What are the Best Muscle Building Supplements For Size, Strength & Growth?

Best supplements for muscle growth

Welcome to the Vital Repz roundup of the 5 best muscle building supplements. In an industry brimming with terrible testosterone "boosters" and scammy weight loss pills, it is easy for well-meaning fitness enthusiasts to buy the wrong supplements.

Not only are many of these supplements completely ineffective for muscle growth, but they can also be incredibly dangerous, especially if you don't understand the ingredients you're putting into your body.

On that note, we hope our article leaves you feeling a little underwhelmed.

Yes, you read that right. You won't leave this page with any magic bullets or crazy expectations. In our experience, high expectations in the supplement game only lead to complacency in the more critical areas like diet and training.

Supplements won't make you grow muscle, but they sure can help. Here are our top picks:

1. Protein Shakes

Image of a shirtless man drinking a workout shake

Whether you are a complete gym newbie or a seasoned bodybuilding veteran, good protein powder should form the foundation of your supplement stack.

In our opinion, the best protein powder for you, and anyone serious about muscle growth should check off 4 main boxes. Here they are in order of importance:

  • Be free from amino spiking
  • Have high amounts of essential amino acids (EAAs)
  • Contain a minimum of 20g protein
  • Taste great (so that you drink it consistently)

The first two go hand in hand. Most amino-spiked protein shakes are also low in EAAs, making them a poor choice for muscle growth.

On the other hand, high-quality protein powders offer plentiful EAAs and BCAAs, both of which cannot be produced by the body, and must be obtained through our diets, and from our supplements.

Pros

  • Makes hitting daily protein requirements easy
  • Idea for post-workout
  • Can be used to aid muscle growth and fat loss
  • Great for baking and adding to smoothies

Cons

  • Some powders may be amino-spiked
  • Taste can be hit and miss

Supplement Details

#1 Naked Whey 

Best of the Best

Our Rating

Why We Picked It

  • The protein is 100% grass-fed whey from US farms
  • It's free from artificial flavors, sweeteners, colors and GMOs
  • A 5 lb tub has 76 servings which is more than Optimum Nutrition

#2 Gold Standard Whey 

Best Value

Close up picture of protein container and scoop

Our Rating

Why We Picked It

  • It mixes really well & has 5.5g of BCAAs
  • The whey protein is primarily formed of isolates
  • There's over 20 flavors & Optimum have been in the supplement game for ages

#3 BSN Syntha 6 

The Tastiest

Image of supplement container and scoop

Our Rating

Why We Picked It

  • We loved the Chocolate Milkshake & Chocolate Mudslide flavors
  • It's a good option for those trying to bulk up
  • BSN use a protein blend which might be better for muscle growth than just taking whey

#4 Isopure Zero Carb 

Best For Weight Loss Assistance

Our Rating

Why We Picked It

  • It's high in protein which helps keep you full
  • There are no carbs or fats
  • It mixes really easily

#5 MP Combat Powder

Good but we prefer the others

Our Rating

Why We Picked It

  • It's Informed Choice certified
  • It's a great choice for athletes
  • We loved MusclePharm's Cookies N' Cream flavor

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Supplement

Best of the Best

#1 Naked Nutrition Whey

Pure whey sourced from grass-fed cows in the USA. No artificial ingredients or harmful additives that you wouldn't want.


Close up picture of protein container and scoop

Best Value

#2 ON Gold Standard Whey

Over 70 servings and 24g of whey mainly from isolates. Rated as the best value protein powder by us. 


Image of supplement container and scoop

Best Tasting

#3 BSN Syntha-6 

200 calories make it a great choice for bulking up.The Chocolate Milkshake & Mudslide flavors really hit the spot for us.


Best For Weight Loss Diets

#4 Isopure Zero Carb

This is the lowest calorie protein powder we could find. Whey protein can help keep you feel which promotes weight loss.


Good but we prefer the others

#5 MP Combat Powder

This supplement uses whey and casein which may be more effective than whey alone. However, we preferred Syntha 6.

