I often get asked, What supplements should I take to build muscle? You probably weren’t expecting to read this, but one of the best things for building muscle is not a supplement at all. If you want to gain muscle you need to eat a lot of good quality food high in protein with a moderate amount of complex carbohydrates and unsaturated fats.
Now don’t get me wrong supplements have their place, but remember they are supplemental to your diet and training, and that’s why they’re called supplements. So when I get asked this question I make sure to point out to have your diet and training in check before worrying about it.
Okay so my diet and training IS in check so what supplements do you recommend other than food?
Supplement #1 - Protein
The number one supplement for building muscle that you should hopefully already be getting plenty of from your food sources is protein. You are going to need plenty of this nutrient to build muscle. Most sources say about 1g of protein per pound of body weight. So for a 200 lb. person that is 200g of protein a day. Now to get this much protein in your diet can prove to be difficult hence why people supplement it. I recommend supplementing your diet with whey protein isolate.
One brand I’ve always favored is Optimum Nutrition's Whey Protein. They have many great flavors to choose from, and it’s not too hard on the wallet. Definitely buy it online because any supplements are going to be marked up outrageously at your typical brick and mortar health food store.
Supplement #2 - Creatine
Another supplement I recommend is creatine. This substance is found naturally in our bodies and helps provide energy to all cells in the body, primarily muscle. Wait, but doesn’t that stuff hurt your kidneys? Let’s clear this up. If you have kidney problems already you probably should not take creatine to be safe although studies have shown no adverse affects to the kidneys from it’s supplementation.
The most common reported side effect is a stomach ache. This can be avoided by making sure it is fully dissolved in 16 oz of water or juice. Be sure to stay hydrated when taking creatine or any other supplement for that matter. An increase in body weight is the most acceptable side effect. As much as 5 lbs. of body weight increase have been reported in the first weeks of it’s use. Your muscles will literally inflate with water, increasing their overall volume.
I personally recommend ProMera Sport's CON-CRET - Pure Concentrated Creatine Hydrochloride due to it having no loading phase, greater potency over creatine monohydrate, and lower likelihood of upset stomach.
Supplement #3 - Multivitamin
Our bodies depend on vitamins to function properly. Our muscles are no different. Without certain vitamins and minerals you won’t have optimal muscle growth. Vitamin A is directly responsible for protein synthesis. Vitamin C is an antioxidant and helps with the production of collagen which keeps joint tissue strong. B vitamins give you energy for your workouts, assist with protein breakdown, and help increase oxygen transportation to your muscles.
I personally take Optimum Nutrition's Opti-Men. It's reasonably priced and supports energy levels, performance and vitality.
I’ll finish by saying that supplementation is very beneficial, but there is no magic pill or supplement that will make you gain tons of muscle mass naturally. There are many products out there that make bogus claims, but all you really need is quality food and protein powder. Creatine and a multivitamin won’t hurt you either. If you have the right diet, training, and some dedication you should be able to meet your goals with no problem.