Top Supplements for Bulking
It’s bulking season!
If you’re looking to bulk you may be wondering what supplements to take, below are some of the top supplements for bulking that can aid your diet and training and help you achieve you goals.
1. A Mass Gainer
If you’re trying to gain mass, it makes sense that the first supplement that may come in handy is a mass gainer! In order to gain weight you NEED to consume extra calories, for some this is relatively easy and packing in a few high carb, high fat meals is sometimes enough to gain those extra pounds. For others however, gaining weight can be a hard task! Whether you’re on the go and simply don’t have time for meals or you’re a hard gainer who really needs to eat a lot more than the average Joe- a weight gainer will definitely come in handy for bulking. With around 300-400 calories per shake, weight gainers are the perfect quick meal replacements which are often packed full of protein, good fats and lots of fast releasing simple carbohydrates like dextrose.
2. Essential Fatty Acids
You may be thinking fatty acids are a essential because you need extra fat to gain weight- but actually it has been shown that supplementing with essential fatty acids, such as omega 3, can act to promote fat loss. This means that you can bulk, minimising your fat gains and maximising your muscle gains! Being “essential” means fatty acids cannot be produced by the body and therefore must be consumed through the diet alone.
So how does it work? It is thought that omega-3 works to utilize our fat stores by effectively enhancing insulin sensitivity which can prevent the storage of fat. Additional to this, essential fatty acids can help improve blood cholesterol and exercise performance and recovery! This is because omega-3 can improve blood flow to the muscles and allow a greater delivery of oxygen, whilst its anti-inflammatory properties can help reduce inflammation and prevent fatigue.
What is ZMA and why is it good for bulking? ZMA is a blend of zinc, magnesium and vitamin B6. When it comes to training the body can often be deficient in both zinc and magnesium due to mineral and binding competition in the body. For example, other minerals which are more abundant and consumed through food sources, such as calcium, can act to block the absorption of zinc and magnesium in the body.
However through supplementing with ZMA you can ensure your body’s demands are met. Zinc and magnesium both have several benefits during bulking, including contributing to the functioning of the immune system and muscle function and when combined with vitamin B6 they can effectively reduce tiredness and fatigue and increase energy metabolism. ZMA supplementation has also been shown to regulate hormone activity and promote testosterone levels to maximise muscle building potential. The best time to consume ZMA is 30-60 minutes before bedtime on an empty stomach and its best to avoid consuming this supplement with any calcium containing foods.
Creatine is a must have when it comes to bulking! Often enough creatine will be present in the majority of your bulking supplements, however supplementing with a pure form of micronized creatine monohydrate is still recommended. Creatine is a stack of the three amino acids glycine, methionine and arginine and the way creatine works is through directly generating muscle energy in the form of ATP.
Creatine can be naturally found in the skeletal muscle, however stores are quickly depleted during training. Supplementing and loading with creatine can maximise muscle stores, meaning you can deliver a greater level of power and strength during training. Not only can getting in greater levels of training help you to build muscle, but creatine also acts to increase blood flow and hydration to the muscles- meaning your muscles will look fuller whilst simultaneously enhancing muscle definition and hardness. To Find out more about Creatine Check out Our article on Creatine | Dosage & Benefits.
5. Amino acids
I bet you knew this one was coming right? There are 21 amino acids in the body and these little beauties are the building blocks of protein and muscle! So if you are looking to bulk- amino acids are a must have supplement.
But Why? We get them in food right?
Well, amino acids can be consumed from foods such as animal products however the amounts we consume in the diet are often not great enough to meet the body’s demands. This is because during high levels of training the muscle requirement of amino acids is vastly increased.
When we exercise the body’s main source of fuel is glucose and stored glycogen which we get from simple sugars and complex carbohydrates- however, these stores are utilised very quickly. Once they run out the body looks for other sources of energy…our hard earned muscles. Through breaking down muscle and protein the body can effectively use free amino acids as fuel… this is BAD and breaking down are hard earned muscle is often related to as a term called catabolism. Therefore supplementing with amino acids can prevent muscle breakdown and promote muscle anabolism- helping you during the muscle building bulking phase!
