If Popeye the Sailor taught us anything, it’s that all you need to do to get jacked is pound a tin-can of spinach all at once—without swallowing—and all of that green goodness will shoot immediately to your biceps, turning you into an even BIGGER alpha man than you were before.
Because, let’s face it, Popeye was already jacked before shooting up on spinach. Even the way he eats the spinach is wildly impressive: he simply squeezes the can with his enormous forearm strength and out shoots the spinach. So, really, what’s going on here is that Popeye likely works out a lot behind the scenes, and the spinach companies are only using his muscular image to sell spinach. The spinach doesn’t do anything for Popeye. The sailor’s a sellout!
With that in mind, Popeye’s muscles—and, likewise, yours—requires an exceptional amount of nutritious attention, more so than the muscles of the average non-jacked gentlemen. Hence why supplements are so important to achieving and maintaining muscle mass.
But on the path to big muscle mass, what are the best supplements that will get you jacked? We’ll get into all of that soon, but let’s first address:
How to Get Jacked?
Can supplements get you jacked? Well, they can certainly help. But, no, you can’t just pop a few pills or powder scoops of your favorite supplement brand, sit back, watch Netflix all day, and then suddenly expect to wake up the next morning looking like Dwayne Johnson.
Frankly, even with a hard workout regimen, I’d give up on the Dwayne Johnson expectations. Only Dwayne Johnson looks like Dwayne Johnson.
Having said that, with a hard workout regimen, you can look like yourself except jacked, and, who knows, maybe that’s a better look than the Dwayne Johnson look. Either way, there are several lifestyle factors that you need to cover to get jacked—or to at least help yourself get jacked—and these are just a few:
1. Set a Training Schedule
Don’t just show up to the gym and sort of mosey around the free weight section doing whatever random lift pops into your mind. (Odds are you’ll end up doing biceps and bench press each workout session with this approach to exercise.)
No, do this instead:
- Set goals: Want to burn fat? Build muscle? Both?
- Research training programs: There are so many online.
- Schedule your workouts: Map a week-to-week program.
A lot of casual bodybuilders I know go through a repeating cycle of, say, legs to chest to back to shoulders to arms on a day-to-day basis—sometimes taking breaks, other times going at it for days with no breaks in between.
And this is fine…
However, if you’re new to the game, set a strict M-T-W-Th-F training schedule—or at least a M-W-F schedule, or whatever works for you—to ensure that you stay consistent with your workouts, even when you wake up on leg day absolutely dreading the thought of doing one more squat.
Sucks, but you have to do that squat. It’s in your schedule: today’s leg day.
2. Lay Off the Booze
We considered throwing this at the top spot but figured that’d be a little annoying and heavy-handed. However, hate to be a Debbie Downer here, but the boozing isn’t helping you with your get-jacked goals. This applies specifically to college students whose daily schedule looks like school, workout, party, repeat—with homework and sleep thrown in wherever they fit.
Here’s the thing: the occasional booze-cruise won’t kill you. In fact, it’ll help you socialize with all of your cool-looking classmates that you’re too afraid to approach during class, and socialization is important. But drinking too much alcohol does throw your body into a catabolic (muscle deteriorating) state, and this is the complete opposite of what you want if you’re looking to gain muscle mass.
Also, frankly, c’mon… you’ll have plenty of time to drink later during your mid-life crisis. Don’t binge-drink and black-out your youth, you idiots. Get big, get successful, and enter your mid-life feeling fulfilled so you can actually enjoy that occasional tequila shot.
3. Intermittent Fasting (IF)
Yes, intermittent fasting (IF) is a fad, but it isn’t a fad diet. We’re major skeptics when it comes to popular diets heavily promoted by a book and a heavily marketized health movement. IF isn’t something you have to buy into and it’s not a “brand” diet that promotes the image of some company. It’s a product of clinical research and Darwinian fitness theory that makes intuitive sense: our ancestors weren’t constantly eating because food was scarcer in pre-industrial times.
Without intermittently taking prolonged breaks from eating, the body never enters its much-needed “recovery” mode, so to speak, in which the body’s metabolism shifts to, for example, re-sensitive insulin receptors, promote anabolic growth activity, enhance synaptic plasticity, and more. IF essentially works by taking that prolonged break from eating.
IF isn’t about cutting calories or eating specific foods. All it is is not eating food for a designated period of time and then getting all of your target calories during the designated feed time. And the benefits are great for getting jacked: not only does the fast period promote growth factors for increased muscle mass but it also boosts the metabolism for fat loss. And that’s NEAT-O in my book.
4. Get Consistent Sleep
You don’t want to binge-drink and black-out your youth… but you do want to sleep and black-out at least, say, 7-8 hours of your youth every day. And then to continue blacking out 7-8 hours every day for the rest of your life.
