Top Workout Supplements for Muscle Growth

Top Workout Supplements for Muscle Growth, Energy, and Recovery

Understanding Workout Supplements

Workout supplements can significantly enhance performance, endurance, and recovery in any sport or exercise routine. Often referred to as sports nutrition, this broad category includes popular options like protein powders, branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), creatine, and testosterone boosters. These supplements are favored by athletes and fitness enthusiasts for their effectiveness and benefits.

Reasons to Use Workout Supplements

Reasons to Use Workout Supplements

When it comes to maximizing the benefits of workouts and training, supplements serve three main purposes:

  1. Provide comprehensive nutritional support to muscles during exercise
  2. Boost energy levels and performance
  3. Promote muscle growth, recovery, and repair after exercise

Nutritional Support Supplements

Nutritional Support Supplements


A daily multivitamin and mineral supplement ensures that you meet the recommended intake of essential nutrients. This acts as a nutritional safety net, supporting the body before, during, and after exercise. Exercise increases muscle metabolism, leading to a higher demand for nutrients, particularly those involved in energy metabolism like B vitamins and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and iron.


Iron is crucial for female athletes of child-bearing age due to menstrual blood loss. Low iron levels can significantly reduce physical energy and are a common cause of poor performance and fatigue. Iron deficiency is prevalent among female athletes, with studies showing that 30-80% of female athletes may be affected. A daily dose of 120 to 180 mg can prevent deficiency. A blood test called serum ferritin measures the body's iron stores, ideally at least 60 ng/ml. Ferrous bisglycinate and ferric pyrophosphate are preferred supplements due to their higher bioavailability and fewer gastrointestinal side effects, especially when taken on an empty stomach.


Magnesium is another essential mineral for athletes, with an RDA of 420 mg for men and 320 mg for women. However, most people in the U.S. only consume about half of the required amount. Low magnesium levels can impair endurance, stamina, and recovery, as magnesium is involved in over 300 biochemical reactions, including enzyme activation and nutrient regulation. For optimal results, take 250 to 300 mg of highly absorbable magnesium forms like citrate, malate, or bisglycinate at bedtime to promote relaxation and restful sleep.

ZMA (Zinc, Magnesium, Vitamin B6)

Combining magnesium with zinc and vitamin B6, known as ZMA, is a popular supplement choice. These nutrients support cellular growth, tissue repair, and a healthy immune system.

Supplements for Muscle Growth

Supplements for Muscle Growth


To support muscle growth and repair, athletes need adequate protein intake. The recommended amount is around 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram (or 1 gram per pound) of body weight. Besides consuming high-protein foods, using protein powders in smoothies is an easy way to increase protein intake.

The best protein powders are made from whey, egg whites, casein, and other milk protein concentrates. Whey protein, in particular, has the highest biological value, meaning it is efficiently absorbed and utilized by the body. This is due to its high concentrations of glutamine and branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which are essential for cellular health, muscle growth, and protein synthesis.

Vegan protein powders, such as soy protein isolate, pea protein, spirulina, and pumpkin seed protein, offer good alternatives but generally have lower levels of essential amino acids and BCAAs. Other vegan options like rice, sunflower seed, flax, chia, hemp, and sacha inchi proteins are lower in quality, requiring higher dosages to meet protein needs. However, they provide additional benefits such as dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals.

Protein Powder Usage Guidelines for Athletes

  • For moderate strength or endurance training: 20 to 40 grams daily.
  • For intense strength or endurance training or muscle mass building: Approximately 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. Taking 20 to 40 grams of protein powder twice daily helps meet this increased need.


Although collagen peptides and bone broth proteins are incomplete due to their lack of tryptophan, they can still be excellent supplements when combined with a regular dietary protein intake.

Pre-Workout Supplements

Pre-Workout Supplements


Popular pre-workout supplements often contain caffeine, which has been shown to enhance exercise performance, whether for endurance activities or short bursts of energy like sprints or weightlifting. For optimal results, caffeine should be taken 15 to 60 minutes before a workout, with typical dosages ranging from 200 to 400 mg.


Creatine is another favored pre-workout supplement, primarily used to increase strength and muscle mass. It works by boosting muscle energy levels, allowing athletes to perform better during strength training. Additionally, creatine enhances muscle protein synthesis. The standard dosage is 1 gram of creatine per 25 kg (55 pounds) of body weight. For example, a person weighing 75 kg (160 pounds) would need about 3 grams of creatine daily.

Recovery Supplements

Recovery Supplements

BCAAs (Branched-Chain Amino Acids)

BCAAs, consisting of valine, leucine, and isoleucine, are essential for muscle growth, recovery, and repair. They make up about 15% of the amino acids in human skeletal muscle and play a vital role in muscle metabolism. BCAAs help mitochondria produce energy during exercise, reducing both mental and physical fatigue, making them popular as both pre- and post-workout supplements.

BCAAs are typically available in a 2:1:1 ratio (two parts leucine, one part isoleucine, one part valine) and can also be found in whey protein. Pure BCAA supplements have the advantage of being less likely to cause nausea or stomach irritation compared to protein powders. The recommended dosage for BCAAs is 100 mg per kilogram of body weight per day.

BCAA supplements can enhance muscle growth, combat fatigue, and reduce muscle soreness, particularly delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which occurs one or two days after a workout. DOMS is caused by small muscle tears that lead to inflammation, which can be painful and decrease muscle strength and range of motion.

Research shows that taking BCAA supplements before or after exercise can reduce muscle soreness and damage. When muscles are damaged, they release an enzyme called creatine kinase (CK) into the blood, indicating inflammation. BCAA supplementation has been shown to lower post-exercise CK levels, reducing muscle damage and the risk of DOMS.

Best Overall Workout Supplement: Beetroot

Best Overall Workout Supplement Beetroot

Beetroot juice or powder is an excellent superfood for athletes due to its high nitrate content and the plant pigment betalain, which gives it a deep red color. Beetroot juice increases nitric oxide production, which improves blood flow, enhancing the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to muscles and aiding in the removal of carbon dioxide and waste products. This leads to better exercise performance, muscle strength, stamina, and post-exercise recovery.

Beetroot supplementation can improve overall physical performance and heart function during exercise. It is beneficial for both endurance exercises and high-intensity activities like weightlifting or sprinting. Studies have shown that beetroot supplementation can improve sprint times and power output, as well as the power and velocity of weightlifting exercises.

Beetroot also aids in exercise recovery, helping with quicker strength recovery and reducing post-exercise pain, inflammation, and muscle damage. A meta-analysis of six double-blind, controlled studies found that beetroot can prevent DOMS.

Most studies used daily dosages of beetroot juice between 70 and 250 ml, with the best results seen when taking at least 140 ml for more than 14 days, 1-3 hours before workouts to take advantage of peak blood nitrate levels. Beetroot powder dosages should approximate this level, though they may vary based on quality.

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