Unsung Bodybuilding Supplements

Posted: May 21, 2013 in fitness


When asked about the most effective bodybuilding supplements, the usual suspects always show up: Whey protein, multivitamin, fish oil and creatine.

While these are great for their purposes, I’ve found there are certain supplements that are not quite as sexy, yet can have a huge impact on improving your physique. The best part is that they are not overly expensive either. For each I’ll touch on WHAT (it is), WHY (to take it), WHEN (to take it) and HOW (much to take).


What: Electrolytes are really just minerals (the primary ones being Magnesium, potassium, chromium, calcium and sodium) that play a huge role in keeping your body hydrated, and prevent cramping.  These cannot be created by the body so they need to be included in your diet.  Most multivitamins do contain small amounts of these but not in a great amount.

Why: Muscle hydration is a huge part of hypertrophy, and due to the role that electrolytes play in that, it stands to reason that incorporating them into your regular diet will be beneficial.

When: Post workout is usually the best time. On leg training day I usually take a couple of doses.

How Much: Each mineral has different optimal amounts, so my suggestion is to get pre-made packages of dissolving electrolytes. Start with one package and if needed increase from there.

*Magnesium* – Magnesium is an electrolyte, but it is a very important mineral that is deficient in most people.  It is extremely helpful in both fat burning and muscle gaining, which is why it is a staple of mine year round.  But it is also important to note that you should avoid Magnesium Oxide, and opt instead for another form such as aspartate or citrate.  The reason for this is simply that magnesium oxide, the cheapest form of magnesium is virtually useless in the human body.


What: Essentially this is a powdered assortment of vegetables.

Why: Keeping muscle alkalinity is another underrated

When: They can really be taken at any time in place of a serving of vegetables, one good idea would be to take them shortly after resistance training to help return muscle acidity to normal.

How Much: A typical serving is around 10g.


What: This is one of a few supplements found to relieve and prevent joint pain.

Why: Especially when it comes to shoulder joints, keeping the joints healthy and lubricated is important to ensure you can not only recover from training, but train it as hard as possible to ensure continual growth. There are many joint supplements out there, but MSM is one that seems to have the most consistent positive findings with no negative ones, so that makes it my go-to joint supp.

When: Post workout is generally the best time, if you have a lot of joint soreness a second dose before bed may help too.

How Much: A typical dosage is around 500mg.  Start with that, and if it does not prevent joint pain a second dosage a few hours later can often be very effective.


What: Melatonin is a hormone that appears to help other hormones including anabolic hormones work more effectively. It has often been used as a sleep aid.

Why: Since one of the things it has been shown to do is boost GH, it can be helpful for anyone building muscle

When: Pre-workout to optimize hormones and before bed.

How Much: 2-5mg is recommended, 3mg seems to be standard in many formulations.

Vitamin D

What: This is a fat-soluble vitamin, the D3 form is also called Cholecalciferol, and has been shown to have the greater efficacy than other forms of vitamin D.  It is still not known whether vitamin D boosts testosterone or if it is simply a limiting factor, however studies have shown there is a clear relationship between vitamin D and testosterone.

Why: As mentioned, vitamin D is an important vitamin for maintaining optimal testosterone, but it also has other benefits including bone density, immune functions and disease prevention.

When: Since Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, it requires fatty acids to be present to transport it.  Therefore I typically consume some with every fat-containing meal (for me that is my first meal and last two meals of the day).

How Much: As a fat-soluble vitamin, toxicity is always a concern, however getting to that point is pretty difficult with vitamin D….


What: Zinc is another mineral that is often deficient in people, and while it is technically an electrolyte, it rarely shows up in electrolyte supplements.

Why: Test… ‘Nuff said, but I’ll say more anyway. Zinc is not likely to boost your testosterone to the point where you are breaking out in zits like a teenager again, but being deficient might be a limiting factor that is preventing you from making the gains you ought to be.  It also assists with other bodily functions to keep you healthy.

When: It can be taken throughout the day.

How Much: The dosage required will vary depending on how much you are getting naturally from your diet. Since a typical dosage is 25-30mg start with one serving per day before bed and increase if needed.


What: This is one of the essential amino acids and branched chain amino acids found in complete proteins. It has been found to stimulate protein synthesis all on its own, typically at a dose of 3g.

Why: The primary reason to supplement with leucine is that it is inexpensive, tasteless and can be easily mixed into a protein shake or pre-workout drink to ensure you are getting at least 3g.

When: It can be taken with meals or in between.

How Much: 3g.

Flax seed oil

What: An omega 3 oil that can be found in liquid or capsule form.

Why: There are many reasons that flax seed oil can be beneficial, but one of the main ones I like it for is joint lubrication.

When: It can be taken with any non-carbohydrate meals, specifically on shoulder training days.

How Much: This is going to vary person to person based on your daily caloric intake as well as how much fat is already in the meal you are eating, I generally do not exceed 4g in a single serving.

MassPro Synthagen

What: This is the only “proprietary” supplement I feel deserves to be on this list. The main ingredient here is a blend of all 9 essential amino acids that has gone through extensive testing by its creator to get the optimal ratio. In addition to the EAAs there is taurine, magnesium, Beta-Alanine, as well as ATP and carnosine boosting agents as well as a strong adaptogen… and all of which have been designed to complement one another when it comes to building and repairing muscles.

Why: Essential amino acids are required to build muscle, there is no debating that. This is one reason why whey protein is so popular, as it provides relatively fast absorbing aino acids.  However in free form they enter the system even more quickly making them the perfect supplement pre and post workout. All of the complimenting ingredients only add to this.  Over the past year I’ve used this supplement fairly regularly and I believe it has played a large role in my results.

When: There are three key times that Synthagen can be taken, pre and post workout are the primary times, but it can also be taken pre-bedtime as it has been shown to improve sleep.

How Much: The recommended dosage is 5-7 caps per dosage.  Personally I find as little as 3 taken with BCAAs to be effective. The makers also suggest to take synthagen with tart cherry juice.  I’ll be honest, I’ve done it with and without Cherry juice and found little difference in results in myself.


I feel the only way to get the best value for your buck when it comes to supplements is to understand how your body works and how to optimize those functions. Most of the products on shelves today are marketed based on little or no human studies to support their claims.  By taking an intelligent approach you can save yourself a lot of money and get far better results!

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