Bodybuilding supplements are substances taken by athletes or individuals involved in weight training or other physical activity to aid in the building of lean muscle mass or to cause fat loss. Bodybuilding supplements may also be used to improve sports performance and improve recovery from events and training. However, their potential effects remain controversial.


Bodybuilders often take a powdered form of protein, the essential building blocks for muscle. Protein powder is generally consumed immediately before and after exercising, or in place of a meal. The theory behind this supplementation is that having a sufficient protein intake allows for efficient growth and repair of muscle tissue.

Branched chain amino acidsEdit

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein; the body breaks consumed protein into amino acids in the stomach and intestines. There are three branched chain amino acids (BCAAs): leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Each has numerous benefits on various biological processes in the body. Unlike other amino acids, BCAAs are metabolised in the muscle and have an anabolic/anti-catabolic effect on it. [3]


Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid found in human muscle and is supplemented because supplement manufacturers claim the body's natural glutamine levels are depleted during anaerobic exercise. It is argued that bodybuilders should supplement with glutamine, as deficiency may lead to a weakened immune system and wasting of muscle tissue.Template:Fact It is sold as a micronized, instantly soluble powder. Some studies [4] [5] have shown there to be no significant effect of glutamine on bench press strength, knee-extension torque or lean muscle mass when compared to controls taking a placebo, though another study found that glutamine is beneficial in raising T-helper/suppressor cell ratio in long distance runners.[6]

Essential Fatty AcidsEdit

For a healthy diet Essential Fatty Acids are necessary nutrients specially while bodybuilding. Bodybuilders often go on such a low fat diet that they become fat deficient.Template:Fact There are foods and supplements available to fulfill these needs.

Instead of low-fat fish, try salmon, trout, or mackerel. Fish fats cannot readily be made in the body, but are needed by organs (especially the brain).Template:Fact You can also take fish oils in supplement form.

Polyunsaturated vegetable oils, such as corn, sunflower, and safflower oils, cannot provide linoleic acid. Soybean oil is the only supermarket oil that contains linolenic acid. Flaxseed oil, which can also be found in walnuts and pumpkin seeds, is the ideal source of α-Linolenic acid.[7]

Obtained from coconut oil, MCTs have an unjustified reputation in the world of bodybuilding.Template:Fact It is commonly believed that MCTs cannot be deposited into fat cells, but research has shown this to be incorrect.Template:Fact Although MCTs are rapidly available to the bloodstream, they don't give an athlete more strength, size speed, or endurance.Template:Fact

These are the most benign of fats in that they don't affect your cholesterol or protaglandins (regulators of harmone action) like some of the polyunsaturated fats.Template:Fact Monounsaturated fats are found in olive oil and macadamia nuts.[8][9]

Various supplements in health food stores contain essential fatty acids derived from fish oils and other sources. [10].

Meal Replacement ProductsEdit

Meal Replacement Products (MRPs) are either pre-packaged powdered drink mixes or edible bars. Both are consumed in the place of a whole-food meal. Generally MRPs are high in protein, low in fat, have a low to moderate amount of carbohydrates, and contain a wide array of vitamins and minerals.

The majority of MRPs use whey protein, calcium caseinate or micellar casein, soy protein, and egg albumin as the protein source. Carbohydrates are typically derived from maltodextrin, oat fiber, brown rice, or wheat flour. Some also contain flax oil powder as a source of essential fatty acids.

MRPs can also contain other ingredients that are deemed beneficial to bodybuilders. These can include, but are not limited to: creatine monohydrate, glutamine peptides, L-glutamine, calcium alpha-ketoglutarate, additional amino acids, lactoferrin, conjugated linoleic acid, and medium chain triglycerides.


Main article: Prohormone

Prohormones are precursors to hormones and were most typically sold to bodybuilders as a precursor to the natural hormone testosterone. This conversion requires naturally occurring enzymes in the body. Side effects are not uncommon, as prohormones can also convert further into DHT and estrogen. To deal with this, many supplements also have aromatase inhibitors and DHT blockers such as chrysin and 4-androstene-3,6,17-trione. To date most prohormone products have not been thoroughly studied, and the health effects of prolonged use are unknown.


