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The Best Supplements for Bodybuilding

Pick the right supplements to help you build more muscle while losing fat.

We receive free products to review and may receive commissions on purchases made through our links. See our disclosure page for details.

Bodybuilders are known to train hard and diet intensely. To gain a lot of muscle mass, they lift weights often. Then, to reveal a chiseled, ripped physique, bodybuilders usually count their macros to a T and/or eat a low-carb dietWith the intense training splits and rigorous dieting comes the need for next-level supplementation.

To support their in-gym performance and recover, bodybuilders most likely need an array of different supplements. For example, a joint support supplement may help to keep bodybuilders safe while lifting heavy weights often. And to recover, a sleep aid can help them get the seven to nine hours of Z’s they need while whey protein feeds growing muscles. Not sure where to start? No worries — we rounded up the best supplements for bodybuilding to help you on your journey. 

The Best Supplements for Bodybuilders

Editor’s note: The content on BarBend is meant to be informative in nature, but it should not be taken as medical advice. The opinions and articles on this site are not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. It’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor before beginning a new fitness, nutritional, and/or supplement routine. None of these supplements are meant to treat or cure any disease. If you feel you may be deficient in a particular nutrient or nutrients, please seek out a medical professional.

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Best Whey Isolate Protein Powder

A whey isolate protein is better for bodybuilders because it’s filtered more thoroughly and contains fewer grams of carbs and fat. So you get all of the protein with none of the extra macronutrients.

Transparent Labs Whey Isolate

One 32-gram scoop yields you only two grams of carbs and 28 grams of protein. There’s no fat, either. The whey is sourced from naturally-fed hormone-free cows, so the product quality is high if that matters to you. But at $60 for 30 servings (or $2 per serving), you’re definitely paying a pretty penny for the macro-profile and quality whey. 

10% Off
Transparent Labs Grass Fed Whey Isolate
Transparent Labs Grass Fed Whey Isolate
Transparent Labs Grass Fed Whey Isolate

The absorbability and quality of Transparent Labs whey protein isolate formula stood out to us. Bodybuilders, specifically, will appreciate that it's high in protein, low in carbs, and contains no fat. Use code BARBEND10 for 10% off.

Who Should Buy Transparent Labs Whey Isolate?

  • Lifters who want just protein and little to no carbs or fat.
  • Folks who care about where their protein powder is sourced from.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Transparent Labs Whey Isolate

  • Penny pinchers; this protein costs $2 per scoop.

Best Essential Amino Acids

Amino acids are the building blocks of muscle, so taking them may help prevent muscle breakdown. That said, you want a formula that has both branch chain amino acids and essential amino acids. 

GHOST AMINO

BCAAs, (leucine, isoleucine, and valine) were thought to be the amino acids needed to support muscle growth for a while. In recent years, more supplement manufacturers have been adding EAAs, of which there are nine (including the three BCAAs). Ghost Amino delivers 5..5 grams of EEAs and 4.5 grams of BCAAs for a complete muscle-preservation formula. GHOST is also known for its delicious flavors, and its product is vegan-friendly. That said, the science on the efficacy of BCAAs and EEAs is mostly inconclusive, and the product is a tad pricey.  

Best Essential Amino Acids
GHOST AMINO
GHOST AMINO
GHOST AMINO

Essential amino acids (EAAs) help prevent muscle breakdown and can elicit growth. GHOST transparently gives you the correct amount of all of the EAAs and BCAAs (branch chain amino acids) you need. Their product is also soy-free and vegan-friendly. 

Who Should Buy GHOST AMINO

  • Bodybuilders who want to try and preserve muscle mass, especially during a cut.
  • People who may want to spice up their water with a low-calorie, tasty powder.
  • Folks who want to get both EEAs and BCAAs instead of just the latter.

Who Shouldn’t Buy GHOST AMINO

  • Those who aren’t sold on the product’s effectiveness.
  • People who don’t want to shell out for a relatively pricey amino powder. 

