Buyer's Guide: Bodybuilding nutrition plan

Our favorite supplements for packing on muscle

The big three products for all weight training athletes are protein, creatine and glutamine. This assumes, of course, you're already taking the Foundational Products (multi-vitamin, whey protein and flaxseed oil and/or fish oil).


Meal Replacement Protein Powder

If you want to build muscle, take a certain type of protein powder known as a meal replacement powder (MRP). MRPs include protein, carbs for energy and fat, plus 25-50% RDI for most vitamins and minerals. Essentially, they're a complete, high protein meal. 

When to take protein:

For bulking up, take an MRP between meals for extra protein and nutrition. If you're trying to lean down, use one in place of a meal.

Meal timing is extremely important after a workout. After hitting the weights, immediately consume a shake made with an MRP and 1-2 scoops from a gainer (high carb). Mix creatine and glutamine into it. The carbs help spike your insulin levels. Insulin is extremely anabolic (muscle-building), and it increases your body's uptake of amino acids, creatine and other nutrients. You only have a short 30-60 minute window of time after a workout for maximum effect.

Tip: Take a shaker bottle full of your protein powder, creatine and glutamine to the gym, fill it up at the water fountain after your workout and drink it on the way home. This is what numerous bodybuilders do. After an hour or two, you should be ready for a solid food meal, like dinner.

How much protein to take:

Consume roughly the equivalent of your ideal body weight in grams of protein per day. For women, that's about 100-150 grams a day (25g from whey, 40g from an MRP and the remaining amount from food). For men, that's about 150-200 grams a day (25-50g from whey, 40-80g from an MRP and the rest from food).

You should already be taking at least one serving of whey protein or protein blend from our Foundational Products article. You can even make your own MRP by taking a whey protein powder and combining it with carbs like fruit. This will boost the calorie content by an extra 100-200 calories, more in line with the protein-to-carb content of an MRP.

Some of our favorite MRPs include Fitness Labs NutraFit and Labrada Lean Body and MET-Rx Meal Replacement. 



No product has come along in years that works as well as creatine monohydrate. It can help you weight train harder by extending the ATP energy cycle. That translates into getting stronger, faster. Nothing will help you push through plateaus on the bench press like creatine.

When and how much creatine to take:

The first week on creatine, supersaturate your muscles by taking 20-25 grams a day (loading phase). Thereafter, take about 5 grams a day (maintenance phase).

Best form of creatine to take:

The most popular and economical form is pure creatine monohydrate. We prefer Fitness Labs German Creatine. It's the best creatine made.

Creatine transport (includes carbs): Studies done during the loading phase have shown creatine to be more effective when taken with high glycemic sugars. These pre-mixed products are known as creatine transports, which combine creatine with dextrose.

Popular transports include formulas like Gaspari Size On or Muscle Tech Cell Tech. For convenience, they can't be beat. If you're in a leaning down (getting cut) phase, stick with pure creatine to avoid the extra carbs in these pre-mixed formulas. 



It's no mystery to most long-distance runners that within one week after race day you're likely to get sick. In fact, one study showed only 48.8% of those taking a placebo stayed healthy, while 80% of those taking glutamine stayed healthy. 

Researchers are discovering that strenuous exercise can reduce the effectiveness of the immune system. While most of the body's cells use glucose for fuel, the immune system requires significant amounts of glutamine. When you take glutamine, you provide your body with a fuel it needs to stay healthy. This may allow you to train more frequently without as many of those frustrating down periods.

L-glutamine supplementation may also have a positive impact on your gut flora, which makes sense because the majority of your immune system is found in your gut. In one study, researchers measured specific ratios of beneficial bacteria in a glutamine and placebo group. The researchers said the favorable changes to gut flora in the L-glutamine group were similar to those found in people on a weight loss program. Although L-glutamine may not directly cause weight loss, it may support overall gut health benefits.

How much L-Glutamine to take:

Take about 5 grams daily, right after a workout, along with creatine. We recommend Fitness Labs L-Glutamine Powder, Muscle Tech Glutamine Powder, or Gaspari Glutamine PowderIf you prefer capsule form, Fitness Labs L-Glutamine 500 mg or Optimum Nutrition Glutamine Caps are good choices.


Our next favorite products are in the second tier of recommendations.


Thermogenic Diet Formulas

These ephedra-free products are commonly known as complete diet formulas. They typically have the stimulant caffeine with other ingredients like green tea, which can rev up your metabolism when used together.

When to take a thermogenic:

Take a complete diet formula before meals or workouts. Complete diet formulas amp you up to train harder. Also, use them to help strip the layer of body fat that might be hiding some hard-earned muscle. They work by preventing your metabolism from slowing during calorie restriction and typically contain ingredients that help trigger your body's natural fat burning process.

Try any of these top sellers — Fitness Labs Diet StackAllmax Rapidcuts Shredded, Nutrex Research Lipo 6 Black Ultra Concentrate, and Fitness Labs Thermo Rip Fat Burner.



This supplement really packs a punch and is an excellent alternative to andro. The 'Z' in ZMA is for zinc and the 'MA' is for magnesium aspartate. Both are naturally-occurring minerals. You take ZMA at night before bed on an empty stomach.

ZMA helps maximize your body's own anabolic functions. Studies have shown it to increase free testosterone levels as well as improve strength, endurance and muscle recovery in strength-training athletes. Women don't need ZMA, nor do teenagers who already have enough testosterone and growth hormone. Try Fitness Labs ZMA, Optimum Nutrition ZMA, or ISS Research (ONE Brands) ZMA


Tribulus Terrestris

Tribulus terrestris, also known as the puncture vine plant, contains a powerful element that may help the body increase its own ability to produce testosterone naturally. Studies indicate that tribulus can increase the body’s production of luteinizing hormone (LH) by as much as 70%. LH, in turn, stimulates the Leydig cells of the testicles to release testosterone. This process may elevate testosterone production.*

Our most popular sellers are Fitness Labs Tribulus Ultra, Allmax Nutrition TribX90, iForce Tribulus 2400, Nutraceutics Testron SX, and MHP T-Bomb 3xtreme.  

There are numerous other supplements you can use to complement these core products. But if you start with these, you'll have 85% of your nutritional bases covered.

Click here for all Bodybuilding & Sports Nutrition supplements.


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