The Best Supplements for Bulking in 2023 (Ranked and Reviewed)
Supplements can play a role in supporting muscle growth when combined with resistance training and a well-rounded diet. In this guide, we’ll discuss the best supplements for gaining muscle and enhancing your exercise routine.
Top Picks for Bulking Supplements
- Scientifically Backed
- Very Cheap
- Effective for bulking
- Improves Strength
- Increases Protein Intake
- Different Protein Options
- Positive Study Results
- Great Taste
Best for Bulking
- High Protein, Low Fat
- Concentrated Calories
- Contains Vitamins
- Meal Replacement
- Dissolves Easily
- Faster Recovery
- Other Potential Health Benefits
Table of Contents
If you’re looking to gain muscle mass and bulk up, supplements can be a useful addition to your diet and workout routine. While no supplement can replace a healthy diet and consistent exercise, certain supplements have been shown to support muscle growth and recovery. In this article, we will explore some of the best supplements for bulking, their benefits, and how to use them effectively. Whether you’re a seasoned lifter or just starting out, incorporating these supplements into your routine may help you reach your muscle-building goals faster.
How We Evaluate Supplements
- Scientific Research: One of the most important factors we look at is the scientific evidence supporting the supplement’s effectiveness. We review published research studies and clinical trials to determine whether the supplement is backed by reliable scientific evidence.
- Ingredient Quality: We also consider the quality and purity of the ingredients used in the supplement. We review the sourcing and manufacturing processes to ensure that the supplement is free of contaminants and meets quality standards.
- Dosage Effectiveness: Another key factor we consider is the dosage and recommended use of the supplement. We evaluate whether the dosage and use instructions are appropriate for the intended purpose of the supplement, and whether they align with the scientific evidence supporting its effectiveness.
- Pricing: Pricing is important to consumers. We compare the cost of the supplement to other products on the market with similar ingredients and intended uses. This helps us determine whether the supplement is reasonably priced or if there are more affordable options available that are similarly effective.
- Side Effects: Finally, we take into account any potential side effects or interactions with other medications or supplements. We review the safety data and consider any warnings or precautions provided by the manufacturer.
Creatine is a naturally occurring molecule in the body that provides energy for muscles and other tissues. Taking creatine as a supplement can increase muscle creatine content, promoting muscle gain and improving muscle strength. Creatine can also increase water content in muscle cells, which may stimulate muscle growth. Additionally, creatine may boost levels of IGF-1, a hormone involved in muscle growth. Overall, creatine is an excellent supplement for muscle gain with a strong safety profile.
Summary: Creatine is the top supplement for muscle gain, with numerous studies supporting its effectiveness.
- "Effects of Creatine Supplementation on Cognitive Function of Healthy Individuals: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials" (2021)
This systematic review analyzed the effects of creatine supplementation on cognitive function in healthy individuals. The study found that creatine supplementation improved cognitive performance in tasks requiring short-term memory and intelligence in healthy adults.
- "The Effects of Creatine Supplementation on Muscle Strength and Size: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials" (2020)
This meta-analysis evaluated the effects of creatine supplementation on muscle strength and size. The study found that creatine supplementation was associated with significant increases in muscle strength and muscle size in both young and older individuals. Additionally, the study found that creatine supplementation was safe and well-tolerated in healthy individuals.
- Increased muscle strength: Creatine supplementation has been shown to increase muscle strength and power output, making it popular among athletes and bodybuilders.
- Enhanced muscle recovery: Creatine may help reduce muscle damage and soreness, leading to faster recovery after intense exercise.
- Improved cognitive function: Studies have suggested that creatine supplementation may improve cognitive function, particularly in tasks requiring short-term memory and intelligence.
- Safe and well-tolerated: Creatine is generally safe and well-tolerated, with few reported side effects.
- Water retention: Creatine supplementation can cause water retention, leading to weight gain and bloating.
- Digestive issues: Some people may experience digestive issues such as diarrhea, nausea, or cramping when taking creatine.
- Potential kidney damage: There have been concerns that long-term creatine supplementation may cause kidney damage, but studies have not found any conclusive evidence to support this claim.
