Essential Supplements for Muscle Growth & Fat Burning

While diet and your training regime are the most important aspects when it comes to muscle growth and fat burning [1][2], you will find that people are more interested in learning about what supplements you take.

Supplements can certainly aid your transformation [3], but which ones are essential and which ones are best avoided?

If you continue reading you will soon discover for yourself which supplements you should be adding to your shopping basket.

Questions to Ask Before You Buy?

Before you buy any supplement there are a few questions you should be asking:

What Are Your Goals?

What is it that you want to achieve?

Are you looking to build muscle, or to burn fat? Or possibly both at the same time (body recomposition)?

You will need to choose a supplement that will help you achieve your goal.

Does the Supplement Work?

This is probably the most important question you should be asking.

If the supplement does not offer any benefit then is it really worth taking it? Sometimes (often) supplement companies will make big claims but are then unable to back up the claims with proof.

You should always look for a label, with ingredients and dosage information. This is the best way to know whether a supplement works or not.

Are They Expensive?

Can you afford to buy these supplements?

While muscle gains and fat loss may seem important you may have other bills to pay that are much more important to you.

There are also many supplements available that hide their true cost. For example, auto-ship programs or “free trials”, which tempt people just like you into signing up for expensive monthly payments.

You should always read the small print before you buy.

Can You Contact the Company?

If you have seemingly found the perfect supplement but the company selling it does not have any contact information then my suggestion to you would be to look elsewhere.

The ability to contact a company is incredibly important, just in case any issues arise.

Is There A Money Back Guarantee?

A money back guarantee is like an extra little bit of assurance that if there is an issue then your money is safe.

If a supplement company does not offer a guarantee then perhaps they are not as confident about the claimed benefits as they should be.

Top 8 Essential Supplements

Without further ado, let's look at what essential supplements you should add to your shopping basket:

Whey Protein

If you know anything about build muscle then you will know the importance of adequate protein intake.

While it is certainly possible to get enough protein for muscle growth just through diet alone, for some people it will be difficult.

Think of it like this. What would be easier, having to eat 4-5 (or more) protein-rich meals or to supplement your meals with a couple of protein shakes?

Protein shakes can help with:

Recovery – After an intense workout, your body requires protein for repair. If you supplement immediately after a workout it can help with muscle recovery, and help build bigger and stronger muscle.

Appetite suppression – You can use whey protein as a meal replacement shake. I don’t personally agree with skipping meals, but know that this is a popular method to lose weight.

Amino acid intake – Whey protein contains essential amino acids that aid protein synthesis.

I personally drink at least two protein shakes daily, usually one at breakfast and another immediately after a workout.


Although creatine is a naturally occurring substance you may not be getting enough of it through your diet alone. Therefore supplementation may be necessary.

It is produced in your kidneys, pancreas and liver before it is transported to your muscle tissue where it is transformed into creatine phosphate.

Next, ATP is produced, which is an energy molecule that will regenerate your muscles ability to contract and generate power during intense short bouts of exercise.

Creatine can promote muscle growth, can boost energy and strength, and can also help aid recovery from exercise [4][5].

Research has also shown that creatine can increase the production of growth hormones, such as IGF-1 [6], and can also reduce the breakdown of protein within your muscle [7].

Branched Chain Amino Acids

The three BCAAs are leucine, isoleucine and valine. They are found in most protein sources, for example within poultry, eggs, fish and dairy products.

You may be getting enough BCAAs through your diet alone, but if you are not then supplementation can aid your ability to build muscle [8][9].


Glutamine can help slow down the rate that tissue is broken down during intense exercise, which helps to boost endurance and strength [10].

As muscle tissue is preserved, you are better able to burn off additional fat reserves. It can also aid recovery from workouts [11].


Beta-alanine is an amino acid that has been shown to reduce fatigue, and may also help to increase exercise performance [12][13].

There is research that shows that supplementing with beta-alanine can help increase muscle mass when used within an appropriate exercise program [14][15].

Citrulline Malate

Originally used to treat both mental and physical fatigue in patients post-surgery. It has now become more popular as a performance enhancer.

Supplementing with citrulline malate helps to increase the rates of ATP during exercise, and will also help increase rates of Per recovery post-exercise too [16][17].

Research has found that those who supplement with citrulline malate were able to perform more repetitions than those who took a placebo [18].


Caffeine is a stimulant that can boost performance in both endurance and high-intensity exercise [19][20][21].

While research is a little thin regarding its benefits for weight training, there is research that has shown that it can reduce fatigue and can lower your perception of effort.

Omega-3 Fish Oil

Omega-3 fish oils offer many health benefits, offering anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties to those who supplement with them.

If you are performing resistance training then your muscle will experience microscopic tears. While these tears are necessary for muscle growth, if you are suffering from the pain and inflammation you will likely not want to train until the pain has subsided.

Omega-3 fish oil can help reduce this inflammation and speed up your post-exercise recovery [22][23].

