The Most Effective Bodybuilding Supplements, Backed By Science

Jerry Brainum lists the most effective bodybuilding supplements according to scientific studies.

The bodybuilding and sports supplement industry has exploded over the past few decades. What was once dominated by a small number of proven brands is now overloaded with hundreds of companies and supplement manufacturers. While it’s good to have the choice to buy to best get what you need, it can also make supplementation confusing. Which brands should you trust? What types of supplements actually work? Am I the victim of a scam? In our latest episode of Straight Facts, Jerry Brainum breaks down the best science-backed supplements to guarantee results.

It seems that almost every week a new type of supplement hits the market. Everyone announces that it is the best solution to optimize your physical training. But how do you separate the over-the-top marketing from the real supplements that make a difference? Although FDA approval of a supplement is a great start, more scientific studies are needed to know if a supplement will actually make changes to your training and diet.

That’s why Jerry Brainum has put together a short list of supplements backed by scientific research that are considered the most effective for bodybuilders and athletes. Keep in mind that this list considers legal over-the-counter supplements and not PEDs such as steroids. Let’s go.

1. Creatine

After sifting through the data, Jerry Brainum discovered that most scientific studies endorse creatine as an effective supplement. It works for 80% of people who use it in an overall score of research studies and trials. Creatine is probably one of the first supplements you learned about in high school — and for good reason. It keeps your muscles supplied with energy for muscle contraction. It stimulates insulin intramuscular growth factor which is a direct anabolic effect. It also helps reduce muscle acidity, which is a major contributor to fatigue during training. It is undoubtedly the number one most effective supplement.

RELATED: Best Creatine Supplements for Bulking and Muscle Growth

2. Caffeine

Although technically more of a drug than a supplement, studies have shown that caffeine, an all-natural substance, is effective for sports supplementation. Whether you get a caffeine boost via a pre-workout supplement or just a few cups of coffee, there’s no doubt that this drug works to boost your energy.

A few tips to remember. You’ll want to ingest caffeine (e.g. coffee) an hour before your workout to get the best effects. However, if you train late, the boosting energy of caffeine will last late into the night and may keep you awake. This can hurt your muscle recovery.

Note – if you have a heart or arterial disease or complication, caffeine may limit the dilation of your arteries. This can reduce the amount of blood pumped through your heart. Which can lead to health risks if you have known pre-existing heart and blood vessel problems.

RELATED: Best Pre-Workout Supplements For Bodybuilding & Muscle Gain

3. Nitrates

Nitrates are substances found naturally in green leafy vegetables (like beets). It’s a great way to get the benefits of nitric oxide without taking boosters (which may contain additional ingredients you may want to avoid in your diet). Nitrate takes about 2-2.5 hours from the time you consume it to get the full effect during a workout. Effects include blood vessel dilation – helping you get a good pump and oxygen delivery to muscles.

4. Beta Alanine

Beta alanine increases the production of carnosine in the body. This helps increase muscle endurance by preventing acid buildup in the muscles, which is one of the factors that cause fatigue. Essentially, just like nitrates, this supplement can help stave off fatigue. This allows you to train harder and longer in the gym.

On a personal note – Jerry Brainum mentions his own use of beta alanine. In his experience, a low dose did not help him. But after going to a higher dose, he was able to see an effect.

RELATED: Straight Facts – The Benefits and Harms of Beta-Alanine


Although the supplements listed here are backed by rigorous research to endorse their effectiveness, it should be noted that while something generally works on paper, it may not work for you. Each individual has unique genetics. No drug affects a person in exactly the same way.

If you’re not using some of these supplements in your diet — and you’re looking for a natural way to boost your performance — try adding them to your stack. Evaluate if the results work for you, adjust and repeat. You might just find something to give you the edge during strength training.

You can watch Jerry Brainum go into detail about these supplements in our latest episode of Straight Facts above. Be sure to check out new episodes every Wednesday only on the Generation Iron Fitness Network or wherever podcasts are uploaded.

Teresa E. Burton