Best Intra-Workout Powder

Long, rigorous training sessions can deplete your body of energy. That’s why lifters who workout intensely for over an hour may benefit from drinking a quick-absorbing carb, like dextrin. Intra-workout nutrition has actually been shown to make a workout appear easier to lifters. (1)

Jacked Factory Carbsurge

Jacked Factory’s formula uses cluster dextrin, a carbohydrate that absorbs more rapidly than other dextrin variations. It’s also sugar-free, so if you’ve experienced stomach issues with other carb drinks in the past, you shouldn’t go with this product. Carbsurge gives you 90 calories or 22 grams of carbs per serving. That’s not a lot, but If you’re cutting down and counting your calories carefully, this may eat up your caloric allotment for little to no satiation. Also, if you’re allergic to dextrose, then you should not take this product. 

Best Intra-Workout Powder
Jacked Factory Carbsurge
Jacked Factory Carbsurge
Jacked Factory Carbsurge

Fuel tough workouts with a powder designed specifically to grant you the energy to power through. Jacked Factory's intra-workout formula is a digestion-friendly, sugar-free supplement that will restore your glycogen stores so you have the ability to dominate — not just finish — your workout. 

Who Should Buy Jacked Factory Carbsurge

  • Lifters who train intensely for long periods of time and need an energy boost. 
  • Folks who can’t digest dextrose or other forms of dextrin as well

Who Shouldn’t Buy Jacked Factory Carbsurge

  • Lifters who are seriously cutting and can’t afford to drink their calories. 
  • People who don’t necessarily train at a high intensity often or for long periods of time. 
  • People who have a dextrose allergy. 

Best Sleep Aid 

Sleep is vital — to your performance, your mental health, and your survival. It’s been referred to as a magic pill for athletes, and a study on Stanford Basketball players proved that more sleep undoubtedly improved their performance. (2) If you have trouble falling asleep, that’s a problem, but there are supplements designed to lure into a slumber. 

Transparent Labs Sleep Aid

One three-pill serving offers up 3 milligrams of melatonin, a hormone your body produces that regulates your sleep cycle. Taking extra melatonin has been shown to help those with sleep difficulties. (3) This sleep aid also comes with tart cherry, which contains melatonin and tryptophan, another sleep-helper. Also, zinc and magnesium, two ingredients in Transparent Labs formula, have been shown to improve sleep when paired with melatonin considerably. (4) Though, for some, melatonin can cause headaches and daytime sleepiness. 

10% off
Transparent Labs Sleep Aid
Transparent Labs Sleep Aid
Transparent Labs Sleep Aid

A solid night's sleep is essential for your recovery and to optimize performance in the gym. Transparent Labs sleep time formula offers up tried-and-true ingredients such as melatonin and zinc and a couple of extras like tart cherry and vitamin B6. The end result: great sleep without that groggy feeling. Save 10% with the code BARBEND10.

Who Should Buy Transparent Labs Sleep Aid

  • People who have trouble getting to sleep regularly. 
  • Those who want a multi-ingredient sleep aid.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Transparent Labs Sleep Aid

  • Folks who aren’t comfortable or don’t like swallowing multiple pills.
  • People who many no handle melatonin well. 

Best Non-Melatonin Sleep Aid

Some folks don’t react well to melatonin. Either they find it addictive, or it causes unwanted side effects such as dizziness, nausea, and daytime sleepiness. You can, however, take a sleep aid that doesn’t contain melatonin. 

Nested Naturals Luna Melatonin-Free Sleep Aid

This blend of herbs — which includes L-theanine, valerian extract, chamomile extract — is meant to put you in a state of relaxation. While this formula isn’t as powerful as one with melatonin, this is a solid option for those who want to steer clear of the stuff. And we like that this product is vegan-friendly. 

