Your training and diet are the two most important factors for bodybuilding success. If they aren’t on point, expect your results to be less than satisfactory. Certain nutritional supplements can help you get the most out of your efforts in the gym, and some are extra beneficial for older adults. These are the ten best bodybuilding supplements for men over 50.
Creatine is a popular supplement for building muscle and strength and might also offer additional benefits for older bodybuilders.
What Is Creatine?
Creatine is an organic compound synthesized in your kidney, liver, pancreas, and possibly your brain. The average person produces 1–2 grams of creatine per day, transported in the blood to your muscles and the brain. A 70-kg man carries roughly 120 grams of creatine in his body, 95% of which is in his muscles.1
Because your body makes it on its own, creatine is not considered an essential nutrient. However, you can also obtain creatine from your diet, primarily from animal-based foods like meat and fish, as well as from dietary supplements.
During the 1970s, scientists discovered that creatine in the form of supplements improved physical performance. A few decades later, creatine supplements became commercially available and soon found immense popularity with athletes and bodybuilders. Today, it is one of the most popular supplements globally, with athletes around the world consuming more than 3,000,000 kilograms of creatine per year.2
What Does Creatine Do?
Creatine supplementation gradually fills your muscle cells with a form of creatine called creatine phosphate. Your muscles can then produce more of a molecule called adenosine triphosphate, or ATP. Almost all the cells in your body use ATP as an energy source, and the more ATP you can produce, the better you can perform in virtually any athletic task, including weight training.3
Benefits of Creatine for Bodybuilders Over 50
While creatine is useful for almost every athlete, it offers unique benefits for older bodybuilders.
- Using a creatine supplement makes you stronger. Research shows that resistance training plus creatine supplementation improves muscle strength 8% more than lifting weights alone.4 Several meta-analyses looking specifically at older adults find creatine especially useful for gaining lean body mass and maximal strength.5 6 On average, older adults gain more than 1.3 kilograms of lean muscle mass using creatine compared to placebo during a strength-training program.
- Prevents loss of bone mass. After the age of 40, we slowly start to lose bone mass. Strong bones are essential for healthy aging and a strong body, and lifting weights is one of the best ways to preserve both your muscles and your bone mass as you get older.7 In one study, healthy older males over 50 who used creatine during a strength training program increased their bone mineral content while those who received a placebo didn’t.8 Another study showed that combining creatine with weight-lifting reduces the breakdown of bone compared to a placebo.9
- May reduce inflammation. Chronic low-grade inflammation is common in older men and women and causes muscle loss.10 Creatine acts as an antioxidant and may reduce inflammation in older adults.11 It is more effective in combination with aerobic exercise than resistance exercise, but the one study on strength training only lasted ten days.
- Creatine gives your brain a boost.12 Creatine supplementation doesn’t just improve physical performance but also enhances memory, cognitive function, attention, and mental fatigue. Valuable traits in and outside the gym!
How To Use Creatine
A common way to take creatine is to start with a “loading phase” of 20–25 grams per day for approximately a week, followed by a daily maintenance dose of 3–5 grams per day. However, you can skip the loading phase and go straight 3–5 grams per day. The result is the same, and you effectively load your muscles with creatine either way.13 It just takes a few weeks longer if you don’t do the loading phase.
Creatine monohydrate is the most inexpensive and the most effective type of creatine. Over the years, many novel forms of creatine have popped up, with manufacturers claiming that their product is superior to good old monohydrate. However, there is no evidence that any newer forms of creatine are more effective or safer than creatine monohydrate.14 If anything, most studies show that more recent forms of creatine are not as effective as monohydrate.
Creatine supplements are safe for older adults with no significant side effects.15 Even the International Olympic Committee confirms that “with the exception of increased body mass, there are no side effects associated with creatine monohydrate supplementation, and this has been extensively reviewed.”16
Backed by more than 500 studies, creatine stands out as the most effective muscle-building supplement available. It offers additional benefits for older adults and has no significant adverse effects: an easy pick for one of the ten best bodybuilding supplements for men over 50
#2: Whey Protein
Whey protein is a milk protein used as a supplement by bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts for its muscle-building properties.
What Is Whey Protein?
