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11 supplements to optimize your mass-building plan

11 Supplements zur Optimierung Deines Masseaufbauplans

Optimize your mass building plan supplementation and learn which supplements can help you build muscle mass more effectively.

Winter is approaching in the northern hemisphere, which means a few things: cold weather, darkness, Christmas holidays and large amounts of food. In the fitness world, these things go hand in hand with a mass-building phase. This article is for those who already have a well-thought-out training plan, a good diet and a good recovery strategy, and who also want to optimize their supplementation. The purpose of this article is to list the best 11 supplements for this phase and give the reader an overview of what these supplements are and why they can be beneficial during a mass building phase.

1. creatine monohydrate

Creatine monohydrate is a chemical that is naturally produced by the body, found in food and commercially produced as a supplement. Creatine is a real rock star for the mass building phase as it can improve exercise performance, increase muscle mass, increase anaerobic cardiovascular capacity and increase power release (1, 2). Our goals during the mass-building phase are to increase muscle mass and strength while minimizing fat gain. Creatine is king when it comes to the former and as long as you keep your diet under control, your fat gains should be minimal.

Here are the recommended dosing regimens based on the creatine dosage form used (2, 3, 4):

  • Creatine Monohydrate: 0.3 grams per kilogram of body weight for 5 to 7 days for maximum replenishment of muscle creatine stores, then 5 grams per day to maintain creatine stores.
  • Creatine ethyl ester: 4.5 grams per day
  • Creatine nitrate: 1 to 2 grams per day
  • Kre-Alkalyn: 1.5 grams per day

If creatine is taken daily, I don't see any need for a loading phase if you don't want to saturate your creatine stores a little faster. Creatine monohydrate is the cheapest option and has the same efficiency as more expensive creatine products.

2. vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that your body can produce itself by exposing the skin to sunlight and can be taken orally in the form of supplements. As vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, taking it in combination with a small amount of fat such as fish oil or with meals containing fat will improve absorption. Wintertime goes hand in hand with minimal sun exposure and cold weather, which means we spend less time outside and our skin is exposed to less sunlight. Adequate levels of vitamin D in the blood increase levels of androgenic, muscle-building hormones, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of bone fractures and improve mood (5). Vitamin D is a must for overall health and ensuring healthy endogenous hormone levels is optimal during the mass-building phase.

Those of us who have an office job should consider supplementing with 1000 to 2000 IU of vitamin D3 per day (6). One study showed that a daily intake of 3000 IU of vitamin D could increase androgen levels in men with low vitamin D blood levels, but could not increase these levels above normal (7). I supplement 5000 IU of vitamin D daily, but I also have pale skin, live in the Northeast, and have a history of low vitamin D levels.

3 D-Aspartic Acid (DAA)

DAA, a non-essential amino acid, is one of the most effective testosterone boosters available on the market. DAA is found naturally in foods such as soy protein and casein, but is most commonly consumed in supplement form. DAA increases the release of luteinizing hormone (LH) in humans, which stimulates the production of anabolic, muscle-building hormones and sperm production (8). One study suggests that DAA supplementation can increase T levels after just 6 days of use and by 42% after 12 days of use, and that levels fall again by 22% 3 days after stopping supplementation (9). Another study reported a 30 to 60% increase in androgen levels in infertile men after 90 days of use (9).

Increased levels of the primary male hormone are synonymous with optimal muscle growth, strength gains, increased sex drive and better recovery after exercise. DAA should be taken in doses of 2 to 3 grams per day after waking up and before training. Although there is not much information on whether DAA should be used cyclically, I have seen good results with a regimen consisting of 3 weeks of use followed by a week off. DAA is an inexpensive way to increase the body's levels of anabolic androgenic hormones, which will help you build muscle and minimize fat gain during your mass building phase.

4. ZMA

ZMA is a vitamin/mineral supplement that contains zinc monomethionine aspartate, magnesium aspartate and vitamin B6. A serving of ZMA typically contains 200-450mg of magnesium, 5-45mg of zinc and 5-15mg of vitamin B6. Zinc and magnesium are two minerals crucial for immune health, regeneration and nervous system function. In addition, the stores of these minerals are depleted by heavy sweating during strenuous physical activity. Magnesium deficiency is common in the Western world and such a deficiency can increase blood pressure, raise blood sugar levels and reduce insulin sensitivity (5).

