Food Substitutes for Bodybuilding Supplements

Bodybuilding supplements are often very good and very effective in what they do. Of course they won’t always achieve quite what they say on the packet, but the fact remains that if you ask any professional bodybuilder what they’re taking they’ll probably give you a list as long as their arm. They’ve learned from experience that these things work and they know that they help you to recover.

However these supplements certainly aren’t for everyone. On the one hand they can be highly expensive – which of course is no good, and at the same time you’re also likely to find that some of them have side effects. Meanwhile they can also be complicated to take requiring ‘cycling’ and ‘loading’ and they don’t always taste great. In short, if you aren’t dedicated to the cause, you might not be willing to commit to paying $50 a month for something that tastes horrible and looks like a super soldier serum.

The good news is that many of the effects of bodybuilding supplements can be achieved to a satisfying degree by much more mundane food sources, and this way it’s possible to get the same benefits from your diet that you would from some of these expensive pills and powders. The following are some things you can use in lieu of bodybuilding supplements which may prove to be just as effective.


Milk is very good for you for a number of important reasons. Firstly, note that most protein shakes come from milk as whey is actually a by-product of the cheese making process. While you won’t get quite as much protein you can get a lot of it much more cheaply by drinking pasteurised milk.

Meanwhile milk is also high in calcium. The reason that that’s good news is that it will help you to strengthen not only your bones but also your tendons and ligaments which in turn strengthen your contractions making you stronger. Finally, a nice glass of warm milk before bed will encourage you to produce melatonin AKA the sleep hormone. This in turn results in a deeper and more sound sleep, which triggers the release of more growth hormone – the miracle hormone which triggers muscle growth and tissue repair and that many bodybuilders use in a pure form illegally.


Bodybuilders eat protein in order to get amino acids, which are the ‘building blocks’ of tissue in the body. They’re carbon compounds and we’re ‘carbon based’ life forms so you can see the connection. However there are also many different kinds of amino acids and eggs are one of the only ‘complete’ sources of protein meaning that you get every last kind of protein your body could need to repair and grow muscle tissue and wounds.


Garlic is a great source of protein and that means that it can be used in order to improve your circulation and your bowel movements. However at the same time it also has a second more powerful effect that’s of interest to bodybuilders – and that’s vasodilation. In other words, eating garlic makes your veins and arteries increase slightly in volume which allows more blood to get around your body thereby supplying your muscles with more energy and more nutrients etc. Increased vascularity is also a physical goal that many bodybuilders have, and many will take supplements like Nitric Oxide to accomplish that. Of course garlic isn’t that great for eating raw, so try just grating a little onto your dinner and hopefully you won’t even notice it.


Bananas are highly effective fruits and are ideal for a well-timed release of sugar. Eat these a few hours before you exert yourself and you should notice increased energy. At the same time bananas are also good for two other things – they’re high in potassium which can help prevent you from getting cramps while you’re pumping iron, and they’re also high dopamine which is a feel good hormone. If you feel good then you’ll train harder so this is a great addition to your diet.

Red Meat

Red meat isn’t the leanest source of protein, so that’s not why it’s here. It’s also high in fat and slow to digest so don’t overdo this – but if you’re low in testosterone then red meat makes a great natural alternative to a testosterone boosting supplement and can increase muscle mass and drive as a result. Do note though that attempting to boost testosterone is effectively pointless in those younger than 50 as they will already be producing their maximum amount in most cases.

Red Grapes

Red grapes it turns out are something of a super food. The main reason for this is that they contain ‘resveratrol’ in quite high quantities which works to enhance the function of the mitochondria. The mitochondria are the walls surrounding the cells, so this is a great way to prevent them from oxidative damage and mutation but more interestingly for bodybuilders the mitochondria are also what are responsible for creating ATP – the usable form of energy in our blood. As such this might just be able to give athletes a little boost in energy in a similar way to creatine. You’ll have to eat a lot of grapes though…

Fruits and Vegetables

While I’ve already included grapes and bananas on this list, it’s crucial that you just generally make sure to get lots of fruits and vegetables – all of which contain a variety of vitamins and minerals which can have a number of remarkable effects on your body. You can further boost testosterone for instance by increasing your intake of zinc and magnesium, you can also improve your energy levels by increasing your intake of vitamin B6 which helps us to break down carbs, while taking vitamin C is very important to ensure you don’t get any training-ending colds or flus. Lou Ferrigno ate his greens and look what it did for him… (that was a joke about the Hulk by the way).

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Adam Sinicki

Adam Sinicki is a full time writer who spends most of his time in the coffee shops of London. Adam has a BSc in psychology and is an amateur bodybuilder with a couple of competition wins to his name. His other interests are self improvement, general health, transhumanism and brain training. As well as writing for websites and magazines, he also runs his own sites and has published several books and apps on these topics.

Follow Adam on Linkedin: adam-sinicki, twitter: thebioneer, facebook: adam.sinicki and youtube: treehousefrog

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