Whey protein is one of the two proteins in dairy products, the other being casein, and constitutes 20% of the protein in cow’s milk. Whey protein is rapidly absorbed and stimulates muscle protein synthesis more than other proteins like casein and soy.17
The two most common types of whey protein are whey protein isolate and whey protein concentrate.
- Whey protein isolate is the purest form of whey protein, containing at least 90% pure protein.18 The low amounts of milk sugar make it a viable choice even if you are lactose intolerant.
- Whey protein concentrate contains up to 80% protein, with more fat and lactose remaining in the powder. However, it also has more biologically active compounds with potential health benefits than isolate.19
What Does Whey Protein Do?
- Protein is the building block your muscles need to grow bigger and stronger. You need more protein than the average person to optimize muscle growth as a bodybuilder. While around 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day is enough for the general population, you need more than double that if you’re looking for maximal muscle growth. According to research, a daily protein intake of 1.7–2.2 grams per kilogram of body weight per day is ideal for muscle gain.20 21
- Whey protein makes it easy to meet your protein requirements. While getting that much protein from regular foods is entirely possible, boosting your protein intake with a shake or two makes it easier. After a workout, most bodybuilders find a protein shake more convenient and palatable than sitting down to a solid meal.
- Whey is one of the highest-quality proteins due to its amino acid content, including high amounts of the essential amino acids needed to build muscle tissue. Whey protein provides abundant amounts of BCAAs, including leucine, the amino acid that kick-starts muscle protein synthesis. In fact, whey protein is superior to a BCAA supplement for stimulating muscle protein synthesis.
Benefits of Whey Protein for Bodybuilders Over 50
To build muscle, you need enough protein to complement your strength training. Whey protein is one of the best options for increasing your protein intake and building muscle. According to some research, whey protein maximizes lean body mass gain and strength improvements compared to other protein supplements.22
Whey protein might offer benefits over other protein powders for older bodybuilders.
- As you get older, your muscles get less sensitive to protein. Because whey protein is rapidly absorbed and contains more leucine than other proteins, it stimulates muscle protein synthesis more effectively in older adults.23 24
- A 2015 review looking at the available research concluded that “the findings of these studies suggest that the addition of whey protein supplements would be advantageous for older adults to achieve optimal stimulation of MPS throughout the day”.17
- In addition to its muscle-building properties, whey protein contains biologically active compounds with potential anti-oxidative effects and immune-boosting properties.25 Those effects could be beneficial for older bodybuilders.
How to Use Whey Protein
Because whey protein powder is concentrated food, you can use it as any other protein source. Use it to boost your overall protein intake with meals, as a protein-rich snack, or before or after a workout to give your muscles the building materials they need to grow bigger and stronger.
Twenty grams of whey protein maximally stimulate muscle protein synthesis in young people, but after 50 you need 35–40 grams per serving for the same effect.17
Both concentrate and isolate have similar effects on lean body mass, so no need to pick one over the other for muscle-building purposes.26 Concentrate is the least expensive option but can be problematic if you have issues with lactose, and it doesn’t dissolve as quickly as isolate.
Whey protein is an ideal protein supplement for any bodybuilder, and easily qualifies as one of the ten best bodybuilding supplements for men over 50. Even better, it is safe with no reported harmful side effects.27
#3: Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, a multifunctional hormone, and an essential nutrient available in some foods and as a supplement. Your body can also make vitamin D by being exposed to sunlight.
Your body uses vitamin D to regulate its calcium and phosphate levels, which helps keep your bones and your teeth strong. Vitamin D is also crucial for your muscles to function correctly.
While you can get enough of most vitamins from your regular diet, getting enough vitamin D can be a struggle. There aren’t a lot of good, natural dietary sources of vitamin D. Egg yolks, fatty fish, and liver are good sources, but most people don’t eat enough to cover their vitamin D requirements.
Close to half the adult US population is vitamin D deficient.28 The number of Black people with vitamin D deficiency is even higher because skin pigmentation reduces vitamin D production in the skin.29 Because vitamin D deficiency is so prevalent, some countries like the UK advise everyone to take a daily supplement during fall and winter.30
Benefits of Vitamin D for Bodybuilders Over 50
As you get older, you are increasingly prone to vitamin D deficiency.31 In older people, vitamin D levels are independently associated with loss of muscle mass and muscle strength.