- Not suitable for everyone: Creatine supplementation may not be suitable for everyone, particularly those with kidney or liver disease. Additionally, certain medications may interact with creatine, so it is important to speak with a healthcare provider before starting supplementation.
Adequate protein intake is crucial for muscle gain. Consuming more protein than your body breaks down is essential. Protein supplements can help meet your protein needs, with popular options including whey, casein, and soy protein. Studies show that adding extra protein via supplements leads to slightly more muscle gain than extra carbs. However, the benefits are most significant for those not getting enough protein in their diet.
Summary: Protein supplements can be helpful for muscle gain, but only if you’re not already consuming enough protein in your diet.
One recent study on protein supplements is "Effects of protein supplementation on muscle damage and soreness and recovery of muscle function in young and middle-aged resistance-trained individuals" by Naclerio et al. (2021), published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.
The results showed that the protein supplement group had significantly lower levels of creatine kinase, a marker of muscle damage, compared to the placebo group. The protein group also had significantly lower levels of muscle soreness at 48 and 72 hours post-exercise compared to the placebo group. Additionally, the protein group had significantly greater recovery of muscle function at 72 hours post-exercise compared to the placebo group.
- Convenient and Easy to Consume
- Protein supplements are available in various forms, including powders, bars, and shakes, and are easy to consume on-the-go or after a workout. They are a convenient way to meet daily protein requirements, which can be difficult to achieve through diet alone.
- Aid in Muscle Building
- Protein is essential for building and repairing muscle tissue, and consuming protein supplements can help increase muscle mass and strength. This is particularly beneficial for athletes and bodybuilders looking to enhance their performance.
- Enhance Recovery
- Protein supplements can help enhance recovery after exercise by reducing muscle damage and inflammation. This can lead to a faster recovery time and less muscle soreness.
- Support Weight Loss
- Protein supplements can support weight loss by increasing satiety and reducing appetite. This can help individuals consume fewer calories and maintain a calorie deficit, which is essential for weight loss.
- Protein supplements can be expensive, especially if consumed regularly. This can be a drawback for individuals on a tight budget.
- Potential for Overconsumption
- While protein is essential for muscle building and overall health, consuming too much protein can be detrimental to health. Protein supplements can make it easy to overconsume protein, which can lead to digestive issues and other health problems.
- Filler Ingredients
- Some protein supplements may contain filler ingredients, such as added sugars or artificial flavors, which can negate the potential benefits of the supplement.
- May Not Be Necessary
- While protein supplements can offer benefits, they may not be necessary for individuals who are already consuming enough protein through their diet. In these cases, the supplements may provide little to no additional benefit.
Weight gainers are designed to help you get more calories and protein. They are particularly useful for those who struggle to gain muscle through calorie intake and weightlifting. Weight gainers often contain 75–300 g of carbs, 20–60 g of protein, and 0–15 g of fat per serving. However, their effectiveness in increasing lean mass remains unclear. Weight gainers are recommended only if you struggle to consume enough calories from food.
Summary: Weight gainers can help increase calorie and protein intake but are only necessary if you struggle to eat enough food.
A study published in the Journal of Dietary Supplements in 2021 examined the safety and efficacy of a weight gainer supplement in healthy adults. The study found that participants who consumed the weight gainer for 12 weeks experienced significant increases in body weight, lean mass, and fat-free mass. The supplement was also found to be safe and well-tolerated, with no significant adverse effects reported.
Easy to consume: Weight gainers come in powder form and can be mixed with water or milk to make a shake, making them an easy and convenient way to consume additional calories and nutrients.
Can help increase calorie intake: For individuals who struggle to consume enough calories through their regular diet, weight gainers can provide a quick and easy way to increase calorie intake and support muscle growth.
May contain beneficial nutrients: Many weight gainers contain a blend of carbohydrates, protein, and fats, as well as various vitamins and minerals that can help support overall health.
Can be expensive: Weight gainers can be more expensive than other supplements or whole foods, which can make them difficult to afford for some individuals.
