Best Muscle Building Supplements for the Beginning Lifter
For the average fitness enthusiast or beginning lifter, the thought of introducing supplements into your diet can be somewhat overwhelming. You may be thinking that because there are so many supplements to choose from you have no idea where to begin. Or, that adding supplements to your diet is going to cost you your entire savings account.
So, where do you start?
Do you just start clicking the ‘Add to Cart’ button on the supplements with the cool looking label? Do you buy the most expensive supplements you can find because you think high price must equal high quality? Do you have to spend inordinate amounts of money to get the supplements you need?
The answer to all of these questions is no. Obtaining a general understanding of what’s in a specific supplement and what that supplement can do for you in achieving your goals is extremely important before you start your supplement journey. And, an effective, beginning stack of supplements can be purchased at an extremely reasonable price.
This quick guide to 10 popular supplements is a great starting point for anyone looking to learn and understand more information about nutritional supplements. You can incorporate one, a few, or all of these supplements into your diet depending on your budget and specific goals.
10 Best Muscle Building Supplements for Beginners
#1 – Protein Powders
Whey Protein Powders
Whey protein: The king of supplements. When anyone thinks of nutritional supplements the first thing that comes to their head is whey protein and there’s a reason for that. Whey protein has been studied extensively and has been shown to aid in lean mass and improve recovery.
Whey protein is also a complete protein source, comparable to protein sources such as eggs or chicken, that is packed with essential amino acids. Whey protein is one of the simplest, cheapest ways to raise your protein intake and meet your daily macronutrient goals.
Recommend whey proteins:
Isolate: Whey isolate protein is a purer form of whey protein. Isolate protein powders undergo more processing and filtration compared to whey protein, removing most of the lactose and decreasing the carbohydrate and fat content.
With an isolate protein you are going to get the same amount of protein content as a whey protein, but with less fat, carbohydrates, and calories. Due to the higher quality, isolate proteins tend to be more expensive than a whey protein.
Recommended isolate proteins:
- MTS Machine Iso
- Dymatize ISO 100
- Core Nutritionals CORE ISO
Non-animal based: Non animal-source protein is another source of powdered protein that has risen to popularity within the last decade. Powdered proteins derived from soy, hemp, rice, and pea are some of the most popular non-dairy based proteins currently on the market. These types of protein powders are perfect for individuals who are vegetarian, vegan, or sensitive to lactose.
One of the best forms of non-animal based proteins comes in the form of combining both rice and pea protein as done within HPN’s Pro Zero Premium Protein. This combination creates a complete protein, comparable to that of whey protein.
Recommended non-animal based protein:
Casein. Compared to its counterpart, whey protein, casein protein is a slow digesting dairy protein that is absorbed much slower within your body. Due to its slow release profile, most individuals will use casein as a pre-bed meal or snack so that their body is received a steady influx of amino acids while they are sleeping.
Casein protein has also been attributed to benefits in fat loss due to its high calcium content. Combining a higher calcium intake within your diet, combined with a moderate protein intake can be beneficial in fat loss. 
Recommended casein powders:
#2 – Creatine
While many people still have doubts or worries about creatine, the research on creatine and its effects over the last 20 years has increased dramatically. The studies on creatine show that it is extremely beneficial for helping you build muscle and strength, while also having positive effects on bone density and increasing glycogen synthesis.  
Supplementing your nutrition with 2.5-10 grams of creatine daily, depending on your weight and health goals, can help you improve your overall health and increase your performance in the gym.
Recommended creatine products:
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#3 – BCAAs
Branch chained amino acids, or BCAAs, are another supplement that continues to be extensively researched and continues to show benefits as a supplement to add to your diet. Consisting of the three essential amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine, BCAAs assist in muscle growth and protein synthesis.
As you work out and get fatigued your amino acid levels can drop, so by providing your body with these essential amino acids you are allowing your body to recover faster and perform at an optimal level.
Recommended BCAA products:
#4 – Pre-Workout
If there’s one product that has flooded the supplement market lately it’s the pre-workout.
Pre-workout supplements are designed to take 20-30 minutes before you start your workout (hence the name) and include ingredients that are designed to give you energy, focus, and provide you a ‘pump’ while you are working out. Common ingredients found in pre-workouts include beta-alanine, caffeine, carnitine, citrulline malate, and taurine, which are all ingredients that assist with fat loss, muscle repair, recovery, and providing more blood flow throughout your body to give you that pump.
