Bodybuilding Supplements Reviews
Use bodybuilding supplements will definitely improve our performance in bodybuilding, we will become stronger and bigger absolutely. In shorts, we’ll recommend four supplements to you – Creatine, protein powder, pre-workout supplements, and mass gainer. We will introduce how to use these supplements respectively.
If I could and could only choose one supplement, I would choose creatine.
Currently, the price of creatine is about $30 per 500g on the market, and if we eat 5g of creatine a day, we only need $0.30 per day, and we only need $9 per month, which is very high cost performance. Now, the supplement market is full of fake marketing. Many products don’t work as excellent as they claim, and most products are overpriced, but creatine is cheap and very effective.
OK, so with that said, let’s see actually what creatine is.
Creatine is a nitrogenous organic acid, found in vertebrates that provides energy to muscles and nerve cells. Creatine was first discovered in skeletal muscle in 1832 by Michel Eugene Chevreul, then named Creatine after the Greek “Kreas”. Read this article to learn more about creatine – Effect of Creatine and Weight Training on Muscle Creatine and Performance in Vegetarians.
Usually, creatine can be found in food. The Greek word “Kreas” in the preceding paragraph refers to beef, and creatine is also found in small amounts in fish.
5g of creatine powder contains the same amount of creatine as 1 kg of raw beef, (and does not take into account the loss of creatine during cooking). That said, you can choose to eat either of the two, but the thought of eating 1 kg of raw beef a day, (think about how big that is), and the hassle of cooking, will make most people choose the creatine powder, (of course beef is a great muscle-building ingredient, and we encourage you to eat more).
Creatine is a substance synthesized from three amino acids, arginine, glycine and methionine. It can be produced by the body itself or ingested from food.
Let’s see what creatine can do.
Our bodies have three functional systems that produce ATP, (seem so familiar, Yes, in middle school chemistry!). ATP is one of the main sources of energy in the body. Anaerobic exercise (such as pump iron) will produce a large amount of ATP. When our body is lifting weights, the phosphagen system of the body will rapidly produce ATP through the phosphagen in the muscles. For example, when we do the squat or bench press on a set of large weight, our bodies need very quick energy source to complete this actions, at this point, our bodies rely primarily on ATP, which comes from phosphagen in our muscles, for this rapid energy. So every day we take creatine is necessary.
But how much of an improvement does creatine give to our exercise performance?
Generally speaking, if I take creatine on a regular basis, then when I have enough creatine in my body, the creatine can regenerate ATP so quickly, that we can do it 1 or 2 more reps in each set when we’re training. Never underestimate this, pay attention this is for each set! If we do bench press 8 x10 reps with 80 kg barbell, then I can get to 10 x10 reps with creatine, which is equivalent to 125% of the former’s training volume!
In other words, I could probably do a quarter more training with creatine in one workout, which would be a really, really amazing accumulation if I scaled it up to a year or even more! Maybe you will make more progress than others, just because you eat more creatine than others!
It is worth mentioning that there are many kinds of creatine in the market, such as creatine monohydrate, creatine hydrochloride, slow-release creatine, etc. However, studies have found that there is no great difference in the function of different kinds of creatine. The scientific studies that have been done so far have consistently shown that, the idea that different forms of creatine are more effective is a gimmick, and I personally recommend buying normal creatine monohydrate, I think that’s good enough.
Now that we know that creatine is necessary for us, let’s look at how creatine should be administered.
The purpose of using creatine is to achieve a certain concentration of creatine in the body, which will have an effect on fitness, and there are fast and slow ways to get there.
# 1 (fast): This method uses the “sprint period” principle: for the first week, take 20-25g of creatine per day, allowing the body to quickly reach saturation levels. After the first week, take 5g a day.
# 2 (slow): this one is easier. You don’t need a “sprint period”, just take 5g of creatine per day from day 1, and your creatine levels will be saturated after a month.
The difference between the two approaches is, # 1 takes a week to do and # 2 takes a month to do. Personally, if I were a beginner, or if I hadn’t trained or used creatine for a long time, I’d pick # 1. You can make a choice based on your actual situation.
