THE BEST MUSCLE-BUILDING
SUPPLEMENTS FOR BEGINNERS
Young bodybuilders know they need to start someplace when it comes to
supplementation, but it’s often hard to figure out where—and how much to spend. To help
you get the most from your supplements, make sure your training and nutrition are on
target using these guidelines:
You should weight train no more than four
times a week for no longer than 75 minutes
a session as a beginner. More than this
and you’re overtraining, tearing your body
down more (and faster) than it can recover
For nutrition, you should consume several
meals a day—up to six or seven, getting in
plenty of protein (at least 20 grams) per
meal, striving to eat a total of at least one
gram of protein per pound of bodyweight
every day—even on rest days.
1. USE A WHEY PROTEIN SUPPLEMENT BEFORE AND AFTER WORKOUTS.
Whey protein is one of the fastest-digesting protein sources. This means it’s readily
absorbed by your body so that it can get to work promoting recovery and muscle-building
from your training and providing amino acids during workouts to support training and
physiological processes that support muscle-building (such as delivering oxygen and
nutrients to hard training muscles). The good news is that whey protein products can be
found in different price ranges, and you can use them as your budget allows to
supplement your whole-food protein intake.
What you should take: A whey protein shake before and after workouts. You can take in
up to about ¼ gram of protein per pound of bodyweight at each meal. This means a 200-
pounder can take in 50 grams of whey protein before and 50 grams after weight-training
sessions. A 160-pounder should target up to 40 grams before and after workouts.
2. CONSUME FAST-DIGESTING CARBS BEFORE AND AFTER WORKOUTS.
One mistake many beginners make is to overemphasize protein at the expense of
carbs—either dietary or supplemental. But carbs are essential to fueling muscle growth
because they help promote recovery, driving nutrients to your muscles. Fast-digesting
carbs such as sugar should be consumed before and after workouts. You can also take
supplemental forms of carbs such as Vitargo, or a hardgainer shake that has carbs in it.
As far as the type of sugar you should consume: dextrose is the best option (it’s a specific
type of glucose), or sucrose, otherwise known as table sugar. Fructose, especially highfructose
corn syrup, is less desirable than other forms of sugar or carbs that are typically
found in carb-based supplements.
What you should take: A good rule of thumb for beginners is to match the amount of
protein and carbs you consume before and after workouts. That means getting in about
100 grams of carbs for a 200-pounder, split evenly before and after workouts. And don’t
shy away from whole-food carbs such as starches (whole-grain breads and pasta), and
slow-digesting carbs (oatmeal, yams and brown rice) at other times of day. The only
exception is to cut back on carbs before bedtime as they’re more readily stored as body
fat at this time of day.
3. TAKE CREATINE FOR ENHANCED STRENGTH AND BETTER WEIGHT-
You’ve probably heard about creatine, and you may have thought we’d rank it first. It is,
after all, among the most popular sports supplements of all time. But you have to have
your nutrition in good shape before other supplements can work their magic. So, taking
in supplemental protein and carbs beats out creatine on that front.
But creatine is next on our list. This amino acid-compound is also a chemical that’s
involved in boosting ATP (adenosine triphosphate) production. Having more
creatine available helps make you stronger during sets, allowing you to lift heavier
weights or completing more reps.You may notice these effects the first time you
try creatine. In addition, getting in creatine after workouts helps your body replenish
its natural levels, depleted by weight training. After workouts, muscle cells have a
greater capacity for taking in nutrients, and creatine helps deliver these nutrients
to where they’re needed to support recovery and muscle growth.
What you should take: 3-5 grams of creatine before and after workouts for a total
of up to 10 grams per day.
4. SUPPLEMENT VITAMIN C TO SUPPORT RECOVERY AND GROWTH.
Vitamins and minerals are necessary for health, but they’re also a vital component of
getting the greatest benefits from your workouts. Often, young bodybuilders
underestimate the damage that weight training causes to their bodies. When you workout,
your body creates free radicals, highly reactive molecules that damage your cells. Vitamin
C is an antioxidant that neutralize these harmful molecules. Other antioxidants include
vitamin E, Beta-carotene and selenium. Recent research demonstrates that vitamin C
also provides energy, potentially beneficial for those who train hard, as well as the
What you should take: Start slowly with vitamin C supplementation, taking in 500-1000
mg once or twice a day. You can slowly increase your dosage, adding 500 mg a day each
week, until you’re taking in a total of 2000-4000 mg per day, in 2-4 doses of 500-1000 mg