As the fall term comes to an end, many students decide to hit the gym and bulk up over the holidays. And some will inevitably think about using nutritional supplements and sports enhancement products to help put on the muscle and get rid of the flab. Before you decide what to take, you may want to continue reading this article so your choice will increase the size of the right muscle groups while not shrinking other important parts of the anatomy.

Perhaps the most popular performance enhancer today is creatine monohydrate. Creatine is a natural chemical found in muscle in the form of creatine phosphate. This compound is a limiting reagent in the production of ATP, which is a major source of energy for the body. With the use of creatine, the body can use more of the muscle’s potential, as more fuel is provided. Being able to work out harder and longer with a suitable diet can lead to your goal of bigger biceps and triceps.

There are a few side effects to consider before taking creatine. With the increase in muscle productivity, it is easy to overwork muscles, leading to tears and strains.

Individuals with renal disease or diabetes should avoid creatine (it must be taken with high levels of carbohydrate for absorption to occur). There are few long-term studies on the use of creatine; consultation with your doctor is wise when taking any supplement.

When writing about getting buff, the old-timer of the industry, the protein shake, can’t be forgotten. We all know muscle is composed of protein, which is made from 20 amino acids. This isn’t a biochemistry class, so I won’t bore you with too many details.

When you work out, your muscles are broken down and then rebuilt with amino acids. Protein supplements are supposed to provide you with these building blocks so you can put on the desired muscle mass. This sounds fine in theory, but North American diets are already rich in protein. It is true that athletes require slightly more protein than the average Joe, but this increase can easily be met through a well-designed diet. Such a drastic increase in protein consumption would just lead to its conversion to fat.

So, tough guy, you want to take androstenedione? This testosterone precursor was made famous when former home run champ Mark McGwire admitted to taking it during his famed homerun campaign. The positive effects of androstenedione are quite apparent. Increased testosterone can help in muscle building, and on a side note, increase sexual appetite.

Negative effects include oily skin, acne, body hair growth, liver enlargement, aggressive behaviour and testicular shrinkage. If you really want to get stronger quickly, this is for you. That is if you don’t mind being a hairy, infertile, greasy mess.

A well-balanced diet alongside a good workout routine will help you develop the body you want without the use of supplements. Most supplements usually offer just a quick fix and can be detrimental to your health. And much of your body composition is determined through genetics, so it may be impossible to be the next Arnold or Sly.

Stay up to date. Sign up for our weekly newsletter, sent straight to your inbox:

* indicates required