Ben Hardman, founder of Strength Bible, unveils the best supplements for muscle growth that he has discovered in his 15 years+ of strength training. Read on to find out what they are…
I’ve tried many different types of supplements over the last decade and a half of building muscle. Probably too many to name.
Some are gimmicks. Some don’t cut the mustard. But some hit the spot and make a real difference when it comes to muscle growth.
For me a great supplement has to make a positive difference in one of two areas:
- My training at the gym
- My recovery at home
The most effective supplements can help you optimise your training and eke out every bit of potential when it comes to muscle building.
Although no supplement is a magic pill as such (the marketing of some brands may beg to differ), they can give you that extra edge you’ve been looking for to make gains and progress towards your goals.
Let’s get into the best supplements for muscle growth that I’ve discovered, along with my top picks for each type of muscle building supplement.
Top 3 Supplements For Muscle Growth (based on need)
1 – Pre-Workout – BlackWolf – View Best Deals Here
2 – Nitric Oxide – Nitric Max – View Bundle Deals Here
3 – Mass Gainer – Crazy Nutrition Mass Gainer – View Best Bundle Deals Here
Pre-Workouts For Muscle Growth
A good pre-workout can do wonders for your training session.
I’m partial to a strong pre-gym coffee, but a top-notch pre-workout can bring many more benefits to the workout table than a coffee can on its own.
Packed within a single pre-workout blend can be several active ingredients to give your workout an extra kick. A pre-workout isn’t purely just for the buzz of it either.
Being able to focus more and train harder means you might be able to add a few kilograms onto the bar or bust out a couple of reps when you’d usually give up. The impact of this over time is increased muscle growth. Bingo.
Not all pre-workout ingredients have been rigorously studied from a scientific perspective. This is certainly true for many blends, which haven’t been put through efficacy tests in the lab.
However, many of the main ingredients such as caffeine, taurine and beta alanine have been scientifically shown on an individual basis to provide performance-enhancing benefits.
One pre-workout that does pack the right science-backed ingredients (and doesn’t taste like you’re drinking battery acid) is BlackWolf.
Within their fully disclosed blend, BlackWolf have jammed in 11 key ingredients with no secret fillers.
Active ingredients within a single serving of BlackWolf include:
- 6000mg of l-citrulline
- 200mg of caffeine
- 3200mg of beta-alanine
- 3000mg of creatine
- 1000mg of taurine
- 2000mg of betaine
- 1000mg of AAKG
You can find a full list of clinical studies associated with each ingredient on the BlackWolf website.
The BlackWolf pre-workout comes in three fruity flavours to get you going: green apple, blue raspberry and fruit punch. Conscious about the trainers who hit the gym later in the day, the fruit punch flavour is made free from caffeine. This isn’t for me though – I prefer a caffeine-packed pre-workout!
Crazy Nutrition Tri-Protein
When it comes to building muscle, protein is the most important macronutrient we need in our diet. You know this already.
What you may not know is that protein is made up of amino acids, which are key to building muscle.
Amino acids are used by your body to repair muscle tissue and build new fibres. They also perform tonnes of other vital roles to do with hormones, neurotransmitters and just about every functioning system in your body.
The recommended daily intake of protein for everyday folk is 0.8g per kilogram of body weight. We’re not everyday people though.
For us trying to build muscle, anywhere from 1.3g – 2g of protein per kilogram of body weight is recommended. So, if you weigh 80kg, you should aim to eat somewhere between 104-160g of protein for optimal muscle growth.
The thing is, eating this amount of protein with conventional food alone can be very difficult.
This is where protein powder comes in.
One of the best protein powders I’ve tried recently is the Crazy Nutrition Tri-Protein.
It’s a high quality protein powder supplement with 6 different types of protein designed for maximum absorption. Inside this one protein shake you get:
- Whey protein isolate
- Whey protein hydrolysate
- Whey protein concentrate
- Milk protein concentrate
- Micellar casein
- Calcium caseinate
Over 90% of the blend’s content comes from protein sources. Crazy Nutrition doesn’t bulk its blend out with any fillers and unnecessary ingredients.
