When you are putting in max effort at the gym, you want to do everything you can to ensure all those reps and hours spent sweating yield impressive results — whether you’re looking to bulk up or get shredded. That means making sure everything else is dialed in: sticking to clean meal plans, diligently counting your macros, and getting sufficient sleep for recovery. And if you’re really serious about fast-tracking your progress, you probably also take some supplements.
Unfortunately, there’s no single supplement or product that can cover all the nutritional bases necessary to push harder and longer during workouts, support muscle growth and recovery, and improve your overall energy and well-being.
That’s where supplement stacks come in. By strategically combining certain supplements such as protein, BCAAs, and antioxidants, you’re able to fill nutritional gaps and supply the body with the foundational building blocks for fueling your workouts and building lean muscle, so you can achieve your fitness and health goals faster.
Just what supplements should be included in your stack? Read on to learn how the pros build supplement stacks and which ingredients to combine to best support your goals.
Editor’s note: The content on BarBend is meant to be informative in nature, but it shouldn’t take the place of advice and/or supervision from a medical professional. The opinions and articles on this site are not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. Speak with your physician if you have any concerns.
What is a Supplement Stack?
A supplement stack is a group of complementary supplements or single ingredients that work synergistically to support your health and fitness goals. These “stacks” may include several products that are purchased as a group and taken throughout the day. Or some supplement manufacturers build “stacks” within a single product — combining multiple performance-enhancing ingredients into one supplement or powder.
Either way, a well-constructed supplement stack should include ingredients that enhance the effects of the other ingredients in the stack. For instance, supplement A may increase the absorption or bioavailability of supplement B. Or maybe two supplements fuel different aspects of fitness, such as supporting both aerobic and anaerobic power during workouts. (1)
Supplements to Consider in a Stack
With so many supplements available to gym-goers these days, it can be overwhelming to figure out the best mix of products to include in your stack. But try not to overthink it. At its most basic, your stack should include supplements to support three main aspects of building muscle:
- Supplying extra energy and power for training (i.e. a pre-workout formula and creatine)
- Providing building blocks for muscle growth (i.e. protein powder)
- Filling nutrient gaps and supporting recovery (i.e. a multivitamin)
From there, you can add additional supplements to support specific goals, such as fish oil to manage inflammation and speed recovery, thermogenic fat-burners to aid weight loss, or testosterone boosters for energy and health support.
Here, we break down the best products to start with when building your supplement stack.
Every seasoned gym-goer knows that protein is an essential macronutrient for building muscle. That’s why so many elite bodybuilders and powerlifters include protein powder in their supplement stacks — and whey protein is one of the highest-quality and most effective protein powders you can choose for fueling up before and/or after workouts.
Research shows that whey protein has an ideal ratio of branch-chain amino acids (BCAAs) and rapidly digestibility for stimulating muscle protein synthesis (MPS) — aka how the body repairs and rebuilds muscle tissue after a workout. In fact, some studies suggest whey protein can spur MPS to a greater degree than other protein sources such as casein or soy. (2)(3)
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Whey protein provides a superior muscle-building amino acid profile, but dairy-derived powder can pose challenges for those with lactose sensitivity or those avoiding cow’s milk. Enter Myprotein’s Whey Forward.
Myprotein created an animal-free protein that mimics the effects of a traditional whey protein powder.
Made using a unique fermentation technique, this innovative product packs the same nutritional punch as traditional whey protein powders (including 20 grams of high-quality protein and 5.3 grams of EEAs) without lactose or any hormone or cow’s milk. Whey Forward comes in three flavors: Rich Salted Caramel, Creamy Mint Chocolate Chips, Decadent Chocolate Brownie.
A good pre-workout can help you take your workouts to the next level by helping you push through fatigue, tap into more explosive power, lift more, and go longer — factors that are shown to yield big mass and strength gains.
Designed to be taken just before a workout, pre-workout formulas provide a varied mix of stimulants (like caffeine) and amino acids (like beta-alanine and N-acetyl-l-tyrosine) meant to increase energy, sharpen mental focus, and improve muscular strength and endurance. Many pre-workouts also include plant compounds (like l-citrulline) that work to stimulate the production of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide works to dilate blood vessels, increasing the flow of energizing blood to muscles and supporting optimal “pump” during workouts.
A recent study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition concluded that pre-workout formulas that contain a blend of ingredients such as caffeine, creatine, beta-alanine, amino acids, and nitric oxide agents have a positive influence on both exercise performance and lean muscle mass gains. (4)
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THE Pre-Workout+ from Myprotein features a powerful blend of energizing ingredients, including Vaso6 to increase blood flow, beta-alanine, and l-citrulline to improve muscle strength and performance, and N-acetyl-l-tyrosine to sharpen mental focus and reduce fatigue.
This complete pre-workout delivers a sustained dose of energy, along with pumps and increased strength.
What’s more, The Pre-Workout+ provides caffeine in innovative slow-release beadlets to deliver sustained energy and focus throughout your workout.
Creatine is one of the most popular and widely studied supplements for athletes, and for good reason: This naturally-occurring amino acid is mainly stored within skeletal muscle tissue where it works to recycle the main source of cellular fuel, adenosine triphosphate (ATP). This effect can help delay the onset of muscle fatigue, helping you push through high-intensity activities such as weight lifting or sprints longer and harder. Over time, this can lead to significant increases in strength, endurance, and overall power. (5)
Research shows that supplementing with creatine is associated with increases in maximal strength, maximal work output, power production, sprint performance, and fat-free mass gains. Creatine may also help reduce muscle damage and speed recovery time between intense workouts. (6)
One study suggests creatine is especially effective at increasing strength gains and muscle mass when used in tandem with whey protein. (7)
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For a super quick and easy way to get a dose of creatine, try adding a scoop of Myprotein’s Creatine Monohydrate Powder to your pre- and/or post- workout shake.