Let’s talk about when to take creatine. When exactly should you take creatine? Is it before or after training? That’s an interesting question.
There are papers (though the experiments has not been repeated) that show that, people who take creatine after training have better levels of pure muscle and strength, than those who take creatine before training. However, the gap here is so small that it is almost negligible!
Personally, I think creatine works if it stays saturated in the body, so it can be taken at any time of day. If possible, I recommend that try to set a regular time each day for creatine. Moreover, studies have suggested that if creatine is consumed with caffeine, it may affect the effect of creatine (which is not proven). Creatine can be taken with fruit juice, protein powder, etc., or drunk separately (water temperature should not exceed 40℃). Some papers have also suggested that creatine, taken with protein and carbohydrates, may be more effective (unproven too). So maybe creatine is better served with protein powder, juice, etc.
Finally, let’s look at the possible side effects of creatine. The most common side effect is that creatine can cause weight gain of 1-2%. That is to say, if you are a girl weighing 50 kg, you will weigh 50.5-51 kg after taking creatine continuously. If you are an 80 kg man, you will weigh 80.8-81.6 kg. But don’t worry, that extra weight is just water stored in the muscle to increase muscle strength, and when you stop using creatine, you automatically regain your original weight.
Another possible side effect is that if you have a genetic hair loss gene in your family, creatine may make your hair loss worse, but only if you already have the gene of hair loss! Creatine doesn’t cause hair loss if you don’t have a genetic basis for it.
So creatine is a must drink, guys! Drink it now!
2. Protein powder
Protein powder is the most commonly used supplement, and the most rumours and pseudoscience derived from it. After reading this chapter, I believe you will have a clearer understanding of whether you need protein powder, how to choose protein powder, how to use protein powder, whether there are side effects and other issues. It should be noted that the audience of this article, is mainly fitness and strength training enthusiasts, so plant protein powder is not discussed here. At the same time, this chapter will directly give the author’s recommended protein intake diet plan at the end.
There are two main kinds of protein powders we will discuss, whey protein (the most common and most used protein powder), and casein (slow-release protein).
First, let’s look at what whey protein is.
Whey protein is the best source of protein, more precisely it is from cows in nature. Each day, fresh milk from the ranches is delivered to the local cheese factory, where it is separated into curds and whey. Parts of the curd are made into cheese, and the remaining liquid is whey, (the main source of whey protein). Whey will be immediately sent to protein powder production plant, after first pasteurized, filtered and refining, filtering and refining process of whey proteins and other components in the material will be separated, (fat, and lactose), so that we can greatly raise the protein content of whey protein powder, while maintaining very beneficial micronutrients. It takes about 700 pounds (317.51 kg) of whey to produce the 5-pound drum of whey protein powder.
Casein, in short, comes from milk, but the biggest difference between it and whey protein, is that casein itself is a macromolecule protein, and it’s absorbed more slowly than whey protein. Another name for casein is slow-release protein. As the name suggests, it’s released and absorbed more slowly in the body, so casein is more suitable for drinking before going to bed, allowing us to absorb protein slowly throughout the sleep process, which is more conducive to blood sugar balance and protein balance at night. But people with bad intestines and stomach should be careful, since casein produces a strong sense of fullness, it may interfere with sleep quality.
Let’s see why we should drink protein powder. Before we get to that, let’s take a quick look at what proteins actually do.
Most of the weight lifting we do in the gym causes structural damage to actin filaments in the body. During the repair process after muscle injury, specific hormones and numerous nutritional proteins are synthesized into new Myosatellite cells, which are used to repair damaged muscle fibres. In other words, the role of proteins is to help repair tissue damaged by exercise. The basic function of protein is to build or repair cells, including muscle cells damaged when exercise leads to instant fatigue. Here we introduce a concept called “overdose recovery”. Every time our muscle cells are destroyed, adequate nutrition (including protein) and rest will make our muscles and strength bigger, which is one of the basic principles of muscle building. Consequently, if you want to gain muscle mass with less effort, getting enough protein from your diet is essential.
