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Bodybuilding supplements are popular with athletes and strength trainers alike. Taking certain supplements as part of a healthy diet may help build muscle, increase strength, and speed up recovery time.

In this article, we will discuss different supplements that may be beneficial for muscle growth and provide a list of products for people to consider trying.

Bodybuilding supplements are any dietary supplement that may help build muscle mass, increase strength, or reduce recovery time.

A person will only be able to maximize the effectiveness of supplements if they combine them with adequate training and a healthy diet.

How to choose bodybuilding supplements

The effectiveness of each individual bodybuilding supplement can vary depending on a number of factors, such as its ingredients and a person’s needs and activity level.

A person should choose which supplements they take based on their individual goals. For example, a person wishing to improve physical energy may wish to take supplements with caffeine, whereas someone solely looking to aid muscle healing and growth should prioritize protein content.

Below are common ingredients in bodybuilding supplements and their main applications.

Some of the most common bodybuilding supplements backed by science include:

Protein

Protein is the building block of muscle tissue. Without adequate protein, it is very difficult to build or repair healthy muscles. People may be able to get sufficient protein from their diet. However, some may choose to use protein supplements.

Whey protein is the industry standard for protein supplementation. It can contribute to an increase in muscle mass and strength.

A 2019 review found that high quality vegetable protein may be as effective. However, this is only when it includes additional amino acids from other sources.

Creatine

Creatine is a nitrogenous organic acid that consists of three amino acids: L-arginine, glycine, and L-methionine. It helps supply energy to cells throughout the body, particularly muscle cells.

A 2017 review notes that creatine is known to help enhance both exercise performance and recovery from exercise.

Caffeine

Caffeine promotes physical and mental energy. It also temporarily reduces signs of pain and fatigue. A 2018 analysis found that caffeine may help increase muscular strength and power.

Therefore, caffeine may help a person train harder. Over time, this could result in an increase in muscle gain.

Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs)

BCAAs are three essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. The body cannot produce BCAAS, so people must get them from their diets. Supplementing with BCAAs can help ensure that the body has enough of these to build and repair muscle tissue. A 2019 study notes that BCAAs stimulate muscle protein synthesis after exercise.

However, while BCAA supplements are popular, people can get sufficient amounts of BCAA from eating high quality protein. Additionally, the other essential amino acids are also important for the process, which means BCAAs alone are not enough.

Some bodybuilding supplements will contain other specific amino acids, such as leucine, beta-alanine, or L-glutamine.

Beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate (HMB)

HMB occurs naturally in the body during the process of breaking down the essential amino acid leucine. HMB may also help enhance recovery in some athletes.

According to a 2019 study, HMB may help reduce post-exercise muscle damage and accelerate recovery. It may also help improve strength and aerobic capacity and promote lean body mass. However, a 2020 meta-analysis suggests that HMB does not improve body composition, including lean mass, in adults performing weight training.

Other potential ingredients

Manufacturers may also include other ingredients in their supplements. However, people should note that many of these ingredients may lack research to support their role in effectively helping develop muscle. Other ingredients may include:

  • Electrolytes and minerals: Mineral salts and electrolytes may help replenish salts the body uses during intense workouts.
  • Antioxidants: Antioxidants help prevent damage to cells in the body. They may prevent inflammation and oxidative damage.
  • Nitric oxide boosters: Some feel that nitric oxide boosters may help increase blood flow during a workout or reduce fatigue. Common forms include beet juice and pomegranate extract.
  • Simple carbohydrates: Simple carbohydrates, or sugars, may help muscles recover after a workout.

It would be difficult to list the vast number of effective bodybuilding supplements available on the market.

Below are some of the best products in different supplement categories. To compile our list, we assessed the integrity of the brands and the research backing each supplement’s formula.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.

Medical News Today follows a strict product selection and vetting process. Learn more here.

Best protein supplement

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein

Nutritional contentAmount per 31-gram (g) serving
protein24 g
calories110–120 kcal
BCAAs5.5 g
carbohydrates3 g
of sugars1 g

Optimum Nutrition’s Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein contains a blend of whey protein isolate, whey peptides, and whey protein concentrate.

Optimum Nutrition claims that the product is “instantized,” meaning a person can easily mix it with water using just a glass and a spoon instead of a specialized protein mixer.

This makes the supplement ideal for people looking for a quick and easy way to add extra protein to their diet.

Optimum Nutrition’s Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein is available in nine different sizes, from 32 g packets to 10-pound (lb) tubs.