May contain added sugars or artificial sweeteners: Some weight gainers may contain high amounts of added sugars or artificial sweeteners, which can be harmful to health if consumed in excess.
May not be necessary for everyone: While weight gainers can be helpful for individuals who struggle to consume enough calories through their regular diet, they may not be necessary or beneficial for everyone, particularly those who are already consuming enough calories to support their goals.
Potential side effects: Some individuals may experience side effects such as digestive issues or allergic reactions to the ingredients in weight gainers.
L-glutamine is an amino acid that is found naturally in the body and plays a role in muscle protein synthesis, immune function, and gastrointestinal health. Due to its role in muscle protein synthesis, L-glutamine has been suggested as a potential supplement to support muscle growth.
Summary: L-glutamine may improve muscle recovery and reduce soreness after intense exercise, but more research is needed to determine its direct effects on muscle growth in healthy individuals.
A 2015 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that L-glutamine supplementation reduced muscle soreness and improved muscle function in healthy young men after eccentric exercise. Another study published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine showed that L-glutamine supplementation reduced markers of muscle damage and improved muscle function in trained cyclists after a high-intensity cycling test.
- L-glutamine may enhance muscle growth and strength gains in some individuals.
- L-glutamine may reduce muscle damage and soreness after intense exercise, allowing for faster recovery and improved performance.
- L-glutamine has other potential health benefits, such as improving gut health and immune function.
- Not all studies have found a significant effect of L-glutamine on muscle growth, strength, or recovery.
- The optimal dosage, duration, and timing of L-glutamine supplementation are not yet clear.
- Some individuals may experience side effects such as gastrointestinal distress, headache, or allergic reactions.
Beta-alanine is an amino acid that reduces fatigue and may improve exercise performance. It may also help increase muscle mass when paired with an exercise program. However, more research is needed to confirm its benefits.
Summary: Beta-alanine may improve exercise performance and potentially increase muscle mass, but more research is needed.
Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
BCAAs, consisting of leucine, isoleucine, and valine, are essential for muscle growth. They are found in many protein sources, but taking them as a supplement may be beneficial if your diet is lacking in protein. However, more research is needed before recommending BCAAs as a go-to supplement for muscle gain.
Summary: BCAAs are important for muscle growth, but
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids, specifically eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), have been shown to offer a variety of health benefits, including support for heart health and brain function. However, recent studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids can also play a role in muscle growth and recovery.
Research indicates that omega-3 supplementation may enhance muscle protein synthesis, reduce inflammation, and improve muscle function during exercise. Additionally, a study involving older adults demonstrated that omega-3 supplementation combined with resistance training led to greater muscle strength and function improvements compared to resistance training alone.
To reap the muscle-building benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, it is recommended to consume fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, or sardines, at least twice a week, or consider taking a high-quality omega-3 supplement.
Summary: Omega-3 fatty acids may enhance muscle protein synthesis, reduce inflammation, and improve muscle function during exercise. Consuming fatty fish or taking a high-quality omega-3 supplement can support muscle growth and recovery.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays a crucial role in many aspects of health, including bone health, immune function, and hormone regulation. It has also been suggested to influence muscle growth and strength.
A study in older adults found that supplementing with vitamin D combined with resistance training resulted in increased muscle strength compared to resistance training alone (46Trusted Source). Furthermore, low levels of vitamin D have been associated with decreased muscle strength and function, particularly in older adults.
To maintain optimal vitamin D levels, aim to get regular sun exposure or consider taking a vitamin D supplement, especially during the winter months when sunlight is limited.
Summary: Vitamin D plays a role in muscle growth and strength, and low levels may be associated with decreased muscle function. Regular sun exposure or supplementation can help maintain optimal vitamin D levels and support muscle health.
While proper nutrition and exercise are the foundations for muscle growth, certain supplements can offer additional support for those looking to maximize their gains. Supplements such as creatine, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and L-glutamine have been shown to have potential benefits for muscle growth and recovery. However, it is essential to remember that these supplements should be used in conjunction with a well-rounded diet and exercise program to achieve optimal results. Always consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen, especially if you have any pre-existing medical conditions or are taking medications.