Updated: Nov 22, 2020
So, you've started bodybuilding, and you want to know what the best supplements to take are?
Well, in this article, we discuss what we think the top three supplements for bodybuilding are.
In our experience, we think the best supplements for bodybuilding include:
Read on below if you want a breakdown of each supplement, it's benefits, it's side-effects and why we think you should consider it.
Our Number One Best Bodybuilding Supplement: Creatine
Creatine is a widely researched supplement; it is a molecule that is produced within the body, specifically within the liver, kidneys, and pancreas from amino acids.
What Does Creatine Do?
The role of creatine supplementation is to store high-energy phosphate groups in the form of a molecule called phosphocreatine.
It is then donated to ADP (Adenosine Diphosphate), regenerating it to ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate), which is the primary energy source in the body.
This role in energy production is required during situations of high energy demand, such as intense physical activity.
What Are Creatine's Benefits?
There appears to be an improvement in strength and power during resistance exercise.
Creatine may modestly increase lean mass.
A small improvement in anaerobic performance.
In various situations, there is a reduction in mental fatigue, such as demanding mental activity, sleep deprivation, and even brain injury.
Creatine may also improve working memory.
Creatine is an excellent addition to your supplement stack, which can promote performance improvement in athletes, gym-goers and people generally interested in improving their lifestyle.
Creatine appears to promote muscle growth via multiple effects:
Water-retention within muscle cells.
Muscle damage protection.
Decreased muscle fatigue.
A slight increase in Testosterone.
Increased Growth Hormone.
Increased glycogen re-synthesis.
Increased myonuclei proliferation.
Improved muscle blood flow.
What Are Creatine's Side-Effects?
Creatine is a highly researched supplement, and its reported side-effects are relatively minimal.
There is one confusing side-effect; this is the that creatine increases the levels of creatinine in the body, which is commonly used as a marker for reduced kidney function.
However, the increase in creatinine isn't because of kidney damage or reduced function, but simply because more creatinine is being produced in the first place.
Other than the minor possible gastrointestinal issues from excessive creatine consumption, it is probably safe for almost anyone to use!
Another possibility is the increased DHT that is seen in response to creatine supplementation, this is explained in more detail in our creatine myths article.
Is Creatine A Good Supplement For Bodybuilding?
Our answer is yes, creatine is a safe, highly researched supplement that appears to be beneficial for most people, and especially athletes and bodybuilders.
It can even help in older people. (Source)
If you wish to read a more detailed guide on creatine, click here.
Our Number Two Best Bodybuilding Supplement: Beta-Alanine
Beta-alanine is a modified version of the amino acid alanine.
Beta-Alanine appears to be useful and practical as a pre-workout supplement; when ingested it converts to a molecule called carnosine, this acts as an acidic buffer inside the body.
Carnosine is stored within cells and discharged in response to pH drops within the body.
Increased stores of carnosine can protect against diet-induced drops in pH, such as those during ketosis.
Beta-Alanine can as well protect from exercise-induced lactic acid production, which is what is responsible for that burning feeling you get during a set.
What Does Beta-Alanine Do?
Beta-alanine has been shown to improve muscular endurance; some people report being able to perform one or two extra reps when training in sets of 8-15 reps.
Beta-alanine supplementation may also improve moderate-high intensity cardiovascular performance, such as running and sprinting.
Pre-workout usage of beta-alanine is a popular way to use this supplement.
It is generally dosed at 2-5 Grams a day; this can be taken all in one dose or split into multiple smaller doses!
However, there is one prominent side effect called paresthesia.
Paresthesia is a tingling sensation which some people often feel after taking beta-alanine, it is entirely harmless though.
What Are Beta-Alanine's Benefits?
The benefits of beta-alanine greatly outweigh the potential side effects of this supplement, which is why I recommend it!
It is excellent for use as a pre-workout; it may help build muscle and also has a relatively vast array of other benefits.
Beta-alanine may slightly improve muscular endurance. A meta-analysis was done to assess this, which resulted in a 2.85% median increase in performance!