Because while, yes, working hard during the daylight hours is important to getting jacked and achieving success, so is sleeping hard during the dark hours of the night. (Or whenever you sleep.) Exercise breaks down muscle. Sleep builds it back up. Too many people emphasize the former, yet fail to achieve the latter, wasting a lot of the time they spent in the gym for those hard-earned gains.
Why consistent sleep, though? Isn’t it enough to just get enough sleep? Sure, if you actually do get enough sleep every night, good for you. Although, that’s unlikely unless you set a consistent wake-up time preceded by a consistent bedtime to establish a consistent circadian rhythm and to schedule a consistent training regimen.
Oh yeah, and, also, supplements can help get you jacked.
In addition to covering all of the aforementioned bases—exercise, booze-control, diet, and sleep—supplements help bodybuilders fulfill their exceptional nutrient and protein-synthesis needs by amplifying the body’s natural bodybuilding pathways beyond their average capacity. Or at the least they protect the body against the deleterious side effects of bodybuilding that’d otherwise impair a would-be jacked dood or doodette.
Below, we’ll cover the main different types of bodybuilder supplements, as well as the best supplements that will get you jacked.
The Benefits of Bodybuilder Supplements
Not all bodybuilder supplements are equal, nor do they target the same bodybuilding goals. This is why, if ever you get a chance to peak through a bodybuilder’s supplement closet, you’ll stacks on stacks on stacks of supplement stacks, each intended to boost a specific measure of fitness.
Although, we could go pretty deep here, covering all of the pathways covered by a complete, comprehensive Get Jacked stack, we’ll instead go over the benefits of the three main types of workout supplements: pre-workout, intra-workout, and post-workout. And while, yes, the acronym “PWO” could technically apply to both pre-workout and post-workout stacks, we’ll use it strictly in reference to pre-workout supplements.
So, don’t get confused. And pay attention! because here we go:
Exactly as the name suggests: pre-workout supplements are supplements you take pre-workout, i.e. right before working out. Depending on the type of pre-workout stack you’re using, the directions may suggest taking anywhere from 45 minutes to 15 minutes prior to start of exercise. But, regardless, the point is that pre-workout supplements help prime our muscles, focus, energy, etc. for increased exercise performance.
Generally, the benefits include:
- Endurance: reduced time to muscle failure.
- Oxygenation: increased blood flow to muscle tissues.
- Energy: boosted supply and synthesis of cellular energy.
- Focus: greater intensity and motivation.
- Acid Buffers: protection against muscle-damaging acids.
Many PWOs include heavy doses of caffeine for that pre-workout mental rush. Some even include other stimulants to get the mind and heart racing. However, many health enthusiasts avoid these as they’re not all that great on that heart, nor are they really necessary for exercise enhancement.
Non-stim PWO stacks that focus more on cellular energy enhancement make more sense when it comes to improving muscle and strength gains.
Usually, when we’re talking about intra-workout supplements (stacks taken while working out), we’re talking about branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), or some sort of amino acid mix.
Contrary to protein supplements, which supply amino acids in protein-structured form, intra-workout aminos are more readily absorbed into muscle tissue, providing the following exercise benefits:
- Fast-Acting Recovery: quickens muscle repair and growth.
- Extended Endurance: reduces fatigue-inducing activities.
- Less ‘Ouch’: decreases likelihood of post-exercise soreness.
Granted, not all intra-workout stacks primarily focus on aminos. And many intra-workout formulas “hybridize” their amino mix with, e.g., caffeine or nootropics.
However, the best intra-workout stacks stay focused on the prize, usually sticking to a simple BCAA design so as not to impair the absorption and effectiveness of the BCAAs with more ingredients.
You’ve taken your pre-workout, you’ve taken your intra-workout, and, now, with your training sesh finished, all that’s left is the almighty post-workout. If pre-workout stacks amp up exercise performance and intra-workout focuses on quick-delivery aminos for protein synthesis, what’s left for post-workout stacks to cover?
Essentially, a post-workout supplement offers protection against the muscle deteriorating effects of high-intensity training. To grow muscle, you need to break muscle. However, too much muscle breakdown with not enough recovery may compromise your total health and strength gains.
A few exercise factors that impair muscle and strength gains:
- Oxidative Stress: too many free radicals may damage muscles.
- Hormonal Stress: stress hormone cortisol is a catabolic agent.
- Dehydration: loss of minerals via sweat contributes to dehydration.
Other Types of Fitness Supplements
Aside from pre-, intra-, and post-workout supplements, what else would a bodybuilder need? That depends on the bodybuilder. There are many, many different types of supplements and ingredients that a bodybuilder or athlete can add to their stack in pursuit of a particular fitness goal.
For example, fat burner stacks may assist with lean muscle growth, whereas nootropics may further improve the cognitive elements of exercise.