While vitamin D is essential for proper muscle function, you shouldn’t expect any dramatic gains in strength or mass by using a vitamin D supplement. Observational research associates vitamin D with stronger muscles, but controlled studies consistently fail to find any significant beneficial effects from using a supplement. That being said, in athletes between 18 and 45, all studies show trends for improved muscle strength, even if the results aren’t considered significant.32
Increased muscle strength as high as 8%, and 1RM-improvements in the bench press by an average of 6.5 kg have been reported in vitamin D studies. Unfortunately, there is little research on master athletes, but a controlled trial showed improved muscle quality from vitamin D supplementation in older adults.33
Supplementing with vitamin D likely offers more long-term health benefits than any immediate training-related benefits. However, if your health is less than optimal, you probably can’t expect your training results to be optimal either.
How To Use Vitamin D
If you suspect that you’re not getting enough vitamin D from your diet and sun exposure, consider adding 2,000 to 4,000 IU (International Units) daily. That amount effectively increases your vitamin D levels to optimal without any harmful effects.
You can use the below decision tree to help decide if you need a vitamin D supplement or not.
There are two different types of vitamin D: D2 and D3. Vitamin D2 is only found in plant-based sources, while you can only get D3 from animal-based foods. Vitamin D3 is significantly more effective than D2 in raising your vitamin D levels and should be your go-to choice.34 If you don’t use any animal products, you can still get D3 in supplemental form. It can be synthesized from lichen, which is vegan-friendly.
Because vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, taking your supplement with a meal containing at least some fat is an excellent idea to increase absorption.
Vitamin D is essential for your muscles, and being deficient is likely not optimal for bodybuilding performance. That makes it one of the ten best bodybuilding supplements for men over 50. Taking 2-4,000 IU of vitamin D as a supplement ensures that you get enough for optimal health and performance.
#4: Nitrate Supplements
Nitrate is a naturally occurring compound found in vegetables like beets, spinach, and other leafy greens. You can also get nitrate from dietary supplements, most commonly in the form of beetroot juice.
When you eat nitrate-rich foods or use a nitrate supplement, your body converts the nitrate to nitric oxide. Nitric oxide, or NO, is a molecule that widens your blood vessels, increases blood flow to your muscles, and helps them contract.35 36 Scientific research shows that nitrate supplementation improves athletic performance in the gym, for example by allowing you to perform more reps in the bench press.37
You get a fair amount of nitrate from a regular, well-balanced diet. One study found that athletes, on average, get a little more than 100 mg per day from food.38 That’s not enough for any potential performance benefits, though. Studies looking at exercise performance use doses ranging from 300 to 600 mg per day.39 Getting that much from regular foods is theoretically possible, but consuming a beetroot supplement is a more practical strategy.
Benefits of Nitrate Supplements for Bodybuilders Over 50
Nitrate supplements improve maximal muscle power by, on average, 5%.40 That’s a significant amount, and it is apparent in older and younger people. Nitric oxide production in the body decreases as you get older, making nitrate supplements even more helpful for the older lifter or bodybuilder. A recent review found convincing evidence that nitrate supplements improve physical performance and increase time to fatigue in older adults.41
In addition, beetroot supplements might offer several health benefits important to older adults. They reduce blood pressure, inflammation, and oxidative stress, among other health-promoting effects.42
How To Use Nitrate Supplements
The best way to use a nitrate supplement like beetroot juice is either as a pre-workout 2–3 hours before exercise or on a regular basis for an extended time.43 Both protocols appear to be equally effective, although you’d have to use it regularly to get the potential health benefits, not just as a one-off performance booster. An effective dose is 300–600 mg of nitrate. A 70ml beetroot juice shot gives you around 300–400 mg of nitrate.
Other Potentially Helpful Bodybuilding Supplements for Over 50
In addition to the above heavy hitters, numerous other bodybuilding supplements compete for your attention. Some are potentially useful for bodybuilders over 50, while others are a waste of money. The following six supplements belong to the first category, listed in no particular order.
#1: Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is vital for older people, as aging increases the risk of B12 deficiency, independently of your diet.44 45 Vitamin B12 is essential for the metabolism of some amino acids and play a critical role in delivering oxygen to your muscles.46 47 If your body gets too little B12, your muscles can’t function optimally.48
Epidemiological studies show that between 5 and 60% of the general population is vitamin B12 deficient.49 As an older bodybuilder, you want to ensure that you get enough of this essential micronutrient because your body can’t produce it on its own.
