Mass Builder's Guide To Supplementation: The Basics & More!

You want to pack on serious muscle mass? The big question: how you are going to do it. Supplements, used correctly, can be the difference between stagnation and growth. Here’s a list of supplements to use for greater muscle growth!

So, you want to pack on some serious muscle mass, huh? And the big question, of course, is how you are going to do it. You are dedicated, have your training and diet in check, and are ready to take it to the next level with a well-thought-out supplementation program.

I will be the first to say that bodybuilding supplements, when used correctly under the right conditions, can be the difference between mere muscle maintenance (stagnation) and strong ongoing muscle growth. But you may be wondering which ones, as the list of possible supplements to use for this purpose is near endless.

To help take some of the guesswork out of the process, I spent some time putting together an article detailing some of the fundamentals in building a solid individualized mass program.

While it would not be possible to discuss every supplement option, and indeed there are many great supplements to talk about, I can go over what I feel are some of the more popular and clinically proven supplements available today.

Enlarge Click Image To Enlarge.
Supplements Can Be The Difference Between
Muscle Maintenance & Ongoing Muscle Growth.

Note that I will get as many product recommendations spaced throughout this article as possible, but must apologize ahead of time that I can't include all the great products and companies that ought to be mentioned here. There is just too much to cover to list everything. At the same time, if you don't find a particular product in this list that you like, keep shopping. has an immense selection of excellent products to choose from. (For more options and more details on the individual ingredients discussed in this article, please visit their respective product profiles here).

Step 1:
Covering the Basics


What's your favorite multivitamin? Your favorite protein powder? What!? You don't have one? We need to talk about two of the most basic categories of all mass building supplements.


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Protein Powders Review!
The following is an independent product review of STS Pro Muscle Whey XP, AllMax Nutrition AllWhey, and MHP Probolic-SR.
Matt Canning

dot Multivitamin/Minerals dot

    Vitamin/mineral supplements are too often overlooked. True, they don't qualify as muscle-building supplements with notable immediate short-term gains for most users. This leads many to view them as unnecessary, but the truth can be anything but.

    You need to remember that vitamins and minerals are important to virtually all body processes, from forming and transporting hormones, to facilitating the use of nutrients for growth, and just about everything in-between. If you have a notable deficiency, it can hinder your ability to properly grow.

    Even if only minor, over time minor differences have a way of adding up to big ones. Are you sure you are getting everything you need from your diet - that the enhanced needs of an active training person are being met with food and not just the standard USRDA's. If not, you should consider a good athletic multivitamin/mineral product.

Deluxe Chin Up Bar Universal Presents:
Animal Pak

The #1 selling training pak in the world for twenty three years straight. Since 1984, more competitive bodybuilders have cut their teeth on the Animal Pak than any other bodybuilding supplement in history. Why? Simple. Animal Pak gets the job done. It works. First time. Last time. Every time.
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Super Vitamin Pak ISS Research Presents:
Super Vitamin Pak

For the human body to perform at its maximum potential, it must be fed a vast and complex array of vital nutrients. Becoming deficient in just one of these essential vitamins or minerals breaks down the metabolic pathway that produces optimum efficiency and performance declines. Not good!
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arrow View Multivitamins Sorted By Top Seller Here.

dot Protein dot

    You can't build an ounce of muscle without protein - period. How much you need, however, is often the subject of much debate. One thing is certain though - you will make your best progress only when your muscles have an ample and constant supply of all the necessary amino acids.

    I personally stick by the general guideline of 1-2 grams of quality protein per pound of bodyweight per day. While it is possible to meet your daily needs with diet alone, it can be very difficult for many people.


    Protein supplements are the logical choice for most of us. I like to stick to the recommendation of faster acting whey proteins immediately after training, usually a good whey isolate, and a slower acting casein based protein for the rest of the day. I think it is especially important to use a slower digesting casein protein before bed as well, as it is too many hours to go with a fast acting protein like whey alone.

Ultra Peptide 2.0 Xtreme Formulations Presents:
Ultra Peptide 2.0

Sustained release micellar casein based super-protein engineered for lean tissue acquisition. While whey protein may increase protein synthesis to a very high degree, higher than casein, scientists are now recognizing that micellar casein is much more important in preventing muscle breakdown.
[ Click here to learn more. ]
Micellar Matrix ISS Research Presents:
Micellar Matrix

Knowing Protein, ISS brings to the market what may be considered the most anti-catabolic protein formula bodybuilders and athletes across the world have seen yet - Micellar Matrix.
[ Click here to learn more. ]

arrow View Whey Protein Products Sorted By Top Seller Here.

