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2018's 10 Best
Bulking Supplements

Gaining muscle is hard.

In fact, gaining a pound of muscle is far harder than losing a pound of fat. It requires proper eating, resistance training, and great recovery. Now think about how much muscle you’d like to gain and what kind of challenge you’re dealing with.

When you’re bulking, or massing, you want to use the best muscle-gain supplements – they’ll ensure that you’re making this process as easy and effective as possible. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of the 10 best bulking supplements that will help you gain the most, highest-quality weight possible.

Editor’s note: this list is a little different than our typical lists. Instead of a top 10 list of the same kind of supplement (e.g. fish oil), it is a list of 10 supplements or ingredients that assist with bulking.


Bulking, Massing, and Muscle Growth


Bulking or massing is the process of dedicating your training to the goal of gaining weight. There are two general approaches to this muscle gain goal.


First is the traditional “off-season” approach: gaining more weight without worrying about fat. You’re going to gain a little body fat during this process – “a little fat is fine if it means more muscle”. Because with this approach, it’s all about maximum muscle gains.

The other approach is lean bulking, which is muscle growth while gaining a bare minimum of fat. This means a slower, more patient approach to muscle growth. It also means a small reduction in muscle gains in order to reduce gaining weight in the form of fat. This cuts down on how much dieting you’ll have to do after your bulk to show off those newly-built muscles.

Your choice of which pathway to take has to be a result of your goals and dieting habits. If you’re not good at practicing moderation, or you need to stay lean year-round for sports, it makes sense to stay on a lean bulk year-round. If you’re a chronic under-eater (a more accurate name for “hard-gainer”), a traditional bulk will be better for rapid strength and muscle development. Luckily, the best bulking supplements are effective in both cases and only capitalize on the benefits of a caloric surplus.







What Sets the Best Bulking Supplements Apart?

To begin with, bulking supplements don’t matter a lick if you’re not training, eating, and sleeping smart. Supplements can give you a big edge, but they won’t make up for poor habits. If you live on junk, you don’t sleep enough, or you’re lazy in the gym, no supplement will make a difference.

What supplements can do is maximize the processes that your body is already undergoing – they can’t change them entirely. You won’t be able to eat at a deficit and gain weight because of supplements, unless it’s water weight – and we’re assuming that’s not your goal!

The best bulking supplements perform at least one of these functions:

  • Improve strength or endurance
  • Boost recovery and muscle protein synthesis
  • Increase energy in the muscles and other processes in the body
  • Makes your body more efficient at processing food and other fuel sources
  • Reduce inflammation or muscle-damage
  • Improve hormonal health and anabolic health
  • Contribute indirectly through mechanisms like better sleep, better hydration, etc.

We’ll discuss some supplement ingredients that assist with many of these functions, and by the end, you should have a firm grasp on what you can expect. You’ll know what you need to make the most of your bulk.

CREATINE

Creatine is a well-known bulking supplement – and rightly so. It’s one of the most effective supplements on the market and is very affordable.

It works by building up the stores of high-energy molecules in your muscles – the ones that are used for high-intensity, heavy weight training. This means that you can work harder, with heavier weights, for longer and with less fatigue. Pretty Awesome.

Because this type of heavy resistance training is the best way to build muscle and strength, we’ve put it at the top of our list. Creatine also improves dieting, brain health, heart health, and even cancer risk.

Take your creatine!


Dosing and Use


You can get creatine in many forms, but simple monohydrate is the best. You can splash out on fancier versions, but they won’t provide benefits above and beyond garden-variety creatine – keep it simple.

You can frontload if you’re on a traditional bulk, with .5g/lb of bodyweight every day for 5-10 days. Front-loading brings more water retention, and some people respond badly to it. Otherwise, use 0.05g/lb every day – you don’t need to cycle off.

The Best Creatine to Use

Check out our top 10 list to find more information about our top choice for creatine, MyProtein’s Creatine Monohydrate.



B-ALANINE


Beta-alanine is an endurance supplement, so you might be wondering what it’s doing on this list.

Beta-alanine is also one of the best supplements to combine with creatine – it improves the overall effect of creatine on your workout performance. If you can use them together, you will see better results.

This is all about making the most of your creatine and ensuring that you have the best workout. These two compounds combine to improve your performance from the start to the end of a workout, and that means better training and corresponding muscle gains.


Dosing and Use


You should take 2-5 g a day with your creatine for the best effect on strength and muscle growth. You’ll want to limit it at around 5 g, however, as you may begin to experience a harmless (but super trippy) tingling sensation in your muscles.

The Best Beta-Alanine to Use

For more information about our top choice for beta-alanine, True Nutrition’s Beta-Alanine Powder, check out our top 10 list.

VITAMIN D

Everyone should supplement vitamin D. It’s the most common deficiency, and your only alternative to supplementing is extended sun exposure.

The problem with this is that the type of sunlight that signals for Vitamin D production is UVB – the kind that increases the risk of skin cancer. In case you’re not aware, that’s a bad thing.

Vitamin D is a well-rounded, amazing supplement. It can improve testosterone levels, reduce inflammation, and protect the nervous system. These all contribute to better health, but they also improve sport and exercise performance and muscle protein synthesis. This means vitamin D has both direct and indirect benefits to your bulk.


Dosing and Use


You can be “non-deficient” in vitamin D with around 600 iu/day. You can also be non-poor, but I can pretty much guarantee that you’d rather be financially comfortable. And that takes a little more.

Vitamin D is a well-rounded, amazing supplement. It can improve testosterone levels, reduce inflammation, and protect the nervous system. These all contribute to better health, but they also improve sport and exercise performance and muscle protein synthesis. This means vitamin D has both direct and indirect benefits to your bulk.

The Best Vitamin-D Supplement

To learn about our choice for vitamin D, PurePharma’s D3 supplement, take a look at our top 10 list.





ZINC

Zinc is awesome. It’s also one of the most common deficiencies on the planet.

Zinc deficiency is a cause of precocious puberty and other serious hormonal problems. It has been linked to stunted growth, metabolic problems, and hormonal problems.

Supplementing zinc is a great way to avoid all of these and ensure you’re creating the best muscle-building environment and supporting the anabolic state.


Dosing and Use


The type of zinc you get is more important than many other compounds. Citrate is the best choice, as it tends to be roughly 1/3 zinc and absorbs pretty well. You want to supplement around 150 mg per day.

As you’re about to see, however, there are benefits from taking zinc citrate in a ZMA supplement.

MAGNESIUM

The second most commonly-deficient mineral, magnesium, is important to make sure that you maintain insulin sensitivity while eating a calorie surplus.

When bulking, you’ll be dealing with insulin resistance to address your diet. Keeping insulin sensitivity is key to improving growth and recovery, as insulin is one of the four most important anabolic hormones and boosts muscle growth and carb-metabolism.

Basically, magnesium will offset your body’s attempts to reduce the effects of your bulk. This is especially important when you’re on a traditional bulk, as the calorie surplus is greater.


Dosing and Use


Supplement around 200-400 mg a day. Keep that upper limit tight, however, as you can experience digestive discomfort and poor ‘movements’ if you get too much.

Magnesium and zinc are available as part of the popular ZMA formula. This is an easy way to get the pair of key minerals, and some B vitamins, into your diet with a single supplement.

The Best Supplement for Magnesium (and Zinc!)

If you’re looking to kill two birds with one stone, check out our top choice for magnesium and zinc, which is PhD Nutrition’s ZMA supplement.





COD LIVER OIL

Cod liver oil is a simple combination of omega-3 fats, as well as vitamins A and D. We’ve already discussed vitamin D and its role.

Vitamin A is a powerful antioxidant and combats aging, cancer, and cell-death. It’s not the muscle-building compound, but it’s great for combatting inflammation and health risks.

Omega-3 fats are amazing – everyone should supplement them. They improve everything from heart health to inflammation. They also improve hormonal health and reduce post-exercise soreness in the muscles and connective tissues.

Overall, this means a healthier body and better recovery between sessions. This means you’ll be able to perform better and build more muscle with every session. There’s no excuse to not take your fish oil.

The Best Cod Liver Oil

This one is a bit different – there really isn’t a best cod liver oil supplement – there are thousands to choose from on the market, and they all have similar effects. You can expect similar results from anything you choose. So, what should you do?

First, make sure that your cod liver oil contains plenty of omega-3 fatty acids. You want to get higher concentrations of EPA and DHA especially. These are the ones you can’t get from plant foods and that can’t be created in the body – even with short-chain ALAs.

From there, focus on a high vitamin D content. Vitamin A is easier to eat in your diet than D is, with almost no dietary sources for vitamin D at the level you’ll see in a cod liver oil capsule. You can usually find top-quality cod liver oil capsules at your local drug store, but you can get even better results using the liquid itself – if you can stand the taste!

B VITAMINS

There are 12 B vitamins, and they’re all important. Some, like 3, 6, 7, 9, and 12 are even more important.

The B vitamins regulate metabolism and the ability to convert food into muscle-fuel. If you’re deficient, you’ll miss out on the benefits of the food you eat. Deficiency in any of these vitamins is bad for your health, but it will also undermine your bulking progress.

Building muscle requires energy and protein. If you’re missing out on B vitamins, you’ll not signal for muscle growth because your energy transfer is broken.


Dosing and Use


These are all individual, but there’s poor absorption on many B vitamins (like B6 and B12), so you should try and find a B vitamin complex that provides at least 100% of your daily intake. Take one of those a day, along with nutrient-dense foods like red kidney beans and high-quality red meats.

The Best Vitamin B Supplement

For some tips on selecting a vitamin B supplement and our recommendation, Botanic Choice’s Vitamin B-12 Plus Iron, see our top 10 list.




CHOLINE

It’s not discussed enough, but choline is a key player in mental health and athletic performance. It can improve power output, which means it will improve the effectiveness of weight training and the amount of muscle that you can build.

It’s a key part of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, and it will ensure that your brain and muscles pack the best punch when you’re on a bulk.


Dosing and Use


You can get some choline from eggs, but a choline citrate or alpha-GPC supplement provides a much better, more reliable source without the calories. You can take anywhere between 250 mg to 2 g a day.

Higher doses tend to bring better results, but you should start low and increase your intake to ensure you don’t experience headaches.

The Best Choline Boosters to Use

We have a couple of recommendations for choline. To find out more about them, go to our top 10 list.

PROTEIN POWDERS

They’re well-known, and everyone’s trying to sell them, but they’re low down on our list. This is because they’re easily replaced by real food if you have the time.

Protein intake is important to boost muscle growth and recovery. Protein shakes are an easy and convenient way of doing this, but they don’t convey any special gains that you wouldn’t get from eating turkey or other protein-rich foods.

To make it simple, it’s an easy option – not an essential one! You can get these powders relatively cheap, and the type you get doesn’t really matter. They’re all basically the same thing, though you may find that your body reacts differently to each type.





Dosing and Use


There’s been a lot of discussion on how much protein you need. While the exact number depends on your personal needs and goals, you should aim for 1.15 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight.

The Best Protein Powders

There really isn’t a best protein powder without considering your personal needs and preferences. They’re all milk powder, so it’s all about what matches your goals and needs – as well as your budget. With that said, check out our list for a couple of recommendations.

PRE-WORKOUT

If used properly, pre-workout supplements are an easy way to improve workout performance and boost muscle growth.

Caffeine boosts power output, which means you can handle heavier weights. This means you induce more mechanical loading – the key to boosting muscle growth. When you’re on a bulk, you should be focusing on improving your training performance and improving strength.

Pre-workouts that involve green tea extract can also be useful. The GABA in these products can improve your growth-hormone production. Growth hormone is one of the 4 key anabolic hormones discussed above, and it will mean better muscle growth and connective tissue stiffness.


Dosing and Use


This depends on the pre-workout, but caffeine at around 250 mg is a good place to start. Individual tolerance is a big deal for caffeine use, so it’s important to start low and build up! Also, watch any additional sources of caffeine you might take, like energy drinks or coffee.

The Best Pre-Workout to Use

Consult our list to get more details about our recommendation, which is Cellucor’s C4.


A Buyer’s Guide to Bulking Supplements

So, what should you be looking for when it comes to these supplements? How do you pick out the best bulking supplements and avoid the garbage, get-rich-quick supplements? It’s not as easy as you might think.

To start with, you can look at some of our discussions and reviews to get a better idea of what works and what doesn’t. After that, you can look at the dosing guidelines we’ve put together in this list – if your supplements aren’t getting near these guidelines, they’re probably going to bring you very, very small gains. There are likely to be better market-alternatives.

You should also check the FDA for a company’s reputation and history. Many supplement companies/wholesalers have problematic histories of cross-contaminating products or intentionally cutting them with steroids. While it might be nice to get more gains, it’s probably a bad idea to use supplements that are going to destroy your hormonal and liver health!


References

#1 - MyProtein Creatine Monohydrate

MyProtein’s no-frills Creatine Monohydrate is a great choice for an entry-level creatine.

It mixes well and provides many benefits at a low cost with no unnecessary additions. If you’re on a budget or you just want pure creatine, this Creatine Monohydrate is for you.

It's a powerful supplement that can help to increase muscle strength and power and improve performance in high-intensity exercise. MyProtein's Creatine Monohydrate can also increase your energy levels and speed up recovery rates, taking your training to the next level. Keep Reading »

#2 - True Nutrition Beta-Alanine

True Nutrition’s approach to Beta-Alanine cuts out all of the marketing hype and focuses on providing you with the purest, simplest, cheapest supplement possible.

While there are great benefits to Beta-Alanine, a lot of the products on the market add unnecessary or counter-productive ingredients.

On the other hand, True Nutrition’s Beta-Alanine Powder can be bought in bulk with great savings and customizable options. This means you can mix it with synergists like Creatine or Leucine. Keep Reading »

#3 - Pure Pharma D3

For an easy to take Vitamin D supplement, try PurePharma’s D3. They recently rebranded as Puori, but their approach to evidence-based supplements and high-quality concentrations is the same.

It’s a single-capsule D3 supplement that provides 2,500iu – putting you right in healthy levels without any difficulty or complications. No fiddling with doses. Just pop one capsule a day, and you’ll be taking care of your vitamin D needs! Keep Reading »

#4 - PhD Nutrition ZMA

Combining Zinc and Magnesium in one high quality supplement, PhD Nutrition ZMA is a great option for muscle recovery. This supplement will make sure that your body keeps the nutrients it needs in order to optimize muscle growth.

This product provides various forms of both Zinc and Magnesium, meaning a diverse nutrient absorption profile. Simply put, it will cover all of your bases when it comes to Zinc and Magnesium, as well as providing you with a bunch of B Vitamins to aid your health and energy levels.

This is especially useful because Zinc and Magnesium are synergists: they combine to provide greater benefits to metabolism, health, and the ability to build muscle on a bulk. Keep Reading »

#5 - Botanic Choice Vitamin B-12 Plus Iron

To pick the right B Vitamin, try to find a supplement that also includes Iron. This is an easy way to maximize the results.

From there, we recommend getting the B supplement that is most cost-effective and provides at least 100% of your RDAs.

If you’re looking for a Vitamin B supplement that meets these criteria, and more, look for Botanic Choice’s Vitamin B-12 Plus Iron. Keep Reading »

#6 - Choline Bitartrate Powder

Many of the market options for Alpha-GPC are still poor, so we suggest sticking with a Choline supplement. Nutricost’s Choline Bitartrate is a great option.

Nutricost has developed a high quality Choline Bitartrate supplement that delivers 1 gram per serving. Choline is especially important in production of Acetylcholine, which is involved in many functions including cognition and muscle control.

Try Nutricost's Choline Bitartrate for improved mental health and athletic performance. Keep Reading »
SPECIAL OFFER - 20% Off! 20% Off All Nutricost Products [excluding proteins]View Offer »

#7 - Bulk Powder Choline Bitartrate

Bulk Powders’ Choline Bitartrate offers a fast absorption rate and comes from a company that has a proven track-record in informed sport campaigns, and a history of good manufacturing practices.

Choline is a tricky supplement, and many market alternatives can be sketchy. A company like Bulk Powders provides a reliable approach: with manufacturing regulations and standards, you’re getting what it says on the bag. Keep Reading »

#8 - Myotein

If you’re looking for a balance of great results and low cost, XPI Myotein is a fantastic choice. The flavor options are great, and it’s distinctly not-gross - pretty rare in the protein powder market!

Use Myotein's advanced whey protein complex, with a time-released formula for optimal results. Keep Reading »

#9 - Progenex Flow Protein

Progenex’s Flow Protein contains salmon-derived protein.

This makes it the perfect option for the lactose intolerant or anyone looking for a better-absorbing, healthier alternative to whey or other milk-proteins.

The only problem is that it can be expensive, but that’s the cost of being the best. Keep Reading »

#10 - Cellucor C4

One of the most popular pre-workouts on the market, Cellucor's C4 is simple, it works, and it doesn’t contain crazy banned substances!

With Cellucor’s C4 pre-workout you get more than just caffeine. C4 contains many nutrients to improve health, energy, metabolism, and mental performance.

It includes high quality ingredients that can help to improve your strength in a workout and assist you in your bulking goals. Keep Reading »

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