Supplements have always been a big topic. They’re either given as A) a miracle cure by personal trainers B) a last-ditch source of hope for people struggling to get results.
They aren’t either of the above.
They come in the form of pills or shakes and they should be used to...
C) work towards your goals by maximising key areas in your diet.
Some supplements increase calories, others boost micronutrients.
Some even contain stuff that it’s really difficult to get from pure food alone (like Vitamin D or fish oil).
So that brings the question, if you can get a lot of them from food, why bother using supplements?
If you’re trying to build muscle, then you’re going to need to get in enough macros (and micros) to move the scales.
For some, especially skinny dudes, this can be tough to do through food alone:
- Food can be really filling (find study and expand) making it almost impossible for skinny guys to manage.
- It can take a long time to cook, clean and prep (to get this from food, it might require cooking and eating 2x as much as you would normally without supplements).
- You need to make time to sit down, eat and stop. Definitely recommended for better wellbeing (study), but not always realistic (depending on your job).
- It can be really expensive and cost way more to have enough of a certain food (like fish) vs. just getting a supplement that has things in concentrated form.
That doesn’t mean supplements are better, or your diet should be made up solely of them (like replacing your meals with meal-replacement shakes 🤦🏼♂️).
Instead, you’ll want to think about a few things when it comes to having supplements in your diet:
- Is your workout program already designed to build muscle smartly?
- Is your diet already designed with the right nutrients, macros and calories?
Only when the answer to each question above is ‘yes’ should you add extra supplements to give you an edge.
What I’m going to walk you through today is something that can help you get your extra calories and macros in. Your diet will still need to be 80% of the way though for this to work.
Look at them like little cheat codes you can apply to your diet, to help ease the load of eating all the time and level-up. Not having them typically won’t be the reason you’re not gaining weight or hitting your workout goals.
Instead of listing weight gainers and bias reviews of supplements, I’ve decided to break down individual supplements that you can add to your diet instead.
If you’re after an all-in-one supplement, then my recommendation would be to look at what we suggest in the rest of this article, and just make sure your all-in-one supplement includes these ingredients.
With that said, let’s get into the supplements I recommend for skinny guys wanting to build muscle.
The Foundational Supplements
For this section we’re going to look at supplements that are highly effective, safe and are the top 5% supplements when it comes to building muscle.
These are also supplements that go together incredibly well to build a muscle building powerhouse.
(We’ll cover supplement stacks a bit later on in this guide)
If you’re looking to build muscle and get in better shape, then you’ll want to grab some protein powder.
It’s the 1st (well, 2nd) on the list of weight gain supplements because it’s the most beneficial one when it comes to building muscle.
Not only that, but it’s insanely popular:
Protein powders are used by a shocking 40% of men that go to the gym (study) and it’s not surprising that it’s often the one I’ve been asked about the most.
Here’s a quick rundown of what protein can do:
Protein is digested as amino acids, these are then reconstructed to build up properties in the body that have been directly linked to increasing muscle growth, reducing muscle soreness (DOMS) and helping preserve muscle for wasting away (study, study, study) they also have benefits on overall skin, hair and eye quality and helps the body repair after an injury (study, study).
The benefits you get from protein powder are almost identical with the same benefits you get from whole, protein rich food sources.
The important thing to do is hit your protein requirements (how much you protein you need to build muscle).
As long as you hit your protein intake, and are getting in protein frequently, then it doesn’t matter a great deal if that’s coming from food, or a supplement.
Something to note though. As protein powder (and really any supplement) has a higher concentration of protein compared to whole food, it often comes as a cost comes from a lack of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and healthy fats we find in real food. This also means less calories and taste too, but we can make up for that in some ways.
Advantages to protein powders:
- It can help with the registration of our organs (like skin, brain, eye health, heart, etc). It can also help with antibodies and improve our immune system. (study).
- It’s even the secret ingredient your body relies upon to repair itself after an injury (study, study, study, study).
- In the long-term, eating lots of protein helps fight off aging by preventing a loss of bone strength and brain decline. Plus, by eating lots of protein you’ll maintain more muscle.
- The more muscle you have, the better your metabolism functions which helps to fight off many diseases including type-2 diabetes.