2. Creatine

Image of a creatine monohydrate supplement powder

Without question, there is no better supplement for strength gain than creatine monohydrate. With decades of research supporting its effectiveness and safety, it is ideal for those seeking an increase in power and muscle fullness, without the nasty side-effects that some supplements carry.

As one of the most sought-after supplements around the globe, there are now more forms of creatine than ever vying for our attention. Although many of these exotic-sounding forms can and do work, I recommend sticking with monohydrate because it's been tested way more than any other type of creatine.

But before you pull the trigger, there's something I need to tell you.

Creatine causes weight gain. Yes, you heard that right, It is not uncommon for your body weight to bump up a few pounds during your first week of use. But fear not, this is only water weight and is actually a good indication that you are a creatine responder.

Add to the fact that most of the body's creatine is stored in the muscles, and you can see why the weight gain is a huge bonus.

Pros

  • Research-proven supplement
  • Inexpensive
  • Promotes muscle growth & strength gains
  • Can be mixed with any drink

Cons

  • Not everyone is a responder
  • Weight gain (water weight)

Supplement Details

#1 ON Micronized Creatine 

Best of the Best

Our Rating

Why We Picked It

  • Uses monohydrate which has been tested over multiple decades
  • Easy to mix into juice or protein shakes
  • Available in either powder or pills

#2 BulkSupplements Creatine

Best Value

Our Rating

Why We Picked It

  • The powder is micronized
  • many different sizes are available
  • it's free from dairy, sugar, soy, gluten, yeast and additives

#3 MuscleTech Cell Tech

Best For Gaining Size

Our Rating

Why We Picked It

  • One scoop contains 150 calories
  • MuscleTech use creatine monohydrate & citrate
  • It's an excellent choice for hardgainers

#4 Naked Creatine 

Fastest Disolving

Our Rating

Why We Picked It

  • There's 200 servings
  • We found it to dissolve very quickly
  • Free from artificial ingredients

#5 Met Rx Creatine 4200

Good but requires you to take 6 pills

Our Rating

Why We Picked It

  • There's 240 capsules
  • It's pure creatine monohydrate
  • No mixing is needed

Image

Supplement

Best of the Best

#1 Optimum Nutrition Micronized Creatine

Available in either powder or pills. Plenty of servings and easy to mix into whatever you like. Our #1 choice.


Best Value

#2 BulkSupplements Creatine Monohydrate

Pure creatine monohydrate that's free of additives & suitable for vegans. Available in many different sizes.


Best For Gaining Size

#3 MuscleTech Cell tech

1 scoop has 150 calories and you can take up to 4 per day which is great for gaining mass.


fastest Dissolving

#4 Naked Nutrition Creatine

Out of all the creatine powders we tested, this one mixed the easiest. There's also 200 servings per tub.


Good but you have to take 6 pills

#5 Met Rx Creatine 4200

Although you have to take a lot of capsules we found them easy to swallow. Each bottle has 40 servings.

3. Mass Gainers

Image of a bodybuilder drinking his post-workout shake

Anyone who has ever embarked on a purposeful bulk has probably also considered using a mass gainer. Being naturally higher in calories, carbs, and protein than any other supplement, it is no wonder they are a top choice for those seeking noticeable weight gain.

With calorie levels ranging from 500 well into the thousands, whether you are a genuine hardgainer, or just going on a lean bulk, finding a mass gainer that fits the bill has never been easier.

In fact, the 5 gainers that we painstakingly tested and reviewed, each cater to a different type of person. So, whether you're looking for a product really high carbs, loaded with protein, or something extra tasty, we have you covered.

Want to find out what the best mass gainer supplement is for you?

Then check out our chart above, or click on the link for our full take on the topic.

Pros

  • Promotes weight gain
  • High in protein and carbs
  • Different calorie amounts are available

Cons

  • May cause fat gain
  • Can be expensive per serving

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Supplement

Best of the Best

#1 Naked Mass Weight Gainer

Contains only 3 ingredients including multi-phase protein. It's also certified by Informed Choice.


Best Value & Best For Beginners

#2 Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass 

A popular weight gainer with over 250g of carbs and 50g of protein. It has 5 more servings than Naked Mass.


Best tasting

#3 BSN True Mass

Contains a balanced macronutrient profile including a 2:1 carbs to protein ratio. 


