While training, diet, and mindset are the three most important components of a successful muscle-building routine, supplements are popular for a reason. No, they aren’t a scam, and can certainly help to speed up progress.
For example, if your goal is to put on some muscle and get stronger, using a whey protein supplement and taking a daily dose of creatine can make a noticeable difference. Or maybe you lack the energy needed to crush a workout and hit new prs… look no further than a quality multi-ingredient supplement with caffeine and other cognitive-enhancing ingredients.
Today we have for you the best supplements that can help you take your gains to the next level (if everything else is on point, of course).
9 Helpful Weight-gaining Supplements
Each product on the list offers its own unique benefits.
1. Whey Protein
To increase muscle mass, you need protein and there’s no getting around it. But not everyone meets their ideal daily protein intake and that’s where including a quality protein supplement can prove to be very beneficial. But if you are going to shop around for a protein supplement, especially a powder product, we highly recommend going with one in whey form. Although any form of protein should be fine (e.g, plant-based, casein, egg white, etc).
But what’s so special about whey protein?
Whey is a fast-digesting protein and research shows that it has a greater initial effect on increasing muscle protein synthesis taken immediately following a resistance training session.
More importantly, the composition of amino acids in whey is perfect for building muscles. It is rich in branched-chain amino acids (BCAA), specifically leucine, which aids in promoting muscle growth by increasing muscle protein synthesis; a process that allows protein to repair and build muscle tissue.
Whey is also very affordable and nowadays there are so many quality options to choose from.
There are also different forms of whey protein such as concentrate, isolate, and hydrolysates, and it’s important to know the difference.
Whey concentrate is a less filtered whey and also the cheapest and usually best-tasting because it contains more milk sugar (lactose) and fat compared to the other two forms that we’ll talk about in a second.
However, the downside is that because it’s less filtered, many users complain of stomach discomfort and it’s certainly not for everyone.
Whey isolate goes through an additional filtration process that rids most of the carbs, fats, and lactose. The end result is a product that contains 90% or more protein content (a little more than concentrate form).
Protein isolate typically costs more as a result and is preferred by those who are sensitive to lactose found in dairy.
Whey hydrolysate or hydrolyzed whey is another great choice for those looking to pack on the mass. Because it’s partly broken down by enzymes or amino acids, it’s supposed to be easier to digest and the amino acids may reach the muscles faster as a result (1).
One study of 28 athletes found that hydrolyzed whey may be useful for speeding up muscle tissue repair and recovery (2).
Hydrolyzed whey is usually pricier than concentrate and isolate.
Need a quality shaker bottle to blend your protein powders? Check out our favorite picks here.
Creatine in monohydrate form especially has been studied extensively and is one of the most proven ergogenic supplements. Some may think it’s too good to be true but there’s strong evidence to support that creatine can increase muscle growth through various pathways.
Not to mention, because it also retains water in the muscles, users experience fuller-looking muscles, strength increases, and this can also trigger muscle-building mechanisms.
There are many benefits of using creatine.
However, despite the fact of creatine being an excellent supplement, it will not work unless you put in the work and the same goes for any performance-aiding ingredient.
Now, we should mention that although monohydrate may be the most studied form of creatine, that’s not to say it’s the most effective as there are many forms.
If you want to learn even more about the benefits of using creatine, check out our review of the best top-rated creatine supplements for 2021.
- How To Load Creatine For Faster Muscle and Strength Gains
- Creatine Calculator: Find Your Daily Creatine Intake
- Creatine Free Pre-Workouts
3. Weight Gainers
Weight gainer supplements contain lots of calories per serving and offer a convenient complete source of nutrition.
Bulking up requires a caloric surplus or consuming more calories than your body needs but this is easier said than done, especially if you’re considered a “hard-gainer”. But that’s the beauty of liquid nutrition and mass gainers, in particular; it’s much easier to get down with very little preparation required.
But you definitely want to go with a quality weight gain supplement because there are plenty of sugar-laden, low-quality options on the market.
Nowadays though, we have much better choices though that contain quality carbs and protein not only aiding weight gain progress but keeping health in check.
We also recommend using our bulking calculator to determine your ideal daily calorie intake for muscle gains!
Beta-alanine does not assist in gaining weight per se, but it does help in reducing fatigue and increasing exercise performance to allow you to work out more intensely. It aids in preventing the accumulation of lactic acid compounds created during strenuous activities and exercises (3).
Basically, it delays the sometimes unbearable muscle burn, allowing you to exercise for longer durations. It does this by raising the carnosine compound levels in your muscles that neutralize the feeling.
