Updated: 2020, Feb 27

Do You Really Need Bodybuilding Supplements To Build Muscle?

Bodybuilding supplements come in many forms and they are only gaining in popularity.
Do You Really Need Bodybuilding Supplements To Build Muscle?
Understand the components of diet and supplements in a bodybuilder's life. Shutterstock Images

Don’t let yourself be fooled. Just because bodybuilding supplements are sold right next to health supplements at your local vitamin store doesn’t mean that all bodybuilding supplements are right for you.

Bodybuilding supplements come in many forms, and they are only gaining in popularity. They claim to do many things.

Some supplements help build muscle, ones that boost testosterone, ones that help you recover after a workout, ones that help you lose weight and much more.

So the question becomes, should every man be taking these supplements?

Does it necessarily mean that you should be taking these kinds of supplements just because you work out?

These aren’t easy questions to answer, but in this article, we will guide you through some of the topics you need to know about and bring to light the variables that you should consider before taking any workout supplement.

The Truth About Protein

You have probably been told for most of your life that if you want to gain muscle mass, you have to incorporate a lot of protein into your diet.

The truth about protein supplements though, and the first thing you should consider about them as it may skew your view of them, is that it is a multi-billion dollar industry.

The fact is that if everyone stopped taking protein supplements, a lot of people would lose tons of money.

There is no shortage of protein supplements either. Companies like Bare Performance and Gnarly Feast are some of the top manufacturers of protein products in the US. They perpetuate the idea that all men who weight train need protein because it helps build muscle.

It is undoubtedly true that protein contains vital amino acids that are 100% needed for muscle growth but do you need added protein via supplements?

There have been numerous studies on the role of protein in muscle gain, and as the one University of Texas Professor puts it, much of the information we have on the subject consists of conflicting evidence. Still, men are repeatedly told that protein supplements are necessary.

So what should you do?

Should you take protein supplements?

The truth is that you can take protein supplements safely, but you may not need to in the first place.

For instance, a recent study that teste the effects of protein on 96 men showed that the group of men who were given the recommended daily allotment of protein or more lost weight but their muscle mass was not affected.

Countless doctors and health professionals have come forward to say that men can get the necessary amount of protein to build and maintain muscle just by eating the right foods.

It has not been proven that protein supplements, when added to an already protein-rich diet, can boost muscle growth.

So this suggests that it is not necessary to take protein supplements if you are already consuming enough protein in your diet.

Doctors recommend eating protein-rich foods such as:

  • Chicken
  • Eggs
  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese
  • Fish
  • Beans
  • Peanuts

That all being said, if you are not regularly eating these kinds or other kinds of protein-rich foods, protein supplements may be a good option for you.

protein-rich foods

High protein foods (that are also low carb) to help build muscle. Shutterstock Images

In other words, you may only really need a protein supplement to gain muscle if your diet does not allow for enough protein already, and you have no intentions of changing your food any time soon.

The Truth about Testosterone Boosters

Another prevalent kind of bodybuilding supplement is what is known as testosterone boosters or T-boosters . This is because there is no denying that testosterone has a direct effect on muscle growth.

Testosterone supplementation has been linked with more muscle mass in high-quality studies.

That all sounds good so is there anything wrong with testosterone boosters?

In theory, no. Men need testosterone for many physical and mental functions. It is produced naturally in the body. But not all testosterone boosters are healthy.

For instance, creatine is a very popular workout and testosterone supplement.

Creatine is an amino acid found naturally in muscles and the brain. It helps facilitate muscle contraction, so people use it to help improve muscle “pump” when working out. But it has been linked with a number side-effects dehydration, cramping, dizziness, and fever. When taken at an unsafe dosage, creatine can also damage the kidneys and liver.

Another popular type of T-booster is called Prohormones.

Prohormones come in many forms, but they are necessary precursors to testosterone. This means that when they are introduced to the body, it uses them to convert into testosterone. But the research proving that prohormones offer more benefit than detriment isn’t there.