Main article: Creatine supplements
Creatine is an organic acid naturally occurring in the body that supplies energy to muscle cells for short bursts of energy (such as lifting weights) via creatine phosphate replenishment of ATP. A number of scientific studies have shown that creatine can increase strength,[11] energy[12], muscle mass, reducing recovery time. In addition, recent studies have also shown that creatine improves brain function[13] and reduces mental fatigue.[14] Unlike steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs, creatine can be found naturally in many common foods such as herring, tuna, salmon, and beef, making it difficult to ban it from sporting competitions[15].

It increases what is known as cell volumization by drawing water into muscle cells, making them larger. This intracellular retention should not be confused with the common myth that creatine causes bloating (or intercellular water retention). Creatine is sold in a variety of forms, including creatine monohydrate, and creatine ethyl ester, amongst others. Though all types of creatine are sold for the same purposes, there are subtle differences between them, such as price, and necessary dosage. Non-supplemental suppliers of creatine include various types of offal, red meat, and kidney meat.

Claims that creatine could be stressful to the kidneys (due to primary renal elimination via creatinine) have been proven false through studies conducted by universities and independent organizations.[16]

Thermogenic productsEdit

Main article: Thermogenics

A thermogenic is a broad term for any supplement that the manufacturer claims will cause thermogenesis, resulting in an increased metabolic rate, increased body temperature and consequently an increased rate in the burning of body fat. Until recently almost every product found in this supplement category comprised the "ECA stack": ephedrine, caffeine and aspirin. However, on February 6 2004 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the sale of ephedra and its alkaloid, ephedrine, for use in weight loss formulas. Several manufacturers replaced the ephedra component of the "ECA" stack with bitter orange or citrus aurantium (containing synephrine) instead of the ephedrine. To date the effectiveness of this new combination is not conclusive.

Testosterone boostersEdit

There are several naturally occurring plants and vitamins as well as synthetic chemicals that supplement companies claim may produce an increase in testosterone levels. However, the validity of many of these products is questionable due to a lack of valid scientific research showing their effectiveness, and even scientific evidence showing a lack of effectiveness. Some commonly taken supplements of this type are ZMA and Tribulus terrestris.

The relatively new drug 4-androstene-3,6,17-trione may increase the testosterone-estrogen ratio.Template:Fact

Excess testosterone can cause undesirable side effects, such as hair loss and acne,Template:Fact and may be converted into estrogens,[17] which can have undesirable effects on males, such as gynecomastia and testicular atrophy.[18]

See alsoEdit


  1. Soy is Still Bad Protein by Glen Neilson, Retrieved on 2009-04-08.
  2. Soy: What's the Big Deal? by Dr. John Berardi and Ryan Andrews Retrieved on 2009-04-08.
  3. Candow DG, Chilibeck PD, Burke DG, Davison KS, Smith-Palmer T. (2001) Effect of glutamine supplementation combined with resistance training in young adults, European Journal of Applied Physiology€
  4. Antonio, J., Sanders, M., Kalman, D., Woodgate, D. and Street, C. (2002) The effects of high-dose glutamine ingestion on weightlifting performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 16, 157-160
  5. Castell, L. and Newsholme, E. (1997) The effects of oral glutamine supplementation on athletes after prolonged, exhaustive exercise. Nutrition 13, 738-742
  6. [1]
  7. [2]
  8. Essential Fatty Acids by
  9. Becque, M. et al. (1999). Effects of oral creatine supplementation on muscular strength and body composition. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 32:3, 654-658.
  10. Birch, R. et al. (1994). The influence of dietary creatine supplementation on performance during repeated bouts of maximal isokinetic cycling in man. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 69, 268-270.
  11. The Truth About Creatine Supplements
  12. Creatine Studies, Possible Adverse Effects of Creatine Supplementation.
  13. Modified aromatase inhibitors having improved bioavailability, USPTO Application #20050203074
  14. Glossary of Prostate Cancer Related Terms, Prostate Cancer Research Institute