- Then there's the obvious, which is likely why you're here. It helps with muscle growth.
Disadvantages to protein powders:
- It's been believed for a while (through mainstream media nonsense) that too much protein can cause kidney issues
- Some people just hate the texture and taste of protein shakes. The idea of sweetener freaks some people out. This is typically when they're not used to it or haven't trained much though.
- Can be out of cost for some people (however, they are cheaper than consuming the amount of protein from whole foods).
Types of protein powder supplements
Protein powder, just like food, comes in many forms.
The benefits for powder vs. food, however, is how much protein it has vs. food when it comes to vegan-based diets.
Here’s a few protein powders you’ll find:
Whey Protein - Concentrate, isolate and hydrolysed whey.
This is a complete protein that digests very quickly. It’s the most popular form of protein powder and comes in several varieties.
Whey concentrated is where during the manufacturing process they remove water, lactose, and some minerals. It is a great protein source (study, study, study, study) and is my recommendation for its price-to-benefit ratio when starting out.
Whey isolate is the purest type of protein. It’s the cleanest macro wise (having most of the lactose and fat removed). It has the highest gram of protein (per gram of protein powder) and is so clean that even lactose-intolerant people can take whey isolate (although you still want to check with your doctor).
Whey Hydrolysate is effective in that it’s pre-digested, meaning it absorbs faster into the body (whilst keeping the essential amino acids intact). It’s a very high-quality protein, however, not needed unless you’re prone to illness (it’s often found in baby formula).
Casein Protein (digests slowly)
This protein digests much slower than whey, making it very common to consume before bedtime (as it drip-feeds protein throughout the night). However, research has shown that this isn’t needed if you’re already hitting your protein quota (study).
When it comes to protein, and choosing between a milk protein, your best bet is going with a whey concentrate if possible. Sure, it’s not the best quality wise. But when starting out I’d recommend spending the extra money towards coaching, a better gym membership or a nice dinner out - all of these are better investments in you than the highest-quality form of whey available. If you don’t handle lactose well, but want the benefits still, then I’d go with one of the other 2 (isolate or hydrolysate).
Egg protein powder
Made up of egg whites (albumin) and then made into a powder. Although they do have a high protein count (80%) they’re pretty awful tasting.
I’d much prefer just having egg whites (with some seasoning) than using egg white powder.
Beef and meat protein powder
Often seen as a milk protein alternative. They come with a complete protein (amino) profile which is critical for maximising muscle growth (study, study, study) They also contain a great amount of minerals vs. other protein powders (such as vitamin A, B12, iron and folic acid).
Sounds pretty great right?
Not so fast.
They typically taste pretty poor, mix poor and are expensive compared to other protein powders. And this isn’t my personal opinion either. On most reviews for beef protein (even hydrolysed beef protein) the comments aren’t positive.
Unlike eggs (which are awesome for building muscle), I wouldn’t recommend egg protein. I’d pick a different type of protein powder that’s enjoyable and mixes well.
Plant-based protein powders
If you’re on a plant-based diet, then getting a plant-based protein powder is a must. It can be the difference between being able to build muscle, and not getting enough protein in your diet.
It’s typically difficult to get enough protein in (without having a lot of unnecessary macros) through whole foods, without some assistance from a protein powder.
Thankfully, there’s a few to choose from. You’ll just likely have to do a lot more testing vs. having a dairy protein powder (to find a brand, flavour, mixability and one with a high enough protein amino ratio) .
Soy protein (concentrate and isolate)
If you’re a plan-based eater, then you’ve no doubt heard of soy.
Soy protein is the protein isolated from the soybean. Unlike most plant-based proteins, it has a complete amino-acid profile, making it the best (imo) choice for plant-eaters.
As with all soy based products, you’ll want to watch out on consuming too much as this can affect the thyroid (study, study) and increase estrogen, although that might not be as much of an issue as the media claims.
This is a good alternative for someone who wants to avoid soy (as you might be getting it from foods in your diet anyway).
Pea protein powder is made by extracting protein from yellow peas It’s a high-quality protein with a great source of iron.