Step 2:
Essential Fatty Acid Management


Make no mistake - essential fatty acids can be powerful modulators of the human physique. If you are not thinking about EFA's, in my opinion you are leaving a big (sorry, gaping) hole in your supplementation program.


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EFA's: Essential For Gains!
This is the third article in a series covering what I call the 'Foundation Supplements.' In this article we'll deal with the essential and some important non essential fatty acids.
Dr. Di Pasquale

dot Arachidonic Acid dot

    The first EFA you need to know about is arachidonic acid (AA). This is the body's primary regulator of the local growth response after training. What does this mean? It means that arachidonic acid is the nutrient responsible for telling your muscles what they need to do to repair themselves (and grow) after they have been damaged from training.

    If your AA levels are low, you are going to be stagnant, and likewise, kicking up your AA levels when you are stagnant is a great way to trigger new growth. AA can be taken in low doses as a daily supplement (250mg per day or less) to facilitate long-term ongoing growth, or more commonly as a rapid-growth anabolic in moderate doses (500mg-1000mg daily) for 50-60 days.

X-Factor Molecular Nutrition Presents:

Clinically tested at Baylor University for safety and effectiveness, Molecular Nutrition's Anabolic X-Factor™ is the world's first patented hypertrophic catalyst.
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arrow View Arachidonic Acid Products Sorted By Top Seller Here.

dot Fish Oil (EPA/DHA) dot

    Fish oil much? EPA/DHA supplements are also very important to the bodybuilder and athlete. While not immediately anabolic by most accounts, they do lower catabolic ( protein breakdown) signaling in your muscles, which can support muscle growth.

    Fish oils are also great for overall health, and good at helping you maintain the muscle you've already got. My recommendation for EFA management is to focus on arachidonic acid for short burst cycles, and then to switch over to fish oils for their muscle preserving and health promoting benefits.

    Actually, I can't take credit for the idea myself. Industry researcher and columnist Will Brink actually came up with the alternating AA/Fish Oil concept several years ago. It really does make a lot of sense, and helps you balance your overall long-term intake of pro-anabolic and anti-catabolic EFA's.

    Note that it is perfectly fine to take some fish oil during a period of arachidonic acid supplementation as well, meaning that EPA/DHA supplements can be taken year round. Remember, EFA's are important. Don't overlook these very important muscle fundamentals!

Triple Strength Fish Fats S.A.N. Presents:
Triple Strength Fish Fats

The human organism needs adequate fatty acids to survive the daily bodily processes. Omega-3 fatty acids that are usually obtained from cold-water fish or flax seed oil have demonstrated in clinical research to thwart the production of mediators, such as bad prostaglandins.
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Fresh Catch Fish Oil Barlean's Presents:
Fresh Catch Fish Oil

Barlean's Fresh Catch® Fish Oil is a pristine source of ultra-purified fish oil providing optimal levels of EPA and DHA to bring you vibrant health and energy. Five Layer Oxidation Protection System guarantees the freshest and most nutritious fish oil.
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arrow View Fish Oil Products Sorted By Top Seller Here.

Step 3:
Additional Ergogens


This is where we get to those add-ons that are known for improving our strength, size, or performance. While some may not consider these to be fundamental supplements like the vitamins, minerals, proteins, and EFA's in Step 1 & 2, the products in this category are known for having strong positive effects on your weight training performance.

Any of these will make an excellent addition to a supplement program. Step 3 products are most often cycled on and off at different times of the year depending on the training intensity of the individual.

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Any Of These Will Make An Excellent
Addition To A Supplement Program.

dot Beta Alanine dot

    Beta Alanine is what your body uses to maintain carnosine levels in its muscles. Why is this important? Muscle carnosine acts as a pH buffer, slowing the rate in which lactic acid buildup shifts your muscles into an acidic environment (which blocks performance).

    Beta Alanine allows you to get more reps on your training, and works at a level that you really do notice. This is an ideal supplement to take when you are focused on pushing past a plateau or stagnation point, or are going to be on a particularly intense training program and are determined to get the most out of each and every session. Cycles of 8-12 weeks are probably the most common.

