It should come as no surprise that if you want to pack on muscle, you’ve got to lift heavy things, and do it often. But there’s more to the muscle-building equation than what happens in the gym. In addition to the right training, you also need to zero in on proper nutrition and a supplement routine that supports your body’s ability to grow. After all, you can deadlift until the cows come home, but if you don’t give your body the building blocks it needs to turn that stimulus into muscle, you’ll have trouble packing on size.
In addition to piling high-protein foods onto your plate, taking the following sports supplements will help keep your muscles well-fueled, support solid workouts, and increase your calorie intake.
1. Whey Isolate
Muscle mass is literally made of protein, so you’ll need to consume plenty of it in order to grow a body of steel. The Vitamin Shoppe dietitian Brittany Michels, L.D.N., R.D.N., C.P.T., is a fan of whey isolate proteins, which “support easier digestion, enhanced amino acid absorption, increased muscle protein synthesis, and more efficient recovery.”
Whether you’re mixing up a shake on the go, adding protein to your morning coffee (what, you haven’t tried that yet?), or refueling after a training session, you’ve got plenty of delicious and high-quality options to choose from. Two versatile classics: BodyTech Whey Protein Isolate, which comes in a dozen obsession-worthy flavors (think Apple Cinnamon Cereal and Cookies & Cream) and True Athlete Natural Whey Isolate Protein, which is NSF Certified for Sport and uses only natural flavors and sweeteners.
If you really want to level up your protein game, a hydrolyzed whey isolate protein powder contains protein that’s already been broken down into smaller amino acid chains, which makes it even easier for your body to put to work in building up your muscle mass. BodyTech Elite’s Hydrolyzed Whey Protein Isolate contains 30 grams of fast-digesting protein.
Creatine is one of the most well-researched sports supplements on the face of the planet—and it’s a must-have for anyone working out to build as much muscle as possible. “Creatine is a compound made from three amino acids (methionine, glycine, and arginine) that aids in increasing muscle performance by promoting a faster regeneration of ATP, a.k.a. energy, within our cells and muscles between bouts of lifting,” explains Michels. “It’s one of the most popular sports nutrition supplements for supporting muscle growth and gains.” Basically, the more energy your muscles have available, the more work they can churn out and the bigger and stronger they can become.
Since creatine can cause digestive upset in some people, Michels recommends trying Kre-Alkalyn (check out True Athlete Kre-Alkalyn Powder), a buffered form of creatine that tends to be easier on your system. You can also opt for creatine hydrochloride, which has improved solubility compared to standard creatine monohydrate, making it easier on the GI tract. Give BodyTech Creatine HCl a shot if you want to go that route.
3. A Meal Replacement Shake
Since ample calories is so crucial for packing on the size (after all, your muscles need plenty of available fuel in order to grow), meal replacement shakes can be really helpful for anyone struggling to get enough food on their plate to really bulk up. Whether you need something to hold you over until you can get into the kitchen or want to ramp up your overall calorie intake in a quick and easy way, these supplements get the job done.
Look for a meal replacement that’s lower in sugar and has a balanced ratio of protein, carbohydrates, fat, and fiber. One popular option: BodyTech Elite Elite Food MRP, which provides eight grams of carbs, a gram of sugar and fiber, two grams of fat, and 24 grams of protein in every serving. Instead of the usual whey, it’s made with a blend of different proteins from whole foods like salmon, chicken, and peas.
In addition to filling your shaker cup with these supplements before hitting the gym, after training, or whenever you need to refuel on the run, make sure the rest of your routine is also supporting major gains by spending your time wisely on active recovery days, avoiding common mishaps that sabotage muscle-building (like doing the same workouts over and over again), and talking with a nutritionist to make sure your usual meal prep eats are meeting the mark.