It’s lower in protein (protein > gram ratio) vs. protein powders like whey isolate, but still has a great protein amount (24g per serving) although note this does vary from brand to brand. It has a great amount of BCAAs (branch-chain amino acids).
Rice, hemp, pumpkin seed
There’s plenty of other sources out there too.
Rice protein isn’t a complete protein (as it’s too low in lysine). If you get a good brand then it can be made of 80% protein and be very soluble and digestible. One (study) also showed it has similar effects on the body (from a composition standpoint) to whey but I’d be wary of this claim as the research isn’t well-trodden yet.
Hemp protein powder is a complete protein source with a similar profile to egg whites (study). It’s also one of the most digestible proteins with 91–98% of the protein in ground hemp seed being digestible (study). Unlike whey and other plant-based protein sources, it also offers a great fibre boost (study) which can be a good or bad thing, depending on how your appetite is. As mentioned earlier, protein powders typically lack what real food gives us, like vitamins, minerals and fats, hemp protein however has a lot of them (study, study, study). The major downside is the taste. Personally, I’ve always found it undrinkable. It’s gritty and doesn’t taste good (even with premium brands it can still leave a lot to be desired).
Faba Bean Protein Powder also contains 80% protein and is also a complete amino acid profile. It also contains a rich source of fibre (10g per 100g serving).
If you can digest whey, then I’d pick a whey concentrate. If you prefer plant-based, then I’d go for vegan blend powder for a plant-based diet. I like Awesome Supplement's vegan protein (it’s one of the nicer shakes I’ve had).
How much and when to take protein powder
Although protein synthesis is maxed out at 40g per meal (more on that here) you still get benefits from going over that (like hitting your protein goals, calories etc).
Without carbs, you’re going to struggle to build muscle. In fact, you’d likely just be having a “fat-loss” shake instead.
There’s plenty of ways to get carbs in your diet, that aren’t full of junk, however, getting them in food form has a few issues:
- They can be tough to get in when you're on the go.
- If you’re stuck in the office or on the road, then you just don't have time to be scoffing down bowls of rice or making a bowl of porridge and honey several times during the day.
I feel you, and that's why carb powder is a saviour.
I don't recommend having this on its own. That would be sweet and nasty (and not in a good way). Instead, you want them as part of The Strongman Shake (our weight gainer formula).
What should you look for with a carb powder?
As mentioned in our bulking guide, we want to get both complex carbs (think things like porridge) in our diet and simple carbs (which are similar to sugar) to maximise muscle growth without shooting our appetite in the foot.
Now here’s the real kicker:
Sugars aren’t just beneficial for marathon runners, but they are extremely beneficial to anaerobic exercise (such as weightlifting or sprinting).
And complex carbs can keep us topped-up with glycogen and help us hit our calories throughout the day.
It’s a beautiful combo.
Benefits to having a carb powder
One 2002 (study) looked at the effects of whey protein and carb powder and the results were positive. They gained 7.5 lbs of muscle more and were able to drop fat at the same time.
They’re also super cheap and affordable and can be digested well (study) making them perfect for skinny guys that struggle to eat enough because they’re often too full.
Disadvantages to having a carb powder
- If you’re not skinny, be careful, as it can be really easy to overdo it and instigate fat gain (from going over your calories).
- Too many simple carbs can cause temporary reactive hypoglycemia, which could hurt sports performance (and typically cause a lot of sweating in my experience).
- Some people don’t handle them well and can crash from them, which not only harms your training, but obviously can harm your ability to feel good in daily life.
Types of carb powder
Just like any food group, there’s also a lot of different carb types you can take.
Here’s the most popular carb-powders you’ll find:
Unlike traditional porridge oats, these can be added to a shake and just require a little shaking. No cooking or blending needed (although blending is always a good idea with any shake).
These allow you to get a steady release of energy throughout the day, and are the “healthiest” form of carb powder in the list.
I’d recommend these for people who can't get full easily, as they contain plenty of fibre, which will fill you up.
This is the middle ground between ultra-fine oats and the following choices and is made from corn, potato starch, rice, and sometimes wheat.
It’s a perfect choice for an easy-to-digest carb that allows you to spike your insulin but also not crash too hard (it’s got a medium digestion rate).