IntraXCell Athletic Edge Nutrition Presents:

The World's First Beta-Alanine, Carnosine Boosting Formula In Convenient Capsule Form! Boost Strength And Increase Lean Muscle Gains With IntraXCell!
[ Click here to learn more. ]
Beta Alanine Extreme Prolab Presents:
Beta Alanine Extreme

Prolab Beta Alanine Extreme fuels your body's ability to increase muscle carnosine synthesis! What is carnosine? Carnosine is composed of beta alanine and L-histidine and your body simply cannot synthesize carnosine without beta-alanine.
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arrow View Beta-Alanine Products Sorted By Top Seller Here.

dot Creatine dot

    Probably the most well known performance enhancing nutrient of all time, creatine is truly a giant among supplements. It works very well for the vast majority of people.

    Its effects are two-fold. On one hand it increases the intracellular retention of fluid, which expands the size of your muscle cells. This in of itself may lend to some performance gains, and doesn't hurt either by making you look visibly bigger. But creatine is also important because it supplies creatine phosphate to the body, which is used to regenerate a key energy source in the muscles called ATP (adenosine triphosphate).

    In short, creatine makes you bigger, makes you stronger, and gives you more muscle endurance. Like Beta Alanine this is a great product to cycle on and off throughout the year depending on your particular needs and goals.

SizeOn Gaspari Nutrition Presents:

No other Creatine cell volumizing product works as fast or as long as SizeOn. SizeOn our new intra/post workout formula, is the only cell volumizer containing Creatine Gluconate.
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Phosphagen HP EAS Presents:
Phosphagen HP

Phosphagen HP is designed to support the activity and efficiency of muscle creatine transporters special proteins that "carry" creatine into muscle cells by fostering a precise metabolic and muscle "micro-environment," pushing creatine transport to a new level.
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arrow View Creatine Monohydrate Products Sorted By Top Seller Here.

dot BCAA's dot

    Many people will tell you that they get plenty of branched chain amino acids in their protein. That statement may be true, but it also doesn't give you the complete picture.

    Studies have proven over and over again that BCAA supplementation, particularly with regard to Leucine, has positive effects on your muscles that aren't replicated with general protein supplements. The result is usually greater protein synthesis rates, which add to more muscle size, and greater overall muscle performance.

Protein Synthesis
The process by which nitrogen from amino acids is linearly arranged into structural proteins through the involvement of RNA and various enzymes. Protein synthesis is muscle growth. The more efficient you can make this process the more efficiently you can build muscle.

    These supplements are also great for cutting down on the recovery time so you can get back into the gym to train the same muscle groups again. These supplements are most commonly used during periods of particularly intense training, but may be used as daily supplement products for the active weight trainer as well.

BCAA 1000 Higher Power Presents:
BCAA 1000

Among the most beneficial and effective supplements in any sports nutrition program are branched chain amino acids. These are the essential aminos leucine, isoleucine, and valine.
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ICE Xtreme Formulations Presents:

As a serious athlete you know just how much intense weight training can break down muscle tissue. This is evidenced through the muscle soreness which is felt in the days following your grueling workouts.
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arrow View BCAA Products Sorted By Top Seller Here.

dot Nitric Oxide Boosters dot

    Like the feel of a swollen bicep? Want bigger pumps when you are training in general? Increasing blood flow to the muscle has benefits beyond simply making your muscles look bigger and fuller. With increased pumps, more nutrients are also supplied to the muscles, which logically should help them get the materials they need to get bigger and stronger faster.

    To date NO2 is the most well known and clinically studied nitric oxide booster, but as a supplement category these products are broad in number. Many NO products are regarded as highly effective products. As with most other add-on ergogens, the cycling of NO products (8-12 weeks) is generally recommended.

Hemodraulix Axis Labs Presents:

Upregulating NOS, combined with the most powerful Arginine on the planet, NE2® (Arginine Ethyl Ester Di-HCl) makes HemodrauliX™ substantially ahead of the entire Nitric Oxide category.
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NO2 Platinum MRI Presents:
NO2 Platinum

NO2 was created by the same man who introduced creatine to the market in 1993 - Ed Byrd, co-founder of EAS and now president of Medical Research Institute - MRI.
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Step 4:
Testosterone Boosters


Many people consider this an advanced step, as it involves changing the balance of hormones in your body for the sake of increasing the rate of muscle growth. With that said, we all know that testosterone is one of the most important hormones for muscle growth. Testosterone levels can pay huge dividends on your mass gains.

dot nAI's (Natural Aromatase Inhibitors) dot

    Aromatase inhibitors are not recommended for women. These supplements can promote already healthy testosterone levels.