So let’s see how much protein do we need every day?
This has always been a controversial topic. According to data from the world health organization and other authorities, an adult needs to consume about 0.8-1g of protein per kilogram of body weight. That is, if you are a 50 kg girl, you need about 40-50g of protein per day. If you’re an 80 kg man, you need 65-80g of protein per day.
But this is for people who don’t do fitness and strength training. If you do fitness and strength training, based on my own access to a variety of literature and years of personal experience, my figure is 2-2.5g of protein per kilogram of body weight. This means that if you are a 50 kg weightlifter, you need about 100-120g of protein per day. If you are an 80 kg weightlifter, you need about 160-200g of protein per day. The upper or lower limit depends on your training capacity.
How much an 80 kg man needs to eat in a day, if he doesn’t drink protein powder and only gets protein from food?
Here are the protein contents of various foods. One egg is about 7g of protein, and one egg is about 4g of protein. If you only eat eggs, you should eat about 23 eggs a day, and if you only eat egg whites without yolks, you probably need… Eat 40 egg whites a day.
Imagine eating 23 eggs a day.
OK, then how about we skip the eggs and have the chicken breast instead? There are about 20g of protein per 100g of chicken breast.
If we get 160g of protein from the chicken breast alone, we need to eat… 800g, or 1.76 pounds (0.8 kg) of chicken breast!
Similarly, the protein content of beef and fish is about the same as that of chicken breast, which contains about 20g of protein per 100g.
Well, someone would say: Of course I can eat it! I can eat over 20 eggs a day, or over a pound and more than a pound of chicken or beef, and I just don’t want to drink protein powder. Is that OK?
If you can really eat it, of course it’s OK. However, in this case, the food may exceed the calorie limit. The calorie content of 23 eggs is about 1,100 kcal, 1.5 pounds (0.68 kg) of meat is about 800-1,100 kcal.
Of course, there is a very important factor, the same protein content of meat, eggs and milk price is much higher than protein powder, so protein powder is more economical. It also reduces the risk of obesity.
It is worth mentioning that food not only contains protein, but also many beneficial fatty acids, carbohydrates, trace elements and other essential nutrients for the human body. And it is also very undesirable to drink protein powder without meat, eggs and milk. So it’s better to use protein powder to make up the amount of protein you need each day, while eating enough meat, eggs, and milk in your diet.
When should we drink protein powder? My answer is, whenever is convenient. Protein powder is very easy to be absorbed by the body, in my opinion, there is no big difference between morning, noon and evening drinking. It’s important to note that drinking before and during training can cause bloating, and drinking before bed can affect sleep quality.
Another theory is that drinking protein after training is better for building muscle. Personally, I don’t think there is enough theoretical support for this claim to be credible.
Well, let’s take a look at the common pseudoscience and rumours about protein powders.
- Protein powder injury to the kidney. This is one of the most usual pseudoscience. If the person who uses protein powder has no physical problems, then to achieve the degree of kidney injury, he need to take more than dozens of times the recommended dosage of protein powder, every day. If you have kidney problems, use as directed by doctor.
- The supplement causes osteoporosis. This is also nonsense, you can check this article for details – Protein Does Not Cause Osteoporosis.
- Protein powder makes you bald. Well, using protein powder won’t do it, but creatine may. See preceding paragraphs for details.
- This product (and other supplements) contain hormones, steroids, and banned drugs. Well, there are several misconceptions.
1): All hormone drugs are basically oral ineffective, they are injected directly, not taken orally.
2): Hormones, steroids, and banned drugs are so expensive that supplement manufacturers wouldn’t add them at the risk of losing money.
3): Supplement manufacturers never dare to make fun of their reputations. The current inspection system is so strict, that once a supplement is detected with something wrong, a manufacturer is basically finished. So any supplement you can buy from the market is almost certainly safe.
Finally, give my recommended daily protein intake (80 kg man) :
- 4 eggs (30g protein). Although egg yolk contains cholesterol, it does not cause high cholesterol!
