Build Muscle

11 Best Supplements for Mass

Can't afford all the bulk-building supplements you'd like? This list of top bodybuilding ingredients will help you choose wisely.

Priority #4: Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)

Why they made the list: The term branched-chain amino acids refers to leucine, isoleucine and valine, the absolute most important amino acids for repairing and building muscle tissue. Leucine is the most critical of the three, as research shows that it can stimulate muscle protein synthesis on its own. Yet it's still best to take all three together, since they work in synergy to provide a multitude of benefits, including muscle growth, increased energy during workouts, the blunting of cortisol (a catabolic hormone that inhibits testosterone and increases muscle breakdown) and decreased delayed-onset muscle soreness. 

How to maximize their effects: Take 5-10 grams of BCAAs with breakfast, as well as in your pre- and post-workout shakes. Look for BCAA products that provide leucine at a ratio of 2:1 per dose of isoleucine and valine. For example, if you take a 5-gram dose of BCAAs, about 2.5 grams should be from leucine, 1.25 grams from isoleucine and 1.25 grams from valine.

Priority #5: Beta-Alanine/Carnosine

Why they made the list: In the body, the amino acid beta-alanine is combined with another amino, histidine, to form carnosine. Research shows that when muscles have higher levels of carnosine, they have more strength and endurance. Carnosine appears to increase the muscle fibers' ability to contract with more force, and to do so longer without fatiguing. Several studies reported increases in muscle strength and power in athletes who took beta-alanine. One recent study found that subjects who took beta-alanine along with creatine gained more muscle mass and lost more bodyfat than subjects who took only creatine.

How to maximize their effects: Take 1-2 grams of beta-alanine or carnosine immediately before and after every workout in addition to your shakes and creatine. On non-workout days, take 2 grams with breakfast, along with creatine.