Muscle for life

MFL Podcast 86: Which “muscle building supplements” work and which don’t?

MFL Podcast 86:  Which “muscle building supplements” work and which don’t?

In this episode, I talk about several supplements that are supposed to help you build muscle faster and explain which work and which don’t.



01:09 – The truth about supplement companies and “muscle building supplements.”

Which supplements don’t help you build muscle?

11:14 – Natural testosterone boosters

18:02 – ZMA

22:24 – D-aspartic acid

26:41 – BCAAs

33:42 – HMB

Which supplements help you build muscle?

38:11 – Whey protein powder

46:10 – Creatine

52:32 – Beta alanine


03:48 – The truth about supplement companies and “muscle building supplements.”

Which supplements don’t help you build muscle?

13:53 – Natural testosterone boosters

20:41 – ZMA

25:03 – D-aspartic acid

29:20 – BCAAs

36:21 – HMB

Which supplements help you build muscle?

40:50 – Whey protein powder

48:49 – Creatine

55:11 – Beta alanine

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What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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I'm Mike and I'm the creator of Muscle for Life and Legion Athletics, and I believe that EVERYONE can achieve the body of their dreams.

If you like what I have to say, sign up for my free newsletter and every week I'll send you awesome, science-based health and fitness tips, delicious "diet-friendly" recipes, motivational musings, and more.


If you want a "paint-by-numbers," step-by-step blueprint for building a muscular, lean, strong body...faster than you ever thought possible...then you want to check out my bestselling books.

Here's a little sneak peek of what you'll learn inside...

  • The 7 biggest muscle building myths & mistakes that keep guys small, weak, and frustrated. (These BS lies are pushed by all the big magazines and even by many trainers.)
  • How to build meal plans that allow you to build muscle, lose fat, and get healthy with ease…eating foods you love (yes, including those deemed “unclean” by certain “gurus”)…and never feeling starved, deprived, or like you’re “on a diet.”
  • The 5 biggest fat loss myths & mistakes that keep women overweight, disappointed, and confused. (These BS lies are pushed by all the big magazines and even by many trainers.)
  • An all-in-one training system that delivers MAXIMUM results for your efforts…spending no more than 3 to 6 hours in the gym every week…doing workouts that energize you, not wipe you out.
  • A no-BS guide to supplements that will save you hundreds if not THOUSANDS of dollars each year that you would’ve wasted on products that are nothing more than bunk science and marketing hype.
  • And a whole lot more!

The bottom line is you CAN achieve that “Hollywood body" without having your life revolve around it. No long hours in the gym, no starving yourself, and no grueling cardio that turns your stomach.

My book will show you how. Get it today and let’s build a body you can be proud of.

Bigger Leaner Stronger

Bigger Leaner Stronger

Thinner Leaner Stronger

Thinner Leaner Stronger

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  • Danyal Naqvi

    hey mike i have a similar build to u, except i have much longer arms. as a result i have a 405lb deadlift but only a 185lb bench with small chest and tris. any advice? im 6’2 as well at 174lbs

  • Rikke N

    Hey Mike

    Do you have some good advice on how to lose muscle on purpose (yes, this is not a typo, I actually really want to lose some of my muscle mass)
    I’m a mesomorph and I have been swimming my whole life. Therefore, I have always had definition in my arms, back and so on. 2 years ago I started lifting and fell in love with how it made me feel. Unfortunately, especially my arms have gotten too muscular for my liking as they were already pretty well-trained from swimming. My trapezius has also gotten a bit too big.
    I really wish to lose some muscle mass and it’s really hard to find information about this issue (I know most people want to do whatever it takes to keep their muscle mass).
    I’m approximately 17/18 % body fat so I guess I can’t really cut that much down in terms of fat – well maybe a bit, but I would still have too much mass for my liking. (Oh, and I’m a female btw.)

    Hope to hear from you – btw, you always deliver such great content 🙂

    • I get where you’re at. Your best bet to lose muscle in the areas is to reduce the training volume of those muscle groups.

      So, if you’re following the TLS 5-day split, take out the arm training altogether. If you’re following the 3-day or 4-day split, just skip any direct bicep or tricep exercises.