- Chicken/beef/pork/fish total 0.5 lb (50g protein)
- 1 bottle of milk or yogurt (10g protein)
- 3 tablespoons protein powder (80g protein)
3. Pre-workout supplements
Now let’s move to pre-workout. I know this supplement very well, and it is also one of the supplements I highly recommend. Pre-workout is in increasing demand all over the world at present, and users have a lot of good comments on it, even for non-fitness people. At the end of this chapter, I will recommend some pre-workout for you, or the specific solution of pre-workout replacement (what is this? See the end please).
Here I want to emphasize: pre-workout is not a stimulant, it is just a supplement. A lot of people think that pre-workout are stimulants, but they’re two different things apparently. The pre-workout has few side effects, but unlike other supplements, it can produce effects that other supplements can’t do. For example, protein powder and creatine will not feel excited after drinking, but pre-workout will have an immediate sense of excitement, which is also one of its main effects, the principle of its effect will be detailed below.
Before drinking pre-workout VS After drinking pre-workout
Function of pre-workout: improve concentration, enhance training intensity, enhance the sense of pump, delay fatigue.
To understand the pre-workout, we can start with its name. The pre-workout is called “the pre-workout supplements”, and this gives you a clear indication of the time it takes — before the workout. But how long before the workout? Well, in general, pre-workouts are recommended to drink about 30 to 40 minutes before training. But according to the experience of mine, If you drink it on an empty stomach, the feeling of excitement will be faster, so you just need to take 10 to 20 minutes ahead of schedule. The general warm-up time is 10 to 20 minutes, so the next time you come to the gym, you can drink it when you are ready to warm up, and the pre-workout will be just right for you when you start your first workout.
In the first use of pre-workout, we will glance at its ingredients list.
How’s that, do you feel the same feeling as the first time I saw it? I’m really had no idea what the content is.
Don’t worry, let me explain exactly what they are, there are several specifics:
- β-alanine. The main effect of alanine is to improve the endurance of strength training and reduce fatigue. In other words, you used to be able to do 100 kg bench press for a set of 10 reps, after using alanine, you can do a set of 11 to 12 reps. However, alanine has two side effects: a slight numbness in the body’s skin and fingertips, and flushing in face. Of course this is a normal phenomenon, and these symptoms will disappear quickly,
- L-Citrulline DL-malate (1:1) and arginine. These 3 amino acid increase the amount of nitric oxide in our blood, which in turn improves the pumping sensation of muscle congestion. As we all know, Schwarzenegger is the most concerned about “the pump” sense of fitness god, but as modern research has become more and more thorough, people found that “the pump” is directly related to muscle building is still open to debate. But there is no doubt that in strength training, the pumping sensation is undoubtedly the source of pleasure. Looking at our bloodshot muscles, good figure can also motivate us.
- Creatine. Some brands of pre-workout contain creatine. If you are using creatine, you can take a look to avoid unnecessary waste caused by repeated use.
- Yohimbine. This is very interesting, it’s a famous health supplement stunt, it’s said to increase the sexual ability of men. (hmm…let me guess how many people have started searching…), so some supplement manufacturers add a little of this stuff to their products. (I guess a lot of people are looking for it…).
- Trimethylglycine. Its main efficiency is to contribute to heart health and increase the power output of the heart.
- Glutamine. There may be muscle-building and strength-building effects, but there is no conclusive evidence.
- Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). It may have an accelerated fat-burning effect, but there is also no conclusive evidence.
However, the yohimbine, trimethylglycine, glutamine and conjugated linoleic acid above are not the main ingredients in the pre-workout, and they’re all eye-catching gimmick, not essential ingredients.
The above 7 items, 1, 2 and 3 are the effective components of pre-workout, 4, 5, 6 and 7 are not necessary, and the effect is basically unproven.
So until now, we haven’t talked about the most effective ingredient in the pre-workout, which is…
Yes, that’s the main ingredient we drink in coffee every day!