Recommend pre-workout products:
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#5 – Mass Gainer
Mass gainer powders are similar to protein powders, but have a higher caloric and carbohydrate profile as compared to a whey protein. Mass gainers are designed for individuals looking for a simple and effective way to boost their calorie and carbohydrate intake throughout the day.
Recommended mass gainer products:
#6 – MTS Carb 10
Carb 10 is a unique product derived from peas that gives you a pure carbohydrate product with minimal calories, no protein, and only 1 gram of fat. As a carbohydrate source that’s absorbed extremely fast within your body, MTS Carb 10 is designed to feed your body with the carbohydrates it needs pre and post workout without spiking your insulin levels.
#7 – Multi-Vitamin
A multi-vitamin normally contains all the essential vitamins and minerals you need in your diet to stay healthy. Getting your daily dose of Vitamin A-E, biotin, iron, calcium, zinc, and other minerals is critical in maintaining your overall health, keeping your energy levels high, and maintain your performance levels in the gym.
For example, Vitamin B is important for nerve function, Vitamin C helps protect cells and your immune system, and Vitamin D helps your body absorb and use calcium more efficiently. Taking a multi-vitamin each morning provides your body with the full amount of vitamins and minerals it needs every day to function at an optimum level.
#8 – Fish Oil
Fish oil is a fatty acid that is derived from the tissues of oily fish, containing Omega-3 fatty acids. Fish oil is found naturally within fish, but if you’re not a fan of eating fish or don’t like eating fish every day then you should be adding a fish oil tablet into your diet.
Fish oil helps to keep your cholesterol levels in check, assists with keeping your bones dense as you age, and have been suggested to increase glucose and fatty acid uptake into the muscle cells.
Recommended fish oil products:
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#9 – Fat Burner
I’m sure you’ve seen infomercial after infomercial and endless billboards shouting at you to buy the next latest and greatest “fat burner.” Before you start dialing that 1-800-FAT-BURN phone number, you should understand how a fat burner can benefit you in your fitness goals.
Most fat burners are going to combine some combination of caffeine, a green tea extract, and yohimbe. The combination of ingredients in a fat burner doesn’t just automatically burn away your fat. The ingredients assist your body in giving you energy to push a little longer, harder or faster in the gym. They also assist with enhancing blood flow, which can make the oxidation of fatty acids easier.
Fat burners can also assist with increasing your metabolic rate so you burn calories easier. In order to ‘lose fat’ with a fat burner you need to combine it with a dedicated workout program. Simply popping a pill every morning isn’t the solution.
Recommended fat burner products:
#10 – Caffeine
There’s a good chance caffeine already plays a large role in many of your lives. Can’t get your morning started until you’ve funneled down a jug of coffee right? The benefits of caffeine go beyond just allowing you to keep your eyes open during your 8AM meeting.
A healthy dose of caffeine prior to working out can increase mental alertness, your power, and your metabolic rate. Caffeine comes in a variety of forms including caffeine citrate, dicaffeine malate, and caffeine anhydrous (for a more in-depth look at caffeine click here).
If you are already drinking your morning cup of coffee and taking a pre-workout product or fat burner, you are most likely already getting your daily recommended dose of caffeine. If not, you can take caffeine in a pill form as well to help you reach your fitness goals.
Recommended caffeine products:
The Pocket Guide to Supplements
Understanding how these 10 supplements can assist you in reaching your physical and mental goals is important if want to start implementing supplements into your diet. There are many other different supplements on the market than the one’s listed above, but these 10 will give you a strong base towards being familiar with supplementation.
You can keep this article in your back pocket as a quick, pocket guide to supplementation. Search the Tiger Fitness content site for further information and articles regarding any of the supplements described above and check out the Tiger Fitness Squad on YouTube for the latest videos discussing fitness, nutrition, and supplementation.
1) Astrup, A. et al. (2005). Effect of Short-Term High Dietary Calcium Intake on 24-h Energy Expenditure, Fat Oxidation, and Fecal Fat Excretion. International Journal of Obesity. 29, 292-301.
2) Chilibeck, P.D., Chrusch, M.J., Chad, K.E., Shawn Davison, K., & Burke, D.G. (2005). Creatine monohydrate and resistance training increase bone mineral content and density in older men. Journal of Nutrition Health and Aging, 9(5), 352-3.
3) Gualano, B., Novaes, R. B., Artioli, G. G., Freire, T. O., Coelho, D. F., Scagliusi, F. B., … & Lancha Jr, A. H. (2008). Effects of creatine supplementation on glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity in sedentary healthy males undergoing aerobic training. Amino Acids, 34(2), 245-250.