And while these don’t directly translate to getting jacked, they offer indirect support that may help exercisers overcome whatever particular barrier stands in the way between them and a totally fit bod.
Best Supplements that Will Get You Jacked
Okay, so what are the best supplements that will get you jacked? And not just types of supplements but actual supplement brands?
We have answers for you below, listed respectively in order of pre-workout, post-workout, and intra-workout. (Although, the intra-workout option also kind of doubles as a post-workout, depending on how you want to use it.)
Here they be:
Performance Lab SPORT Pre-Workout
Uniquely, Performance Lab SPORT Pre-Workout is a capsulated (that’s the unique part) muscle-priming PWO stack that works without relying on cheap, feel-good stimulants (also unique). While, yes, some of us do enjoy the massive caffeine-rush that comes with a hefty, tasty, artificially flavored scoop of pre-workout, it’s really not all that necessary.
Plus, let’s face it, odds are we’re getting enough caffeine as is.
If you want a PWO to help you get jacked, caffeine’s unimportant. What’s important is natural cellular energy, such as creatine, and muscle pump boosters. Energy and endurance.
P-Lab SPORT Pre-Workout helps on this front with its all-natural mix of bio-enhanced creatine (as Creapure®) and L-citrulline, the popular N.O. booster favored by many bodybuilders.
Not to mention a potent extract of Cordyceps sinensis, which enhances oxygen utilization and mitochondrial ATP energy production. Personal experience has found Cordyceps effective at putting me in a borderline irritable mood, but the kind that’s really effective at getting a good workout. I call it “healthy aggression.”
But that’s only a few of this formula’s ingredients. Altogether, P-Lab SPORT Pre-Workout helps improve energy and endurance, strength and recovery by mixing the following ingredients:
Performance Lab SPORT Pre-Workout Ingredients
- Creatine (as Creapure® pH10): one of the most popular PWO ingredients, creatine works exceptionally well at increasing exercise endurance and strength gains. Due to creatine’s high concentration in muscle tissue, it’s smart to pay close attention to your hydration levels while supplementing creatine, as this compound sucks up your body’s water into your muscles.
- Cordyceps Sinensis (as Cordyceps Super™): this natural fungus grows on insect larvae (ew!) and possesses traditional value as a revitalizing health tonic, thanks to the fungus’ potential to boost exercise capacity and fatigue resistance.
- L-Citrulline: as a precursor to L-arginine, the previous PWO ingredient to hold the N.O. booster throne, L-citrulline works by surviving digestion (L-arginine fails this step) and converting to L-arginine in the body to deliver the amino’s muscle pump benefits.
- L-Glutamine (from Ajinomoto®): the most abundant amino in the body, L-glutamine plays a key role in protein metabolism while also contributing nitrogen towards the promotion of muscle energy, growth, and repair.
- L-Carnosine: this muscle-protecting amino is highly concentrated in muscle tissue, namely fast twitch muscle tissue, the type that assists with anaerobic exercise. L-carnosine protects muscle by reducing oxidative stress, inhibiting protein-damaging factors, and buffering muscle-damaging acids.
- Himalayan Pink Salt: sodium and trace minerals, or electrolytes, to replenish the minerals lost through sweat (because you should be sweating if you’re exercising). These naturally sourced electrolytes make rehydration easier.
- Maritime Pine Bark Extract: a unique herbal extract that’s often associated with nootropics for its attention boosting benefits, maritime pine bark extract supplies a rich complex of antioxidants that protect against oxidative stress while promoting N.O. activity for better blood flow across the body.
To learn more about Performance Lab SPORT Pre-Workout, click here.
Performance Lab SPORT Post-Workout
Choosing between a post-workout supplement and a protein shake doesn’t have to be an either/or scenario. But if it was, post-workout stacks that focus on protecting and replenishing muscle gains are the way to go. (Protein you can get through your diet anyways.) Performance Lab SPORT Post-Workout is a great post-workout complement to P-Lab’s pre-workout supplement. For those who need more umph to cover their big-time muscle gains, P-Lab SPORT Post-Workout offers more creatine and more electrolytes in addition to a unique muscle-protective pomegranate extract and coconut crystals.
Okay, well, why would you want pomegranates and coconuts after working out? Two big reasons:
- To reduce the negative effects of overtraining.
- To rehydrate broken down muscles for better, faster recovery.
Exercise is great, but really great exercise may come at the price of muscle deterioration without adequate post-workout recovery. By protecting muscle tissue against the deleterious catabolic factors that rise with high-intensity training and replenishing muscular energy, P-Lab SPORT Post-Workout makes sure that you’re not wasting any time in the gym training for nothing.
Let’s check out the ingredients:
Performance Lab SPORT Post-Workout Ingredients
- Creatine (as Creapure® pH10): unlike cheaper creatine forms, this Creapure® is more readily absorbed and used by the body; taken in a post-workout context, this creatine replenishes exercise-depleted muscle to boost muscular regeneration.