Best Non-Melatonin Sleep Aid
Nested Naturals Luna Melatonin-Free Sleep Aid
Nested Naturals Luna Melatonin-Free Sleep Aid
Nested Naturals Luna Melatonin-Free Sleep Aid

Nested Naturals uses herbs to lull you to sleep without the use of melatonin, which some people may find addictive or have a poor reaction to.

Who Should Buy Nested Naturals Luna Melatonin-Free Sleep Aid

  • People who don’t want to take melatonin.
  • Vegans, as this product is vegan-friendly 

Who Shouldn’t Buy Nested Naturals Luna Melatonin-Free Sleep Aid

  • Folks who want a product that’s backed by a little more science. 

Best Beta-Alanine Supplement

Supplementing with beta-alanine has been linked to a significant uptick in training performance compared to lifters who didn’t take it. (5) If you’re a seasoned gym-goer who needs to push past plateaus, beta-alanine may help you do just that.

Transparent Labs Beta-Alanine

Like creatine, this is a single-ingredient supplement, so there’s not a whole lot to look for. That said, Transparent Labs provides 100 servings of beta-alanine at an affordable price and doesn’t add any extra fillers. While fine, the dosing doesn’t match the dosing in the study linked above, which had lifters take 6.4 grams of beta-alanine. 

10% off
Transparent Labs Beta Alanine
Transparent Labs Beta Alanine
Transparent Labs Beta Alanine

Even though it's a single-ingredient, Transparent Labs' beta-alanine still stands out from the pack. They offer effective dosing, their product doesn't contain fillers, and you get 100 servings for a fair price. Still, you can save 10% with the code BARBEND10.

Who Should Buy Transparent Labs Beta-Alanine

  • Lifters who want a proven way to improve their lifting performance. 
  • Those who want to take a single ingredient versus getting the product through a blend.

Who Should Buy Transparent Labs Beta-Alanine

  • Novice lifters who don’t necessarily need a helping hand in the strength and performance department — yet.
  • Those who aren’t comfortable taking more of a product, then what the company suggests, even if science says otherwise. 

Best Multivitamin

For the most part, bodybuilders eat a lot of the same foods. As a result, they may be lacking in particular nutrients. A multivitamin can help fill any nutritional gaps while also supporting a lifter’s body for rigorous workouts.

Controlled Labs Orange Triad

Let’s get the con out of the way: A serving of this supplement is six pills. That’s a lot. But if you can deal, we like this multi because it provides all the standard vitamins and minerals people need but with a few bodybuilding-specific tweaks. That is, it includes glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health and has a digestion and immunity complex.

Best Multivitamin
Controlled Labs Orange Triad
Controlled Labs Orange Triad
Controlled Labs Orange Triad

This supplement is well designed for bodybuilders as it provides ingredients for joint health, as well as digestion and immunity complex. Though, be warned that the serving size is six pills.

Who Should Buy Controlled Labs Orange Triad

  • Bodybuilders who train hard and heavy and would benefit from a joint supplement.
  • Folks with digestive trouble; this formula comes with a digestion and immunity complex. 

Who Shouldn’t Buy Controlled Labs Orange Triad 

  • People who don’t want to take a large six-pill dose.
  • Non-bodybuilders who may not need such a comprehensive multivitamin formula.  

Best Pre-workout with Caffeine 

A good pre-workout powder can facilitate better pumps and provide you with the energy you need to kick butt in the gym.

Jacked Factory Nitrosurge

This product contains the usual pre-workout players — caffeine, energy, L-citrulline for better blood flow and therefore pumps, and beta-alanine for improved strength and endurance. We like that you can see the dosing for each ingredient, so you know what you’re getting, and that Nitrosurge contains AstraGin, a formula that enhances the absorption of each ingredient. That said, those who are sensitive to caffeine should be warned: there are 180 milligrams of the stuff per serving.  

