Believe it or not, the best way to pack on lean muscle mass isn’t by concentrating just on increasing muscle growth. You need a multitiered approach that includes 1) boosting the processes in muscle fibers that lead to more mass and 2) enhancing other physiological systems that can influence muscle hypertrophy.

To build more muscle, testosterone isn’t the only concern — the immune and endocrine systems must be running at full efficiency. Keeping your thyroid gland in optimal health helps keep muscles growing because thyroid hormones are actually anabolic. As for your immune system, if it’s run down due to excessive stress from superintense training or other daily stressors, your body won’t spend energy on growth. Instead, it’ll focus on kicking up your immune system in an effort to fight off any foreign invaders that could be making you sick.

Taking a supplement stack that stimulates protein synthesis in muscle fibers (aka muscle growth) and enables the body to better deal with stress is a smart idea. This jump-starts the process of muscle growth and keeps it ramped up. The following three supplements, when taken together, do just that. They’ll help increase protein synthesis, strength and endurance, and defend against stress and fatigue.


This phytoecdysteroid — a plant chemical produced to defend against insects — is actually a steroid hormone that has potent anabolic properties. Research shows it can enhance lean muscle growth, even in instances when calorie intake was reduced. The mechanism involves pathways in muscle fibers that cause the muscle to synthesize more muscle protein. And the more muscle protein a muscle has, the bigger it is.

Researchers say 20-beta-ecdysterone provides numerous other effects, such as increasing muscle endurance by enhancing the amount of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) — the energy currency of all cells — in muscle cells. It also increases insulin sensitivity, not only allowing insulin to enhance glycogen storage in muscle cells but having a more potent anabolic effect on them.

Dose: Look for products that give you about 2–3 mg per pound of bodyweight per day, or about 300–800 mg total daily for those weighing between 150 and 250 pounds. The best way to take ecdysterone is in 3–6 doses daily with food.


Considered an effective adaptogen, this plant increases the body’s resistance to a variety of chemical, biological and physical stressors, such as intense exercise, anxiety, pollution, poor sleep habits and emotional stress. Regardless of the source, stress leads to the same outcome: disturbances in key physiological systems in your body.

Two systems most at risk from stress are the immune and endocrine systems. While an immune system compromised by stress leaves you highly susceptible to colds and infections, taking rhodiola allows your body to better deal with most stressors to help ward off infections and keep growing. When your endocrine system is battered by stressors, most anabolic hormones, such as testosterone, growth hormone, IGF-1 and the thyroid hormones, become blunted. And since these guys are critical drivers of muscle growth, muscle growth gets blunted, too.

To add insult to injury, the catabolic hormone cortisol peaks in times of stress, inhibiting testosterone’s effects in muscle cells and instigating muscle breakdown. Taking an adaptogen, such as rhodiola rosea, however, helps prevent the blunting of anabolic hormones and inhibit the rise of catabolic hormones, ultimately leading to greater gains in muscle size and strength.

One way rhodiola works is by increasing cellular ATP and creatine phosphate levels, which should lead to not only greater muscle endurance but also muscle strength.

Dose: The recommended dosage is 100–300 mg daily of a standardized extract yielding a minimum of 3% rosavins and 0.8%–1% salidrosides (3:1 ratio of rosavins to salidrosides). Take it in 2–3 divided doses throughout the day.


An adaptogen like rhodiola, this herb has strong anti-stress and antioxidant properties, plus it promotes memory and concentration and enhances visual processing (great for athletes whose sports require hand-eye coordination). While its adaptogenic properties are great for stabilizing the body’s critical systems so muscle growth adaptations can take place, bacopa’s effects on the thyroid gland may be the most critical. Research shows it can increase anabolic thyroid hormone levels by more than 40%, which can have a dramatic impact on muscle growth and plays a major role in regulating the metabolic rate. Higher thyroid hormone levels mean you burn more calories in a typical day, so you can add muscle while keeping fat off.

Dose: Take 100–300 mg of bacopa monnieri extract standardized to at least 20% bacosides in 2–3 divided doses throughout the day. M&F


>> Take these three supplements in several divided doses per day.

Supplement Daily Dose
20-beta-ecdysterone 300–800 mg
Rhodiola rosea 100–300 mg
Bacopa monnieri 100–300 mg