Bulking supplements that work

William Cook



"When it comes to finding bulking supplements that work, I can safely say it's an absolute minefield", says Will Cook. You will spend hours, maybe even days scanning the internet for bulking supplements to help aid you during the bulking process. Hopefully I will clear up the minefield that is bulking supplements, and point you in the right direction of the essential supplements you need during the cold, harsh winter months.

Whey protein bulking supplements

Personally, whey protein is top of my list of go to bulking supplements. This should be high on your priority list for a number of reasons which I will now explain. Firstly, whey is derived from milk, a fast digesting protein source with an excellent amino acid profile that initiates protein synthesis (or muscle growth) quickly, making it ideal for breakfast or post-workout nutrition. Secondly, there are two main forms of whey, these being whey protein concentrates and whey protein isolates. Whey isolates have a more advanced filtration method so the powder is purer, contains less sugars and fats, and is more bioavailable. In a nutshell this means that more of the protein is converted into muscle tissue so you may be getting more protein for your pound. In addition, a further benefit of whey isolate is that it contains much lower levels of lactose, so many athletes who are lactose intolerant prefer it over concentrate. Whey protein is best consumed in the mornings, towards the end of and after your workout. Specifically, one scoop of whey protein is an excellent combination with instant oats to make a powerful, muscle building breakfast combination. Research has shown that by adding a whey protein supplement to your training regime it will minimise protein degradation and maximally stimulate muscle building by 26%.

Creatine Monohydrate

Without doubt, creatine is one of the most studied supplements in sports science. Personally, creatine is another supplement that I would have high on my bulking supplements list. However, a lot of research that has been carried out in the last century has alternating views, findings and discussion points. If you are thinking of using creatine for the first time I would advise doing a little bit of homework first, because you will be amazed with some of the findings. Firstly, creatine does not build muscle, but provides your muscles with the capacity to derive more energy in short bursts through the process of 'osmotic loading' which is water retention in the muscle cells. This will allow you to workout at higher intensities for longer, giving you the potential to stimulate more protein synthesis. Doses of 3-5 grams a day will achieve 100% saturation of your muscles, so there is no need to perform a loading phase or buy a more expensive form such as kre-alkalyn. Specifically, research by Kilduff (2003) showed that oral administration of creatine had significant effects on body mass, body composition, muscle strength, and endurance due to increased resting phosphocreatine levels and/or increased rates of phosphocreatine re-synthesis. Creatine monohydrate is best taken at a 3-5 gram dose in your post workout shake on training days or at breakfast on non-training days. Most creatine bulking supplements will advise you on the packaging on how and when to take the supplement, but personally I recommend stopping creatine supplementation for two weeks after 6-8 weeks continued use. More importantly, while creatine is not dangerous and has been shown to have no long term health risks, do not use it if you are allergic to creatine or have kidney weakness/disease.


Dextrose is a fast absorbing, simple sugar, ideal for post-workout nutrition to bring up your insulin levels. Consuming dextrose immediately post-workout causes insulin levels to spike, driving glucose and other nutrients into cells and influencing their amino acid utilisation. Conflicting research has argued that dextrose is not necessary post-workout as whey is insulinogenic (induces an insulin response), but in my personal opinion the fact remains that protein synthesis requires a substantial amount of energy from within the body, so it makes sense to consume a readily available energy source in your post-workout shake, especially when bulking. I will now explain the benefits of dextrose in your post-workout bulking supplements shakes. Research has shown that by consuming a supplement containing a carbohydrate and protein mix in a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio within 30 minutes following exercise showed greater improvements in strength and body composition after resistance training. Specifically, this translates to 1.2-1.5 g/kg of simple carbs (e.g., dextrose) with 0.3-0.5 g/kg of quality protein containing essential amino acids. Dextrose is best consumed in your post-workout shake. However, remember to calculate the appropriate amount in grams depending on overall kcal intake.