It’s also the most common choice for adding to a weight gainer shake because of its digestibility and price. It’s digested easily due to the fact that it’s absorbed into the gut. This has some issues for people that aren’t skinny guys, like raising blood sugar and insulin levels, but makes it a great option for gaining muscle, fast.
One study has shown that maltodextrin might help maintain anaerobic power during exercise.
It also isn’t overly sweet like the options below, so it’s much more manageable to drink a few times per day if needed.
This is a fast-digesting (straight-up simple) carb that gets digested real fast. Due to its rapid absorption rate, it’s recommended for post-workout nutrition and recovery-based drinks.
This is due to the fact that the breaking down of starch is skipped, which results in a rapid supply of energy.
Dextrose also has medical purposes. It is dissolved in solutions that are given intravenously, which are then combined with other drugs, or used to increase a patient’s blood sugar.
It isn’t as sweet as sugar but is pretty close, making it a really sweet powder to have in a shake, so be warned, you likely won’t want to be sipping it for minutes.
Avoid this if you have hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, and struggle with blood sugar in general. If you’ve got diabetes, then you’ll want to avoid it altogether as you’ll likely not be able to process it quick enough.
This is the fastest digesting carb of all the ones listed.
It’s a patented molecular carbohydrate derived from barley starch
It’s been proven to have some benefits, such as:
- being able to increase performance by 23% vs. maltodextrin.
- stimulates faster recovery from intense and overall better glycogen recovery (study, study, study).
But these studies should be taken with a pinch of salt, as they are used heavily in Vitargo’s marketing.
In my opinion, it’s overly expensive for the benefits you get when using it to simply gain weight. If you’re an athlete and every tweak helps, then sure it might be worth the investment. But if you’re a skinny guy wanting to gain mass? I recommend passing on it.
Not to mention, it’s too simple to have as the carb source in your everyday weight gainer shake.
How much and when to take carb powder
This can be a tough one. For skinny guys, you’ll want to get a high dosage of 50-80g carbs per shake. This is only recommended if you’re a truly skinny guy that doesn’t crash hard from having too many carbs, and doesn’t gain fat easily (a true ectomorph).
If you’re someone who’s more skinny fat, then you’ll want to go with a 40-50g dose of carbs per shake.
I used to recommend quite a high-dosage with something called The AA Method (which is a pre/intra/post workout supplement method). Since then, that method’s been tweaked with clients, and I recommend lower dosages of carbs in your all-round weight gainer shaker too.
I suggest using ultra-fine oats (in supplement form) early on during the day and using maltodextrin later in the day.
That way you’ll be able to maximise on insulin spikes later in the day when it isn’t a problem (study).
Remember there’s nothing special about these carb powders that carbs don’t already provide us. These just help you get them in your diet faster and more conveniently.
The final part of the puzzle of the macros is getting in your fat.
So far we’ve got protein and carbs, making up one heck of a muscle-building shake, however, without fat, then you’re missing out on a fair amount of benefits.
Unlikely carb and whey, fat in supplement form comes in a limited selection.
Let’s get into them now.
Most people forget to have fats in their diet all together. They think that fat will make them fat, so they avoid them when having a fat-loss diet.
And they forget them when they are trying to gain weight, worrying that fat will cause extra fat storage that they want to avoid when bulking up.
Fats are included in this supplement stack for a few reasons:
- They have a higher ratio of gram to calories (9 calories/g) vs. protein and carbs which makes them great for adding calories into the diet, when you’re struggling to eat enough.
- Fat helps balance our hormones, particularly our steroid hormones (such as sex hormones and corticosteroid hormones) which doesn’t just help with a bulking diet, but in general for men.
- It helps transport the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K which can help the body fight against illness and infection (study) which helps increase testosterone production (study) and helps to prevent coronary heart disease. (study)
The advantages to taking Medium-Chain Triglyceride
MCT fats aren’t as unique or game changing as we’re led to believe by some communities (the keto and paleo dieters in particular).
In fact, they don’t have a lot of evidence to back them up other than the benefits healthy fats provide in a diet.