Best Pre-Workout with Caffeine
Jacked Factory Nitrosurge
Jacked Factory Nitrosurge
Jacked Factory Nitrosurge

For when you need a kick in the pants, Jacked Factory's pre-workout formula gives you the basics: caffeine for energy, L-citrulline for pumps, and bet-alanine for strength and better recovery.  

Who Should Buy Jacked Factory Nitrosurge

  • People who need an occasional energy boost before hitting the gym.
  • Those who want a quick-absorbing, fast-working pre-workout. 
  • Folks who value transparent dosing in their supplements.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Jacked Factory Nitrosurge

  • People who can’t take or don’t want caffeine. 

Best Stim-Free Pre-workout

If you train late or can’t tolerate stimulants, like caffeine, there are pre-workout options for you. Some formulas lean on focus-enhancing and pump-inducing ingredients instead of stimulants.  

Jacked Factory Pumpsurge

To make up for the lack of stimulant-induced energy, Jacked Factory relies on ingredients like Alpha-GPC and Huperzine A, which are nootropics, to improve your ability to focus on the task at hand. Pumsurge still contains ingredients that promote blood flow for pumps. If you’re an early bird and want the energy boost, this is obviously not the formula. 

Best Stim-Free Pre-Workout
Jacked Factory Pumpsurge
Jacked Factory Pumpsurge
Jacked Factory Pumpsurge

Just because caffeine and other stimulants aren't your things doesn't mean there's not a pre-workout for you. This formula by Jacked Factory relies on focus-boosting nootropics to help fuel your training sessions. You'll still get the pumps and energy you know and love from other formulas, but with none of the jitters and shakes. 

Who Should Buy Jacked Factory Pumpsurge

  • People who don’t want stimulants in their pre-workout.
  • Folks who want to improve their focus while training. 

Who Shouldn’t Buy Jacked Factory Pumpsurge

  • People who train early in the morning and may want a pre-workout with an energy formula.

Best Creatine Supplement

Creatine is scientifically proven to make you stronger and more powerful. (6) Some creatine supplements are paired with other ingredients to increase their absorption and efficacy rate. 

Transparent Labs Creatine HMB

Transparent Labs makes one of those products. The added black pepper extract helps the creatine absorb more effectively. And according to Transparent Labs, when combined with HMB (hydroxymethylbutyrate), the creatine’s strength-boosting benefits are enhanced. This supplement comes in three flavors, which isn’t ideal for those who like to mix their creatine with other supplements like protein or beta-alanine. Also, those extras cost you: Compared to other creatine products, this one is pricey. 

10% off
Transparent Labs Creatine HMB
Transparent Labs Creatine HMB
Transparent Labs Creatine HMB

We like the extra ingredients that help make this creatine absorb more quickly into your body for optimal use. Use code BARBEND10 for 10% off!

Who Should Buy Transparent Labs Creatine HMB

  • Bodybuilders who to want to maximize their creatine supplementation with beneficial extras.
  • Those who like drinking creatine on its own and may enjoy the flavors (tropical punch, blue raspberry, strawberry lemonade).

Who Shouldn’t Buy Transparent Labs Creatine HMB

  • Folks who are used to mixing creatine with protein powder or other supps.
  • People who don’t desire extra ingredients would rather save a little money by choosing a basic creatine monohydrate.

How We Decided on the Best Supplements for Bodybuilding

Bodybuilders have unique supplementation needs, and those were taken into consideration when putting together this list of the best bodybuilding supplements. 

Sport-Specific Needs

As we’ve said, bodybuilders are typically working out more often with more intensity. And that intense training is usually coupled with a restrictive diet to support muscle gain while simultaneously losing fat. For that reason, certain supps — like beta-alanine, creatine, and a sleep aid — were considered. That’s not to say non-bodybuilders can’t benefit from these products, but more intensive goals typically require a more intensive supplement regimen.

