A Guide to Muscle-Building Supplements | STACK

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A Guide to Muscle-Building Supplements

November 8, 2012 | G.R. Hoff

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More and more athletes are experimenting with muscle-building supplements to give them an edge over their competition. However, not all supplements are safe or as effective as they claim. Read on to learn more about supplements that build muscle, and find out how you can add them into your daily nutrition regimen.

Supplementation Guidelines

  • No supplement on earth can fix a poor diet. Use the nutritional resources available to you and make sure your nutrition plan is solid before taking anything on the list below.
  • No supplement can help you build muscle if you aren't intensely training. Think of these supplements as a way to help you to get the most out of your workouts.
  • The list below contains some basic muscle-building supplements. I don't recommend taking anything that gets promoted with outlandish claims or isn't backed up by research.

The Best Muscle-Building Supplements

Whey Protein

An athlete trying to add muscle needs about 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight every day. Whey protein is a safe, healthy and convenient way to reach that goal. I have my athletes take a shaker bottle with a dry scoop of protein to school, which they mix and drink between classes. It's also best to consume 20 grams of protein after a workout to give your muscles the amino acids they need to rebuild and recover. (Check out STACK's Protein Guide for more info on different types of protein.)


Creatine works best for athletes who have been training hard and making progress for a few years. Take three to five grams of creatine per day. I recommend unflavored and unsweetened, since it's a bit cheaper and has fewer chemical additives. (Take a look at STACK's Creatine Guide.)

Fish Oil

Fish oil is an excellent source of healthy fats, which most people simply don't get enough of. Fish oil decreases inflammation, improves recovery and supports other essential bodily functions. I recommend taking two to 10 grams a day in liquid or capsule form.


Dextrose is a fast-digesting carb source that is perfect for post-workout shakes. It helps athletes recover faster by quickly replenishing energy (glycogen) stores following training sessions. Combined with protein and leucine, it helps support optimal muscle growth and recovery.


Leucine is an amino acid that plays an important role in protein synthesis—the muscle building process. It basically causes the body to shuttle nutrients into muscle cells that have been damaged during training. Leucine is part of my favorite post-workout drink, described below.

Muscle-Building Recovery Shake

The first thing you put into your mouth after a workout should be for one purpose and one purpose only: to help you recover as fast as possible. This recovery shake will help you get the most out of your intense training sessions, so you're packing on healthy pounds and can get back in the gym as fast as possible. Drink it within 30 minutes of your workout.

  • 16-20 ounces of water
  • 1-2 scoops whey protein powder (20-40 grams of protein)
  • 5 grams leucine
  • 40-80 grams of dextrose (double the grams of protein in your shake)
  • Dash of cinnamon

I recommend taking the ingredients dry in a shaker bottle and mixing them with water after your workout. You can also blend with ice beforehand if you prefer. If you want a sweeter drink, simply add some stevia. (Want another option? Check out this post-workout shake from All-Pro TE Tony Gonzalez.)

Head over to the STACK Supplement Guide to learn about different types of supplements that are safe to take.

G.R. Hoff
- G.R. Hoff is the owner and head sports performance coach at Dungeon Strength & Conditioning in Shoreview, Minn. He specializes in helping young athletes using...
G.R. Hoff
- G.R. Hoff is the owner and head sports performance coach at Dungeon Strength & Conditioning in Shoreview, Minn. He specializes in helping young athletes using...
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