Do You Need Supplements To Build Muscle?

Supplements play an interesting role in the health and fitness industry.

There are people who swear by their effectiveness, and on the other side, you have folks who will say they are completely unnecessary provided you consume a healthy, balanced diet.

So where does the truth lie?

Are supplements really all they are made out to be?

Let’s take a look…


Are Your Priorities In Order?

It seems that the first question people ask when they aren’t happy with the progress in their physique is, “what supplements should I be taking — I’m taking ‘X’, ‘Y’, and ‘Z’ — what else should I take?”

Now if you’re on a quest to build more muscle, but aren’t seeing the results you want — the specific supplements you are taking, should really be the very last of your concerns.

Seriously — they are quite a ways down on the list of priorities.

First, I would propose the question…

What is your nutrition like?

Are you eating in a caloric surplus consistently and getting sufficient protein each day?

Do you have a system for tracking your intake to ensure a reasonable level of accuracy?

What about your training?

Are you logging your workouts and keeping track of progressive overload?

If you answered, “No”, to any of those questions — then you really have no business even considering supplements…

…UNTIL you have those basic foundational factors in place.

Because until you get those things right, supplements simply won’t help you.


Managing Your Expectations

The truth is, the vast majority of supplements on the market are complete crap, and nothing more than over-hyped marketing.

And they won’t don’t do anything, except burn a massive hole in your wallet.

The problem is, with the marketing messages, and claims made by the media, most trainees get sucked in and develop a completely unrealistic expectations of how much a particular supplement will benefit them.

You’ll hear claims on certain supplements like:

  • Advanced time-release formula to feed your muscles for up to 8 hours
  • Instantly stimulate muscle growth by 350% 
  • Increase free testosterone levels by 331%


Any claim like this is complete bullshit, and leaves consumers with a false message, leading them to massively over-value these products, and what they will do to improve their results.

In reality, any kind of supplement will only provide a very marginal increase to your overall muscle building progress.

They really just aren’t as significant as you’ve been led to believe.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not against the use of supplements. There are a few that I personally use myself, and recommend to my clients — when I think they can be worthwhile, and aid in overall convenience and enhance the effectiveness of their program.

However, I am against the over-emphasis of supplements, as most people do place far too much value on them, and are looking for a magic pill or powder to solve their muscle building problems — rather than putting in the work, and focusing on what actually matters — proper nutrition and hard training.


When Can Supplements Be Beneficial?

Your goal of using a supplement should be to provide specific nutrients to your body that you would not otherwise get enough of from your diet alone.

Sometimes supplementation may be used to achieve a recommended healthy baseline of a specific nutrient, or to reach higher levels of a certain nutrient that may be beneficial for health, performance, and recovery.

But you should really only consider adding supplements once your training and nutrition are on point.

If you don’t have your bases covered with your diet and training, then you really won’t see any beneficial results, no matter how much money you decide to spend on supplements. Because you’re missing your foundation.

For someone who is training hard, and eating right, including a few basic supplements can compliment a solid nutrition program nicely, and assist for convenience sake.

Always remember, supplements are by no means a way to replace good nutrition and a proper training regimen, but supplement it.


Which Supplements Should You Take to Aid Your Muscle Building Progress?

There are literally thousands of products out there, and while a large portion of them are useless crap, there are a handful of supplements that are worth investing in and using.

The first thing you should ask yourself, before investing in a particular supplement, is “will this supplement be beneficial to my goals?”

In other words — does it provide a benefit, that is relevant to building more muscle, size and strength.

Lots of supplements may provide some type of particular benefit. But that does not mean it will necessarily support your specific goal.

So that’s why it’s important to always look at in the context of your goal and what you are trying to achieve (being jacked and lean).

Now I know you’re probably still wondering — okay, well which supplements should I take then?

When working with clients, there are a few foundational supplements we always look at first.

These are the ones that provide the most significant benefit, best return on investment, and the ones I recommend you start with.


1. Omega-3 Fish Oil


Omega-3 fatty acids (EPA & DHA) found in fish oil are essential, meaning they cannot be produced by the body, and must be obtained from the diet.

Unless you’re eating things like salmon and fish on the regular, you’re going to have a hard time obtaining enough Omega-3 fats from your diet alone, which is where supplementation becomes useful in order to hit adequate levels.

Omega-3’s provide an abundance of potential health benefits you don’t want to miss out on, including the following:

  • Improved insulin sensitivity
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Decreased cortisol levels
  • Improved joint recovery
  • Increased protein synthesis

How Should You Take It?

Shoot for 2-3g of Omega-3 fatty acids (EPA & DHA) per day.

The EPA & DHA content in the fish oil is what we count — not overall grams of fish oil. These fatty acids are responsible for the benefits that fish oil provides.


2. Creatine


Creatine is produced naturally in the body, and is contained in foods like red meat.

It increases energy production in cells, thus enhancing strength and power for short-term, high intensity energy bouts of exercise.

Creatine is one of the most studied and proven supplements on the market today, and is also very safe for consumption, despite numerous myths.

There are no magic supplements that will double your strength or size overnight, but creatine will help you push out an extra rep or two in the gym.

How Should You Take It?

5g per day will get the job done here.

There’s also no need to load it, or time it specifically — just take it consistently every day to keep creatine stores topped up.

Notes: Creatine Monohydrate is the most widely researched and studied form of creatine, so stick with that form. It is also the most cost-effective.


3. Vitamin D


Vitamin D is primarily produced in the body as a result of direct exposure to sunlight. If you’re someone who does not regularly spend time in the sun, supplementing with Vitamin D is a good idea in order to protect against deficiencies, which can negatively affect muscular performance, immune function, and hormonal levels.

If you already get a lot of exposure to sunlight, you may already get enough vitamin D, and supplementation may not be necessary.

How Should You Take It?

Recommended daily dosage is 2000-5000 IU, dependent on sun exposure.


4. High Quality Protein Powder


Do you having a difficult time hitting your daily protein intake?

Do you cringe at the thought of  gnawing away at another dry chicken breast?

Then a protein powder probably makes sense for you.

While not mandatory, if you have a hard time getting enough protein in your diet from whole foods alone, a protein powder is a convenient, and cost-effective way to increase your protein intake. Not to mention, it tastes delicious.

Also Read: Is a Protein Powder Necessary?

I prefer a blend of whey isolate and micellar casein protein, although a simple whey protein works equally as well.

How Should You Take It?

Simply use it to meet your protein goals as necessary or preferred.


Remember Your Priorities

Be sure to remember — supplements are designed to supplement a proper diet and training regimen.

No supplement will do anything on it’s own to improve your rate of muscle growth.

You need to put in the hard work, and consistent effort with your nutrition and training.

Supplements are certainly not mandatory — you don’t NEED any supplements to reach your goals, but including a few basic supplements may help you maximize your muscle building results a few percent over the long-term, provided all other factors are in place.

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