      For any other muscles you want to let get smaller, reduce the volume on them as well.

      Hope this helps!

      My pleasure. 🙂 Talk soon!

      • Rikke N

        Thanks so much for your reply! 🙂 It’s really refreshing to actually get a helpful answer instead of just the typical “oh, but you’re a girl, so you can’t build that amount of muscle” 🙂

        • Welcome! That’s BS. Happy to help. 🙂

          • Rikke N

            Yeah, it is 🙂 Do you have any idea how long it is going to take before muscles start to atrophy? People say anything from a few weeks to a few months. Now, I don’t train arms anymore and have also not been able to train legs because of an injury – i feel like the muscle mass in my legs has decreased a lot but I see no change in the muscle in my arms so far.

          • Really depends on you. Are you doing any exercises that train your arms?

          • Rikke N

            Apart from everyday activities such a carrying groceries, bags, things at work and riding my bike (don’t know if that trains the arms) i don’t do any excercises that trains arms and haven’t done any in about three months.

          • Okay cool. What about chest or shoulder pressing and pulling/rowing?

          • Rikke N

            Nope, I’m actually not doing any strength training at all at the moment (and haven’t for 3 months) and I know it sounds weird but I would really like to speed up the process of losing some muscle mass in my arms if it is possible in any way. I guess it could have a lot to do with the fact that I am a mesomorph that I don’t lose mass as quickly and while that would be the dream scenario for a lot of people I’m actually not happy with that right now, but I guess I will be once i shed the extra mass since it will be super easy to maintain my physique at that point.

          • Well damn. Genetics got you like…haha.

            Unfortunately I don’t know of anything you can do to lose muscle in JUST your arms–you’d have to just lose muscle everywhere through low-protein dieting, caloric deficit, and cardio…

          • Rikke N

            Yeah, totally. I guess if I were a dude, I would consider myself really lucky 😉

            Thank you for your reply!

          • Yep, haha. 🙂


  • Tegeral

    How bad is it to use a Smithmachine for bench press and squat? My gym only has only a Smith machine and it is the only gym nearby.

    • It’s not ideal. Does your gym have dumbbells? What about a leg press and/or hack squat?


  • Latisha

    I’m curious about bcaas for a vegan? I was told I should consider them? Would love your opinion on that.. I was also recently told the monohydrate creatine was crap? Is this trainer full of it?

  • Jonathan Ramon

    Hello, just joined the gym for the first time, so yes I’m a beginner. Really looking to get help on workouts and what to take to lose weight and get in shape.

  • Medfen21

    Not sure I get the difference between Phoenix, Pulse, and Forge? Also, do any of these cause an increase in heart rate? And do they cause anxiety (can someone who occasionally suffers mild anxiety attacks use these products? Thanks …

    • No worries! I’m happy to break it down for you.

      Pulse is my pre-workout product. Simply put, it increases performance, and it can be taken when bulking or cutting, training fed or fasted and for weightlifting or for cardio. To get more info on it, you should check out the page:


      Phoenix is our fat-burner. Phoenix helps you burn fat in three ways. It increases the amount of calories you burn daily by 150-200. It amplifies the power of fat-burning chemicals produced in the body, and it helps you feel more full thanks to the ingredient, 5-HTP.

      Forge, on the other hand is our fasted training product. It is only taken before fasted training. Fasted training is a great way to accelerate fat loss. The problem with fasted training is that it also breaks down muscle. That’s where Forge comes in. It prevents muscle breakdown due to fasted training. To add to that, it also accelerates the fat burning that occurs from fasted training, thanks to yohimbine–particularly stubborn fat.

      So, Pulse is taken before any type of training simply to improve performance, Forge preserves muscle and accelerates fat burning during fasted training and Phoenix is taken with food (it can be taken fasted if you want, but some don’t do well with it fasted) and helps you burn more calories and fight cravings.

      Hope that clears it up for you! Oh and they do all contain stimulants of some kind so they would affect heart rate.

      Welcome! Talk soon.

  • preston48

    Hey Mike i’m interested in trying your supplements out. Specifically your protein powder. I normally don’t use supplements because of all the money grabs out there, but you seem to put a lot of work and time into creating some great supplements.