A two-scoop serving gives you 23g of protein, 2g of carbohydrates and just 111 calories to help you hit your muscle building goals.
It tastes great too. I’ve lost count of the number of protein shakes I’ve had that have made me want to gag and given me stomach issues. Not with Crazy Nutrition.
I’ve been having regular shakes with Crazy Nutrition Tri-Protein made with milk and water, putting it in my porridge and blending it up in a smoothie.
The added digestive enzyme complex (DigeZyme) does an amazing job of helping to absorb the protein smoothly and effectively. I really think this has made a big difference.
MyProtein Creatine Monohydrate
No muscle building supplement stack is complete without creatine. It really is the real deal when it comes to enhancing your training performance..
But things can get a little confusing. There are now a tonne of different creatine variations out there. Everything from micronised and HCL to Kre-Alkalyn and Ethyl Ester.
I’m all for cutting-edge, but sometimes it’s best to keep things simple.
The primary benefit of taking creatine is to improve your explosive strength. It does this through optimising very short-term ATP energy cycles within your muscles. It can also bring neurological benefits and enhance the appearance of muscles by drawing water into them.
With a good-quality creatine monohydrate, you can be sure that your body is getting the right type of supplement for building muscle.
You probably already know that creatine monohydrate is one of the most well-studied supplements out there. 700 human studies and counting, concluding multiple benefits and no known adverse side effects.
I’ve been taking creatine for the past 10 years. Around 5-10g every day (even when I’m not training) is the optimal amount. In my experience and backed up through the scientific literature, you don’t need to cycle off creatine or even go through a loading phase. Just take it regularly so your muscle stores are stocked up and ready to go.
The product I’ve used most over the years is Myprotein’s Creatine Monohydrate. Firstly because it’s well priced, and secondly because it’s good quality.
I’ve been to the Myprotein factory in Cheshire and seen creatine being made. It was fascinating. I know the processes are tightly regulated and the manufacturing standards are extremely high.
I prefer to take unflavoured creatine powder as I can add this to other drinks, including my post-workout protein shake. Although you can take creatine any time of the day, it’s most effective post-workout.
Myprotein’s unflavoured version is also 100% creatine monohydrate. In contrast, their flavoured variety is around 75% creatine monohydrate. Keep it smart and stick to the basics with creatine.
Bulk Essential Amino Acids
Growing muscle demands having the right intracellular building blocks available. This role is kindly taken up by essential amino acids.
There are 9 essential amino acids (EAAs). They’re deemed ‘essential’ as your body can’t produce them. Instead we have to get them through our diet.
This is mainly through animal sources, including meat, fish and dairy. This differs from non-essential amino acids, which your body can make. EAAs play an important role in training performance and recovery.
The most well-known of the EAAs are the 3 branched-chain amino acids, or BCAAs. Studies have shown the effectiveness of BCAAs when it comes to muscle recovery and reducing soreness after resistance exercise. For this reason, BCAAs often over-shadow EAAs.
Supplementing with EAAs though goes one step further. Or maybe six steps further if you want to count the additional amino acids you’ll be getting.
With EAAs you get the full complement of 9 essential amino acids. Together these amino acids play a wider yet even more important role in the body. They help:
- Synthesise sleep hormones
- Make neurotransmitters
- Build connective tissues
- Support immune functioning
- Repair and grow muscle fibres.
The benefit for your training and progression is clear.
I like the Essential Amino Acids from Bulk. The powder mixes easily and the dosing is very good.
With Bulk you get 5.3g of leucine, 2.3g of valine and 2.1g of lysine.
Compare this to Myprotein’s EAAs where you get just 3g of Leucine, 0.75g of Valine and 0.92g of Lysine. Remember to always check the dosages!
