The Only Bodybuilding Supplements That Actually Work

The bodybuilding industry is crammed full of supplements that promise much but deliver next to nothing. Many even claim to match or get close to what steroids can achieve.

In real world terms the fitness industry promises to take the easy load route, the fast track to success. In reality it does not exist. There are of course some supplements that can help and more than plenty that will rob your wallet.

Let’s look at what works and what is full of crap.


Protein only makes up just over a fifth of muscle tissue, 22% in fact, so why is it marketed as the be and end all for muscle growth? That would be down to protein synthesis. Without protein there is no protein synthesis. Without protein synthesis there is no muscle.

Protein plays a vital role in the body, not limited to just building and maintaining musculature. Protein is needed for cell repair and growth, it is used in every cell of the human body.

The next most important piece in the jigsaw is the optimal amount of protein required to build muscle. There is much debate on this. Some wild reports suggest too much protein is harmful for the kidneys, although there is no scientific research to back this up.

Still if you are ingesting 1000 grams of protein per day there is no chance you will absorb it all. If you are taking half that much you can’t absorb it neither, nor process it for muscle building.

It’s hard to process more than 30g of whey protein at a time, any more than that will be oxidized by the liver and not used for protein sysnthesis.

If you are spending $100 per week ingesting whey protein surmounting to 400 grams per day you are wasting your time and your money. Too much protein can be harmful to your liver, if your liver is not functioning like it should.

Complex Transformation Process

Protein metabolism is the procedure by which protein synthesis occurs. It involves the breakdown of the amino acids (anabolism), found inside protein. These amino acids must be made into a palatable digestible form which involves a complicated biochemical transformation process.

In the process amino acids are further have to be broken down to become α-keto acids. These can be used and recycled in the body for glucose, fat and energy production. They can even be converted into other amino acids.

When you consume an excess of protein it gets converted to glucose in your liver. There are several by-products of this conversion process, one of which can be harmful if not disposed of quickly. It is nitrogenous waste known as ammonia, or by the chemical formation NH3.

This nitrogen and hydrogen compound is created after protein metabolism occurs. The liver must break this down and convert into urea. This process is known as catabolism. You will have heard the term catabolic, which is the opposite of what bodybuilders want to be, anabolic.

Bodybuilding uses these terms in the general sense, as if you can stay in these states for a sustained period of time. For instance the term Anabolism equals muscle growth, catabolism equals the breakdown of muscle cells.

In reality these complex states occur at the same time. Anabolism in it’s true sense refers to the biochemical process where small simple molecules are synthesized into much bigger complex molecules (growth). Catabolism occurs when your food is digested and the molecules broken down to be used as energy.

Protein Synthesis

In this complex transformation process pathways are created inside cells, and both catabolism and anabolism can happen in different parts of the same cell.

The liver can only metabolize a limited amount of protein per hour. Some studies suggest this is 30g per hour depending on the protein source. In the case of Whey Protein it is rapidly digesting, but it has digestive enzymes added to it which can help with protein synthesis.

This means the protein can actively be shuttled to your muscles. The difference between Casein protein is that it slowly digests in the stomach. This delays its transfer to the liver but takes the strain of the liver from breaking it down immediately.

That’s why casein should be taken close to bedtime, it is billed as slow release, and that is because the stomach delays the metabolic process. Amino acids can which are used to build and repair muscle cells, are released slowly to muscle tissue.

Another reason for taking Casein protein at night is due to it’s slow digesting nature. If you are trying to pack in a large calorie overload during the day casein protein will get in the way. You don’t want to feel full or have your digestive system working overtime with rapidly and slowly digesting protein sources.

Conclusion About Protein

Protein has an anabolic effect when combined with with bodybuilding. A 20011 research demonstrated that 1.2-1.8 grams of protein per 1 KG of bodyweight (2.2 pounds) * is the minimum needed to promote muscle growth and maintain your body in an anabolic state (state of growth).

* Phillips SM & Van Loon LJ Dietary Protein Study 2011

This 2015** study disagrees with previous studies that found that eating 2.4-3.4 grams of protein per kg of body weight (3.4g/kg/bw) is more beneficial for experienced bodybuilders and athletes. It contrasted the effects between relatively new and experienced lifters.

** Anya Ellerbroek, Tobin Silver, Steve Orris, Max Scheiner, Adriana Gonzalez & Corey A Peacock high protein research study

In conclusion it was deemed that experienced lifters needed more protein as their bodies could not respond as effectively as new lifter as they have almost reached their peak genetic capabilities (gaining high muscle mass with low body fat).

Again it also goes back to liver function. You should try at a lower rate, 1.5 g per pound of body weight and analyze your results and health after 12 weeks and adjust up or down from there. Most elite powerlifters use the bare minimum of 2 grams per pound of bodyweight.

Some studies say it is 0.8 grams, but that is not ideal for athletes or even bodybuilders who are trying to enlarge muscle mass by actively putting muscle tissue under severe stress.

