6 best bodybuilding supplements for muscle gain

A woman holding fish oil supplement in hand

What does it take to gain muscle? Ask any nutritionist and they may tell you that it will require you to consume more calories than you burn, add more protein to your diet, and engage in muscle-building exercise. Besides this, supplements can also help you get the most from your intense workout sessions. Wonder what are some of the best supplements for muscle gain? Read on!

What are the best supplements for muscle gain?

When it comes to supplements for muscle growth in women who are engaged in bodybuilding or strength training, it is important to focus on options that support muscle recovery, growth, and overall performance, says nutritionist Haripriya.N.

Here are some of the supplements that can be beneficial:

1. Whey protein

Whey protein is a high-quality protein source that contains essential amino acids necessary for muscle repair and growth. Whey protein supplementation can help in enhancing resistance exercise-induced increase in muscle mass, according to a 2023 study published in the Nutrients journal. It also helps in overall muscular strength as well as endurance. Opt for a whey protein isolate or concentrate that fits your dietary preferences (e.g., lactose-free or low-carbohydrate) and has minimal added sugars or artificial ingredients.

2. Creatine

Creatine is a naturally occurring compound in the body that plays a key role in energy production, particularly during short bursts of high-intensity exercise, says fitness trainer and nutritionist Juily Wagle. It helps increase muscle strength and performance during high-intensity workouts, leading to better muscle gain over time. During a 2012 study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, creatine was found to have positive effects on strength, power and fat free mass apart from neurological function in people. Look for creatine monohydrate, which is cost-effective form of creatine.

3. Branched-chain amino acids

Branched-chain amino acids or BCAAs (leucine, isoleucine, and valine) promote muscle protein synthesis, reduce muscle breakdown, and support recovery, says Haripriya. Select a BCAA supplement with a higher ratio of leucine to isoleucine and valine, ideally in a convenient powder or capsule form.

4. Fish Oil (Omega-3 fatty acids)

Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation, support joint health, and aid in muscle recovery. Look for a fish oil supplement that provides a high concentration of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are active forms of omega-3, and is sourced from reputable, purified fish oil.

5. Vitamin D

Vitamin D plays a role in muscle function and strength, and deficiency can impair athletic performance. Opt for a vitamin D3 supplement, especially if you have limited sun exposure or are deficient in vitamin D.

6. Magnesium

Magnesium supports muscle relaxation, reduces cramping, and aids in energy production. Choose a magnesium supplement that is well-absorbed (e.g., magnesium glycinate or citrate) and take it as recommended by your doctor.

How much muscle gain supplements should you take?

Determining the appropriate dosage, frequency of use, and duration for each supplement in bodybuilding depends on individual factors such as age, body weight, training intensity, and overall health. Here are general guidelines for the recommended supplements. But consume these only after consulting your healthcare and fitness expert:

1. Whey protein

The dosage is typically 20 to 25 grams per serving, ideally consumed post-workout or as a convenient protein source throughout the day, says Haripriya. It can be taken daily, especially around workouts or when additional protein is needed in the diet. Whey protein supplementation can be continued as long as needed to support protein intake goals, muscle recovery, and growth.

2. Creatine

There is a loading phase of 20 grams per day (split into 4 doses) for 5 to 7 days, followed by a maintenance phase of 3 to 5 grams per day to maintain the increased creatinine stores, as per a 2012 study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. It can be taken daily, ideally pre or post-workout for optimal absorption. It can be used continuously, with periodic breaks (e.g., cycling off for 4 to 8 weeks) to assess ongoing benefits.

3. Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs)

You can have 5 to 10 grams of BCAAs per serving, preferably pre or post-workout. It can be taken daily, especially around workout sessions to support muscle recovery and performance. BCAA supplementation can be ongoing as part of a workout routine, adjusting dosage based on individual needs.

4. Fish oil

The dosage varies based on EPA and DHA content, typically 1 to 2 grams of combined EPA and DHA per day. It can be taken daily with meals to enhance absorption. Fish oil can be used continuously to support overall health and recovery, adjusting dosage based on dietary intake, says Haripriya.

Fish oil supplement can help in muscle growth. Image courtesy: Freepik

5. Vitamin D

Recommended daily intake typically ranges from 15 to 50 mcg for adults. It can be ideally paired with calcium for better absorption. It can be taken daily, especially if sun exposure is limited. Vitamin D supplementation may be ongoing, with periodic assessments of blood levels to ensure adequacy.

6. Magnesium

You can have it 200 to 400 mg per day, depending on individual needs and tolerance. It can be taken daily, preferably with meals to enhance absorption. Magnesium supplementation can be continued as needed to support muscle function and overall health.

It is crucial to start with lower doses and gradually increase while monitoring for any adverse effects.

How soon can you see the results from bodybuilding supplements?

Results from supplement usage vary depending on individual factors such as genetics, diet, exercise regimen, and consistency of supplementation. Generally, noticeable improvements in muscle strength and endurance may be observed within a few weeks to a couple of months of consistent use, says Wagle. However, significant muscle growth typically requires several months to a year of dedicated training and supplementation. It is important to note that results are not solely dependent on supplements. They are a combination of consistent workout routines, diet to support muscle growth, and allowing the body proper rest and recovery time between workouts.

What are the side effects of bodybuilding supplements?

Here are some common side effects to consider:

  • Whey protein: Some individuals may experience bloating, gas, or digestive discomfort, especially if lactose intolerant or sensitive to dairy products, says Haripriya.
  • Creatine: Creatine supplementation can cause water retention, leading to temporary weight gain. High doses of creatine may cause stomach cramping, diarrhea, or nausea in some people.
  • Branched-chain amino acids: Excessive intake of BCAAs may interfere with serotonin production, leading to fatigue, mood changes, or neurological symptoms.
  • Fish oil: High doses of fish oil may cause gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea, or fishy aftertaste.
  • Vitamin D: Excessive vitamin D supplementation can lead to toxicity, characterised by symptoms like nausea, vomiting, weakness, and kidney damage.
  • Magnesium: High doses of magnesium may cause diarrhea or abdominal cramps.

These supplements can support your muscle growth and fitness goals, but they should complement a balanced diet rich in whole foods. Consistency in training, adequate rest, and proper nutrition are key components of successful muscle building.


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