Athletes should keep their blood B12 levels at 400–700 pg/mL to perform their best.50 As you probably can’t monitor your B12 levels on your own, a B12 supplement might be a good idea as a precaution.
The good news is that you can supplement with B12 without worrying about overdosing, as it is safe at any dose without side effects.51
Beta-alanine is an amino acid that loads your muscles with carnosine. High carnosine levels act as a lactate buffer, allowing you to perform better and delaying fatigue. Your carnosine levels go down as you get older, making beta-alanine supplements a promising way to improve performance for bodybuilders over 50. It’s a prevalent ingredient in pre-workout supplements.
Plenty of research indicates that beta-alanine improves performance in exercise tasks lasting between one and four minutes.52 However, there aren’t many studies looking at older adults.
A few small studies show that beta-alanine improves older athletes’ muscle endurance and training volume. Other studies found that beta-alanine does not promote muscle growth or increase strength.53 54 55 56
Beta-alanine could be worth trying, as it is safe and generally proven effective. Take 3.2–6.4 grams of beta-alanine per day for about a month, which will load your muscles with carnosine. After that, you can lower your daily dose to a maintenance dose of 1.2 grams per day.
Beta-alanine does have one side effect. It’s not necessarily an adverse effect, because some like it. Beta-alanine can cause tingling in your skin, a sensation of pins-and-needles, especially in your face, called paresthesia. It is harmless, but some people hate it and find it annoying, especially during a workout. Others find it motivational, allowing them to focus on all-out lifting.
You probably don’t need any introduction to caffeine. It’s the most popular drug in the world, with billions consuming it daily in the form of coffee, tea, and soft drinks. As a supplement, caffeine is hugely popular and well-known for its documented performance-boosting qualities.57
Taking 3–6 mg of caffeine per kilogram of bodyweight about an hour before a workout helps you perform better in almost any exercise task, including weight-lifting.58 An even higher dose of up to 9 mg per kilogram of bodyweight might improve performance in the gym even more but also increases the risk of unpleasant side effects like nausea. Theoretical performance improvements aren’t worth much if you’re prevented from performing.
Very few studies compare younger and older adults in terms of the effects of caffeine on performance, but several studies show that older athletes benefit from caffeine, too.59
Caffeine does not directly influence your gains in any meaningful way, but if you consistently perform better in the gym, you might see greater strength and muscle mass over time.
It doesn’t matter where you get your caffeine from—coffee, energy drinks, and caffeine pills all work. Caffeine is safe within recommended doses, but you can experience nausea, dizziness, and weakness if you take too much. Starting with a lower dose to test your tolerance is a good idea.
#4: Multivitamin and Mineral Supplements
Vitamins and minerals are the micronutrients you need in small amounts for health and performance. They often work together, so if you get too little of just one or two vitamins or minerals, it might affect many things in your body.
Vitamins and minerals in the form of supplements can’t replace a healthy diet, and you can get what you need from foods alone, in most cases. However, many of us don’t always eat a varied diet. Bodybuilders, for example, are known for basing their diets on a few staples picked for their muscle-building properties, not necessarily based on vitamin content.
Don’t expect to notice anything from taking a multivitamin and mineral supplement. Instead, think of it as insurance against deficiencies. Not getting enough of one or more micronutrients will likely impair your gains in the long run. Multivitamin and mineral supplements might be particularly beneficial for older adults.60
If you go for a multivitamin and mineral supplement, look for one without excessive amounts of any of the micronutrients. More is not automatically better. Meeting your daily recommended intake is excellent, but too much of a specific vitamin or mineral can be harmful in the long run.
L-leucine is an essential amino acid, one of the three BCAAs, and is known to kick-start muscle protein synthesis.61 Eating a protein-rich meal containing 2.5–3 grams of leucine stimulates muscle protein synthesis maximally.62
As you get older, your muscles become less sensitive to protein. Each protein intake builds a little less muscle than when you were young.63 You can overcome this by eating more protein each meal, thereby getting more leucine. However, you might not always have the opportunity to heap protein on your plate, or you might enjoy plant-based protein sources, which are naturally lower in leucine.