One key ingredient is missing here with most peoples protein consumption. Everyone wants to add whey protein especially straight after training as it is quick to suggest. But if you also add casein protein to your shake especially after training it will stop you from going into a catabolic state for several hours.

The average protein shake consists of 30 grams, and this is more than adequate as several studies show this is higher than you can actually absorb. Adding an extra 10 grams of casein not only stops your muscles from breaking down (not in the natural rebuild and repair cycle), but it also won’t break the bank.

Adding more casein than this is ineffective and can cause bloating.

In this post-workout shake the fast and slow digesting proteins are so effective in supplying your developed muscles almost immediate protein, and at the same down stopping your body from going catabolic, where the protein in your muscle tissues is broken down.

Although this section is strictly about protein, adding 50-80 grams of simple carbohydrates like dextrose (unless you have diabetes), helps in replenishing glycogen stores (made from carbs) in muscle tissue that are used up in your workout.

[You will have heard bodybuilders talk about looking and feeling flat when they have swiftly reduced carbohydrates when cutting.]

Try this shake for the next 12 weeks and see what happens to your muscle growth.

Whey Protein Powder Gold Standard

If you want to remain in an anti-catabolic state for most of the day adding a casein and whey shake between meals is extremely effective. Adding it just before bedtime may prevent your body from going catabolic for at least 7 hours.

NOS Supplements

Nitric oxide bottles can be seen packed floor to ceiling in any supplement shop these days. It is all the rage in gym culture due to its effect on vascularity and vasodilation (swollen blood vessels) by creating monstrous pumps.

It has also been shown to burn and limit the production of bodyfat and increase the uptake of glucose into muscle tissue. A win-win for all who work the iron game.

There is evidence to suggest that the enhanced circulation it produces by relaxing muscles and blood vessels is also good for the main arteries leading to the heart.

Nitric Oxide or NOS as it is affectionately known as works by increasing blood circulation to your muscles. Can you see now why bodybuilders are in love with it? It creates what bodybuilders have always chased, amazing pumps.

For a nos supplement to retain its potency it must include riboflavin and folic acid. Make sure they are on the label before ordering.

The main ingredient in NOS is arginine, an amino acid which is also a powerful neurotransmitter that converts to nitric oxide in the body.


Creatine is one of the most researched supplements in history. It works for most people who take it, but I have had issues with it in the past, especially in the early days of the creatine goldrush, when it was heralded as the chosen one for muscle growth.

It does not work for some people. If you eat a lot of red meat you may not notice a difference in the gym as red meat is loaded with creatine. Vegetarians however may notice a significant boost in strength and recovery abilities as red meat is the highest food source of creatine.

Your internal organs namely the liver, pancreas and kidneys make creatine everday and 95% of this is stored in muscle tissue almost entirely as creative phosphate. It’s heavily involved in energy production, and you can see how this pans out for the good with weight training, and athletic performance.It may even help with the repair process.

Most people use creatine for the swell effect and it can help you lift more weight and give you the energy to hammer out more reps. It seems to be able to rally satellite cells, which only get called upon when you are performing extremely stressful muscular activity.

Satellite cells are connected with IGF-1 (insulinlike growth factor-1 ). If you’ve been around bodybuilding for some time you’ll know it’s the main anabolic hormone present in the body.

You will generally push higher reps and lift more weight when you are on creatine as opposed to being off it, all things being equal. If you’ve been off creatine for at least 6 weeks, and then go back on it with a loading phase, you can put on 7-10 pounds. There is new research that suggests with modern creatine you don’t even have to do a loading phase.

Creatine stores water in the muscles, and while it may not be good during competition time, it is great for training, as combined with the IGF-1 anabolic effect, it also hydrates the muscles and provides excess power and generally makes you feel more energetic.

The Importance of Timing

Timing is just as important as the substance itself. No point taking caffeine to boost athletic performance after a workout. Whey protein is an extremely fast digesting nutrient, and it makes perfect sense to include it after your workout. If you combine it with simple carbs it acts even faster!

Glycogen stores are depleted after intense exercise sessions and the body is crying out for them to be replenished. Fast acting proteins are quickly absorbed into the protein synthesis cycle and simple carbs are quickly shuttled into damaged muscle cells.

This happens because the body is primed and ready to be refueled. The body does not necessarily need protein and carbs the second after you finish your last rep, but it is an effective time to take it especially if you need to increase your calorie count for the day.

The most essential reason to implement this is to kickstart muscle protein synthesis. You have heard you grow when you are out of the gym, so naturally you will want to start the build and repair process as soon as possible.

Similarly, when it comes to timing casein is great about an hour before bedtime. It’s slow absorption can take up to 7 hours, making it the perfect anti-catabolic substance to prevent the lean muscle you have been building from breaking down while you sleep. It stops you robbing from yourself. Like peeing in your own pool, don’t do it.