Price: $74.99 for 5 lb

Best creatine supplement

BulkSupplements Creatine Monohydrate (Micronized)

BulkSupplements offers a simple micronized creatine monohydrate powder. The creatine has undergone a micronization process, making it easier to dissolve.

The product offers a pure, isolated form of creatine monohydrate, delivering 5 g of micronized creatine monohydrate powder per serving.

BulkSupplements Creatine Monohydrate is suitable for vegans and contains no additives or fillers.

Price: $69.96 for 2.2 lb

Best BCAA supplement

10X BCAA

Nutritional contentAmount per 9 g serving
calories40 kcal
leucine2.5 g
isoleucine1.25 g
valine1.25 g
L-glutamine2 g

10X BCAA contains a 2-1-1 ratio of the key amino acids leucine, Isoleucine, and valine. The company’s vegan-friendly formulation also contains L-glutamine.

10X BCAA is suitable for vegans and is free of nuts, soy, gluten, and sugar.

Price: $35.00 for 234 g

Best pre-workout supplement

Kaged Muscle Pre-Kaged

Nutritional contentAmount per 28.7 g serving
calories 20 kcal
organic caffeine 274 micrograms (mcg)
L-citrulline 6.5 g
BCAAs 6.5 g
beta-alanine1.6 g
creatine HCL1.5 g
coconut water 500 g

This pre-workout primer delivers many ingredients that may assist athletic performance.

The product is vegan-friendly, non-GMO, and gluten-free. However, Pre-Kaged contains 274 mcg of caffeine per serving, so it may not be suitable for people with caffeine intolerance.

Price: $39.99 for 574 g

Best caffeine-free pre-workout supplement

Legion Pulse Stim-Free Pre-Workout

Nutritional contentAmount per 14.4 g serving
citrulline malate8 g
beta-alanine3.6 g
betaine2.5 g
Alpha GPC300 mg

This pre-workout supplement is caffeine-free and contains 100% natural ingredients.

The absence of stimulants in this formulation makes it a good choice for people who want a supplement that will not affect sleep if taken later in the day. It is also suitable for people with a lower tolerance for caffeine.

Legion Pulse Stim-Free Pre-Workout is available in four naturally sweetened flavors.

Price: $39.99 for 35.12 g

People should follow the directions on the supplement packaging. Taking too much of a bodybuilding supplement is not likely to increase results, as the body can only use so much of any given supplement at once. Increasing intake may also make some side effects more likely.

Typically, the supplement will be available in either powder or capsule form. People can then mix the powder with water and drink it or just take the capsule with a sip of water.

The best time to take a supplement may vary depending on the specific ingredients and product. People should check the label for instructions about when to take the supplement.

No bodybuilding supplement can replace hard work and effort. The most effective way to attain muscle hypertrophy is through activities such as strength and resistance training.

Diet is also an essential factor in muscle growth. Nutrition plays a critical role in muscle development and strength. While supplements can help, people should still ensure they eat a healthy diet that provides their bodies with sufficient nutrition.

It is also advisable for people to ensure they get adequate rest between exercises as well as sufficient sleep. A 2020 study suggests that inadequate sleep may decrease muscle mass development.

Although it may take weeks or months to notice muscle growth, consistent resistance training, regular sleep, and a healthy diet should maximize results.

Most of the ingredients in bodybuilding supplements are well tolerated and not likely to cause side effects. However, people should follow the manufacturer’s instructions and not exceed the stated dosage.

Some supplements could contain ingredients that people may not respond well to. For example, some supplements may contain caffeine, so people who are sensitive to it may want to avoid these products.

It is advisable for a person to speak with their doctor before taking any supplements. If they begin to notice side effects after taking a supplement, they should stop taking it.

Bodybuilding supplements can help athletes and strength trainers fuel their bodies with the necessary ingredients to build and maintain muscle and recover from workouts efficiently.

While many marketing teams may oversell their products, there are some important ingredients to look out for that may help the body build mass and recover quickly. However, no supplement will replace the basics, such as eating a balanced diet and following healthy lifestyle practices.

Which supplement is best for muscle growth?

A balanced diet with adequate protein intake is best for muscle growth. Protein supplements can help a person increase their protein intake. So, they can be beneficial as part of a wider diet.

What pills do bodybuilders take?

Different bodybuilders and performance athletes will take different supplements based on personal preference, training goals, and biology.

How can I accelerate muscle growth?

Eating a balanced diet with adequate protein intake and following a progressive training plan is the best way to accelerate muscle growth. Adequate sleep duration and sleep quality can also assist in muscle growth and strength performance.