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True Natural Bodybuilding

Sports Supplements

Despite the impressive marketing claims by sports supplement vendors and pro bodybuilders who are sponsored by them, most sports supplements sold to bodybuilders (also called bodybuilding supplements) simply do not work. The only effects they have on you are the placebo effect (a positive effect based solely on the power of suggestion) and the financial effect (you are basically sponsoring the sport when you buy bodybuilding supplements, which is of course a good thing).

The only sports supplements of which I believe they may have real beneficial effects for bodybuilders are the common dietary supplements (also called food supplements) that provide natural dietary nutrients such as proteins (and their building blocks amino acids), carbohydrates (and their building blocks monosaccharides), fats (and their building blocks fatty acids), creatine, vitamins and minerals. All other bodybuilding supplements either do not work at all or have no place in true natural bodybuilding.

Protein Powders

Protein is without any doubt the most important nutrient for building muscle mass. I personally consider protein powders as normal food products rather than sports supplements because they are separated from natural food products such as milk or eggs and thus not the result of chemical production (water, olive oil, table sugar and salt are other examples of 'pure' substances that are not considered sports supplements). Whey protein concentrate for example, the most popular protein supplement among bodybuilders, is derived from cow milk, consists of about 80% protein, 7% fat and 4% lactose, and is therefore a typical dairy product.

Eat at least 1 gram of animal protein for each pound of your body weight (1 kg = 2.205 pounds). The best protein powders are made from milk (whey and casein) or eggs. Whey proteins are digested and absorbed within approx 2 hours, egg white proteins within approx 4 hours, and casein proteins within approx 7 hours. Milk protein exists for about 20% of whey and 80% of casein, and is therefore an ideal source of fast and slowly absorbing amino acids.

The slowly digesting casein protein powders are often recommended to be taken right before going to bed, while the fast absorbing whey protein powders are preferred in the morning and right after the workout. There also exist protein powders called isolates, which are very low in lactose and therefore ideal for lactose intolerant people who have problems digesting lactose (milk sugar).

According to my personal experience all types and brands of protein powder are equally effective, but I prefer the ones from MyProtein (use the 5% discount code MP51244 during checkout). I especially like their unflavored Impact Whey Protein and unflavored Milk Protein Smooth as they are 100% natural without any chemical additives. And of course Bodybuilding.com, the largest supplement store on the internet, offers some similar products.

MyProtein.com - Best Products & Service in Europe & US
(use the 5% discount code MP51244 during checkout)
Here I buy supplements myself. - Jos -

Amino Acids

Proteins are broken down into amino acids during digestion. If you eat enough protein, there is no need to take additional amino acids. Amino acids are rather expensive and have totally no additional value. In the past, amino acids have been popular, but in the meantime most bodybuilders have figured out that they are not worth the money. I don't believe that taking BCAA's (branched chain amino acids), EAA's (essential amino acids), arginine, glutamine, or any other amino acid just before, during, or just after your workout will accelerate muscle growth significantly. Any good whey protein powder contains 20-25% BCAA's and 40-50% EAA's that get absorbed by the body within 2 hours after consumption and is a much cheaper source of quickly available amino acids.


Creatine naturally occurs in the muscles where it plays an important role in the energy supply during exercise. While your body is able to make creatine itself, also your diet is an important source of creatine for your body. Creatine is a natural nutrient mainly present in poultry, meat and fish at about 3 to 7 g per kg. Since most of us don't eat big amounts of poultry, meat and fish, and since part of the creatine is broken down by heat during the cooking process, supplementation of creatine may be worth considering.

In contrast to most other sport supplements, creatine supplementation definitely has real noticeable effects on your body if taken long enough in large enough quantities. Some of these effects are definitely interesting for bodybuilders. The main beneficial effects of creatine supplementation are:

  • Your muscles will absorb extra water, which makes them bigger and harder, and you can experience as a result an increase in bodyweight of up to 3%.
  • The levels of creatine phosphate in your muscles increase, resulting in more energy during your workouts. You can do more reps with the same weight.
  • You will be stronger and thus being able to lift heavier weights for the same number of reps.
  • You will feel a more solid pump in your muscles during your workout.
  • You will experience increased joint stability during exercise, lowering the risk of injuries.

As a result of the above listed effects, you should be able to increase the overall intensity of your workouts, which in turn could theoretically result in faster muscle growth.