Insulin is an important compound for muscle building and poor insulin sensitivity could lead to excessive fat gain during the mass-building phase. Zinc deficiency can lower endogenous levels of anabolic androgenic hormones, exacerbate acne and increase blood sugar levels (6). However, zinc supplementation does not appear to increase endogenous anabolic hormone levels above normal once any zinc deficiency has been corrected. As everyone should know, adequate insulin sensitivity and adequate levels of endogenous anabolic hormones are crucial for muscle growth and strength gains, which is why ZMA is an ideal supplement for the mass-building phase.

5. branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs)

The term BCAAs refers to the three amino acids leucine, isoleucine and valine. Adequate BCAA intake will increase muscle growth and repair, prevent fatigue and reduce muscle soreness (10). Pure BCAA products contain no added carbohydrates or fats, but are typically more expensive than the same amount of total protein in the form of other protein powders due to the isolation process. Those following an intermittent fasting style diet often consume BCAAs before and after a training session in a fasted state to delay the onset of fatigue and improve endurance.

It should be noted that the law of diminishing returns comes into play when you consume additional BCAAs to exceed a daily protein intake of 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (10). Based on your protein intake and budget, you can consume 2 to 10 grams of leucine, 48-72mg of isoleucine per kilogram of body weight and 20 mg of valine per kilogram of body weight per day (10). BCAAs are an excellent way to ensure that you are in an anabolic state around the clock, which will help you optimize your muscle growth during your mass-building phase.

6. fenugreek

Fenugreek is a plant-based supplement that can increase levels of the primary male anabolic hormone and stimulate appetite. In an eight-week study, a daily 500 mg dose of fenugreek (50% fenuside) combined with a weight training program increased primary male anabolic hormone levels in healthy men (11).

Even though this increase was only in the range of a few ng/ml, any such increase helps in the world of steroid-free bodybuilding and powerlifting. This slight increase can add up to significant gains in strength and muscle mass in the long run when combined with other products that also cause a slight increase in these hormone levels.

If you are a hardgainer with a low appetite who wants to perform a mass building phase, then you should consume 40 mg per kilogram of body weight to increase your hunger and appetite (12). Although I personally have never had a problem consuming 3000+ kcal per day, Fenugreek is a very solid option to keep appetite and anabolic hormone levels high during a mass building phase.

7. beta-alanine

Beta-alanine is a precursor of carnosine, which is found in large quantities in muscle tissue and the brain. Beta-alanine supplementation increases carnosine levels, which can increase muscle endurance, power release and anaerobic exercise performance and reduce fatigue during exercise(13). In one study, 22 Division II college wrestlers and 15 football players consumed 4 grams of beta-alanine per day for 8 weeks and were able to gain more lean muscle mass than members of the placebo group (14). Considering that the goal of a mass-building phase is to build as much lean muscle mass as possible with minimal fat gain, beta-alanine appears to be an effective supplement that can help you achieve this goal.

Although beta-alanine does not need to be consumed during the pre-workout window, many users prefer to take their 2 to 5 gram serving with their pre-workout shake (15). If you've ever consumed this amount of beta-alanine in one sitting, you may be familiar with the infamous beta-alanine tingling sensation. Although this feeling is completely harmless, you can minimize it by spreading your beta-alanine dose throughout the day. Scientific research also suggests that a combined intake of creatine and beta-alanine is more effective than beta-alanine alone when it comes to improving body composition (16, 17). Beta-alanine should be one of your basic supplements due to its performance-enhancing benefits during mass building, maintenance and recomposition phases.

8 Sodium bicarbonate

You probably already have this supplement at home without knowing it. Sodium bicarbonate, also known as baking soda, is found in almost every household and can increase your power release, muscle endurance, anaerobic work capacity and aerobic performance (17). Consuming baking soda increases your bicarbonate levels, which can increase your maximum power release and overall performance during anaerobic work periods lasting 120 to 240 seconds (19). Increased maximal power and total work volume means more weight moved at higher speeds, which will provide a stronger stimulus for muscle growth and strength gains.