Evidence that it might help with increasing metabolic rate, which can be helpful with keeping muscle gains lean (study) if you’re skinny-fat (contrary to what many guys feel they should have, you actually want a higher metabolic rate even as a skinny guy - especially if you’ve got a muscle-building system in place to help skinny guys specifically).
But that should all be taken with a pinch of salt, and it’s not the main reason I recommend it in your supplement stack. I recommend it because of the calories you can add to your diet and the benefits that come with fat in general. MCT fat is the one of the few options you can get to add to your shake in supplement form.
The disadvantages to taking Medium-Chain Triglyceride
Depending on where you buy it from, it can cost a small supplement fortune.
Quite a few brands like to add a few things to MCT powder to make it more marketable (like acacia fibre) and even offer several types of MCT oil (claiming the purest one wins)
This makes me cringe as it can be reasonably priced when bought through brands like Bulk Powders or MyProtein and the MCT benefits can still be reached (and that’s what I recommend if you’re going to get an MCT powder).
A 12-week study showed that too much over a long period of time has been shown to increase fatty acid build-up in the liver (study). Although the same study showed to have decreased body-fat, this isn’t a scenario we’d wish upon anybody’s liver.
It can keep you fuller longer (study, study) which is a reason why it’s given a lot for people who are trying to lose fat, but this is something you want to avoid for bulking-up (you want to avoid being full as much as possible).
Different types of fat supplements
As mentioned, the fat supplement market is pretty low on high-quality alternatives – unlike food where we’ve got lots of tasty substitutes to choose from.
Sure, you’ve got things like peanut powder, but this is low calorie and doesn’t have any of the benefits we want to have in our shake.
Although it isn’t in the same ballpark as MCT oil (as it’s omega-3 based) an alternative I recommend is flaxseed power.
Flaxseeds are rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which is a plant-based omega-3 fatty acid. This has a lot of benefits that MCT doesn’t offer.
Flaxseeds have been shown to reduce cholesterol (study, study), don’t have much showing they fill you up (which is good) (study) and packs a punch with fibre (study) - something your gut will thank you for with all the food you’ll be having on a bulking diet, trust me!
When and how much fat-powder should you take?
Aim to get around 20% of your shake from a fat source. This can also be a blend of different fats (such as MCT + flax seed) if preferred and add this to every shake you have.
If you’re taking a shake post-workout, then I’d skip the fat for that serving and only have it in the shakes that don’t fall near training.
Creatine is one of most talked about supplements, other than protein powders, and it deserves its place there.
In fact, it’s so highly credited that if it wasn’t for the purpose of making sure macros fall first, I’d have put creatine as #1 on this list of weight gaining supplements. But before we get into all the benefits and how to use it, let’s talk about what creatine is.
Creatine is a molecule that's produced in the body by amino acids. Primarily made in the liver (and to a lesser extent in the kidneys and pancreas) it helps muscles produce energy through the production of ATP.
Carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and ketones are not directly used as energy, but rather used to make a certain amount of ATP that the body can then use to perform an action, like contracting a muscle.
This helps the body under times where it's put under intense physical (or mental activity) by giving it a direct source of energy - think of it like caffeine, but without the jitters.
It's been directly proven to help with muscle growth and increasing strength (by letting you push out a few extra reps than you would otherwise). It’s used on everything from helping to improve athletic performance (with things like sprints) to helping gain water weight for boxing matches.
Advantages to using creatine
As mentioned creatine has a lot of benefits and has been shown to help with everything from performance to brain function to muscle growth. It’s funny that just like fish-oil, sometimes the best supplements and the ones that do the most good for us are often the ones that are least sexy and advertised.
Creatine has been shown to help directly with muscle and weight gain (study) and has been shown to increase strength dramatically, which also has a big impact on muscle growth too (study, study, study) and this improvement has been shown to be with untrained people (likely like yourself) and those who are athletes (study).
It’s also shown to increase weight (without muscle growth) to help people go up in a weight class (study). This isn’t something we want, as we’re chasing muscle growth too, but it’s something that’s handy to know for setting healthy expectations for gains.
It’s also been shown to help with hormone production such as IGF-1 which has been proven to be excellent for muscle growth (study, study) and this is just scratching the surface of how creatine can help you.