Creatine is however not a magical product. It also has some drawbacks:

  • All the beneficial effects disappear completely a couple of weeks after stopping creatine supplementation.
  • Some people's digestive system gets upset by creatine supplementation, resulting in diarrhea and insufficient absorption of the creatine supplement by the body.
  • There are some concerns about possible negative side effects of long term use of large dosages of creatine on for example the kidneys and liver. However, so far this has not been confirmed in any scientific study.
  • The pump in your muscles can become so pronounced that it can actually become inconvenient during some endurance exercises or physical labor.
  • People who have high natural creatine levels or eat large amounts of poultry, meat and fish may not get additional benefits from creatine supplementation.

Although the 5 beneficial effects that I listed above are in my opinion factually true, so far I didn't see any proof yet that creatine supplementation does really speed up actual muscle growth or can push actual muscle mass to higher levels that could not have been reached without creatine supplementation (I use here the term "actual muscle" for not confusing it with the extra water that is temporary absorbed by the muscles during creatine supplementation).

When I first tried creatine supplementation I was 25 years old, and full-grown in terms of muscle mass. Creatine supplementation has never been able to help me increase my actual muscle mass beyond that level. During creatine supplementation I experience a body weight increase of about 6 pounds, fuller and harder muscles, up to 15% strength and energy increase, a powerful pump and a significant increase in joint stability during exercise. Especially the latter effect I like very much because it really helps me to prevent tendon injuries.

I get the best results with a loading phase of 14 days with 6 grams of pure creatine monohydrate powder per day, followed by a maintenance dose of 3 to 5 grams per day. All brands of creatine monohydrate work equally well. You might consider choosing extra fine milled creatine monohydrate to facilitate its absorption, however, for me it doesn't make any difference. I take my creatine powder 3 or 4 times per day, and take it with plain water, juice or milk. I usually buy the brand Creapure, which is the purest creatine monohydrate available.

Although I don't think that creatine supplementation has any permanent long term beneficial effects, its short term effects are certainly quite spectacular. I recommend everybody to try it out at least once to see whether you like it.

Carbohydrate Powders

During an intense weight training workout the glycogen stored in the muscles and liver is the main energy source. For optimal strength and endurance during your workouts it is very important that these glycogen supplies are completely restored before starting a new workout.

The best moment to replenish exhausted glycogen supplies is during the first 2 hours after the workout. Easily digestible food products containing lots of fast absorbing carbohydrates (high glycemic index) are recommended for this purpose. During the rest of the day food products with slowly absorbing carbohydrates (low glycemic index) are preferred in order to provide a steady supply of energy to the body and to maintain the glycogen stores.

For those of you who like to optimize their carbohydrate intake there are some very handy carbohydrate powders available that can easily be added to protein shakes.


Dextrose is another name for glucose, the most important building block of most carbohydrates that occur in our food. Next to fructose and sucrose, glucose is an important sugar present in most fruits. During digestion most carbohydrates are broken down into glucose molecules that enter the bloodstream and are transported to the muscles and liver where they are converted into glycogen. Dextrose has the highest glycemic index of all naturally occurring carbohydrates. Adding dextrose (about 1 gram per kg of body weight) to your post-workout protein shake is the most efficient way to replenish your glycogen stores rapidly.


Maltodextrin, which is produced from corn or wheat starch, is another carbohydrate powder that is very easily digestible and has a glycemic index very similar to glucose. However, unlike dextrose, maltodextrin is not sweet. Therefore you can replace part of the dextrose in your protein shake by maltodextrin in order to keep its sweetness limited. A 50/50 mixture of dextrose/maltodextrin also gets slightly faster absorbed by the body than a pure dextrose or maltodextrin solution.

Fine milled oats

In contrast to dextrose and maltodextrin, milled oats are a great source of slow carbohydrates (low glycemic index) that additionally provide lots of healthy fiber, vitamins and minerals. When milled ultra fine they are very easily mixable into a protein shake and they provide a great smooth taste. Fine milled oats are a great source of carbohydrates for throughout the day.

BulkPowders.co.uk - Best Prices in Europe
(use the 5 GBP discount code JV93469 during checkout)
Here I buy supplements myself. - Jos -

Fats and Oils

Omega-3 supplementation by means of flaxseed oil or fish oil capsules has become very popular among bodybuilders. While some scientific research seems to support some cardiovascular health benefits from omega-3 fatty acids, supplementation with these essential fatty acids will not increase muscle growth or body fat reduction.

Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients for a good health. However, if you follow a normal healthy diet, especially if you regularly include some fresh fruit and vegetables, your body will have plenty of all vitamins and minerals. The importance of vitamin supplementation is extremely hyped up by the health care industry, and they are the favorite placebos prescribed by physicians. I do not recommend anybody to use additional vitamin or mineral supplements unless medical examinations clearly demonstrate a shortage (e.g. some people may have a shortage in iron or vitamin D). Extra vitamins or minerals will certainly not increase muscle growth or body fat reduction.

Ephedrine, Caffeine, and Aspirin

Ephedrine (or its natural equivalent ephedra) together with caffeine and sometimes aspirin has proven to be really helpful in burning body fat, and has therefore often been used in bodybuilding supplements (so-called fat burners). Ephedrine is however a dangerous drug and prohibited by most anti-doping organizations. Ephedrine (or its natural equivalent ephedra or ma huang) does not belong in the human body and should never be used by true natural bodybuilders.


Prohormones are often sold as bodybuilding supplements. I don't know very much about them because I think that all supplements that have the word "hormone" in their name should not be used by true natural bodybuilders. According to many sources, however, some prohormones do really stimulate muscle growth. Prohormones are converted into real hormones (usually testosterone or anabolic steroids) by the body, and can have a minimal hormonal effect by themselves. In some countries (including the US) they are no longer legally available and they definitely should never be used by a true natural bodybuilder.

Hormone Boosters

All kinds of hormone boosters are currently on the market as alternatives for hormonal doping with testosterone, anabolic steroids, growth hormone etc. These supplements are supposed to increase your natural levels of these hormones in a safe and legal manner. Honestly, I don't know very much about these products, but I doubt very much that any of these products can really significantly increase your natural hormone levels. In each case, in my opinion all substances that don't occur in a normal healthy daily diet, especially when they are supposed to manipulate your hormone levels, should not be used by true natural bodybuilders. I also believe that from a health perspective, it is not wise to disturb your natural hormonal balance.

Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate

Several studies have shown that glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate may have beneficial effects for the health of your joints. They are claimed to help relieve joint ache, treat osteoarthritis, and improve the health of your cartilage and maybe your tendons. In Europe they are even approved as safe and effective medical drugs for osteoarthritis. Although I have never used them myself, I believe it may be worthwhile trying them to prevent or treat joint injuries.

Where to Buy Sports Supplements

If you live in Europe or the United States, I recommend you to buy from MyProtein.com. It is my favorite store because of the high quality products, very sharp prices and excellent service. If you input the code MP51244 on their billing page you will get a 5% discount on your first order.

Another great webshop in Europe is BulkPowders.co.uk. Although their (shipping) service is of slightly lower quality, they sell great products at the sharpest bulk prices. If you input the code JV93469 on their billing page you will get a 5 GBP discount on your first order.

If you live in Canada or the United States, I recommend you to buy supplements from the brand Bodybuilding.com at the website Bodybuilding.com using the coupon links listed below. If you have a limited budget, also read how to keep your supplements affordable.


The only dietary supplement that I believe is really beneficial to all bodybuilders is protein powder, because protein is really an essential nutrient for muscle growth. However, as explained above, I consider protein powder as a food product rather than a sports supplement, because it is isolated from natural food products such as milk and eggs.

The only other sport supplement that true natural bodybuilders could benefit from is creatine monohydrate. However, I do not think that creatine supplementation has any permanent beneficial effects.

I believe that all other bodybuilding supplements currently on the market have no significant benefit for bodybuilders, do not work at all, or should not be part of true natural bodybuilding.

Note that it is well possible to eliminate the need for sports supplements completely, simply by eating large enough quantities of poultry, meat and fish. By eating 2 to 3 lbs of poultry, meat or fish per day you fully cover your daily needs of quality protein and creatine, eliminating the need for any supplementation. Eating such high amounts of poultry, meat and fish can, however, have a few disadvantages: poultry, meat and fish can contain lots of saturated fats, cholesterol and pollutants, they can be rather costly, and take lots of time for preparing and eating.

Also take a look at my section on supplement safety. If you are curious about which supplements you would find in my cabinet, take a look at my list of food supplements and training accessories.