Supplements are designed and made to give us the edge but you’ll still have to train hard and eat clean.
(Looking for a pre workout? Check out our buying guide)
Nothing comes easy...
So before you even get to our top 10 list, you better understand that supplements are just that, supplements.
There are literally thousands to choose from, but only so few are worth buying and trying.
With so many categories, types and companies, it’s hard to choose.
You would think there would be a list of “super effective supplements that will make a difference in your training and physique” out there, but there isn’t.
Fortunately, though I’ve done the research and have compiled a list of supplements (see the buying guide for pre workouts) that will make the biggest difference in your results.
You will be able to see the results fast, and you won’t have to do the guess work because I’ve listed them here.
What You Will Learn In This Post
- Supplements that work "instantly" (the fastest)
- Most efficient types of supplements for results and gains
- Ingredients (and supplement categories) that work the best
- Recommendations of quality supplements
10. All-In-One Supplements
These supplements are makes up of muscle and strength builders.
By using “all-in-one” supplements it can potentially replace 5 or more supplements while increasing muscle gains and decreasing recovery time.
These supplements are a mixture of pure muscle building ingredients that prove to be worthy muscle builders and the results are almost "instant".
It's not necessary one ingredient.
The ingredients will vary but should contain at least 2-3 of the ingredients listed below.
9. Beta Alanine
Beta alanine is the reason why you get the tingles after having a pre workout.
It’s a powerful non-essesential amino acid that can be found in protein foods like chicken, beef and fish which contain ‘dipeptides’ (carnosine, anserine, balenine).
Digesting it through direct supplementation has always been more convenient because you know exactly how much beta-alanine you’re getting.
There’s tons of benefits that come with beta alanine like:
- Increases power output and explosive muscular strength
- Increases muscle gains
- Delays muscular fatigue
- Boosts muscular anaerobic
Beta alanine expands the capacity for exercise which means you can workout harder and longer
Most of the time though, in pre workouts, beta-alanine is either not properly dosed or it’s hidden in proprietary blends, or both.
Take any less than 3.2 grams per day and you may not improve your performance and gain benefits promised.
No doubt, beta-alanine is one supplement you'll benefit from almost right away and it's key to keep using it for maximum benefits.
Studies and research have shown that dosages ranging from 3.2 grams to 6.4 grams per day will significantly boost carnosine levels.
Take any less than 3.2 grams per day and you may not improve your performance and gain benefits promised.
Stimulants isn't really energy, it's more like powdered crack.
They bring out the best, and sometimes worst out of us.
It can make one feel like they are on top of the world while increasing productivity and performance like never before.
Or it can make one feel jittery, anxious, nervous, stressed and worst case scenario, sleepy.
When stimulants like caffeine and DMAA are used in *moderation* it can push ourselves above and beyond.
However when it’s abused and more amounts of stimulants is needed to see the same effects as previously, it can do the complete opposite of what it’s supposed to do.
There are far more stimulants than just plain caffeine and what you see in supplements.
However caffeine is one of the most researched ingredients and is generally safe so it’s quite widely known and popular.
Some Popular Stimulants:
- DMAA (See our pre workout guide for DMAA-based supplements)
- Amp Citrate
- Ephedrine (And ephedra)
Stimulants like caffeine on its own can increase endurance and overall performance while decreasing fatigue.
If you’re on a budget, stimulants are generally cheap to get.
For a couple bucks you can get 100 servings of caffeine easily.
7. Phosphatic Acid
This is one ingredient has the potential to be the next best muscle builder out there.
That ingredient is Phosphatidic Acid and it's got massive benefits for more gains.
We’re always bombed with new ingredients, they come and go.
But this one is definitely one that will continuously be mentioned throughout the coming years.
Like leucine, (part of the BCAA chain), phosphatidic acid has been shown to activate something called mTOR (the official term: mammalian target of rapamycin, which is a part of a major complex in the anabolic pathway).
The very anabolic enzyme, mTOR, is one of the regulators responsible for protein synthesis in the body.
