When some people hear the words “bulk up fast” they may think that they can pack 20kg of muscles in a month, but that is unrealistic and misleading to those that are just beginning their fitness journey. While you can do things to optimize your bulking phase and get the most out of it, muscle building still takes time. Muscle growth is a slower process compared to gaining fat, and that is why you must closely monitor your diet during a bulk phase to maximise muscle gain and minimize fat gain. A successful bulk should result in you gaining more muscle compared to fat, so eating a whole bunch of calories and “dirty” bulking is not the way to go. A proper bulk takes time and consistency and involves factors like being in a caloric surplus, training with more volume, and increasing protein/carb intake through food and supplements. Eating the right foods in the right amounts is without a doubt one of the most critical parts of your bulk, but to truly maximise muscle gain, supplements are one of your best options. Here, we’ve compiled a list of the best supplements to gain muscle and pull off a successful bulk.
Creatine is a molecule that’s produced in the body and is responsible for giving energy to muscles and other tissues. These supplements are one of the most researched supplements, and it’s shown that taking creatine as a supplement can increase muscle creatine levels by 40%. Higher creatine levels affect your muscle cells and improve your performance at the gym. Research has shown that creatine improves muscle strength, which correlates with muscle growth. As you become stronger, you will be able to lift heavier weights and add more volume, leading to a higher level of muscle gain. Creatine also increases the water content in your muscle cells which can cause your muscles to look bigger, so expect some water weight when you start taking creatine.
2. Protein Supplements
Protein is the building block of muscles, and if your goal is to increase muscle mass, you should pay extra attention to your protein consumption. Your protein intake should be higher than the amount of protein your body naturally breaks down to gain muscle. While it is possible to get enough protein through high-protein foods (Believe me, I’ve done it!), it’s still not easy to do, and at more intermediate to advanced levels of training, it becomes a struggle to eat all that food. This is where protein supplements come in to help ease this process. There are different protein supplements, but whey, casein, and soy protein are the most common ones. Research has proven protein supplements to be very effective for people who are not hitting their protein goals. You should consume 1-2 grams of protein per kg of body weight on average.
3. Mass Gainers
Mass gainers are specifically designed to help people get more calories and protein. If you consume large amounts of calories and still struggle to gain muscle and weight, then mass gainers might be a good choice for you. Mass gainers can contain over 1000 calories per serving, and most of the calories come from carbs. While mass gainers help you consume more calories, you have to realise that there is nothing special about them. You could very well be spending the same money on food and getting the same amount of carbs in your diet. Personally, I don’t recommend them unless you are already getting enough calories from foods but you are not getting the results that you’re looking for.
Branched-chain amino acids consist of three essential amino acids, and you can find them in most protein sources such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy. BCAAs are very important for muscle building and consist of 14% of the amino acids in our muscles. Almost all of us consume BCAAs from different food sources every day, but it’s common among gym bros to take them as a supplement as well. BCAAs are only effective if you are not already getting enough high-quality protein in your diet. I recommend prioritising getting protein from foods and protein supplements first and investing in BCAAs only when they’re really needed.
5. Other Supplements
- HMB: Another supplement that can be helpful is HMB (beta-hydroxy beta-methylbutyrate). This is a molecule that’s produced in your body and is responsible for some of the benefits of protein in the diet. It may also help reduce the breakdown of muscle proteins, but studies have shown that it’s mostly beneficial for those who are just getting started with training.
- CLA: Conjugated linoleic acid, also known as CLA, is a group of omega-6 fatty acids that are said to have beneficial effects on muscle building. Though, there are mixed results regarding that statement.
- Testosterone Boosters: These are one of those supplements that many people are sceptical about. The proof of whether they actually work or not is not concrete. But it’s likely that they do offer some benefits to those with low testosterone levels.
- Glutamine And Carnitine: These are probably not effective if you are a young or middle-aged person that’s actively exercising, but studies have shown that they can have muscle-building benefits in the elderly.
If you wish to maximize your muscle gain and get the most out of your supplements, your nutrition and exercise programs should be the priority. You can’t slack on your diet and nutrition and expect to compensate for it by consuming supplements. There is a reason why they are called “supplements”. To gain muscle, you need to consume the right amount of calories and protein, have a good exercise program, and rest enough to allow your muscles to recover. Once all these boxes are checked, then you may consider supplements. Of all the supplements listed, protein and creatine supplements are the most effective. The rest may only benefit certain people, so do your research before making a purchase.