Natural bodybuilding is riddled with controversy. Some athletes believe that using natural supplements disqualifies you from being truly “natural” while others claim that taking supplements, such as whey protein isolate, clean carbs, and creatine can still be considered a part of natural bodybuilding. We're going to discuss what natural bodybuilding is and the best supplements to take to achieve your goals.
What Is Natural Bodybuilding?
The definition of a natural bodybuilder or athlete is very vague. Some argue that taking natural supplements is not truly natural. However, classifying supplements such as glutamine, creatine, and citrulline as “unnatural” seems a bit nonsensical. Amino acids are a major component of your diet as well as endogenously created as part of our human biology. At a time, natural bodybuilding, did not include supplements. Still, the fact of the matter, is that most sports nutrition supplements, comprised of amino acids, can be found in food. Therefore, some could argue that eating glutamine rich foods, or creatine rich foods, could in fact disqualify you from natural bodybuilding. Obviously, this would never work.
Some natural bodybuilders, more commonly known as “natty” athletes, claim that taking these supplements is not natural. However, most bodybuilders agree that being a natural bodybuilder, simply means, “avoiding any illegal, banned or performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) such as anabolic steroids, growth hormones, peptides, and SARMS.”
As a natural bodybuilder, you exclusively rely on your nutrition program, training, and supplement protocol, approved by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to be competitive in sport. WADA publishes a prohibited list of substances as a mandatory international standard for athletes, in all sports. The list is updated annually with substances such as hormone and metabolic modulators, beta-2 agonists, peptides, beta-blockers, and cannabinoids.
Naturally bodybuilding prep, is dependent upon what bodybuilding federation is putting on the show. Each organization has different rules and protocols you must meet.
The World Natural Bodybuilding Federation (WNBF), requires that All INBF/WNBF athletes must be 10 years drug free of prescription/pharmaceutical hormones on the banned substance list and two years free of over-the-counter hormones, pro-hormones or banned substances listed or their chemical counterparts, unless otherwise noted, prior to their first INBF or WNBF competition.
Other organizations such as the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness (IFBB) are not as stringent with their rules and regulations.
The Best Supplements For Natural Bodybuilding
Whey Protein Isolate
Protein is a crucial element to muscle growth. Protein more specifically the amino acids, that collectively make-up protein, stimulate the muscle building process, also known as muscle protein synthesis. Whey protein isolate is quickly absorbed and is shown to stimulate muscle growth better than other forms of protein, through its rapid amino acid delivery rate.
As a natural bodybuilder, protein is crucial for body optimization (I.e., burning body fat and building more muscle mass). As compared to whey protein, isolate has fewer carbohydrates, fat, and added sugars, making a more purified form of protein to increase lean muscle mass.
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Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA)
Remaining in an anabolic state is crucial, to help improve muscle growth especially. BCAAS are a group of three essential amino acids - leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Studies have shown that BCAAs can help build muscle mass, by stimulating muscle protein synthesis and inhibiting muscle protein breakdown, also known as proteolysis. Sipping on BCAAs throughout the day and your workout, will help produce better results, as a natural bodybuilder.
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Most natural bodybuilders agree that it would be hard to compete without the help of natural supplements like creatine. But if you’re going to use creatine as a natural bodybuilder, then you might as well use the best type of creatine – Kre-alkalyn. Kre-alklayn is a ph corrected form of creatine monohydrate, which was created to solve for the negative side effects associated with monohydrate. Some athletes experience cramping, water retention, as well as stomach bloat and digestive issues, due to the conversion of creatine into creatinine. Stability studies show that Kre-alkalyn maintains a stable and neutral pH, improving absorption and systematically improving speed, power, and strength. Studies show that creatine monohydrate needs to be loaded or taken at a higher dose for a longer period of time, to substantially saturate the muscle tissue, to induce an ergogenic effect. Kre-alklayn does not require loading, and therefore, provides immediate performance benefits. More power and speed are crucial for natural bodybuilding, providing more muscle fuel to increase workout volume and performance.
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It’s hard to argue that supplements such as citrulline malate, are not natural, considering it’s derived from plant-based sources (i.e., watermelons and apples.) Citrulline a non-essential amino acid, and malate a derivative of malic acid, provides a great deal of ergogenic benefits when combined. Research indicates that citrulline malate is the best nitric oxide (NO) booster, helping improving oxygen, nutrient, and blood flow delivery to the muscle tissue.
Citrulline malate has several known mechanisms, producing better athletic performance. In addition to stimulating NO, citrulline malate produces more ATP, generating more power, and increasing time to exhaustion. Research has also shown that citrulline malate, stimulates muscle protein synthesis, and enhances amino acid utilization resulting in more muscle growth and increased strength, two critical factors in natural bodybuilding.
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Workout volume is a key factor in building more muscle mass. Including natural amino acid-based supplements such as beta-alanine can be all difference you need. Studies show that supplementation of beta-alanine, combines with another amino acid l-histidine, creating a di-peptide called carnosine. Studies show that more carnosine content, increases workout volume, by counteracting and inhibiting the development of lactic acid. With an increase in workout volume, comes an equally correlated increase in muscle growth and added strength. As a natural bodybuilder, you are exclusively limited to your diet, training program, and supplementation as opposed to traditional bodybuilding, where competitors are running gear (I.e., anabolic steroids) to help stimulate muscle protein synthesis and gain more muscle mass. Therefore, anything that can help delay muscle fatigue and curb lactic acid, will have a direct positive effect on performance results.
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As a natural bodybuilder one of the most important aspects, aside from training, is eating. Hitting your daily carb goal can be challenging especially when you’re trying to add on more size. Most carb supplements are created with maltrodextrin and dextrose to produce a short burst of energy or produce an insulin response for faster recovery. Clean carbs are made from 100% complex carbohydrate superfoods, the same superfoods you include in your diet regimen, such as sweet potatoes, yams, oats, and blueberries. Clean Carbs will help you increase and meet your carb intake, improve exercise performance, and enhance post workout recovery. With 24g of clean carbohydrates in a fast, convenient form, you can meet or exceed your daily carb goals, with proven complex carb sources to improve body composition, with Swolverine’s Clean Carbs.
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Best Supplements For Natural Bodybuilding: Takeaway
Most natty athletes will argue that, taking supplements is necessary for achieving optimal results and performance benefits. Yet, natural bodybuilding does remain a contentious topic. Despite your school of thought, bodybuilding federations make it clear that to be considered a natural bodybuilder, you must avoid performance enhancing drugs, including anabolic steroids, pro-hormones, and SARMs. Including key natural supplements in your nutrition protocol, such as whey protein isolate, clean carbs, and kre-alkalyn are derived from naturally occurring nutrients. If you plan on competing as a natural bodybuilder, then plan on adding some high-quality supplements to the mix.
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