    Oh and thank for putting out all the great content, I have been a personal trainer for a while now, I just started my own website http://krushfitness.net/ and I can say without a doubt you have been a huge motivation for me starting this!

    • I hear you, man. Most supplements suck, haha.

      LMK what you think if you give Whey+ a try!

      My pleasure! Congrats on starting your own site! Happy to have helped motivate you. 🙂

      Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

  • Brian Giffin

    Mike I have been using 50mg of synephrine for my fasted training but now I can’t find plain synephrine powder by itself. I do find lots of bitter orange pills but the dosage is totally different. One serving is like 500mg, says it’s 6% synephrine? ??? I tried to look up the correct bitter orange dosage on Examine but they don’t list it. Is bitter orange an ok substitute for synephrine? If so could you tell me the ideal dosage for a 160 lb male?


    • Hey Brian! Yep, that’s fine! Just make sure it’s actually standardized to the percentage it states, and you’re good. 🙂

      Of the 6% synephrine bitter orange, you can take 200-300mg 3 times a day or just take 800mg once a day.


      • Brian Giffin

        Thanks Mike, one more question. I recently had a work trip that was in line with a rest period so I decided to take a week off. Usually I de-load but this time I decided to just rest completely and avoid the hassle of working out in a hotel. Got back to my gym a week later, loaded the bench press and wham! I felt a shock wave from the weight stress shoot up my spine at the base of my skull. Felt like someone hit me with a baseball bat . It wasn’t even my heavy week I was starting a 4 week 8-10 rep.
        This happened again with Military press. I can tell it’s the stress pressure that’s causing it. Ive just been working through it, it’s getting a little less each day. My head throbs for a bit then dissipates. I have never experienced any thing like it. I feel like it will eventually go away only been four days. Have you ever heard of or experienced this? I’m not super concerned as its becoming less and less. Obviously I can work through it. At first I thought I was having an anurizum or something.


        • NP!

          Damn. Sorry to hear about what happened when you got back from your week off. That’s odd. Not sure what happened… I’m assuming you did the proper warm-up sets?

          Happy to hear it’s getting better! Let’s take a week or two from any exercises that cause pain or discomfort and see how you do. If it’s still a problem, I recommend checking with the doc.

          Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • aseem puri

    Mike, I just finished reading book and I am quite motivated and raring to start the program. I have a question on supplements. In your bonus report, you have listed out quite a few Legion supplments which we should take while ‘cutting’. Looking at the price they will cost me more than $200. Can you please tell if they are must for muscle building? Also, can I just have whey/egg proteins and still meet the muscle building goals? Would appreciate your advice.

    • That’s great, Aseem! Supplements aren’t required to get good results, but they help. Supplements for cutting are not for bulking, also Pulse can be used for any goal.

      If you need to supplement protein, whey and egg are great! Check out this article on the subject:

      • aseem puri

        Thanks Mike. In the bonus report, you have mentioned your recommended ‘cutting’ supplement routine here http://www.muscleforlife.com/recommendations/supplement-recommendations/cutting-supplementation-routine/.

        In this, I don’t see egg proteins. Where as, in the book you have mentioned that you prefer taking some egg proteins before going to bed. Is it not meant for someone who is looking to cut a bit? Can you please explain the discrepancy?

        • Egg protein is a good all-around protein source. You can certainly use it while cutting, and being a slower digesting protein than whey, that makes it great for taking before bed so you have a supply of it as you sleep.

  • Galina

    Hi guys! I’m 29 year old girl trying to lean up from 126 lbs to 120, should I take recharge and how much? Is it ok for women in general to take creatine? Thanks!

  • jsanford

    Good podcast, great honest content. I have spent a lot of hours reading and checking out sites like examine.com and it’s nice to see someone from a supplement company give honest advice. The only spot my view tend to vary slightly, is that I also like to take a bcaa (or as pointed out, just leucine works too) when cutting. Just a precautionary thing to hopefully maintain a little more lean mass, but that is just a personal preference, I’ll admit. Anyway keep up the great information.

    • Thanks for the support! BCAAs/Leucine/HMB are cool if you’re training fasted 🙂

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