A lot of supplements claim to increase mTOR, but only a few have been successfully proven to do so, like BCAA’s (specifically leucine, but you need all 3 amino acids for maximum benefits).
The question is: is it the next generation muscle builder?
Phosphatidic acid, unlike many other supplements, has research done on humans that demonstrates increased levels of muscle mass, strength and fat loss.
In a 8 week study, the athletes experienced massive gains in big compound exercises in the study (the placebo group trained and had the same diet as the group who had phosphatidic acid).
Here's what happened with the athletes:
They gained 12.7% in squat strength and 2.6% in lean body mass 5 pounds increase in muscle mass (the placebo group only gained 2.5)Increased fat loss (lost 2.8lbs, the placebo group lost only 1.1lbs)
Very few supplements can do what phosphatidic acid and especially within a short period of time (8 weeks!) and a daily dosage of only 750mg.
Some reports apparently recommend dosages of 1.5 to 2g but these are mostly based on people within the communities rather than the studies.
So if you’re on a budget and you want to stick to the proven dosage, then just take 750mg daily.
BCAA’s are the ultimate tool for prolonged workouts and increasing muscle growth.
And the beautiful part is that it’s more researched than most supplements out there.
Branched amino acids, BCAA’s, are made out of 3 amino acids that each play a major role.
Combining all 3 in a proven and studied ratio (2:1:1) can:
- Decrease visceral fat (belly fat)
- Increase muscle mass
- Decrease muscle soreness
- Decrease recovery time
- Prevent the breakdown of muscle tissue and promotes protein synthesis (muscle growth!)
While BCAA’s can be found in foods containing protein, supplementation can be more beneficial as they don’t need to be digested and can be absorbed directly into the blood stream.
This is especially useful if you’re training fasted (or first thing in the morning).
Your muscles will be fed and the BCAA’s will prevent any breakdown of muscle tissue while increasing protein synthesis.
As explained though, BCAA’s have the advantage over whey protein because it is absorbed directly and it doesn’t need to be digested.
Studies continuously show the great benefits and advantages of BCAA’s.
The best part is that you’ll notice benefits almost instantly.
5. Nitric Oxide
This is one of the few supplements you’ll notice effects right from day 1.
Nitric oxide is basically a molecule that can cause vasolidation, increase blood flow, reduce blood pressure and it’s produced by the body.
Ingredients like GPLC (glycine-propionyl-L-carnitine), l-citrulline, nitrates and agmatine, can increase nitric oxide levels in the body for a short period of time.
So for a dude like yourself, what good can nitric oxide do?
- Increases and prolongs the pump
- Increased nutrient delivery
- Faster recovery
- More muscle growth
- More muscle gains
- Increased strength and stamina
Arginine is known to be the least effective when it comes to nitric oxide production.
GPLC is one of the clinically proven nitric oxide boosters (at 4.5g, 30 minutes before your workout) but it is a little more expensive than Agmatine, nitrates and other ingredients.
If You're On A Budget...
More and more studies are showing that regular consumption of beet root (or you can use extracts) juice increases nitric oxide production.
So just consume more beet root juice and you'll be benefiting from increased levels of nitric oxide.
Creatine is one of the best things you can get when you're training to pack on mass.
If you’re a hardgainer, you’re going to love the crap out of creatine.
It isn’t a miracle grower by any means, but it’s one of the most researched supplements out in the industry today.
Basically what creatine does is that it helps fight fatigue in your workouts, allowing you to workout harder and longer, thus increasing your muscle and strength size.
In more detail, when your muscle contracts, adenosine triphosphate (ATP) leaves behind ADP (adenosine diphosphate) which is normal because ATP has to leave a phosphate group.
But ADP is useless for energy.
So ADP needs to find more phosphate which can be taken from your creatine phosphate stores, thus creating more ATP.
So the more creatine phosphate you have, the more likely you can maintain high intensity for a longer time.
Ask any bro-expert and they’ll tell you need lots of protein.
Alright maybe that’s not the best suggestion nor the best type of person to ask, but protein is absolutely important for muscle growth and recovery.
The reason why most people take protein powder are taking it to “supplement” their diet.