When combined with BCAAs and carbohydrates, they can also help to increase protein synthesis, which will lead to greater gains in muscle mass [24][25].

Supplements You Should Avoid

While there are certainly supplements available that can help with your goals there are also some that are best avoided. That offer no real benefit, or can potentially cause side effects.

I would recommend avoiding supplements that contain any of the following ingredients:


Aconite is a plant that is used in traditional medicine. It is often used to treat inflammation, joint pain and gout. However, it has been linked to numerous side effects, including:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Low blood pressure
  • Heart rhythm disorders

Most worryingly is that this ingredient has also been linked to system paralysis and even death [26][27].

Bitter Orange

Bitter orange, which is often referred to as citrus aurantium is another plant. It contains synephrine, which is a compound similar to ephedrine [28].

It was once a common ingredient found in fat burners as it was a natural stimulant shown to increase the heart rate, and therefore your metabolism.

In 2004, the FDA banned ephedrine due to the serious side effects it could cause. It is thought that bitter orange could cause similar side effects and has been banned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) [29].


Chaparral is an extract found in the creosote bush, it has been used in weight loss supplements in the past.

Unfortunately, it has been shown to cause a host of problems including kidney and liver damage [30].

The FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) has recommended avoiding its use [31].


Hydroxycut was once a popular ingredient found in many weight loss and fat loss supplements.

It was banned and recalled in 2009 because of the risk of serious side effects, which included hepatitis, jaundice and damage to your kidneys, liver and other organs. There was even one death involved [32][33].


Fen-Phen is a fat burner made from a combination of two ingredients; Fenfluramine and Phentermine.

Fenfluramine has been linked to heart damage and lung disease so was taken off the shelves in the late 1990s [34].

Phentermine is still available, but only with a doctors prescription.


Meridia or Sibutramine is a prescription weight loss drug that was withdrawn from the market in 2010 [35] after being shown that its use could increase the risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke [36].


2,4-dinitrophenol is often found in black market fat burning supplements, and while it can increase your metabolic rate, therefore helping to burn calories and fat, it also causes serious side effects that could result in death [37].

DNP has been shown to cause overheating and serious issues, with 23 deaths reported in the UK since 2011 [38].

Should You Use Steroids?

If you are struggling to get the physique you want you may be tempted by steroids, but should you risk using them?

Let's look more closely at anabolic steroids to see if the potential benefits outweigh the risk of side effects.

What Are Anabolic Steroids?

Anabolic steroids are synthetic drugs that are derived from testosterone, the male sex hormone.

They were originally created back in the 1930s to help treat a condition called hypogonadism.

This condition stops the testes from producing enough testosterone to promote growth, development and sexual function.

It wasn’t long after it was created that it was discovered that steroids could also be used to enhance the performance of athletes.

Steroids work by causing both anabolic and androgenic changes to your body.

Anabolic changes include muscle growth, an increase in bone density and an increase in red blood cells. Androgenic means changes to your sexual characteristics.

Most steroids are anabolic, but some have more androgenic characteristics than others.

When you take steroids (either orally, or via injection) they will travel through your bloodstream until they come into contact with your steroid receptor molecules. These are found in your muscle cells.

These receptors are then stimulated, which will help to release enzymes that promote muscle growth through an increase in protein synthesis.

Potential Benefits of Anabolic Steroids

There is plenty of research available that shows the potential benefits of steroid use. This is why steroids have been banned from most sporting events [39].

Not only can they be used to build muscle mass, but using them also increases strength [40], will boost your stamina and also aid with recovery [41].

Using steroids can also help to burn fat [42], and have been shown to increase the density of your bones [43], which will help to reduce the risk of fracture.

Research has found that the benefits gained are not for the short-term either. With studies showing that powerlifters who had used steroids in the past still holding a competitive advantage over their competitors many years after discontinuing their use [44].

Side Effects of Anabolic Steroids

There are a variety of side effects you should be aware of when using steroids, many of which may even be permanent [45]:

  • Higher blood pressure
  • Increased risk of heart disease
  • Increased risk of liver disease
  • Infertility
  • More aggression (roid rage)
  • Acne on your face, back and chest
  • Unusual hair growth
  • Hair loss
  • Gynecomastia (man boobs)

With the risks associated with steroid use is it really worth the risk using them?

In Conclusion

The final thing that we are going to say is that supplements can only do so much. They are not going to work unless you put in effort of your own.

At the very start of this article, I stated that your diet and exercise regime is the most important aspect, and this is still true. Supplements can only supplement your own good work.

If you believe that drinking some whey protein and popping a few pills will give you the body of Arnie then you are going to be disappointed. Without work, even the strongest anabolic steroid won't give you the body you want.

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Essential Supplements for Muscle Growth & Fat Burning
Supplements can aid your transformation. Which ones are essential and which ones are best avoided? What are the best supps for muscle growth and fat loss?
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