For someone just starting out in competitive bodybuilding, research is key. If you’re like me, you started looking up the most effective muscle-building workouts, trying to pinpoint the best diets for muscle gains, and learning all about bodybuilders who have achieved success and how they did it.
Most people can agree that the biggest key to making the quickest muscle gains is ample protein intake, but there’s another muscle growth strategy in bodybuilding that many people know about but don’t discuss openly: performance-enhancing drugs.
Do bodybuilders need drugs?
Especially as a female bodybuilding competitor in the NPC, it can be tempting to consider taking illegal and unregulated performance enhancing drugs because of the promise of faster gains and better recovery.
It’s extremely common in the sport — so much so that achievements made without drugs are often pooh-poohed in disbelief that they could have been done naturally.
But as a woman who achieved pro status in the IFBB without ever using any performance enhancing substances — that includes steroids, hormones, products containing SARMs, the whole lot — let me be the first to tell you that you don’t need them.
Natural bodybuilding is totally possible, so don’t risk it.
While it might take longer for natural athletes to grow, growing slowly over a longer period of time is healthier, more realistic, and easier on your joints. Not to mention it keeps you out of trouble with the law!
So what are SARMs?
SARMs (selective androgen receptor modulators) are purported to work similarly to steroids and may be listed on product label under names like “ostarine” and “andarine”, or not listed at all.
They’re unapproved substances with little to no research about how they work and their long-term effects on the body.
To avoid them, just keep in mind that labels that sound too good to be true, probably are.
What supplements should I be taking then?
Instead of risking the long-term ill effects that drugs can cause, I choose to use a modest array of natural supplements to improve my athletic performance and help me achieve my muscle building goals. Here are the four essential supplements I’d recommend for people with similar goals to mine:
Protein powder is an easy way to boost your protein intake! I like to have one serving (25-30 grams of protein) after my weightlifting workouts.
Creatine is a natural supplement that, in short, helps with recovery and performance. It also increases water retention in the muscles, making your muscles look bigger. I like to take 5 grams mixed into my post-workout protein shakes.
BCAAS, or branched chain amino acids, are my favorite sports supplement. As you probably learned in middle school biology, amino acids are the building blocks of muscle, so taking a BCAA supplement is helpful in repairing muscle. I personally find that my soreness is significantly reduced when I sip on BCAA drinks during my workouts.
ZMA is a supplement containing zinc, magnesium, and vitamin B6. It’s a recovery supplement you take before bed to help your body repair itself while you sleep. Zinc is great for boosting your immune system — many medicines you take for the common cold are high in zinc — and as a bonus, the magnesium helps you get to sleep more easily.
Remember, you can achieve your goals without illegal shortcuts!