Top 5: Essential Bodybuilding Supplements

Whether you’re training to become the next Mr. Olympia, or just fed up with co-workers taking your lunch, supplements can give you the upper hand when in the gym. And if you think supplements are only for those who envy Arnold Schwarzenegger, you may want to reconsider. Bodybuilding, and weight training in general leads to a healthier, happier lifestyle. Benefits of increased strength and muscle mass include:

  • Improved posture, personal appearance, sports skills, and joint stability.
  • Reduced back pain, risk for injury, and blood pressure.
  • Enhanced weight loss and psychological well-being.

So why then have some supplements (which are capable of supporting muscle growth) been given such a bad rap? There are three contributing factors:

  1. Abuse: More pills don’t always equate to more muscle. Stick to the recommended serving.
  2. Non-regulation: Manufacturers do not need to get FDA approval before producing or selling dietary supplements.
  3. Ill-informed: Some people group all supplements in with steroids and other illegal drugs, simply because they don’t know enough about them.

In other words, having some common sense, doing your research, and being able to recognize legit products will go a long way. Lucky for you, we’re here to help. The following supplements will help you build muscle mass and strength in the most efficient way possible.

Note: Keep in mind that supplements are not meant to replace food. This list is based on the assumption that you’re eating a balanced diet. And while supplements are perfectly safe for most healthy adults, it’s always a good idea to check with your physician before taking them, especially if you’re on medications.

5. Glucosamine, Chondroitin, MSM

GNC TriFlex Soft Chewables

Glucosamine and chondroitin are part of normal cartilage. Glucosamine is a natural substance that is found in the covering of shellfish, while chondroitin can come from natural sources such as shark or bovine cartilage.

MSM, or methyl sulfonylmethane is a natural sulfur compound that is found in many foods such as meat, fish and vegetables. Unfortunately when foods are processed the MSM is usually destroyed.

While it’s true that MSM, glucosamine and chondroitin are technically three separate supplements, they’re often found together since they complement each other in promoting good joint and cartilage health.

Protecting your joints is crucial when lifting heavy weights, since, as you might imagine, those weights put a lot of pressure on your joints.


  • Reduces swelling and stiffness in the joints
  • Helps slow progression of osteoarthritis
  • Aids in pain relief
  • Acts as a buffer to help protect against excessive wear and tear of the joints

Known Side Effects

  • Upset stomach
  • Headache
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Short-term rise in both heart rate and blood pressure
  • Nausea
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Heartburn
  • Indigestion
  • Potential reactions for those allergic to iodine or shellfish

We Recommend

4. Caffeine

Gaspari Nutrition SuperPump MaxCaffeine is found in the seeds, leaves, and fruit of some plants. It’s certainly no secret, as humans have consumed caffeine for thousands of years.

But don’t get too excited. While caffeine has many benefits, we’re not recommending that you take it with a week’s worth of sugar – a.k.a. a “Trenta” sized White Chocolate Mocha from Starbucks. Instead, consider taking it as a pre-workout drink to supercharge your energy when you need it the most.

For maximum benefits, eliminate all other caffeine sources from your diet (coffee, soda, etc.).


  • Greater energy and focus
  • Increased endurance
  • Increases metabolism

Known Side Effects

  • Restlessness or excitement
  • Nervousness
  • Insomnia
  • Increased urination
  • Upset stomach
  • Muscle twitching
  • Irritability
  • Irregular or rapid heart beat

We Recommend

3. Beta-Alanine

Optimum Nutrition Amino Energy Chewables

Beta-Alanine is a non-essential amino acid and is the only naturally occurring beta-amino acid found in the body and in foods such as chicken, pork and fish. It promotes high concentrations of carnosine which helps to maintain an optimal muscle pH range, delaying muscular failure so that you can lift more, and longer.


  • Delays fatigue
  • Increases power output
  • Reduce muscle soreness

Known Side Effects

  • Skin irritation
  • Flushing

We Recommend

2. Creatine

Optimum Nutrition Micronized Creatine Powder

Creatine is a micronutrient that occurs naturally in skeletal muscle tissue. It’s also found in foods (especially red meat).

There was a lot of controversy over the potential dangers of creatine when it was first introduced to athletes. However, extensive research over the last decade has shown the supplement to be very safe if taken at recommended doses (5 to 20 grams per day).

Many bodybuilders believe creatine to be one of the few supplements that actually lives up to the hype.


  • Increased energy output
  • Increased muscle endurance and strength
  • Muscle volumizing (fuller looking muscles)

Known Side Effects

  • Cramping
  • Possible dehydration (be sure to drink enough water)

We Recommend

1. Protein

Gaspari Nutrition MyoFusion Probiotic Series

As you likely already learned in Biology, proteins are made up of long chains of amino acids and are an essential part of all living organisms. They participate in virtually every process within cells.

If there’s only one supplement on this list that you choose to take, and building muscle is your primary goal, then protein is it. You absolutely cannot grow without it.

To build muscle, most research suggests taking between 0.5 and 2 grams of protein per pound of body weight. You’ll find “experts” that will argue on both ends of the extreme. Personally I find 1 gram to be about right.


  • Builds and repairs muscles, bones, tissues and cells.
  • Provides a source of energy
  • Boosts the nervous and immune systems

Known Side Effects

  • Allergic reactions (look for lactose-free protein if necessary)
  • Liver damage (when consumed in very high amounts over a long period of time)
  • Kidney strain (and potential kidney stones)
  • Fatigue (if not enough carbohydrates are consumed)

We Recommend