Micellar Casein

Casein is a dairy protein and accounts for almost 80% of all proteins found in cows' milk. It has a very rich pool of amino acids, which is almost identical to whey protein, which is a by product of cheese. Specifically, this pool of amino acids is high in essential amino acids, which are responsible for muscle protein synthesis. Without going too far into the scientific pathways, casein basically forms a gel in the stomach which slows down the rate of gastric emptying, which in turn affects the rate at which amino acids are absorbed into the blood stream. In more basic terminology, because of this gel that casein produces, the casein takes longer to be digested in the stomach, which slows down the amount of amino acids being released into the small intestine where they absorbed. More importantly this makes casein and more specifically micellar casein the ideal protein supplement for between meals and before bed. During sleep, the body is normally starved of nutrients as it's impractical to consume food. However, as micellar casein provides a sustained supply of protein it allows your body to avoid muscle breakdown during the night. Furthermore micellar casein is extremely low in fat whilst also providing an excellent source of calcium. Research by Res et al. (2012) showed that by consuming 40 grams of casein protein 30 minutes before bed, it successfully stimulated muscle protein synthesis by 22% resulting in and improved whole-body protein balance. Micellar Casein is best consumed 30 minutes before bed or alternatively can be used between meals to slowly feed your muscles. Personally, I would recommend taking a whey protein/dextrose post-workout then a micellar casein just before you go to sleep. More importantly, lactose intolerant athletes might want to trial and error this product as some research has shown flatulence, whilst others haven't.

Instant Oats

Instant oats, such as Pure Fine Oats, are one of my favourite bulking supplements. Firstly, they are a very good source of slow digesting carbohydrates. Secondly, they come in powdered form which makes them quick to prepare and easy to transport around. Furthermore, on the days when you don't feel up to eating so much they are a godsend for hitting your macro targets. As discussed earlier on this article, instant oats combined with a scoop of whey protein make a delicious protein porridge recipe which is ideal for bulking. In my opinion instant oats can be consumed at any time during the day. A great source of slow digesting carbohydrate, they can be used at breakfast for protein porridge, post-workout if you are looking to add some more kcal to your diet, during the day as a meal replacement, and also before bed mixed with a scoop casein to stop those hunger cravings.


BCAAs are another of the most commonly used bulking supplements. When it comes to BCAAs (branch chain amino acids) the research currently out there is unforgiving and relentless so I am going to try and make this easier for everyone to understand because it can be quite hard to get your head around. There are 20 basic amino acids which are the building blocks of new proteins. However, three of these are key to initiating protein synthesis which are the following; leucine, iso-leucine and valine. A lot of different research has argued that BCAAs are not completely necessary when on a high calorie diet which you will be whilst bulking. However, in my opinion and also in the opinion of a lot of other research currently out there, if you have the money I would personally recommend taking your BCAA product during your workout to decrease amino acid oxidisation which is the breakdown of muscle tissue for energy and to allow the promotion of protein synthesis. Research is conflicting, for example Van Hall et al. (1995) found that BCCA intake affects protein metabolism in muscle after exercise but not during, whereas Blomstrand et al. (2006) found that by consuming BCAAs during and after exercise it activated key enzymes within the body which are key for protein synthesis and the building of lean muscle tissue. Furthermore, BCCAs have been associated with fat loss as confirmed by Frekstradt et al. (2007). With regards to research discussed above, BCCAs are best consumed during your workout or immediately post workout to activate protein synthesis and preserve that new lean muscle mass you have just worked so hard to achieve during your workout. In addition, BCAAs come in either powdered or tablet form so you have a choice. With regards to dosages, follow the instructions on the packaging or generally take 5-10 grams during or post workout. Hopefully this article has begun to clear up any confusion on bulking supplements. Remember these supplements are a guideline, so I would always recommend to go away and do your own research first before diving in with both feet. Finally, don't let bulking supplements consume you, because at the end of the day consuming actual food is also very important to make those lean gains. Happy bulking.

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