Disadvantages to using creatine
Instead of going through the disadvantages of creatine, I’m going to answer the question:
“Is creatine safe to use?”
Overall, it’s incredibly safe. After-all, it’s something our body produces naturally. We need it to live and function (as mentioned earlier carbs, protein and fats rely on ATP production).
The only recorded adverse effects are nausea, diarrhoea, and stomach cramps in people taking more than 10 grams at once, and even at such high doses, these effects are rare. (study). In both long and short-term studies, doses taken daily of up to 10 grams were shown to not affect kidney function in people with healthy kidneys (study, study)
And the International Society of Sports Nutrition have taken a stand and said it’s beneficial for injury prevention, meaning you’re safer to have it than you aren’t (study).
Some bodybuilders recommend avoiding it late at night and early on. In my creatine journey, after hearing this, I started to struggle to sleep. Looking back I think that was more in my head than reality. Test it for yourself and see how you feel having it late.
When and how much creatine should you have?
You’ll want to have a dosage of 5g/day (I recommend in the morning or post-workout).
Creatine is unique, in that it’s best done with a loading stage.
To load up you’ll want to take a high dose for a few days (recommendation is 20-25g/day for 7 days) before dropping down to 5g/day. To make this easier, I recommend breaking this up into a few times per day vs. all at once, as too high of a dosage at one time might cause some dehydration that’ll be very unpleasant.
You should notice a dramatic effect on your strength and energy after the loading. Although, you should note some people are non-responders and already have a high-dosage of creatine in their body naturally.
The cherry on top supplements
The next group of supplements aren’t going to help you gain weight. Instead, they’re to be stacked upon performance and weight-gaining supplements to help with overall quality of life.
They’ll help improve energy levels, wellbeing and cognition (aka how well and clearly you think without brain fog).
Although these areas can be expanded greatly (we could look at vitamin D, Zinc etc in great detail) I’ve decided to keep this list small and recommend ones that get the job done. Of course, at the end (during the stack section) I’ll give some recommendations on things to add. For now, if you’re a beginner who wants to gain weight and feel good in the process, then this is more than enough.
Fish-oil, next to creatine, is an almost miracle like supplement.
And pretty much every expert out there agrees with its effectiveness at helping the body in a number of areas.
The main superpower behind fish-oil is it’s essential fatty acid and omega-3 make up.
“Fish oil" refers to a solution of fatty acids where the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are dominant.” - Kamal Patel, Examine
Advantages of having fish-oil in your diet
Omega-3 has been shown to help improve the mood with patients who struggle with major depression. It’s been shown to help with inflammation issues (study, study, study), memory (especially in older people) (study, study) and can even lower ADHD symptoms with children (study, study).
However, what about gaining weight? Can it support that?
The reality is there’s very little evidence to show that fish-oil has any effects on weight loss or weight gain (other than slight tweaks in hormones - study, study) but it’s nothing to write home about. Some evidence has shown that it can help with insulin sensitivity, which keeps you leaner when bulking-up (study, study, study) but this was shown with the obese and elderly (two attributes that likely don’t apply to you).
One study showed that supplementing daily with 4,200 mg of omega-3s increased muscle growth after exercise with older adults, compared to younger adults (study) however this study isn’t incredibly accurate for skinny guys.
One area it can help with is reducing muscle soreness (study) by combatting delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) which means you’ll be able to train harder, recover faster and - because of this - grow more.
Disadvantages of having fish-oil in your diet
Although some people may be concerned about mercury poisoning from fish-oil, as long as your fish-oil is sourced well then you don’t have anything to worry about when keeping to lower dosages (which we’ll get to in a second).
Fish-oil supplements may contain harmful lipid peroxides (which can damage cells), but it's unclear if this has any major effects on our health (source).
Omega-3 comes in all different types of ratios. Be sure to get one with a high ratio/dose of EPA - this way, you’ll be getting enough to reverse some potential issues found with modern diets (more on omega-3 vs omega-6 here).
Other than that, there’s no real issues with taking it for your health. As long as you’re taking it for health benefits and not for good breath 😉
Should you have any different types of fish-oil?
