Supplements for Muscle Gain: Which Ones to Take and How to Combine Them

November 18, 2022

Supplements for gaining muscle are frequently used in the daily life of bodybuilders or weightlifters. However, the question arises as to whether everyone who wants to gain some muscle mass and tone up should take supplements to increase their muscle mass.

What exactly are these supplements, what does science say about them, which ones should you take, and how should you combine them? If you're thinking of turning to sports supplementation to gain muscle, here's a guide to the essentials.

What are supplements for gaining muscle?

The US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) explains that supplements are products that include vitamins, minerals, amino acids, herbs, and enzymes. They come in different formats, such as tablets or pills, capsules, pearls and gel capsules, powders, or liquids.

Supplements for muscle gain are loaded with compounds to promote precisely this objective: muscle mass gain. They can provide the muscle with the necessary macronutrients, such as protein, or give the organism extra contributions to improve sports performance and accelerate athletic results.

But, as the FDA reminds us, there are risks associated with their use if they are improperly combined, if they contain drugs or if the amounts of certain vitamins and minerals are exceeded.

Are supplements necessary to increase muscle mass?

The answer is: yes and no. Some studies support the efficacy of some of the most frequent compounds in sports supplementation to gain muscle mass. This is the case with protease, for example. A study collected by the US National Library of Medicine supports that supplements with this substance reduce muscle inflammation, thus favoring a faster recovery that will be useful in sports performance.

Another example is creatine. According to research published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, ingesting this compound for eight consecutive weeks improves strength and endurance by at least 8%.

Arginine, on the other hand, was the subject of this study from the University of North Carolina. It showed that it improves blood flow, among other benefits.

Thus, it is true that supplements do not develop muscle mass per se. But they do offer benefits such as cutting recovery times and providing optimal results.

Can I build muscle mass without supplements?

We have just seen that certain compounds commonly found in supplements are effective in achieving athletic goals. But we still need to see why are muscle gain supplements not necessary at all times. 

In many cases, the enumeration of effects is part of a marketing campaign. This is the case with glutamine, as this study from the Isalud University of Buenos Aires explains.

The text concludes that no relevant scientific data or studies are available to confirm the benefits of glutamine supplementation. Although it is a nutritional compound suitable and safe for human consumption, the lack of reliable information points to a marketing campaign.

And what happens with the well-known and ultra-sold protein shakes? There is also a lot of salesmanship behind them. To prove it, we can refer to a BBC experiment. It was conducted with the help of Dr. S. Gray of the University of Glasgow.

The experiment focused on whey protein, which was initially a waste product of the cheese industry. They recruited 24 volunteers ranging in age from 20 to 67 years: half were given a placebo and the other half a whey protein-based shake.

After eight weeks of the same training, it was concluded that all participants gained strength. Therefore, the protein shakes did not affect strength or muscle growth.

Remember that the average protein intake recommended for the general population is 0.8 grams per kilogram of weight. If you ensure that contribution to your diet, you do not need more. Protein excess forces the kidneys to work harder to filter and can be harmful. 

In other words, you can build muscle mass without taking supplements, so you don't need to buy protein to increase muscle mass if you ensure the optimal intake level with your diet.

If your budget is limited, do not spend your money on these types of products, which, moreover, can be costly. Nevertheless, some muscle gain supplements are effective, so you can consider adding them to your weightlifting regime. 

What supplements to take to increase muscle mass

Considering what we said so far, you do not need supplements if you do not have any special needs. Elite athletes (dedicated to disciplines such as weightlifting) have a greater demand. Supplements for muscle gain are also excellent for people who have muscle deficits for some reason. 

Here are the best supplements for muscle gain, suitable for both men and women. 

Essential supplements

We have already mentioned protease, creatine, and arginine, which have studies supporting their effectiveness. We add some more compounds, also common among supplements that claim to help gain muscle mass.


HMB stands for β-hydroxy-β-methyl butyrate (or beta-hydroxy-betamethylbutyrate). It is a compound credited with muscle cell preserving properties, which promotes muscle growth and recovery after exercise.

As for scientific endorsement, a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology assures that it helped to significantly improve the performance of athletes who followed a treatment with it.


Betaine is a compound produced by the body that provides hydrochloric acid. This acid is key to vitamin B12, iron, and calcium absorption. 

report published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition endorses its usefulness in increasing strength in exercises such as squats and bench presses. It also improves body composition and increases arm size.


These acronyms designate the branched-chain amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. They are essential amino acids that help maintain muscle tissue and prevent protein breakdown.

It is sold as a supplement that improves sports performance in aerobic and anaerobic activities and reduces muscle soreness after training. However, more information is needed to prove its actual efficacy.


Caffeine is an alkaloid extracted from coffee plant seeds and leaves, as well as tea and other plants. It stimulates the central nervous system, making us feel more energetic and awake.

It is not that it makes the body gain muscle mass, but it reduces the perception of fatigue and allows us to maintain intense activity for longer, and helps improve athletic performance.

How to combine them?

Three components always work when it comes to losing fat and gaining or maintaining muscle: strength exercises, diet, and sleep. If you cover these three, you won't need to take any supplements.

You've already seen there's plenty to choose from, but if you're a beginner, we recommend the following three supplements for muscle gain:

  • Protein shake. You can consume a whey protein shake half an hour after training.

  • Creatine. Take it for three months, and then stop for a month so it does not lose effectiveness. You can consume it with the protein shake (post-workout) or 30 minutes to an hour before training.

  • Beta-alanine. It can be consumed throughout the day or between half an hour and an hour before training.

For people with difficult progress, we recommend combining creatine with whey protein, glutamine, and a multivitamin and mineral complex. This is what works for most people, but we already said that more scientific research is needed in some cases.

Natural muscle supplements

Protein supplements to increase muscle mass can be prepared at home, using top-quality raw ingredients that will ensure the optimal daily protein intake. Let's take a look at some options:

Shake to increase muscle mass. If you want to increase the number of calories, a shake like this will help you. Add ice, almond milk, peanut butter, honey, oatmeal, and a banana in a blender, and that's it. 

Smoothie to maintain muscle mass. If you have already reached your weight goal and just want to maintain it, you can opt for a smoothie with coconut milk, Greek yogurt, sweet pineapple, orange, and turmeric.

Final Word

In summary, supplements for gaining muscle are not as important as a good diet, an appropriate routine of strength exercises, and optimal rest. Some supplements are proven effective and can help, yes, but you'll end up getting the same results if you're consistent with your training and well-balanced diet.