Are your weight training and diet on point? Do you bust ass in the gym in the kitchen week after week to ensure the best muscle building progress possible? If so, you may be looking for that extra help, that little edge that will push your results even further. Sure, supplements only account for a small amount of any lifter's success, but why leave anything out? Here are a few tips on building the ultimate muscle building stack to eek every last bit of new muscle mass out of your program as possible.
1. Prioritize Protein!
You may already be focusing on protein in your muscle building diet, but it can not be said enough – protein is the most essential part of your diet AND supplementation program! If you're on a budget (and who is not?), You need to put your supplement money towards protein powders before anything else. Honestly, no other supplement is going to make a difference if you have not got this squared away.
How do you pick a good protein powder? There are tons of them out there, but if you follow a few basic criteria, you can easily narrow down your choices to a few quality products. First, only look for whey protein powders. Soy, rice, and other proteins are decent for vegans, but as long as you're okay with eating animal products, the amino acid profile of whey is the best you can get. Plus, it's usually the cheapest.
Second, look the number of fats and carbs in the protein. Even good, cheap protein powders should have close to zero fat and only trace carbs. Anything more than 2-3 grams per serving is too much. Even if you're trying to get lots of these nutrients in your diet, avoiding them in your protein will only benefit you. You'll end up with a shake that tastes better, is easier on your stomach, and that gives you the best results.
Finally, look for relatively cheap products. It's true that you get what you pay for, but if you buy in bulk, you can get great quality at an easily affordable price. Look for containers that contain between five and ten pounds of protein, that are made by a reputable company, and that cost anywhere from 8-10 dollars per pound. Any less, and you're probably getting junk. Any more, and you're getting ripped off!
2. Creatine is King
Many supplements, like protein powder, are simply replacements for certain types of foods. Others, however, contain few to no calories and are supposed to have other, supposed muscle building properties. Most of them are utter crap, but there are a few that can make a real difference in your training. Of these, creatine is the most effective, most time-tested, and even the cheapest!
Without getting too scientific, creatine works by allowing your cells to produce energy from food faster than they otherwise would be able to. This allows you to get more reps with any given weight in the gym, which means more muscle stimulation and more growth! It also tends to cause your muscles to hold more water, a very good thing for both strength and appearance. At 5-10 cents per serving, you can hardly afford not to use the stuff!
3. Recover Faster with BCAA's
BCAA's, or branched chain amino acids, have become a favorite among powerlifters, bodybuilders, and anyone else that trains hard and frequently and needs to be able to recover quickly. Supplementing with these specific acids (as opposed to just eating more protein) sends a signal to your body that tells it to rebuild and build muscle tissue FAST. If you have enough money to take high doses of this powerful supplement, your soreness will vanish, your recovery times will plummet, and you will gain strength faster than ever.
4. Cruisin 'on Caffeine
Pre-workout supplements are all the rage these days. Open up a bodybuilding magazine and you're sure to find tons of ads for pills and powders that are supposed to get you totally "amped" and "pumped" before the gym. Some of them work, and some of them do not, but you do not need to buy any of that crap to get energized for a hard training session. Just take some caffeine! A relatively large, concentrated dose can do wonders if you're feeling tired, or if you're about to have a particularly taxing workout. The best way to get caffeine is through pills (which are dirt cheap) or by just drinking a few cups of strong coffee. If you want, combine the caffeine with some carbohydrate-rich food a couple of hours beforehand, and you'll have the best workout possible without wasting your money on gimmicks!
5. Why "Stack" Anyway?
If you're trying to build a specific muscle building stack, you may be under the impression that combining certain supplements has some kind of magical effect on muscle building that can not otherwise be achieved. This is nonsense from supplement companies trying to peddle multiple products! The human body is immensely complicated, and the companies making these products do not really know how some combination of this and that is really going to be different from simply taking a few good products all at once. Instead of worrying about the "perfect stack," just buy the quality supplements you can afford, take them consistently, and reap the rewards.