There’s many types of fish-oil out there, let’s take a quick look at some other alternatives.
Most people are familiar with fish-oil, but not many people know about krill oil supplements.
Just like fish oil, krill oil is rich in EPA and DHA, which means it provides many of the amazing benefits that fish-oil possesses. However, it’s not all the same.
It’s absorbed better than fish-oil (study). The fatty acids in fish oil are found in the form of triglycerides. Where in krill oil they are found in the form of phospholipids, which many experts believe helps increase their absorption and effectiveness (study).
Krill oil also contains more antioxidants and has the potential to increase “good” HDL cholesterol in people with mildly elevated blood lipids.
Because of the way krill oil is absorbed, you don’t need as much:
“If supplementing in accordance with the omega-3 content, the omega-3 content that is supplemented from krill oil should be equal to approximately 2/3rds that used with basic fish oil supplementation to account for the increased absorption. If one were to normally supplement 1000mg EPA plus DHA, then 660mg of EPA and DHA from krill oil would be equivalent.” - Kamal Patel
Although there is some good evidence shown towards Krill Oil, many of the benefits it provides are similar (like identical) to fish oil. It’s also more expensive. Because of that, I’d recommend spending your money on a high-quality fish-oil instead.
Cod Liver Oil
Growing up I heard more about this than omega-3 fish oil and recently, chatting to a few friends and family members, it seems that things haven’t changed much.
Although it’s similar to fish-oil, they are different. Cod liver oil does contain vitamins that fish-oil doesn’t (A+D) which can help with longevity and fighting free-radicals (study, study). Vitamin D in particular is helpful for men as it can help with testosterone and bone strength (study, study).
It’s a great supplement to have, that offers many of the same benefits as omega-3 but with extra vitamins. However, you’ll want to make sure you opt for a pure source with a great EPA ratio.
When and how much fish oil should you have?
The research shows that 1-2g of combined EPA and DHA is the recommendation for health improvements. This should be split throughout the day.
For general health, 250mg of combined EPA and DHA is the minimum dose which can be from just fish intake alone, but we want to go beyond the minimum dose and exceed in all areas right?
No matter your amount, make sure it’s a high-quality, ethically sourced omega-3.
This one is a no-brainer. A multivitamin should be something everyone has in their cupboard, regardless of their goal, age or food intake.
But here’s the thing:
Not all multi-vitamins are created equal. Just because you’re having one, doesn’t mean you get away with having zero greens on your plate. As there’s no standard for what’s classed as a “multivitamin” their nutrient composition varies from ‘barely having any nutritional value that’s going to move the needle for your health’ to ‘too much and your body not using it efficiently’.
Rather than getting into each vitamin (there are already awesome sites like Precision Nutritions that cover this), I’m going to walk you through some things to watch out for with multivitamins and some recommendations of extra vitamins to add to it.
Why have a multivitamin?
Most of us (me, too) are guilty of not getting in enough vitamins throughout our everyday diet. Sure, we’ve got good intentions, and it’s something we know we need to help our body fight cancer, feel more energy and live longer. (study, study, study)
Vitamins, minerals and nutrients play a role in normalising bodily functions and cannot be made by the body alone (except for vitamin D, which we get from the sun).
Why are the benefits to taking a multivitamin?
Just like any supplement, that’s good for our health, it comes down to time vs. convenience vs. habit. How likely are you to eat all your greens, get 5 fruits in a day and try new variations all the time?
You’re likely to forget. Instead, the likelihood of taking a pill that’s next to your bedside every morning (and night, if needed) is way higher. You might prefer that certain food groups on this list enter into your diet from your food, and that’s fine as a skinny guy wanting macros and calories. Multivitamins help us with the problem that vitamins and minerals generally come in low-calorie foods, and have the potential to fill us up.
Of course, if you can get enough vitamins and minerals through your whole-food diet, then that’s great. However, I’d prefer you to get them in somewhere, rather than not.
That’s why it’s on this list. Most people forget (or don’t want to) eat enough fruit and vegetables.
A multivitamin can also help fill the gap that a high-quality diet might still have. For example, you might struggle to get in enough vitamin C in your diet, or if you’re vegan miss out on B-12 and iron. There’s going to be vitamins that you need (or want) to get but you just aren’t able to.