In that case, you can add leucine to your meals, “rescuing” a meal low in high-quality protein. Three to four grams of leucine will optimize the anabolic potential of any meal. If your meals already provide 35–40 grams of high-quality protein, adding more leucine will likely do nothing but waste your money.
Leucine supplementation could be a valuable strategy to increase the muscle-building effects of plant-based meals or when you know you’re getting too little protein to fuel your muscles properly.64
#6: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3s are polyunsaturated fatty acids essential for good health. They maintain cell structure, fight inflammation, and are crucial for your brain and muscles to function optimally.
The three primary omega-3 essential fatty acids are ALA, DHA, and EPA. Of these, ALA is the easiest to get sufficient amounts of. DHA and EPA are mainly found in fatty fish and other kinds of seafood. If you eat a lot of fish, you can get enough of all omega-3s from your diet, but you might want to consider a supplement if you don’t.
Some research supports omega-3 fatty acids for building muscle, especially in older adults. One small study observed increased muscle protein synthesis rates in older adults after supplementing with omega-3s for eight weeks.65 Another trial found an improved anabolic response to lifting weights after 16 weeks of taking omega-3s.66
Despite the promising research, more studies are needed.72 Currently, it’s too early to tell if omega-3s will help you gain muscle mass and strength. One meta-analysis found minor benefits for omega-3 supplementation for muscle mass in the elderly.73 We’re not talking bodybuilders here, though, but older men and women trying to stave off sarcopenia, the age-related loss of muscle mass.
Even though the evidence doesn’t clearly support omega-3s for greater gains, don’t think of that as a reason to throw the fish oil in the garbage. Omega-3 fatty acids offer many health benefits, including reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.74 75
Unnecessary or Useless Supplements: Stay Away From These
Many supplements are hyped by marketing but are not backed by scientific evidence. There is no need to waste your money on the following.
Branched-chain amino acids are essential for building muscle, but taking them in supplement form does little for strength, lean mass, or body composition.76 77 BCAA supplements reduce muscle soreness, but for building muscle, there is no evidence that they are helpful. You’re better off using a protein powder that contains all the amino acids you need in plentiful amounts.
Glutamine is an amino acid found in all protein-rich foods. Your body can also make it when it needs it.
Glutamine is a common dietary supplement used by bodybuilders and other athletes to improve recovery, reduce muscle breakdown, boost immune function, and build muscle.
However, several decades’ worth of scientific studies does not support glutamine for any of these things.78 Glutamine is a perfect example of the supplement industry taking out-of-context research and using it for marketing hype. Successfully, too.
There is no reason to spend money on glutamine supplements.
#3: Testosterone Boosters
Testosterone is the male sex hormone most associated with strength and muscle growth, and its powerful effects are well-recognized. Your testosterone levels slowly decline as you age, making a testosterone-boosting supplement a very enticing idea.
If it worked, that is. Most of the ingredients in so-called “testosterone boosters” are not backed by science, and when they are, you often get amounts too small to do much of anything.79 In addition, when a study finds a testosterone booster to be effective, it’s almost always funded by the company making the supplement.
When testosterone boosters work, it might be because they contain illegal substances.80 Contaminated dietary supplements are probably more common than you think, and those claiming to manipulate your hormones are some of the biggest offenders.
If your testosterone levels are clinically low, your training won’t give you your desired results. Get them checked if you’re worried. If you have low testosterone, you can be prescribed something that really works, with medical supervision. Professional medical advice trumps dubious testosterone-boosting supplements.
There you go! The ten best bodybuilding supplements for men over 50! Some, like creatine, are backed by hundreds of studies and have proven to be effective beyond any doubt. Others are promising and could be helpful in your bodybuilding efforts, either directly or indirectly.
The best bodybuilding supplements for men over 50:
Useful bodybuilding supplements for men over 50:
Unncecessary bodybuilding supplements for men over 50:
If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check out our complete guide to building muscle after 50. Supplements might help you reach your physique goals, but all the supplements in the world won’t pack on the muscle if your training isn’t on point. Strength training is essential for healthy and functional aging. Not to mention that it keeps your body looking young.
You can find many training programs to help you reach your fitness goals in the StrengthLog app, and you can download it for free using the links below. It is also a fantastic tool for logging your workouts and making sure you’re on the right track for success.
Want to give premium a shot? We offer all new users a free 14-day trial of premium, which you can activate in the app.
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