Best Lean Gainer

#4 Optimum Nutrition Pro Gainer

85g of carbs, 60g of protein and over 650 calories for bulking up. Recommended if you're not a super hardgainer.


Solid gainer but we prefer the other 4

#5 MusclePharm Combat XL

Contains 1270 calories and uses a blend of 4 protein sources. Good for athletes. 

Supplement Details

#1 Naked Mass

Best of the Best

Our Rating

Why We Picked It

  • It's made in the USA
  • Naturally includes 11.5g of BCAAs
  • Uses whey & casein for sustained release

#2 Serious Mass

Best Value

Our Rating

Why We Picked It

  • More servings than Naked Mass
  • 1250 calories
  • Mixes well for a weight gainer

#3 BSN True Mass

Best Tasting

Our Rating

Why We Picked It

  • Balanced macronutrient profile
  • 2:1 carbs to protein ratio
  • We really enjoyed their chocolate flavor

#4 ON Pro Gainer

Best Lean Gainer

Our Rating

Why We Picked It

  • Good for those who are lean bulking
  • More protein than Serious Mass
  • Contains 31 vitamins & minerals

#5 MP Combat XL

Not bad but we liked the others more

Our Rating

Why We Picked It

  • Informed Choice certified
  • 1270 Calories

4. Pre-Workouts

image of a female sprinter

While even the best pre workout supplements may not build a ton of muscle by themselves, what they can do, is help you have an effective workout, which definitely does build muscle.

It doesn't matter how clean our diets are or how on point our recovery is, if we don't provide the muscles with a strong enough training stimulus, they just will not grow.

As you can see from our top 5 list, some pre-workouts focus more on pump and vascularity, while others are better for strength, endurance, and muscle recovery.

As a guideline, if you're more of a powerlifter or weightlifter, then go for a supplement geared more towards strength. But if you're more concerned with physique, then go with one of our recommended pump-based supplements like Pre Kaged and Legion.

Pros

  • Can increase focus, pump, and recovery
  • Keeps your attention on your workout
  • May help you lift more weight, and perform more volume

Cons

  • May make some users feel jittery
  • Your caffeine tolerance will increase

Image

Supplement

Best of the Best

#1 Old School Labs Vintage Blast

A two-stage energy blend which may reduce crashes. Uses ingredients to boost strength, pump & endurance.


The Budget Choice

#2 Six Star Pre-Workout Explosion

Caters for both energy and strength. A good choice for beginners or those with lower caffeine needs.


The Strongest Pre Workout

#3 legion Athletics Pulse

Intense creatine-free formula with 350 mg of caffeine. Includes 8g of citrulline to promote muscle pumps & recovery.


Best For Pumps

#4 Kaged Muscle Pre Kaged

Uses pure l-citrulline powder for better intra-set pumps. Also includes coconut water for hydration.


Strong Formula but has proprietary blend

#5 BSN N.O Xplode

Contains 275 mg of caffeine for more intra-workout intensity. Also has creatine which isn't to everyone's liking.

Supplement Details

#1 Vintage Blast

Best Overall

Our Rating

Why We Picked It

  • Two-stage pre-workout for longer lasting energy
  • 5g of citrulline malate for better muscle pumps
  • Third-party tested

#2 Six Star Explosion

Best Value

Our Rating

Why We Picked It

  • Caters to pumps and strength
  • A sensible choice for beginners
  • 10 more servings than Vintage Blast

#3 Legion Pulse

The Strongest Pre-Workout

Our Rating

Why We Picked It

  • 350 mg of caffeine for intense energy
  • Uses l-theanine which may reduce crashes
  • 8g of citrulline malate for intra-workout pumps

#4 Pre Kaged

Best For Pumps

Our Rating

Why We Picked It

  • Uses pure l-citrulline to amp up muscle pumps
  • Certified by Informed Choice
  • Naturally Flavored

#5 NO Xplode

Strong formula but we preferred Legion

Our Rating

Why We Picked It

  • 60 servings
  • Uses creatine for increasing strength

5. Branched Chain Amino Acids

Image of BCAA powder in a scoop

BCAAs are at the heart of any credible intra-workout supplement. Being anti-catabolic by nature, their main job is to prevent excessive levels of protein breakdown while we're in the gym.

