Nutritional supplements to increase muscle mass

Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 1999 Jul;39(4):317-28. doi: 10.1080/10408699991279196.


Although nutritional supplements purported to increase muscle mass are widely available at health food stores, gyms, by mail order, and over the Internet, many of these supplements have little or no data to support their claims. This article reviews the theory and research behind popular nutritional supplements commonly marketed as muscle mass builders. Included are the minerals chromium, vanadyl sulfate, and boron, the steroid hormone dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), beta-methyl-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate (HMB), creatine, protein supplements, and amino acids. Research has shown that chromium vanadyl sulfate, and boron do not appear to be effective in increasing lean body mass. The few studies examining DHEA have not supported the claim of increased muscle gain. Preliminary work on HMB supports an anticatabolic effect, but only one human study is currently available. Many studies reported increased body mass and several have reported increased lean body mass following creatine ingestion. This weight gain is most likely water retention in muscle but could also be due to some new muscle protein. Although athletes have a greater protein requirement than sedentary individuals, this is easily obtained through the diet, negating the use of protein supplements. Studies on amino acids have not supported their claim to increase growth hormone or insulin secretion. Nutritional supplements can be marketed without FDA approval of safety or effectiveness. Athletes who choose to ingest these supplements should be concerned with unsubstantiated claims, questionable quality control, and safety of long-term use.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Advertising
  • Body Constitution
  • Chromium / pharmacology
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone / pharmacology
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle Development
  • Muscles / drug effects*
  • Vanadium / pharmacology


  • Vanadium
  • Chromium
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone