Updated 2020 by Jim Brewster
For most of us, more mass is what it’s all about. Many of us have tried prohormones in the quest for more size and strength. However, the days of prohormones are ending. Sure, you can still buy them, but let’s be real, they aren’t quite the same anymore. You can go with more “aggressive” options, but most “natty” guys don’t want to go that route. That means you want natural options when it comes to building muscle. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the supplements the market currently has to offer.
The Natural Options
GDA’s – Better known as Glucose Disposal Agents, or Insulin Mimickers, this is a newer breed of supplement that makes full use of the carbs you ingest by mimicking the effects of insulin. Primarily, when insulin is released in the body, it can shuttle carbohydrates and other nutrients into the muscle cells. The downside has always been the fact that excess carbs end up being stored as fat. A GDA can override that scenario. You’ll want to take a GDA with your heaviest carb meal, and it will help shuttle those carbs to your muscles instead of ending up being stored as fat. That means faster glycogen replenishment, which leads to quicker recovery and full looking muscles. (1)
HMB – This is a supplement that’s been around a long time. In fact, it goes back to the days when creatine was still new. Originally, it was complexed with creatine, but after several years it seemed to drop off the market. Recently however, HMB has made a comeback. Now it’s available in various formulas as well as in stand-alone products. Perhaps the best formula right now is MOAB by Redcon1. This is a great supplement that features a complex of Calcium, Vitamin D, HMB, HICA, Epicatechin and Astragin. Interestingly, both HMB and HICA are metabolites of leucine, the super-anabolic BCAA. (2)
BCAAs/EAAs – Speaking of Leucine, the most recent research suggests that when leucine is complexed with all the EAAs, protein synthesis is optimized. That means anyone interested in maximum muscle mass should add an EAA supplement to their program. There are quite a few good EAA formulas available and these are a smart addition to your current supplement arsenal. One of the best times to use an EAA formula is during the workout because they effectively keep you in an anabolic environment even though you’re engaging in the catabolic event of training. Your choices are a simple EAA product or you can go the route of a full-blown intra-workout. (3, 4)
Natural Test Boosters – There are some excellent test boosters available now that work and work well! The truth is, they may work better for guys that are a little older. Still, they should be a part of any serious bodybuilder’s arsenal. The more test the better! Ignite Nutrition Test-Up and Spazmatic Supplements Just Test Me are two examples of an effective test booster. Test-Up features Magnesium, Zinc, D-Aspartic Acid, PrimaVie® Purified Shilajit, DIM, Longjack, Safed Musli Extract, and Boron. It’s a fully disclosed, clinically dosed formula. In comparison, Just Test Me features a somewhat similar profile: Magnesium, Zinc, Vitamin D3, D-Aspartic Acid, Shilajit Extract, Boron, Tribulus, Longjack, DIM, Indole 3 Carbinol, Saw Palmetto, and Black Pepper Extract. It’s also fully disclosed, there’s more ingredients and D-Aspartic Acid is over-dosed. Either way, these two represent the best test boosters have to offer. (5, 6)
Phosphatidic Acid – This is an ingredient that is thought to turn on protein synthesis. While the research on this ingredient is promising, at this point more research may be needed to fully validate this ingredient. In the meantime, there are a number of products on the market that feature a patented version of Phosphatidic Acid, such as 11 Bravo by Redcon1. (7)
Other ingredients with natural muscle building potential include Laxogenin and Epicatechin, I have discussed these in more depth in other articles. For the moment, if you’re interested in these ingredients, look no further than Bigger By The Day by 5% Nutrition.
The Foundational Supplements
If muscle mass is your goal, you need a solid foundation. These three products should be your cornerstone program:
Protein – This is the single most important supplement you can take. Your success begins with an adequate protein intake that’s correctly timed. You can go with fast-digesting whey, or you can add a slower digesting casein, or you can buy a blend. No matter what your preference is, protein is critical to your success.
Creatine – The single most researched and proven effective supplement on the planet. Do you want gains? Get creatine.
Multivitamin – The insurance policy you should buy to make sure your basic health needs are covered.
Pre-Workout – There’s no good reason not to use a high quality, balanced pre-workout. Their advantages far outweigh any perceived disadvantages. Whether you want the stims or just want the pumps and performance, adding a Pre makes sense. Never mind these useless home-made pre-workout ideas you see on the internet; they can’t touch the benefits a real pre-workout can give you. A great Pre gives you good pumps, improved focus and concentration, more strength and endurance, and loads of energy. Trust me, you will perform much better in the gym if you use the right pre-workout. Why not get the most out of your training? The best choice is the one that best fits your needs. Unless you’re a stim-freak, pay attention to the stims, look for a fully disclosed label and clinical dosing. As is the case with any supplement, avoid prop blends and underdosing at all costs, no matter what the hype says! Some good options include but are not limited to: NutraBio PRE, the ultimate fully disclosed, well dosed pre-workout. For a non-stim, 5% Nutrition Full As F*ck for pumps like you can’t believe or Redcon1 Big Noise for pumps and focus. There’s a lot of other good choices as well but these two are a great start.
So, what’s a great natty stack? Let’s take a look:
- Whey/Casein Protein Powder
- The Pre of your choice
From here, you should add one product at a time and track the results. As you find products that work, you can build your own ultimate natural stack.
- The test booster of your choice
- The GDA of your choice
To this you can add something like Bigger By The Day, MOAB and any Phosphatidic Acid product. From here, you can go even farther with pump enhancers, and/or you can focus more on protein synthesis and add in an EAA/BCAA. Who says there’s no good natural muscle builders? Let’s get going and get some gains!
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- Hoffman, J. R., Cooper, J., Wendell, M., Im, J., & Kang, J. (2004). Effects of β-Hydroxy β-Methylbutyrate on Power Performance and Indices of Muscle Damage and Stress During High-Intensity Training. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 18(4), 747; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15574078
- Wolfe, RR; “Branched-chain amino acids and muscle protein synthesis in humans: myth or reality?”; J Int Soc Sports Nutr; 14(1):30; 2017; https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-017-0184-9
- Stefan M Pasiakos, James P McClung, Supplemental dietary leucine and the skeletal muscle anabolic response to essential amino acids, Nutrition Reviews, Volume 69, Issue 9, 1 September 2011, Pages 550–557, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2011.00420.x
- Topo, E., Soricelli, A., D’Aniello, A., Ronsini, S., & D’Aniello, G. (2009, October 27). The role and molecular mechanism of D-aspartic acid in the release and synthesis of LH and testosterone in humans and rats. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19860889
- Pandit S, Biswas S, Jana U, De RK, Mukhopadhyay SC, Biswas TK. Clinical evaluation of purified shilajit on testosterone levels in healthy volunteers. Research Unit, J. B. Roy State Ayurvedic Medical College and Hospital, Department of Health and Family Welfare, Government of West Bengal, Kolkata, India. Submitted for publication. 2014.
Hornberger, T. A., Chu, W. K., Mak, Y. W., Hsiung, J. W., Huang, S. A., & Chien, S. (2006). The role of phospholipase D and phosphatidic acid in the mechanical activation of mTOR signaling in skeletal muscle. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 103(12), 4741-4746.