And that’s how you should see it as well.
It isn’t a food and it isn’t going to replace your diet.
Nor should you ever think about that.
Protein powder is plain convenient and it literally takes no time to prepare.
Not all protein powders are created equally since they can easily be “amino spiked”.
Meaning they can boost up their protein count by increasing the amount of glutamine.
If you’re looking for a protein powder that has a high amount of clean calories, then you should look into weight gainers.
I usually don’t recommend them since they can be complete shit and full of plain sugar, Animal Mass by Universal Nutrition has made quite the exception.
Read the Animal Mass review here.
The naturally occuring omega 6 fat can be found in eggs, beef, chicken and more.
But the problem is that, like creatine, only a small amount can be obtained from foods that have this fat.
So it’s best when taken through supplementation. (See these nitric oxide supplements).
What ArA does is that it increases inflammation in the muscle tissue and plays a role in protein synthesis and muscle repair.
A study was done in 2014 to see what ArA could do within a short period of time; 8 weeks at 1.5 grams per day.
The placebo group had no increase in lean body mass, but the group who was getting 1.5 grams per day had an increase of 1.6kg of mass (3.5lbs).
That’s not the only thing that they increased, their muscle thickness also increased by 9.5% and increased their bench press substantially.
Other benefits of ArA include:
- Increase in vasodilation
- Increase in strength
- Mood lift
- Overcome plateaus
- Testosterone increase
How much you should take depends on your bodyweight and training experience. If you’re a total beginner, start at 1 gram per day and note if you notice any benefits.
Most people say they benefit the most from 1.5 grams per day for 8 weeks like the study mentioned above.
It’s as safe as protein powder and creatine so there’s no need to worry there.
1. Pre Workouts
You’re probably thinking why protein powder isn’t listed as first.
Pre workouts give that “instant” boost in mental clarity and physical performance.
It’s obvious, pre workouts are constantly being seeked after because they’ve got that reputation of giving you either that “crack-like energy” you seek, or just simply the physical and mental performance they provide.
It seems more people found that pre workouts made the biggest and noticeable difference with their results.
It makes sense because pre workouts have an “instant effect” and they work immediately.
You don’t have to wait several days or weeks to say “I think it’s making a difference”.
The very first time you use a pre workout you may notice that you definitely notice that you lift more, rest less and train harder than ever.
Pre workouts usually consist of performance enhancing ingredients that are effectively dosed like caffeine, agmatine (or nitrates), amino acids and more.
Sometimes they are just tiny bottles that have 3 grams of ingredients per serving, these are the “concentrated” pre’s.
Pre workouts need to have these types of ingredients to be effective:
- Stimulants - they help delay fatigue (and pain from lactic acid build up)
- Increases strength (betaine anhydrous, creatine mono)
- Decreases rest between sets (caffeine, stimulants)
- Nitric oxide - not required but helps increase blood flow and nutrient delivery (agmatine, citrulline, nitrates)
- Carbohydrates - great for quick energy in a pre workout but again, not required
The idea of pre workouts are simply to enhance your mental and physical game before and during workouts.
Some people prefer concentrates (powerful pre workouts) and others prefer a big scoop of a mixture of ingredients that are mostly dosed at "proper" amounts like beta alanine and creatine.
The thing is though pre workouts are increasing in popularity by the day.
More and more are popping out of nowhere and really, anyone can make a pre workout and throw it into the market.
Look beyond that and look at the ingredients and reviews.
The disadvantage of pre workouts is the whole addictive part. (Exactly how some people can't go on without their coffee).
If you’ve been working out with stimulant filled pre workouts your entire lifting career, then you’ll never feel the same or it’ll just take a while to feel normal without them again.
Tolerance Is A B*tch
If you drink a lot of coffee or consume caffeine from other sources, or if you simply don’t get caffeinated/stimulated then a pre workout won’t do you much other than the performance enhancing ingredients that are in it like nitric oxide etc.
You can always use stim-free pre workouts. (Without caffeine)
They don’t work as hard but they still contain performance enhancing ingredients.