Creatine is one of the most science-backed supplements on the market, and Myproteins Monohydrate delivers a pure version of this popular product.
This unflavored, quick-dissolve powder blends in seamlessly with your favorite pre-workout or whey protein shake and will give you the endurance to take your sweat session to new heights.
Taking a multivitamin might not seem like it has much to do with your fitness goals, but research shows that people who are lacking in certain nutrients — especially B-vitamins and essential minerals — perform worse during intensive physical activity and may have a reduced ability to repair and rebuild muscle.
B-vitamins and certain minerals, including riboflavin, vitamin B-6, and magnesium, play a critical role in glucose metabolism and a myriad of other enzymatic reactions that fuel muscle repair. Without sufficient levels of these nutrients, muscles can’t access the energy needed to fuel workouts or recover. (8)
Vitamin D has also been shown to help support muscle function and boost the production of testosterone — a hormone involved in muscle building and repair. (9)(10)
For even more of a helping hand, look for a multivitamin that includes antioxidants such as resveratrol. These plant compounds can help dial down inflammation to reduce muscle soreness and help speed recovery.
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To stay ahead of the curve on nutrition, consider a high-quality multivitamin like Alpha Men. This carefully formulated multivitamin includes 250% of the RDA of vitamin D, a complete B-vitamin complex, and blood-sugar balancing minerals including magnesium, manganese, and chromium.
Myprotein's vitamin formula contains vitamin D, a full vitamin B-complex, and numerous minerals to help fill nutritional gaps you may have.
It also includes an amino acid blend to support muscle repair and growth and an antioxidant-rich superfood blend that can help combat inflammation and support recovery.
Benefits of a Supplement Stack
Building your own supplement stack is a smart way to optimize your results at the gym with a multilayered approach. The best part? You can customize your supplement stack to meet your needs and goals.
Whether you are looking for increased energy and power during workouts, speedier recovery with less muscle soreness, superior gains, or fat loss, there’s a supplement stack that can help you push through to the finish line.
The Bottom Line
It’s always a good idea to check with your healthcare provider before starting a new supplement regimen. But if your physician gives you the green light, a supplement stack may be just the ticket to feeling stronger, more energized, and more confident at the gym.
Build the right supplement stack, and you’ll be seeing bigger muscle gains and huge leaps forward in your strength and endurance in no time.
- Leena MM , Silvia MG , Vinitha K , Moses JA , Anandharamakrishnan C . Synergistic potential of nutraceuticals: mechanisms and prospects for futuristic medicine. Food Funct. 2020 Nov 18;11(11):9317-9337. doi: 10.1039/d0fo02041a.
- Jäger R, Kerksick CM, Campbell BI, Cribb PJ, Wells SD, Skwiat TM, Purpura M, Ziegenfuss TN, Ferrando AA, Arent SM, Smith-Ryan AE, Stout JR, Arciero PJ, Ormsbee MJ, Taylor LW, Wilborn CD, Kalman DS, Kreider RB, Willoughby DS, Hoffman JR, Krzykowski JL, Antonio J. International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: protein and exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2017 Jun 20;14:20. doi: 10.1186/s12970-017-0177-8.
- Devries MC, Phillips SM. Supplemental protein in support of muscle mass and health: advantage whey. J Food Sci. 2015 Mar;80 Suppl 1:A8-A15. doi: 10.1111/1750-3841.12802.
- Harty PS, Zabriskie HA, Erickson JL, Molling PE, Kerksick CM, Jagim AR. Multi-ingredient pre-workout supplements, safety implications, and performance outcomes: a brief review. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2018 Aug 8;15(1):41. doi: 10.1186/s12970-018-0247-6.
- Kreider RB, Kalman DS, Antonio J, Ziegenfuss TN, Wildman R, Collins R, Candow DG, Kleiner SM, Almada AL, Lopez HL. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2017 Jun 13;14:18. doi: 10.1186/s12970-017-0173-z.
- Wax B, Kerksick CM, Jagim AR, Mayo JJ, Lyons BC, Kreider RB. Creatine for Exercise and Sports Performance, with Recovery Considerations for Healthy Populations. Nutrients. 2021 Jun 2;13(6):1915. doi: 10.3390/nu13061915.
- Cribb PJ, Williams AD, Stathis CG, Carey MF, Hayes A. Effects of whey isolate, creatine, and resistance training on muscle hypertrophy. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2007 Feb;39(2):298-307. doi: 10.1249/01.mss.0000247002.32589.ef.
- Woolf K, Manore MM. B-vitamins and exercise: does exercise alter requirements? Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2006 Oct;16(5):453-84. doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.16.5.453. PMID: 17240780.
- Knechtle B, Nikolaidis PT. Vitamin D and Sport Performance. Nutrients. 2020 Mar 21;12(3):841. doi: 10.3390/nu12030841. PMID: 32245151; PMCID: PMC7146184.
- Dahlquist DT, Dieter BP, Koehle MS. Plausible ergogenic effects of vitamin D on athletic performance and recovery. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015 Aug 19;12:33. doi: 10.1186/s12970-015-0093-8. PMID: 26288575; PMCID: PMC4539891.