in better muscle recovery after training.
Evlution is a great brand that offers affordable basic supplements. This is a testosterone booster to help support your natural production and possibly increase it beyond normal.
Ingredients within are fenugreek, tribulus, DIM, and DAA. All shown to have possible effects on testosterone boosting potential. Testosterone products generally can be consumed pre-workout since they improve blood flow, or before bed while your body’s hormones are being produced the most.
This particular supplement states to use it prior to bed, which works perfectly for a supplement stack to be fully spaced throughout the day for consumption times.