You can take EAAs any time of the day, but I like to take mine in my intra-workout shake. Get those muscle-growing amino acids into the system as soon as the fibres break down!
For this reason, I prefer to get unflavoured EAAs as I will stack them with other products. One of my favourite intra-workout supps is cyclic dextrin. If you prefer a flavoured variety, I’ve tried the cherry bomb flavoured EAAs from Bulk though and the taste was very good.
Nitric oxide is one for those who need an extra boost of energy without the caffeine.
The magic of nitric oxide is that it’s a vasodilator. This means it helps to open up your blood vessels to increase flow around the body. Greater blood flow means more oxygen and nutrients to your working muscles.
However, the catch is that most nitric oxide supplements don’t contain nitric oxide. Instead, they generally use the non-essential amino acid L-arginine. Or a variation of it.
One of the more supplemented versions is L-Arginine Alpha Ketogluterate, abbreviated (for obvious reasons) to AAKG.
AAKG is said to increase production of nitric oxide, which can then have its beneficial effects on your workout, muscle growth and strength improvements. For this reason, you sometimes see AAKG included in pre-workouts too.
Nitric Max from CrazyBulk focusses on AAKG, packing a 1.8g dose per two-tablet serving. Compare this to the 1g seen in the BlackWolf pre-workout, which of course includes other key ingredients unlike this specialist supplement from CrazyBulk.
The result is increased energy, muscular endurance and a fantastic pump during your workout!
Testosterone is a vital hormone in the human body. In males in particular, testosterone is active from the foetal stage all the way through to adulthood.
Testosterone is also crucial for building muscle mass thanks to the role it plays in stimulating growth hormone release. It also has a direct effect on muscle protein synthesis. Good stuff then, when you have muscle growth in mind.
Additional testosterone has been sought after by athletes for centuries to get that extra edge. It’s for this reason why unnatural forms are banned and tested for in competitions.
That being true, there are a number of safe, legal and indirect ways to naturally boost your testosterone levels to help advance muscle growth.
It’s a common concern for males once they hit their 30s. Unfortunately from this point on, testosterone is on a downward trajectory of roughly 1% a year. Nutritional and lifestyle choices can help keep testosterone levels as high as possible, but for many it’s beneficial to seek out extra ways to keep T topped up.
Being a male in my 30s, I’m actively looking for the best natural ways to increase my testosterone.
I’m keen to keep things as natural and above board as possible. One of the best testosterone boosters I’ve come across recently is TestoPrime.
TestoPrime has an all-natural, science-backed ingredient profile with all the main booster ingredients in there:
- 2000mg of D-aspartic acid
- 8000mg of panax ginseng
- 800mg of fenugreek
- 668mg of ashwagandha extract
This is alongside extracts of green tea, pomegranate, garlic and black pepper. Finishing off the potent profile are vitamins D, B5 and B6, as well as zinc.
TestoPrime say that their product can result in a testosterone production boost of 44%. Impressive. Even taken with a metaphorical pinch of salt, the improvement could be significant.
Crazy Nutrition Mass Gainer
Bulking is one of my favourite phases of the training season. Time to eat a lot, train heavy and get big!
Surprisingly, bulking is harder than it seems. It can actually be quite difficult to get the sheer amount of calories into your body through food alone to put on the size you’re looking to achieve. Believe it or not, the fun of eating constantly wears off after a while.
An integral supplement for any size-building phase is mass gainer. I’ve taken many mass gainers over the years to varying degrees of success. The success often hinges on a few key points – how it tastes, what the nutritional profile is like, and how it impacts your digestive system.
A great mass gainer will have high levels of protein, carbohydrates and calories from good sources. It’s easy to get these from low-quality sources, which results in a poor product that’s not as effective and will likely cause you stomach issues.
This is why I really like Crazy Nutrition’s Mass Gainer. Just like their protein powder, everything about the CN Mass Gainer is high quality.
Each 125g serving will top you up with 40g of whey protein concentrate, 55g of low glycemic carbs, 10g of fat and 488 calories.