When you look for beta-alanine supplements, you may also come across some carnosine supplements. However, those are not that effective in boosting carnosine levels in muscles. Carnosine breaks down into different compounds when consumed orally, so it does not reach the muscles as intended.
Learn more about the potential benefits of HMB here.
6. Testosterone Boosters
Testosterone, a primary male sex hormone, is essential for building muscle. Many people use steroids to artificially boost their levels and as a result, get big gains. However, no legal supplement will give steroid-like effects, and testosterone boosters or standalone test-supporting ingredients will not come close.
In fact, they probably won’t raise testosterone levels in healthy young men. But even for older men, they may help to increase low levels but not more than what the body can produce naturally.
This is important to know for those who may have unrealistic expectations.
Also read: 7 Ways To Boost Your Testosterone Naturally
7. Branch-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
Amino acids are known as the building blocks of protein, although not all are used for building proteins. There are nine “essential” amino acids that the body cannot produce and we must attain them from nutrition sources.
Three of the nine essential amino acids; leucine, isoleucine, and valine, are known as “branched-chain amino acids,” or BCAAs.
The BCAA leucine is a must-have nutrient in your diet because it’s most essential for promoting muscle protein synthesis, as mentioned earlier in the article.
Learn more about BCAAs and see our top supplements picks using the two links provided below.
Caffeine does not cause weight gain directly because it’s obviously not a calorie-dense food. In fact, it could be beneficial for weight loss even, due to its thermogenic properties.
You might be thinking, “so why in the heck are you recommending caffeine as a bulking supplement/ingredient?”
Because caffeine, a nervous system stimulant, is used for boosting energy levels, and therefore, it can enhance performance significantly. Why do you think bodybuilders take pre-workouts with 300-400mg of caffeine per serving?…
There’s substantial documentation that moderate caffeine consumption, approximately 3 to 6 milligrams per body weight kilogram, can boost physical performance.
More energy and focus gives you that edge and advantage you need to hit those personal records in the gym, and feel good while doing it.
However, some people must be cautious with caffeine because not building up a tolerance to it before supplementing or taking too much can have some very unpleasant side effects.
As for the best caffeine supplements to use; pre-workouts seem to be better for training performance and supporting muscle gains and recovery but there are caffeine-free options of course. Capsules/pills and energy drinks are good if you just need some caffeine to get you going. And then there’s good old caffeinated coffee too.
Citrulline, an amino acid that our bodies produce naturally and that is present in some foods, is a beast of an ingredient for getting massive pumps.
But that’s not all it’s good for… because it’s a vasodilator that widens blood vessels, it can have cardiovascular and sexual performance benefits.
Oh, and we almost forgot to mention that research has shown citrulline to increase growth hormone levels following exercise.
Learn more about the benefits of citrulline and see our favorite supplement picks here.
When your diet and training are on point, adding proven supplements to your routine will only allow you to maximize your progress and results.
However, one very important factor to keep in mind is that whether your goal is to bulk up or lose weight, patience is going to be key. Some people can increase their muscle mass faster and easier due to their genetics but anyone can see impressive results, you just have to be persistent and relentless.
1. Potier, Mylène; Tomé, Daniel (2008-07). Comparison of digestibility and quality of intact proteins with their respective hydrolysates. Journal of AOAC International. 91 (4): 1002–1005.
2. Buckley, Jonathan D.; Thomson, Rebecca L.; Coates, Alison M.; Howe, Peter R. C.; DeNichilo, Mark O.; Rowney, Michelle K. (2010-01). “Supplementation with a whey protein hydrolysate enhances recovery of muscle force-generating capacity following eccentric exercise”. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport.
3. Hobson, R. M.; Saunders, B.; Ball, G.; Harris, R. C.; Sale, C. (2012). Effects of β-alanine supplementation on exercise performance: a meta-analysis. Amino Acids. 43 (1): 25–37.
4. Wilson, Gabriel J; Wilson, Jacob M; Manninen, Anssi H (2008-01-03). Effects of beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate (HMB) on exercise performance and body composition across varying levels of age, sex, and training experience: A review. Nutrition & Metabolism
5. Wilkinson, D. J.; Hossain, T.; Hill, D. S.; Phillips, B. E.; Crossland, H.; Williams, J.; Loughna, P.; Churchward-Venne, T. A.; Breen, L.; Phillips, S. M.; Etheridge, T. (2013-06-01). Effects of leucine and its metabolite β-hydroxy-β-methylbutyrate on human skeletal muscle protein metabolism. The Journal of Physiology. 591 (11): 2911–2923.