As we all know, caffeine is one of the most widely used stimulants in the world. It can inhibit phosphodiesterase, which gives us a refreshing effect. Caffeine keeps you awake and alert, improves concentration, boosts energy output, speeds up fat breakdown, eliminates fatigue, and gives you a quick high. That’s the real secret of the pre-workouts. It’s pretty simple.
A teaspoon of pre-workout has about 200-400 mg of caffeine, which is the equivalent of a medium or venti americano. And a venti americano contains about 333 mg of caffeine, about the same as a teaspoon of pre-workout.
Without caffeine, the pre-workout would not be so special. Caffeine does have a significant mood-boosting effect at large doses, producing feelings like pleasure and energy, largely because it does raise dopamine levels. But if it’s a coke or a cup of coffee, the caffeine isn’t as effective as a pre-workout or a venti americano because the dose is too low.
It is important to note, however, that in general, the recommended total caffeine intake should be no more than 400 mg per day.
Some common problems with pre-workout.
- Tolerance. One theory is that long-term use of pre-workouts creates tolerance, meaning that over time, the excitement of drinking a pre-workout is not as strong as it was at first. I also have this feeling, too. My method is, on the training day with a small training capacity and intensity, not to use the pre-workout, and use it on the day with a large weight, and set some cooling period for yourself, the situation will be improved. I strongly recommend that do not overdose pre-workout to increase arousal.
- Pre-workout affects sleep. For those who are sensitive to caffeine, my solution is to gradually increase your dose from 1/4, 1/3, 1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon. If you drink coffee or tea can significantly affect your sleep, then you must be careful to use a pre-workout.
- Substitutes for pre-workout. There are two common alternatives. One is black coffee (americano); And there is a more stimulating alternative, which is caffeine pills! You can even take caffeine tablets directly before training! Simple, violent and direct, guys can have a try (though I haven’t tried it, mm…).
To sum up, pre-workout is a kind of common, safe and reliable supplement. It has an immediate effect. For coffee, its price is more economical. Finally, I’ll recommend the pre-workout use plan according to the custom.
- Heavyweight training day: venti americano. Or a flat spoon of pre-workout.
- Small weight training day: (one cup of coffee or half a teaspoon of pre-workout).
- Rest day: (tea).
4. mass gainer
Mass gainer also called “weight gainer”, “muscle gainer”, or “muscle booster”. For people who have trouble building muscle or gaining weight, the road is usually much harder. After a long period of exercise, they are ridiculed for not showing a noticeable change in their body shape. And they are considered “lucky” people who just need to gain weight. In fact, it’s much harder to gain muscle than lose weight. So in this chapter, I’d like to talk to you about a supplement that can help us achieve this goal — mass gainer. It is worth mentioning that, there seems to be a lot of people who understand mass gainer to mean that only very thin people would need, which is a one-sided understanding. At the end of this chapter, we will detail the people who are suitable for using mass gainer.
Before we get to mass gainer, let’s look at the basics of how we gain weight and muscle.
- Weight gain: Also called dirty bulk. If we consume more calories than we burn each day, the extra energy won’t just disappear. It will translate into weight indirectly. The weight is not just muscle, but also fat and muscle, with the largest percentage of fat. So if you’re just trying to gain weight, the key is to increase your caloric intake, not just strength training.
- Muscle gain: Also called clean bulk. To build muscle, do strength training if you consume more calories than you burn. When we enter the gym, we always say to ourselves, “I want to be muscular, bigger, and stronger!” That make sense to us. After we start strength training, the muscle cells in our body will judge their swelling and congestion as a threat. They will say to themselves, “grow (expand) or die!”. The principle of muscle building is actually very simple, to destroy muscle cells through the exercise, make muscle injury mildly (this is actually a good thing), and then getting enough nutrients, enough rest for muscle repair at the same time, in the process of repairing muscles will grow excessively, and established more muscle fibres, finally you’ll get your pay.
So to build muscle, you need three key components: adequate training, adequate nutrient intake, and adequate rest.