This mass gainer contains just 7g of sugar, which means you won’t experience an energy crash sometimes associated with other gains bulked out with calorific ingredients.
You also get zinc, magnesium, B vitamins and MCT oil to help your body and brain recover in time for the next workout.
To ease the demands on your stomach and aid absorption, a patented blend of digestive enzymes are added to the mix. These work a small miracle each time.
Multivitamins are a common supplement taken by the masses. Don’t use this as a reason to dismiss them though from a muscle growth perspective.
In a nutshell, they provide micronutrients (in the form of vitamins and minerals) to support core functioning within the human body. Everything from cognitive functioning to blood flow and tissue repair.
Making sure you’re getting the right amount of micronutrients is essential for optimal performance. Many people go through life performing below their capabilities because they aren’t aware of their potential or have become accustomed to their current state.
Taking a daily multivitamin can be a game changer when it comes to improving your functioning in everyday life.
But it also applies in your training, too.
The multivitamin from Feel is one of the best multivitamins on the market.
It contains 32 active ingredients to promote full health and wellbeing. Within each two-capsule serving you’ll be topping up all your key vitamins (13 of them), plus the likes of niacin, copper, iron, magnesium, zinc, chromium, Alpha Lipoic Acid and L-Glutamine. The formula is also enhanced with BioPerine to increase nutrient absorption.
Importantly, there are no unnecessary fillers or colouring – just high-quality ingredients.
If you’re on top of your game with your health and wellbeing outside of the gym, you can almost guarantee that you’ll benefit significantly inside of the gym. So, make sure you’re firing on all cylinders with Feel multivitamins.
Benefits Of Using Supplements For Muscle Growth
For muscle growth, you need to train hard and then recover well.
As the name suggests, supplements should be in addition to these basics of working hard and eating right. This is how I look at it.
Some people look for shortcuts when it comes to growing muscle. There are no shortcuts. You can’t out-train a bad diet, and no supplement is going to do the hard reps for you. This is important to keep in mind.
That said, supplements can really help you out along the way.
Firstly, a good supplement should be designed to provide a highly targeted supportive role to your training goals.
Whether you want to pump yourself up and focus in on your workout with a pre-workout, or boost your gains with an immediate post-workout protein shake, supplements can step in. You can now take intra-workout supplements to keep everything as optimised as can be on the gym floor.
One of the main benefits with supplements is their sheer convenience and ease of absorption by your body. A scoop of powder or a tablet can do the job of preparing a full meal. This is important when time is tight and you’re looking for something quick.
Another key component of effective supplementation is to help you optimise your recovery and muscle growth away from the gym.
Alongside protein powders, we have supplements such as creatine, multi-vitamins and testosterone boosters that can play an important role in repairing muscle tissue, reducing soreness and stimulating muscle growth.
If you’re looking to gain serious size like I have aimed for in the past, you can opt for a mass gainer shake to have in between food rather than eating six meals a day. It’s at these helpful segments where supplements come into their own.
The supplement market has expanded into all sorts of areas. Although this is exciting, it’s possible to get bogged down in supplement overload. Some people become reliant on supplements for a good workout or to make it feel like they’re being productive away from the gym. I’ve been there.
But if you stick with training hard, eating a good diet and resting up first, you can then add supplements into the equation to really give you an added edge when it comes to muscle growth.
I’m a big fan of taking the right, scientifically proven supplements to support my goals.
My tried and tested personal go-tos are protein powder, creatine and pre-workout. Although I’ve tried different brands, these three supplements are my staples and have always played an important role alongside my training.
I’m an advocate of using other supplements too, like mass gainers and EAAs, depending on the individual goals I have in mind at the time.
Supplements have helped me in the past and will continue to help me going forward. They can also be instrumental in your muscle-building journey.
Just remember, they are supplements and not substitutes. Use these tools wisely alongside a disciplined approach and you’ll see your efforts pay off in the long run.