[Updated: May, 2018]
You may be the kind of guy who wants to really go the extra mile when it comes to getting into shape and looking good. You want more than just an average body – you want bigger, more defined muscles and a chiseled physique that turns heads when you walk by. There’s simply working out, and then there’s bodybuilding.
Staying fit, losing weight and toning up are noble and worthwhile pursuits, but for the man who decides to turn it up a few notches, figuring out where to start can be frustrating as all hell. One of the most confusing topics for the beginner is choosing the correct bodybuilding supplements.
Besides certain fundamental aspects like eating a proper diet, getting plenty of water, exercising correctly, and dedication, supplements can be some of the most important tools in a bodybuilder’s arsenal. They ensure that you’ll gain an edge and maximize your workouts so that every ounce of effort you put in counts.
If you’re a little unsure about where to start, I’ve made a list of what I feel are the basic, bodybuilding supplements that beginners should consider using.
You might be surprised to see something so obvious included here, but the importance of a good multivitamin for men cannot be overstated. Heavy exercise like weight lifting or athletic performance can deplete the body of essential vitamins and minerals, and taking a quality multivitamin supplement can ensure that you maintain the nutrients you need at optimum levels.
A lot of beginners hear the term “hormone boosters” and immediately confuse the term with steroids or prohormones. While many prohormones are legal to purchase, anabolic steroids are pretty much illegal to use.
In either case, I do NOT recommend either one for beginners. It would be the equivalent of giving a Ferarri to a newly licensed driver (probably a very bad idea).
Testosterone boosters and HGH supplements, on the other hand, actually encourage your body to produce more of it’s own natural hormones: specifically, testosterone and HGH (human growth hormone). By taking supplementation in the form of testosterone boosters or HGH releasers, you postition yourself to make far greater gains than you would otherwise, especially if you’re past the age of 30 when these hormones naturally begin to decrease.
These supplements are generally safe to use and are free from unpleasant side effects, making them an effective way to get great results. You’ll feel better, sleep better, put more muscle on and take more fat off.
When discussing essential bodybuilding supplements, one that comes up time and time again is creatine monhydrate. Creatine boosts ATP production in muscle cells which allows you to work out harder and longer than you normally could. It also acts as a cell volumizer by retaining water in the muscle tissues, giving you that nice “pumped up” appearance.
Some people prefer to load up on 20 grams a day for the first five days and then cut back to 5 grams per day thereafter. I personally recommend taking 5 grams a day for about a month to load up and then just take 5 grams before each workout after that. Either way works fine, however, and you will be pleasantly surprised by the results you get after adding creatine to your regimen.
Another staple in the bodybuilder’s gym bag is good old fashioned protein powder. Taking in large amounts of protein is crucial when building muscle mass and protein powder is an effective way to get the job done. Compared to just eating large amounts of meat, drinking a protein shake is cheaper, quicker, more convenient and is more efficiently absorbed by the body.
Whey protein is assimilated by the body fastest, so I recommend getting a good whey protein shake mix and taking it before or after your workouts (or both, ideally). Doing this will definitely help with muscle growth and recovery.
Amino acids, especially BCAA’s (branched chain amino acids) and glutamine, are not just an important aid in building muscle and working out, but can provide healthy benefits to just about anyone.
BCAA’s are directly metabolized by muscle cells which aids in repair and recovery.
Glutamine is important to not only the muscles, but many body processes, from skin and hair to healthy brain function. When the body is under physical or mental stress, it may direct available glutamine away from the muscles to more important body functions.
If you’re lifting weights and working out on a regular basis, it’s important to take amino acids. They are critical in helping grow and repair muscle tissue, so be sure that your body has a constant supply to turn to when needed.
I debated adding this category to the list of basic supplements since it doesn’t really share the same importance that the others do. Add to that the fact that there are a huge variety of different types of pre-workout supplements and it can really get confusing for a veteran, much less a newbie.
Technically speaking, any of the supplements mentioned already can be taken prior to working out for added benefit, but typically most pre-workout supplements used fall into two groups: stimulants and nitric oxide boosters.
Stimulants are used to give that extra energy and intensity to your workouts, and taking a good stimulating supplement can really make a big difference. I personally prefer to take a good quality fat burner for men as an energy boosting pre-workout supplement, that way you not only get the benefits of fat loss but also added strength and endurance at the gym.
Another great pre-workout supplement to take is a nitric oxide booster. Nitric oxide is a vasodilator that is naturally produced by the body and also found in many foods. It creates a large increase in blood flow, especially in the muscles.
This in turn boosts the amount of nutrients that get delivered to muscle tissue which speeds up recovery time. This extra blood flow also helps you to train harder for longer and gives you a definite pumped up, vascular appearance.
While the amount of bodybuilding supplements available can be quite intimidating for the novice, the important thing to always keep in mind are the fundamentals. By sticking to the basic supplement groups listed here you will have a solid foundation on which to pursue your weight lifting goals.
As you become more experienced, you can always experiment and try new products down the road, so don’t feel pressured to buy everything under the sun. Start off with just a solid few and keep it simple. You’ll be well rewarded for doing so.