Beta-Alanine may be effective at reducing fatigue and increasing time-until-exhaustion.
It may also reduce fat mass and may possess a hypertrophic effect; however, this could be due to higher work volume; this isn't entirely clear.
What Are Beta-Alanine's Side-Effects?
The side effects of beta-alanine are almost non-existent and currently consists of just paresthesia, the tingling effect some people feel which is entirely harmless.
However, as with any supplement, you may experience stomach upset and digestive issues if you take a high dosage or take beta-alanine for prolonged periods.
Is Beta-Alanine A Good Supplement For Bodybuilding?
Overall beta-alanine has proven itself to be among the top bodybuilding and pre-workout supplements available.
Beta-Alanine is capable of improving muscular endurance, reducing fatigue, and increasing lean muscle mass and improving body composition. (Source)
For these reasons, our answer is yes, beta-alanine is a safe, highly researched supplement that appears to be beneficial for most people, and especially athletes and bodybuilders.
If you wish to read a more detailed guide on beta-alanine, click here.
Our Number Three Best Bodybuilding Supplement: Ursolic Acid
Ursolic acid is a chemical commonly found within many plants, fruits, herbs, and spices such as apples, basil, bilberries, cranberries and many more.
Ursolic acid is a pentacyclic triterpenoid, which remained unidentified until the early 1920s.
This supplement is generally utilised in its extracted form, mostly as a dietary supplement, in which it is most biologically active.
What Does Ursolic Acid Do?
Ursolic acid appears to activate specific pathways related to muscle growth.
It also increases levels of hormones responsible for muscle growth and up-regulates specific genes.
It increases energy expenditure and impacts the bodies metabolism and energy system significantly.
Ursolic acid is also useful in reducing white fat and obesity; it does this via its effects on the bodies energy system and metabolism.
What Are Ursolic Acid's Benefits?
The benefits of ursolic acid are relatively extensive and potent, considering this supplement comes from herbs and plants.
The benefits of ursolic acid extend beyond that of just bodybuilding too.
These Benefits Include:
A reduction of fat mass & preservation of muscle in a fasted state.
An increase of muscle mass and a reduction of fat storage in a non-fasted state.
Increased brown fat mass.
May be beneficial for people with diabetes.
May reduce stress hormones such as cortisol.
May reduce prostate hyperplasia.
May reduce angiogenesis, inhibiting cancer growth.
This supplement appears to increase downstream activation of Akt, which is an important pathway leading to muscle growth; it seems to accomplish this via enhancing IGF-1/Insulin signalling.
Ursolic acid also increases the level of Growth Hormone, Irisin and IGF-1, which are also essential hormones related to muscle growth. (Source)
Brown fat, also known as "good fat", is what is responsible for ursolic acid's benefits relating to diabetes and obesity.
Ursolic acid is a powerful body recomposition agent and may increase muscle mass.
What Are Ursolic Acid's Side-Effects?
The side effect profile of ursolic acid is low, and it is thought to be safe for use.
However, you must consider that it's scientific research is still preliminary, and the long-term effects of ursolic acid aren't yet fully understood.
As with any dietary supplements, you may experience stomach upset and digestive issues if you take a high dosage or take ursolic acid for prolonged periods.
Is Ursolic Acid A Good Supplement For Bodybuilding?
Ursolic acid is a relatively unknown supplement which has proven to be very useful in terms of muscle building and fat loss.
Ursolic acid is capable of increasing the main anabolic hormones within the body, such as Growth Hormone, IGF-1 and Irisin and improving muscle growth and body composition.
For these reasons, our answer is yes, ursolic acid may be beneficial for you as an athlete, however, you should still consider the side-effects this supplement may cause.
If you wish to read a more detailed guide on ursolic acid, click here.
Overall, we recommend Creatine, Beta-Alanine and Ursolic Acid as our top three supplements for bodybuilding.
If you wish to read more articles about supplements, click here.