- Pomegranate Extract (as P40p™): a rich source of antioxidant polyphenols, this potent pomegranate extract helps modulate inflammation, promote muscular circulation, and protect against muscle-deteriorating oxidative stress.
- Himalayan Pink Salt: yes, this has become a sort of trend among the Instagram hipsters, but Himalayan pink salt does help with muscle recovery by replenishing electrolytes lost via sweat. Sports coaches often suggest adding salt to your water to stay hydrated. They’re right.
- Organic Coconut Water Crystals: dehydration is no joke and many exercisers fail to realize how much they set themselves back by not getting enough water; these coconut water crystals help maintain hydration levels while also supplying glucose to restore muscular glycogen levels post-exercise.
To learn more about Performance Lab SPORT Post-Workout, click here.
Performance Lab SPORT BCAA
For the casual supplement user, branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) have likely been on their radar for a while, but they’ve yet to take the plunge into BCAA land because, well… why take BCAAs if I’m already taking a protein shake? We’ll answer that by explaining Performance Lab SPORT BCAA, an impressive BCAA stack that supplies a muscle-optimized ratio of the three BCAAs: L-Leucine, L-Isoleucine, and L-Valine.
These three amino acids that comprise the BCAA trio make-up about a third of the protein found in muscle tissue. In supplement form, BCAAs rapidly absorb into the system to protect muscle tissue and support muscle growth.
The rapidity of BCAA absorption qualify them as intra-workout supplements as well as immediately post-workout stacks.
They work by:
- Activating enzymes that stimulate IGF-1 growth factors;
- Stimulating insulin to enhance amino acid uptake;
- Fueling ATP energy after glycogen has been depleted;
- Blocking fatigue-inducing tryptophan uptake in the brain;
- Supplying amino acid precursors for protein synthesis;
- Maintaining post-exercise blood glutamine levels for healthy immunity.
Take note how BCAAs stimulate insulin. If you’re intermittent fasting, this means that you’ll need to time your workout to start at the transition point between fasting and feeding, as BCAA intake will disrupt the insulin benefits of intermittent fasting.
Aside from that, are all BCAAs equal? No, and here’s what sets P-Lab SPORT BCAA’s stack apart from the competition:
Performance Lab SPORT BCAA Ingredients
- Instantized BCAA (2:1:1 Ratio): what does “muscle-optimized ratio” mean with regards to BCAAs? Essentially, aside from quality, BCAA supplements tend to vary in how they ratio their amino dosages. Because L-leucine is believed to be the most anabolic of the three, many BCAA stacks tend to favor L-leucine, arranging their stacks in a 4:1:1 or even 10:1:1 ratios of L-leucine, L-isoleucine, and L-valine. Because the 2:1:1 ratio matches the natural muscle profile, and because this ratio is back by positive clinical research, this seems the smartest, most reasonable option. Anything different lacks clinical confidence of actually working. Also, P-Lab’s BCAAs are sourced from sunflower lecithin, a clean, green, vegan source with zero junky additives.
To learn more about Performance Lab SPORT BCAA, click here.
Additional Bodybuilder Health Supplements
Most everyone may benefit from adding pre-workout, intra-workout, and post-workout supplements to their bodybuilder supplement stack. However, there are a couple more supplements worth considering that target more specific fitness-related concerns, such as burning fat and boosting testosterone.
Two supplements that work for these jobs:
- Performance Lab SPORT Fat Burner: a fat burning stack that works particularly well under fasting conditions (i.e., with IF) by protecting against the catabolic factors that rise during fasted training, thereby allowing you to achieve the additional fat loss benefits of fasted training without sacrificing muscle gains. More on P-Lab Fat Burner.
- Performance Lab SPORT T-Booster: this is a simple testosterone booster that supplies the powerhouse T-booster D-Aspartic Acid Calcium Chelate in addition to other natural T-boosters, including a flavonoid that helps maintain an anabolic testosterone:estrogen ratio. More on P-Lab T-Booster.
If you’re considering the aforementioned Performance Lab supplements, these two additional sports stacks are great additions. Not only do their formulas abide by the same high-quality standards as Performance Lab’s pre-, post-, and intra-workout stacks but they’re also exceptionally clean and additive-free.
Plus, none of these stacks contain any illegal PEDs nor risky stimulants.
If you want to get jacked, you have to go and actively get it. This requires an investment in time and energy and however much gym memberships cost. No doubt, for the bodybuilding newcomer, this can all be daunting. Even knowing which supplements to buy is somewhat of a daunting task.
However, the task becomes all that much easier with an exceptional fitness stack by your side. And the workout supplements listed above may help you go far with your Get Jacked goals, so long as you remember to …you know, workout, too.