Although BCCA’s are technically classed as amino acids they deserve their very own position on the list of top bulking supplements. There are two main categories of amino acid: “essential” and “non essential”. Branched chain amino acids are known as essential amino acids and this means they cannot be synthesised by the body and must be consumed through the diet alone. BCAA intake can be achieved through animal products alone however the amount consumed within regular day to day diets is often inadequate to serve the body’s high demands during training. As a result, BCAA supplements are recommended in a series of training regimes- including for those trying to bulk.
Branched chain amino acids are superior to that of other amino acids, due to their chemically unique structure which not only allows for a fast absorption in the body, but unlike other amino acids, BCAA’s are absorbed and delivered directly to the muscles- instead of in the stomach. Supplements such as whey protein have a considerable high profile of amino acids, however it is suggested to consume a BCCA specific supplement because these products contain these amino acids in free form, whereas in whey protein BCAA’s are pre-bound- meaning they need to be digested before they can come into effect.
7. Maltrodextrin and Dextrose
If there’s one thing you’ll need plenty of during bulking its carbs! Maltrodextrin and Dextrose are cost effective supplements both with high glycemic indexes. This means they can act to quickly increase blood sugar levels and increase energy levels. These simple carbohydrates are perfect for restoring muscle glycogen stores and providing the muscles with a quick source of fuel, with over 180 calories and between 45-47g of carbohydrates per serving! When combined with protein in a pre and post workout shake these supplements are perfect for creating your own weight gaining formula.
5-HTP, also know as 5-Hydroxy-L- Tryptophan, is a compound that the body synthesises from the amino acid tryptophan- which is a precursor for the neurotransmitter serotonin. Is this making any sense? No? Let’s solve that- serotonin is a chemical created by the body that works as a neurotransmitter- a chemical substance that transmits signals between the bodies neurons in order to tell our brain things, such as our heart to beat, lungs to breathe and muscles to move!
But what has this got to do with bulking?
Well through these signals and other chemical reactions serotonin plays a role in muscle growth and insulin signalling/glucose uptake which can act to prevent muscle wasting and has also been shown in studies to regulate glucose metabolism in the skeletal muscle. Not only this but serotonin has also been thought to play roles within mood regulation, the prevention of depression, anti blood clotting, gastrointestinal regulation and sleep cycle.
Tribulus terrestris is a natural herb extract that contains around 40% saponins. Saponins are chemicals that can be found in many different plant families which have been shown to have cholesterol benefits, reduce the risk of colon cancer. But why is tribulus good for bulking? Tribulus is thought to naturally raise testosterone levels, enhance the circulation of testosterone and reduce blood glucose levels in a dose specific manner. This means this herbal testosterone booster can act to increase muscle mass through increasing the luteininzing hormone (LH) and the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH).
10. A Multi Vitamin
Last but by no means least you need to have a good multi vitamin. When training the body’s requirement for vitamins and minerals is largely increased. However, when bulking in order to consume enough calories, high fibre and low calorie foods such as fruits and vegetables are often avoided, with more focus given to consuming energy dense foods. If we do not consume enough fruit and vegetables, the body’s stores of vitamins can become depleted, which can leave our bodies vulnerable and at risk of viruses and infections. Therefore in order to maximise your nutritional status and increase muscle mass, a good multivitamin is often advised as an essential number one supplement.
A Take Home Message
Above are ten supplements that can aid you on your bulking goals- but as a rule of thumb it is important to remember that supplements DO NOT replace real food and you need to eat a diet designed and tailored for your individual goals. If you think you are getting enough macro and micronutrients through diet alone then not all supplements will be essential to your gains, but most of the above can aid you on your bulking journey.