Certain prohormones can also damage the liver and cause breast growth and hair loss.

Furthermore, certain T-boosters contain substances that are banned in the US.

The truth about testosterone supplements is that you need to be careful about them.

The best thing to do is to ask your doctor about them and which ones you should take.

Many don’t have enough scientific research, and others are flat-out dangerous.

Still, some men could benefit from a high-quality T-booster – especially men older than 60.

The Truth About Nitric Oxide

Nitric oxide is a molecule that plays a role in blood circulation and muscle contraction. This is why it is also a common supplement used by bodybuilders. It is also used to improve physical performance.

The problem with Nitric Oxide is that it does not do a lot of good on its own. It is not highly bioavailable, which means that it doesn’t absorb efficiently in the body.

If you are taking a nitric oxide supplement that is just straight up nitric oxide with no other components, then you are more than likely not benefitting at all from it.

The truth about nitric oxide is that for it to do any good, it needs to be coupled with other elements.

In particular, the amino acids l-arginine and l-citrulline can help facilitate oxidation and conversion into nitric oxide.

To expound, studies have come up with less than stellar results on the supplementation of nitric oxide as it pertains to muscle growth and athletic performance.

It would seem that nitric oxide supplementation can be beneficial for men who are casually active or low-level weight trainers but has little to no effect on daily weight trainers.

There are also some possible side-effects that any man considering using nitric oxide supplements should know about:

Nitric oxide supplements have also been known to complicate nitrate medication.

If you are going to take a nitric oxide supplement, you should make sure that it contains l-citrulline as this amino acid has shown the most promise in clinical trials when coupled with nitric oxide.

Still, these kinds of supplements seem to be another case of marketing over merit.

The Truth About DNP

DNP is short for Dinitrophenol, and it is mainly used as a weight-loss supplement. It promises rapid weight loss, so it has become popular with bodybuilders looking to make weight.

DNP is an industrial chemical that was never intended for human consumption at the time of its development.

As per The Irish Times report, Discredited DNP raises the body’s metabolic rate and can damage liver and kidneys.

The truth about DNP is very simple: it is not safe. It has been made illegal in many countries, but the reason we include it in this article is that it is still available online.

Many bodybuilders and trainers are being fooled by smart marketers selling DNP under different names such as Nitrophen, Chemox, and Alden.

If you are taking any of these supplements, you should discontinue use immediately as they can cause problems such as unsafe breathing rates, hyper-perspiration, dehydration, fever, and vomiting.

According to the Independent UK report, DNP has also been linked to the deaths of at least three people.

There are also a lot of problems that can result from long-term use of DNP involving heart health, nervous system damage, and congenital disabilities.

This one is an easy call. Just stay away from DNP.

You May Also Want To Read – What Do You Need To Know About The Nitric Oxide Boosters Supplements?

Making Sense of it All

Bodybuilding supplements are tricky – mainly because every man’s health is different.

What may be helpful for you to gain muscle may do nothing for another man.

Likewise, what may be safe for you may be dangerous for another man?

Things like health conditions, diet, age, and lifestyle all need to be taken into account before using a certain kind of supplement.

It would appear that supplements like protein and testosterone can genuinely help a man who is not getting enough of them.

Protein and testosterone are vital cornerstones for a man’s health. But you may not necessarily need them.

Other supplements like nitric oxide and creatine may also be helpful in a limited sense and should not be overused while supplements like DNP are downright dangerous.

Consider your particular needs and goals. Consult with your doctor.

Choose only high-quality supplements from reputable companies.

The question of whether or not all men should be taking supplements is not an easy one to answer in a universal sense, but if you follow these steps, you are in great shape to make the right decision.


Nicole Moneer, NASM CPT

Nicole Moneer is a Holistic Lifestyle Coach, NASM certified personal trainer, Pilates Balance Body mat & reformer instructor, motivatio

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