An increase in blood sodium bicarbonate levels can increase the total number of repetitions with a 10 to 12 RM weight and with 80% of the 1RM weight compared to a placebo (20, 21). In addition, sodium bicarbonate in combination with beta-alanine and creatine can increase power release more and reduce fatigue more compared to sodium bicarbonate alone (22, 23). In terms of timing and dosage, sodium bicarbonate should be taken 45 to 90 minutes before exercise at a dosage of 200 to 300 mg per kilogram of body weight (13).

Please note that sodium bicarbonate is extremely high in sodium and although much of this sodium is quickly excreted with adequate hydration, those on a sodium-restricted diet should avoid sodium bicarbonate. In addition, some users report digestive issues after consuming sodium bicarbonate, so I would recommend adjusting timing and dosage based on your body's response.

9. l-citrulline

L-citrulline is an amino acid that is converted by the body into L-arginine. L-arginine supplementation was once considered the best vasodilator, but recent research suggests that arginine has only a relatively small effect on nitric oxide levels, while L-citrulline supplementation has a significant effect (24). A study in which 8 grams of citrulline malate (a popular form of L-citrulline) was administered to 12 male volunteers following a resistance training protocol showed a 40% reduction in muscle soreness two days after training (25).

During a mass-building phase, adequate training volume and muscle stimulation are crucial for both muscle and strength gains. L-citrulline appears to be a solid supplement that can ensure that you can recover sufficiently from demanding training sessions and continue to train hard in the gym. And who wouldn't appreciate leaving the gym with a solid pump without feeling completely exhausted? Consume 6 to 8 grams of L-citrulline 45 to 60 minutes before your workout to increase your nitric oxide levels, boost your exercise endurance and minimize muscle soreness (26).

10. supplements to support healthy digestion

A mass-building phase requires a calorie surplus, so we need to ensure that the extra calories and nutrients are properly absorbed and contribute to muscle gain rather than fat gain. A supplement to support healthy digestion can help the stomach and intestines absorb nutrients from food, minimize bloating and a bloated feeling, and help regulate the elimination of waste products from the body. When your digestive system is well, you will perform optimally in the gym and it will also ensure that food contributes to recovery rather than stressing the digestive system. Below you will find a list of supplements to support digestion that I would recommend:


Follow the instructions on the label and start with one full dose per day. Vary the dosage depending on your body's response. This supplement could contain the following: Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium lactis, Lactobacillus brevis, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus salivarius, Lactobacillus paracasei, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Bifidobacterium brevis, Bifidobacterium longum (2). Digestive enzymes

Follow the instructions on the label and start with one full dose per day. Vary the dosage depending on your body's response. These supplements may contain the following: Papain, bromelain, amylase (to break down carbohydrates), lipase (to break down fats), lactase (to break down lactose), pancreatin (to break down protein) and cellulase (to break down fiber) (28).


Ginger is used to speed up digestion. Take 1 to 3 grams of ginger or 250 ml of ginger ale made from ginger root or 4 cups of ginger tea containing half a teaspoon of grated ginger per cup daily.

Betaine hydrochloride

Betaine hydrochloride is used to increase stomach acidity and aid protein absorption. Consume 650 mg per meal in combination with protein and adjust this dose based on how your stomach feels. Some people take three 650 mg tablets per meal and combine this product with pepsin to increase efficiency.

11. protein powder

I put protein powder last on this list because I think it's more of a food than a supplement. Nevertheless, it is extremely helpful when it comes to building muscle. Protein powder is an inexpensive and convenient way to increase protein intake, improve muscle recovery, increase protein synthesis rates and increase lean muscle mass. A low protein intake can drastically slow down your muscle building progress and reduce your performance by limiting recovery.

If you are trying to build lean muscle mass, a protein intake of 1.5 to 2.2 grams per kilogram of body weight is a good target (30). At more than 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram, the law of diminishing returns begins to take effect in terms of body composition benefits, although a protein intake of 2.2 to 4.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight does not have significant negative effects. Excess protein is typically converted into glucose, which is used by the body for energy. Personally, I consume about 3 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight because I find meat and protein powder delicious.




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