Last Updated: Feb 3, 2018
The world of health and muscle-building/fat-loss supplements can be very confusing and if you don't know the science behind it all you can easily get marketed into buying some crappy product that you don't even need.
Everywhere you look in the bodybuilding industry you will see endless ads of "revolutionary magic pill" supplements that will transform you in a week or make building muscle a breeze.
This industry is such a massive multi-billion dollar arena and clever marketing is sucking in SO many people who wouldn't know what's best for themselves.
You need to be a little smart about it, and a little research and learning upfront can save you much time and effort in the long-run.
No, the honest truth is that MOST supplements are not worth your time and money, but there definitely ARE some great types of supplements that have been proven to help you reach your muscle-building goals faster and that will also make sticking to a nutrition plan much more convenient.
Before I reveal to you the very best types of supplements that are worth including in your daily routine, I firstly want to get something straight: Whether your goal is to gain weight and build muscle fast, or to get ripped, remember that NO supplement in the world will get you there by itself.
Supplements are to be used, just as the name implies, as a supplement to a great training program and effective nutrition plan. Nothing can replace the basics, so only add in supplements once you've mastered the basics and have a solid routine in place.
Ok, let's take a look at the most effective, proven types of muscle building supplements out there that have stood the test of time and are worth investing in:
Eating enough protein every day to build muscle can be difficult for some people if you purely stick to whole foods. Remember you should be aiming to consume a minimum of 0.8 to 1.5 grams of protein for every pound you weigh. That's where protein supplements can come in SUPER handy.
Specific supplements like whey protein, meal replacement supplements that contain a decent serving of protein, and other protein-based supplements like protein bars or balls can all be used as a very conveninent substitute once or multiple times per day to ensure you meet your daily protein consumption to enable muscle gain.
See Also: Ultimate Creatine Beginner's Guide
Creatine is a substance produced by the body to supply our muscles with energy. It can be found in fish and red meat, but in small quantities. You would need to eat a lot of these foods to produce significant creatine to gain more muscle, so that's why using creatine supplements is very popular amongst bodybuilders and athletes. Using creatine supplements will increase muscular endurance and therefore increase your muscle gains. It has been proven time and time again to be a safe and highly effective muscle building supplement.
See Also: Multivitamin Guide for Weight Trainers
For us weight lifters who train intensively trying to gain muscle, you may not be getting enough vitamins and minerals that you need each day since you will be placing a lot more stress on your body. Taking a high-quality, potent multivitamin everyday is like a backup plan in case you don't get enough of each vitamin and mineral throughout each and every day.
See Also: Glutamine Supplement Guide
Glutamine is an amino acid used in the body to prevent muscle breakdown. After heavy weight training, the body will lose glutamine and will break down muscle tissue in order to raise those glutamine levels back up. So by supplementing your muscle gain diet with glutamine, you can effectively prevent muscle breakdown.
Essential fatty acids are known as the "good fats" and are very helpful in the muscle building process. They can improve matabolism and increase testosterone levels, as well as having positive effects on your overall health. Some great EFA supplements to take are flax seed oil and Udo's Choice Oil Blend. You can read more about EFA's here.
Including a high quality fish oil is also a great idea for overall health and well-being. There are many benefits to doing this such as helping with better skin, better brain-function, optimal health, etc. Not necessary for muscle building but highly recommended anyway because remember that it's not just about muscle...
Hopefully this article has helped, but always remember to never get stuck in research land - information is great, but what's infinitely more important and the only thing that actually matters to get results and change your life is to be hitting the gym week in week out, with a properly structured, well-balanced and optmized training and nutrition plan for your specific goals (which if you're reading this is likely building muscle mass as a hardgainer/skinny guy).
To do that there's essentially 3 paths you can take, each with their pros and cons:
Path A: Design Your Own Mass Gain Program (cheapest)
Learn all the crucial basics, principles and over-arching strategies you need to know about planning the best well-balanced, science-based, all-natural mass building program for your specific goal and workout/diet preferences with our pillar 7-step comprehensive guide for beginner lifters and future heros. If you don't want to spend any money at all, this is how you do it, but be sure to thoroughly research all aspects of your DIY muscle gain program as an unbalanced/bro-science/straight-up-bad program can mean little to no gains at best, and bad posture, injuries and a whole lot of having to backtrack later at worst.
Path B: Follow A Proven Mass Gain Program ($)
To save time having to research and plan the best muscle building program for your specific goals as a hardgainer/skinny-guy/skinny-fat-dad-bod/whatever, there are indeed some excellent pre-made online programs out there that have stood the test of time in getting guys great results. It can give you a great head-on your transformation journey, and will make things simpler for you as it's simply a matter of executing a specific eating and workout program and not having to worry about getting all the little important details of your program on-point.
Sean Nal's hardgainer transformation program (you can see my full review and before/after pics using the program here) is the complete all-in-one online program I'd recommend to most people and especially beginners, and is the one I personally got the most out of when I first started.
Ignore any slick marketing, this guy's the real deal and easily one of the smartest hardgainers-turned-fitness-models I've come across online. Vince Delmonte's Mass Gain program comes in at a close second, who's another smart guy with the real-world results to back it up, who has another effective and proven step by step online program that's helped thousands of guys transform over a few months (rather than years).
Path C: Find a (Good) In-Person Trainer ($$$)
The most expensive option to achieve your dream physique, but if you have the money to spend (1 on 1 coaching can quickly add up in costs) then ensure you pick a trainer who understands the science behind muscle gain, fat burning, supplementation, nutrition, etc, and most importantly choose one who practices what they preach and has similar results to what you want. If you're a hardgainer, ideally you'll want a trainer who has been in your shoes before and started out as a skinny hardgainer themselves and managed to build muscle successfully, otherwise they may not understand the best course of action for you and give you unhelpful generic advice.
Whichever path you choose - stick with it for long enough, don't give up, and your success in transforming your body, strength, health, posture, and confidence will simply be a matter of when, not if. I'd say good luck, but you understand that last sentence I said you won't need it ;)
Mad-Scientist of Hardgainer-to-Hero Transformations for 12+ Years
Last and Definitely Least: Certified Fitness Instructor (real-world experience > school)