Quality

We opted for companies we trust for their transparent dosing and thoughtfully curated ingredients for brand selection. Sometimes, companies will hide lackluster doses behind blends. Instead, you want to look for products that list each ingredient and its exact dose. After all, a supplement is only as good as the ingredients that it’s made of. Blends are usually more of an issue with pre-workout supps and multis, not so much single-ingredient supplements like beta-alanine and creatine. 

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All best fitness is HERE/Shutterstock

Supplement Interaction

All of the supplements on this list play a unique role in supporting bodybuilding goals. For example, protein helps you meet your protein macro needs, while amino acids help stop muscle protein breakdown. Both creatine and beta-alanine support strength, but they also work better together. (6) None of these supps will negatively interact with one another, though we don’t suggest taking a non-stim and standard pre-workout as it’s a bit redundant. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I really need all of these supplements?

No. At least not right away. If you’re new to bodybuilding or lifting weights in general, then you’ll most likely see good progress from a solid diet and training plan alone. That said, as you progress in training your body will require you to push harder and harder for more gains. Once your progress starts to stall, you can begin adding in certain supplements to your nutrition regimen.

Should I add all of these supplements to my diet at once?

Not necessarily. This is a case by case scenario. For example, if you’re having trouble lifting more weight or more reps, then beta-alanine and creatine may be all you need to keep on progressing. Or, if you just increased your calories and are having trouble hitting your protein goals, then a whey protein may be required to boost your intake. And if you’re in a cutting phase and started fasted cardio, then amino acids may be a worthwhile supplement to add. Your supplement choices can be cyclical and goal-based.

Are supplements safe?

Yeah. But you should always — always — consult with your doctor before taking any new supplement. Especially if you have a pre-existing condition. In fact, if you’re serious about living the bodybuilding lifestyle, you should consult with your doctor anyway as it’s most likely a drastic change from how you’ve been eating and lifting anyways.

Can of these supplements replace real foods?

Definitely not — they’re called supplements for a reason. Even f you’re dieting down or eating low carb, you can still get a diverse array of fruits, veggies, and meats to ensure all of your nutrient needs are being met. Whey protein should be used to help you reach a large protein intake. Some bodybuilders eat 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. For a 200-pound man that’s equal to 300 grams of protein or three pounds of chicken breast, which is a lot of chicken.

References

  1. Thomas R. Wood, Christopher Kelly. (2017) Insulin, glucose and beta-hydroxybutyrate responses to a medium-chain triglyceride-based sports supplement: A pilot study. Journal of Insulin Resistance 2:1, pages 9.
  2. Mah CD, Mah KE, Kezirian EJ, Dement WC. The effects of sleep extension on the athletic performance of collegiate basketball players. Sleep. 2011;34(7):943-950. Published 2011 Jul 1. doi:10.5665/SLEEP.1132
  3. Auld F, Maschauer EL, Morrison I, Skene DJ, Riha RL. Evidence for the efficacy of melatonin in the treatment of primary adult sleep disorders. Sleep Med Rev. 2017 Aug;34:10-22. doi: 10.1016/j.smrv.2016.06.005. Epub 2016 Jul 20. PMID: 28648359.
  4. Rondanelli M, Opizzi A, Monteferrario F, Antoniello N, Manni R, Klersy C. The effect of melatonin, magnesium, and zinc on primary insomnia in long-term care facility residents in Italy: a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2011 Jan;59(1):82-90. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.2010.03232.x. PMID: 21226679.
  5. Maté-Muñoz JL, Lougedo JH, Garnacho-Castaño MV, et al. Effects of β-alanine supplementation during a 5-week strength training program: a randomized, controlled study. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2018;15:19. Published 2018 Apr 25. doi:10.1186/s12970-018-0224-0
  6. Hoffman J, Ratamess N, Kang J, Mangine G, Faigenbaum A, Stout J. Effect of creatine and beta-alanine supplementation on performance and endocrine responses in strength/power athletes. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2006 Aug;16(4):430-46. doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.16.4.430. PMID: 17136944.
     

Feature image courtesy of All best fitness is HERE/Shutterstock.

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