With so many different companies trying to push their supplements on you it's often difficult to know who to believe. I'll make it easier for you: believe me. Here I give you the low down on what the different major players do and whether they're essential or not.
Creatine essentially allows you to re-convert used ATP (ADP) to supply your muscles with more energy. This can obviously have positive effects on the quality of workouts and has the added bonus of making your muscles appear 'swollen' as they retain more fluid. Many athletes swear by it but others report no noticeable effect. I unfortunately fall into the latter category. It also tastes nasty and bitter when mixed with water or juice. A bit like wee or Stella.
There many easier and more delicious ways to boost your energy during workouts such as bananas, energy drinks or inspiring Rocky tunes... and the water retention is 'fake' muscle so don't be factoring that in. In other words, try it if you're in a rutt and fancy something new; but it's certainly not essential.
Weight gainer contains loads of callories, carbs and protein to help skinny ectomorphs pack on the pounds during their bulking stages. I've never understood this: just eat cake! Or better yet try to put on the good kind of weight - muscle. Eat protein! Not essential, not really any point.
Anabolic steroids are essentially synthetic hormones of the testosterone variety that help your body to turn protein into muscle while burning fat. Some are taken orally while others are injected. They are highly effective although they aren't wonder drugs and still require working out and a diet high in protein on the part of the user. The problem with them is that they are illegal and have a range of unpleasant and dangerous side-effects including kidney damage and higher blood preasure. They enhance the masculine characteristics of the user deepening the voice, increasing sex drive and altering mood. Most severe of all is the threat they pose to the heart. In short they really aren't worth it and they're cheating so don't go there. And needles are shit scary.
Oh yeah and they can shrink your bzalls...
Testosterone boosters work by stimulating your natural production of testosterone. The difference really is minimal however and in males under 30 who produce their maximum amount already it's utterly pointless.
Human Growth Hormone is produced naturaly in the body and is responsible for our growth when we're nippers. When we get older it helps build muscle, burn fat, heal wounds and slow the effects of ageing. Now you can get more by buying it in vials but unfortunately the stuff is illegal. Stallone uses it these days and he looks great for a 62 year-old. The down side is that it can make your face look strange as certain elements continue to grow (particularly the jaw). It can also cause internal organs to grow which can lead to several other health problems.
Gaba is a gamma-aminobutyric acid neurotransmitter. It works by blocking neurotransmitters and stimulating the production of Growth Hormone. This in turn should lead to bigger muscles and less bodyfat. It's also used as a sleeping aid and for anxiety. There's just one problem however: using it will make you incredibly dopey even the next day and this will severely damage your workouts. Anything that messes with your brain isn't worth it and furthermore it's now banned in the UK. Another waste of time and money.
Saving the best until last, protein shakes provide the eager bodybuilder with large amounts of protein without too many carbohydrates. The best stuff comes from Whey, a bi-product of cheese (mmm... cheese...). Even protein shakes are essential as such, as there are other lean sources such as tuna and egg. Shakes though provide an easy way to get large amounts quickly and relatively cheaply. You don't use it instead of extra chicken, you use it as well as.
If you have 4-6 scoops a day then you will see impressie results fairly quickly. Not essential, but bloody good!
The astute of you will have noticed a pattern here - I haven't described any of them as essential. That's because they're not and neither is any other supplement or wonder drug. If you really really want to get bigger you just need to eat lots and train hard. There are no shortcuts. Sure protein shakes and possibly creatine can help speed up the process and push you beyond your limits, but even they aren't completely essential.