Greens powders and multivitamins make it an easy way to get in vitamins without consuming a lot of fruits and vegetables, which might fill you up too much and stop you from hitting your calories.
What are the disadvantages to taking a multivitamin?
Synthetic vitamin supplements are (isolated) man-made chemical compounds, which means sadly they aren’t fruit and veg crushed up for you. This also means they aren’t as healthy as real food.
“The present evidence is insufficient to recommend either for or against the use of MVMs [multivitamins/minerals] by the American public to prevent chronic disease.” - NIH (study)
To avoid this, you’ll want to opt for a natural supplement (it’ll say “naturally occurring food sources”: on the label). You’ll want these to have around the same mg as real food would.
When should I take my multivitamin?
Certain vitamins have more benefits than others, so you’ll want to get in extra vitamins (or opt for these instead if you have a diet full of vitamins and minerals already).
- If you’re a guy then I’d recommend getting in extra Vitamin D (1,000-2,000IU dose of vitamin D3 is sufficient to meet the needs of most of the population).
- Vitamin C (up to 2,000mg) is recommended for supporting the immune system when doing intense exercise and also recommended to reduce the duration of the common cold.
- If it’s a once-per-day capsule, take it in the morning, with breakfast. If it’s supposed to be taken multiple times per day, take it at breakfast and late-afternoon dinner. (in other words, don’t just take your multivitamin whenever you remember to take your multivitamin.)
This is where things get fun.
How to make your own weight-gainer shake - The customisable home-made weight gainer shake that we recommend you get instead
What if we could combine some supplements with real food to build our own weight-gainer shake that’s easier to take, better to digest and way more tasty than any weight-gainer shake out there?
That’s what we’re going to look at.
Side Note: I recently tried some different weight-gainer shakes, prepping for this article and even high-quality, premium ones didn’t come close to this. I’m quite proud of it.
Let’s dive into how you make one of these yourself:
We go into step-by-step details and recipes of this in our coaching program, but this is more than enough to get you started.
A blender that works
Before you get started, we need to make sure your blender is good enough.
I recommend getting a real blender and not a food processor (which can lead to some messy moments). It must be strong enough to blend ice and frozen foods.
With blenders, you generally get what you pay for. Low-budget ones don’t blend well and you’re left with a drink that’s not easy to stomach, and potentially more of the mixture lands on your walls than in your shaker.
Here’s some of my recommendations:
- A NutriBullet is one I love. It’s not too expensive but is powerful and compact.
- On the other end, there's the Vitamix, which is the top blender out there. It can blend pretty much everything you throw at it.
No matter which one you get, remember it’s an investment to your future of getting bigger, and stronger. A blender will be used for many things and will serve you for years to come (depending on the one you get).
This is the main part that is a supplement. It’s the base foundation that you’d struggle to get from food that blends (unless you’re feeling like a madman and want to blend chicken).
Pick a fruit source here. This is instead of the carb powders listed above.
Pick a healthy fat
You’ll want to pick a nut butter, coconut oil, flax seeds or any other recommended healthy fat sources that you enjoy.
Add some greenery
Let’s get some vitamins and minerals in it by adding some vegetables. My favourite is spinach as it doesn’t taste of anything.
Fill with liquid
To make it this shake, a shake you’ll need to add some liquid. This can be water, almond milk or dairy milk if you want to bump up the calories.
There you have it, that’s a simple template you can follow to create your weight gainer shakes at home.
The amounts, flavours and ingredients are changeable (we’ve got a few up our sleeve) but that should give you enough of an idea of what can be done.
Here’s some supplement stacks I recommend, based on experience and science.
- Oat Powder
- Fish Oil
- Oat Powder
- MCT Oil
- Fish Oil
- Oat Powder
- MCT Oil
- Fish Oil
- Beta Alanine
- Caffeine + theanine
If you’re someone who’s struggled with gaining weight, and knowing what supplements to take to gain muscle and get stronger, then everything in this article is all you need to know supplement wise.
You no longer need to spend all your money on supplements that don’t work for a muscle-building miracle.