    Given how important testosterone is for muscle growth, the implications of this should be obvious. These products are not recommended for long-term use, however, because they artificially shift your internal hormone balance for the sake of muscle growth. Still, these products can be used safely for short "anabolic" cycles of 6-12 weeks in length, followed by an equally long or greater amount of time off.

6-OXO ErgoPharm Presents:

The era of prohormones has come to an end. As the originators and leaders of the whole prohormone phenomenon, Ergopharm looks at this time with sadness and regret.
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Novedex XT Gaspari Nutrition Presents:
Novedex XT

Gaspari Nutrition, the name you trust, has done it again with Novedex XT™. This amazing non-anabolic and non-androgenic supplement yields great results. Novedex XT™ helps significantly increase natural testosterone production and minimize the production of any and all estrogens in the body.
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arrow View Natural Testosterone Boosters Sorted By Top Seller Here.

dot Divanillyltetrahydrofuran dot

    More specifically 3,4-Divanillyltetrahydrofuran, this is the only supplement in this article that does not have clinical support for its use in athletes. Why would I include it then? Simply put, it's new and it appears to work well.

    The science of its use to free up testosterone from serum binding proteins seems logical and sound, and I expect with time we will see clinical studies examining its benefits in athletes. Until then, I remain swayed by the animal data and anecdotal reports from bodybuilders.

    At the very least, this supplement seems to make a good "no-brainer" addition to a natural aromatase inhibitor or testosterone supplement if you have some on-hand and want to try for a little extra boost.

dot LJ100 (LongJack) dot

    This supplement is also known as Eurycoma Longifolia Jack, Tongkat Ali, Malaysian Ginseng, and Pasak Bum. There are some solid studies showing successful management of both testosterone and other hormones with Longjack in exercising humans, particularly the LJ100 extract.

    While you can't expect this supplement to have the strong effect of a natural aromatase inhibitor, it is still considered by most to be a highly efficacious supplement.

    LongJack also supports the management of certain catabolic hormones (catabolic hormones support the breakdown of muscle protein). Like all hormonal supplements, I believe it is best to use Longjack in cycles lasting no more than 6-12 weeks in length.

TestoJack 100 NOW Presents:
TestoJack 100

TestoJack 100 contains a potent standardized extract of Eurycoma longifolia, commonly known as Tongkat Ali or Long Jack. LJ100 contains bioactive Eurypeptides, the active constituents of Tongkat Ali.
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Bringing It All Together

So there you have it - four steps to supplementation that I think can make a big difference in your quest for, well, bigness. Tying them all together and working up the right program for you may take a little bit of work.

If I had any suggestion as to an overall approach, it would be to take sure you are always taking something outlined in Step 1 and 2. As far as EFA's go, EPA/DHA would be the more year round constant focus, with arachidonic acid supplements being added in for short anabolic burst cycles (2-3 cycles per year).

After your Step 1 and 2 supplements are sorted out, you can construct periodic cycles throughout the year utilizing supplements from Steps 3 and 4. Give some thought to how you might want to alternate or stagger your approach.

Enlarge Click Image To Enlarge.
Trying To Add All These Supplements
Together Might Take A Little Bit Of Work.

Just as an example, since you shouldn't take testosterone boosters all year long, you might want to schedule a 2-month cycle in the spring using a Natural Aromatase Inhibitor or Longjack, combined with Divanillyltetrahydrofuran. You can do this at the same time as running arachidonic acid for maximum gains, or save it for a later non-hormonal cycle.

Once your testosterone boosting stack is completed you still have solid non-hormonal products to work with for the summer like beta alanine, creatine, or NO boosters. Note there are also many "stack" products to shop for that include combinations of these ingredients.

Animal Test Universal Presents:
Animal Test

Animal Test is the ultimate in legal hypertrophic, pro-testosterone supplementation. Combining the most potent natural extracts with one of the hottest, patented, proven supplements to hit the industry in recent years, the all new Animal Test redefines the capabilities of bodybuilding supplementation.
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The possibilities for constructing a yearly program are almost endless. But one thing I am very sure of is that you should notice your best progress by covering the fundamentals and working with solid and proven ergogenic supplements. Do this while staying dedicated to your training schedule, workout intensity, and general dietary needs, and you really can't go wrong!