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Best Muscle-Building Ingredients for 2014

Despite hours in the gym, bodybuilders are seldom satisfied with their present physique.

Always seeing room for improvement, lifters follow strict training and nutrition plans to sculpt their version of the ideal body. With that ideal in mind, bodybuilders go after these muscles weekly:

  • Amazing abs
  • Bigger biceps
  • Powerful pecs
  • Limitless legs
  • Defined delts
  • Glorified glutes

How many of these items are on your 2014 to-do list? Whether you’re striving for one or all of them, there’s no substitute for hard work.

But, that doesn’t mean you can’t get help along the way. Supplements give bodybuilders and physique competitors a surefire way to enhance results. Optimize your gains using our picks for the best muscle-building ingredients of 2014.


The first supplement in any bodybuilder’s shopping cart needs to be protein. Without a reservoir of amino acids to draw from, muscle growth is stuck in neutral.

The CDC recommends the average adult eat protein for 10% to 35% of their daily calorie intake.[1] However, muscle-builders require much more than that. One expert recommends eating between 0.7 and 0.8 g protein per pound body weight during muscle-building periods.[2]

In addition to whole food sources, athletes use protein shakes to amp muscle growth. The most popular and trusted powdered protein forms include quick-digesting whey protein, slow-digesting micellar casein, and plant-derived soy or hemp.

Some trainers and trainees prefer protein building blocks that are already broken down into BCAAs. Research shows BCAAs, or branched-chain amino acids, protect against muscle breakdown and maintain an anabolic environment around muscle tissue.[3]


Creatine became a permanent fixture in the supplement industry after Soviet researchers linked it with enhanced athletic performance in the 1970s.[4] Since then, research has accumulated in support of this revolutionary ingredient.

Creatine supplies energy to rebuild ATP stores in muscle. ATP molecules are muscles’ primary source of energy, but they deplete fast. When that happens, creatine loaded in muscle cells steps up and provides extra power.[5] Brief, high-intensity exercises such as sprinting or weightlifting benefit most from creatine’s mechanism of action.

If you don’t notice a stamina change after a few months on creatine, you might be a non-responder. Scientists estimate between 20% and 30% of people don’t increase ATP production with creatine use.[4] But unless you fit in the non-responder category, your muscle-building supplement arsenal is incomplete without creatine.

Beta Alanine

The most significant supplement ingredient to emerge since creatine, beta alanine creates fatigue-reducing effects you can feel. Beta alanine’s distinctive tingles usually kick in within 30 minutes. Not everyone feels them, but beta alanine’s pins-and-needles prickling sensation signals it’s time to hit the gym.

Scientists, trainers, and athletes alike have heaped praise on beta alanine. In one meta-analysis, researchers noted beta alanine positively effects “all exercise measures.” Few other ingredients earn similar recognition.[6]

What makes beta alanine so laudable? The amino acid beta alanine contributes to carnosine creation in muscle tissue. Carnosine regulates buildup of lactic acid, a major factor in muscle fatigue.[7] Therefore, when carnosine concentration goes up after beta alanine ingestion, muscle fatigue goes down and workouts get longer and stronger.

Citrulline Malate

Nitric oxide boosters like citrulline malate may not seem essential to build muscle, but muscle builders should consider them for 2 reasons.

1. They increase muscle pump. This class of supplement ingredients causes blood vessel walls to secrete nitric oxide gas. The presence of this gas causes blood vessels to expand, speeding blood flow.

2. They enhance nutrient delivery. This NO booster benefit occurs because blood flows more freely through wider blood vessels. As a result, all other muscle-building ingredients present in the bloodstream reach muscle tissue faster.

Consumers have several options when selecting a nitric oxide booster, but citrulline malate outranks its rivals. Inside the body, citrulline converts to arginine, the best-known NO boosting ingredient. But unlike arginine which absorbs poorly, citrulline absorbs easily.[8]

Plus, citrulline malate yields the additional benefits of malic acid that no other NO booster can claim. Malic acid takes part in the energy-producing Krebs cycle. In one study, scientists measured a 34% increase in ATP production after participants took citrulline malate.[9]


For reliable workout energy there’s no more sure-fire ingredient than caffeine. Caffeine enables athletes to perform more reps, lift heavier weights, or be more alert during intense sports.[10]

You may think you’ve heard about everything caffeine has to offer, but researchers keep uncovering new muscle-building benefits related to caffeine consumption. For instance, a study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise showed caffeine improves sprint performance, likely through direct muscle stimulation.[11] Another multi-university study linked pre-workout caffeine to reduced muscle soreness.[12]

Worried about overconsumption of caffeine? No need. According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, low-to-moderate caffeine doses are all that’s required to boost performance. A 180-pound individual needs less than 250 mg.[10]


[1] “Nutrition for Everyone: Protein.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2012 Oct 4.

[2] Heller, Samantha. “Protein: A Guide to Maximum Muscle.” Men’s Fitness.

[3] Kraemer, WJ, NA Ratamess, et al. “The effects of amino acid supplementation on hormonal responses to resistance training overreaching.” Metabolism. 55.3 (2006): 282-91.

[4] Freedman, Lisa. “Creatine.” Men’s Fitness.

[5] Springen, Karen. “Creatine: Myths and Facts.” Men’s Health. 2012 Oct 14.

[6] Hobson, R.M., B. Saunders, G. Ball, R.C. Harris, and C. Sale. “Effects of beta-alanine supplementation on exercise performance: a meta-analysis.” Amino Acids. 43.1 (2012): 25-37.

[7] Freedman, Lisa. “Supplement Guide: Beta Alanine.” Men’s Fitness.

[8] Schwedhelm, E, R Maas, et al. “Pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamics properties of oral L-citrulline and L-arginine: impact on nitric oxide metabolism.” British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. 65.1 (2008): 51-9.

[9] Bendahan, D, JP Mattei, et al. “Citrulline/malate promotes aerobic energy production in human exercising muscle.” British Journal of Sports Medicine. 36.4 (2002): 282-9.

[10] Goldstein, Erica R, Tim Ziegenfuss, et al. “International society of sports nutrition position stand: caffeine and performance.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Epub 2010 Jan 27.

[11] “8 Foods that Pack on Muscle.” Men’s Health.

[12] Green, JM, PJ Wickwire, et al. “Effects of caffeine on repetitions to failure and ratings of perceived exertion during resistance training.” International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance. 2.3 (2007): 250-9.

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