They're also useful for taking between meals, to keep muscle protein synthesis high, and stimulate more growth.

While each of the 3 BCAAs is important, leucine is the one that we really care about, and is why the 2:1:1 ratio is the most popular among those seeking maximal gains.

Although they are most certainly not any kind of miracle supplement, many users report faster recovery and less debilitating DOMS during times when they take bcaa.

If you want to do everything in your power to maximize muscle growth and recovery, then you may well benefit from using one of the recommended supplements during training, between meals, or wherever else you need an amino acid boost.

Pros

  • Can decrease muscle soreness
  • May reduce recovery times
  • Promotes muscle protein synthesis

Cons

  • Unnecessary if you already consume a lot of protein

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Supplement

Best of the Best

#1 Scivation Xtend

Contains 7g of BCAAs in the proven 2:1:1 ratio. Includes electrolytes for hydration & glutamine for recovery.


The Budget Choice

#2 BulkSupplements Instantized BCAAs

Pure vegan-friendly amino acids with no artificial ingredients. Available in different sizes to suit your needs & budget.


Best Capsules

#3 Optimum Nutrition BCAA 100 Capsules

200 servings per bottle and one serving is only 2 capsules. Recommended if you prefer taking pills over powder.


Best Tasting Intra-Workout

#4 BSN Amino X

Contains 10g of total amino acids. We liked the flavors better than what Xtend has to offer.


Great for energy but not for everyone

#5 Evlution BCAA Energy

This supplement can replace your pre-workout. We prefer it over Amino Energy.

Supplement Details

#1 Scivation Xtend

Best Of the Best

Our Rating

Why We Picked It

  • Contains more BCAAs than the other products we reviewed
  • Includes electrolytes for intra-workout hydration
  • Glutamine & citrulline for muscle recovery

#2 BulkSupplements BCAA

Best Value

Our Rating

Why We Picked It

  • Pure BCAAs
  • Many different sizes are available
  • Instantized for efficient mixing

#3 ON BCAA 1000 Caps

The Best capsules

Our Rating

Why We Picked It

  • Contains 400 capsules
  • Only 2 capsules per serving
  • BCAAs are in the 2:1:1 ratio

#4 BSN Amino x

Best Tasting

Our Rating

Why We Picked It

  • Has 10g of total amino acids
  • Caffeine free
  • We liked the taste more than Xtend

#5 BCAA Energy

Good for energy but the caffeine isn't for everyone

Our Rating

Why We Picked It

  • We prefer this formula over Amino Energy
  • Can replace your pre-workout

What Are The Best Supplements For Strength?

Before we dive into the best supplements, I want to quickly clear up any confusion about what true strength really is.

I like to separate strength into two different categories:

  • True strength (how much you can lift)
  • Strength potential (how much you could lift)

Now, all else being equal, a bigger muscle is also a stronger muscle, thus having more ‘strength potential.' However, the biggest guy in the gym is not always the strongest because strength, believe it or not, strength is a skill as well.

The more skilled you become at an exercise, the more natural it feels, and the more easily you are able to apply force. Think about how awkward your first weighted squat felt compared to how it feels now (substitute squat with ‘bench' if you skip leg day).

What's the point of all this you ask?

Well, since there are no supplements that can make you more skilled, I'm going to focus specifically on supplements that increase strength at the muscular level — not ‘brain level,' for lack of a better term.

  1. Creatine monohydrate
  2. Protein powder (anything that builds muscle also increases strength potential)
  3. Betaine
  4. Caffeine (think pre-workouts)

We hope our guide to the best muscle building supplements helped you decide what to add to your stack. Feel free to click around our site for reviews of individual supplements and comparisons.

If you're having trouble deciding between two supplements, or just want to know the key differences, check out these articles that we've listed below.

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Bernie
Bernie
Bernie loves keeping active, playing every sport under the sun before finding weightlifting. He tests and reviews supplements for the site and when he’s not training, you can catch him traveling, hiking, and thinking about his next meal.