This is How you get Bigger
Sleep a lot
Let’s look at the nutrients needed to build muscle. We all know that protein is the most important nutrient for building muscle. But it should not be overlooked that in addition to protein, carbohydrates are also one of the important nutrients needed for muscle building. If you combine protein with proper carbohydrates, you could have amazing effects:
- When broken down, carbohydrates release more glucose and insulin into the blood. More glucose provides more energy for training, and more energy means more training, more muscle damage and more recovery; Meanwhile, more insulin allows muscle cells to take in more amino acids (the products of protein breakdown) to build muscle.
- Carbohydrates are high-calorie foods. As mentioned above, muscle building requires a calorie surplus, while carbohydrates provide more calories.
- After ingesting protein, the body absorbs it for use in muscle synthesis. In this process of muscle synthesis, the muscle itself will consume energy. In the process, if you also take in carbohydrates, it will supplement the energy consumed in this process, making the utilization of protein greatly improved.
If you want to achieve better effect, the method of only taking protein is not scientific. In case of eating only protein, you may not be able to complete the training because of insufficient calories. Lack of calories also causes the body to break down protein, making it less likely to build muscle. So the importance of carbohydrates goes without saying.
In my own experience, I’ll eat plenty of mass gainer each training day so that I can feel “energized” and “indefatigable” clearly as I train. On big weight training days I’ll eat more mass gainer to make my workouts better. So again, plenty of calories, exercise, and sleep are the three keys to building muscle.
How do you choose the ratio of protein to carbs in your bulking phase? There are two ways to do:
- Eat a balanced diet of protein and carbohydrates. For example, eat protein-rich meats, fish, eggs, milk and rye bread for lunch before training, followed by a similar meal for dinner after training.
- Choose a cup of mass gainer anytime, anywhere. Here’s an example of mass gainer of MuscleTech that I’m quite familiar with. Let’s have a detailed understanding of what is in the mass gainer.
High quality Mass Gainer (46g / a spoonful)
168 cal energies & 1.6g fat & 2.6g carbohydrates & 1.6g sugar
2.8g branched chain amino acid & 2.1g glutamine & 2g creatine monohydrate
Whey Protein Concentrate
Whey Protein Isolate
Whey Protein Peptides
A total of 12.6g proteins
We can see that a serving of mass gainer is 231g (5 tablespoons), and the two most important nutrients are carbohydrates (131g) and proteins (63g), which are the two most critical nutrients for muscle-building. In fact, the biggest difference between mass gainer and protein powder, is that the carbohydrate content of mass gainer is much higher than that of protein powder, so in terms of muscle enhancing effect, the effect of mass gainer is better than protein powder. If you need to build muscle and gain weight, I recommend using mass gainer. If you need to lose fat, I recommend protein powder.
In addition, in this serving of mass gainer, there is also 10g of creatine (improves workout performance, strength, endurance); glutamine (increased strength, accelerated recovery), leucine, isoleucine, and valine (promotes muscle repair, synthesis, and growth); fat, fibre (balanced nutrition). A mass gainer is a simple meal replacement. To give an easy example, a 5 spoon mass gainer (231g), contains roughly the same amount of protein and carbohydrates as a lunch containing two eggs, 250g of chicken breast and 400g of rice. The advantage of using mass gainer is that like protein powder, mass gainer is in powder form, which can be poured into a cup and drunk quickly. It is convenient, fast and easy to digest, and can quickly replenish energy and protein.
So when should we use muscle booster? It can be any time of day. You can drink mass gainer as a supplement between three meals, right after you wake up (to quickly replenish the energy and protein consumed throughout the night), or before bed (to replenish energy and protein during sleep). It’s also a great idea to drink before and after a workout. Some theories suggest that adding protein and carbs right after a workout will help build muscle.
Finally, list the people suitable for using mass gainer:
1. Very thin people (fitness enthusiasts, weight gainers)
2. Very thin people (non-fitness enthusiasts, weight gainers)
3. Fitness enthusiasts in the bulking phase.
4. People who are too busy to eat properly.
5. Fitness enthusiasts with larger training capacity and greater consumption.