A Guide to Muscle-Building Supplements

November 8, 2012 | G.R. Hoff

Must See Nutrition Videos

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...
Must See
Abby Wambach Will Do Whatever It Takes
Views: 4,501,997
Roy Hibbert 540 lbs Deadlift
Views: 1,562,575
Margus Hunt Benches 385 Pounds for Five Reps
Views: 20,416,726

Featured Videos

Get in Shape for Baseball With Austin Adams' Metabolic Conditioning Circuit Views: 2,339
A Day in the Life With Kansas City Chiefs Tight End Travis Kelce Views: 7,149
Eastbay Path to the Pros Episode 4: Skill Training Views: 326,774
Load More


STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers


Latest issues of STACK Magazine


Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice


Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes


Find the latest news relevant to athletes

Most Popular Videos

Paul Rabil's Box Jumps
Views: 848,643
Perfect Dwyane Wade's Signature Euro Step
Views: 1,308,963
Colin Kaepernick's Core Workout
Views: 883,074
Abby Wambach Will Do Whatever It Takes
Views: 4,501,997
Dwyane Wade Jumps Onto a 42" Box
Views: 10,741,081

Load More
More Cool Stuff You'll Like

How to Select a Healthy Protein Bar

What's Missing From the Female Athlete's Diet, Part 2: Iron

L.A. Galaxy's Safe Supplementation for Soccer Players

The 6 Most Promising Weight-Loss Supplements

The Best Post-Workout Supplements and Nutrition

Creatine Supplements: Benefits, Concerns, Types and Dosage

Powder Hour: Is It Time to Add Protein Powder to Your Diet?

The Powerful Health Benefits of Turmeric

4 Creatine Myths Exposed

5 Rules You Must Know Before Taking a Fish Oil Supplement

Why You Need Vitamin D in Your Diet

Demystifying Popular Smoothie Boosters

Should I Take Creatine?

Iodine: An Overlooked Essential Mineral for Female Athletes

The Best Time to Consume Creatine

DHEA Supplements: Should You Take Them?

3 Supplements to Boost On-Ice Performance

The One Thing You Need to Do to Build Muscle

Fuel for Thought: Gels, Bloks and Beans

Ask the Experts: Is Caffeine Safe for Athletes?

Why You Can't Ignore Pre- and Post-Workout Nutrition

Why Creatine Is the Best Sports Supplement

The 5 Essential Sports Supplements

7 Rules That Would End PED Use in Baseball Immediately

EXOS Launches New Line of Supplements

This Just In: Boost Your Workout With Peppermint

2 Safe Pre-Workout Supplements

Should You Be Taking BCAAs?

3 Reasons Why You Should Take a Fish Oil Supplement

Make Sure You're Getting Enough Calcium

HGH Use Among Teens on the Rise, According to Survey

Workout Supplements: Do You Really Need Them?

Can Baking Soda Improve Your Training Gains?

Soy vs. Whey Protein

6 Supplements That Power Quality Workouts

7 Fiber Supplements: More Than Just For Weight Loss

Use Sodium Bicarbonate to Get More Out of Creatine

7 Sketchy Marketing Phrases Used By Supplement Companies

4 Muscle-Building Supplements That Don't Work

The Positive Side Effects of Creatine (Besides Building Muscle)

ZMA: Is This Mysterious Supplement Right for You?

Blueberry Supplements: Better Than Actual Blueberries?

The Truth About Muscle-Enhancing Supplements

3 Tips on Choosing the Best Post-Workout Creatine

4 Best Supplements for Football Players

Do Athletes Need Zinc Supplements?