Supplements for Muscle Growth: What To Take And When

Brad Borland
Written By: Brad Borland
November 23rd, 2008
Updated: March 22nd, 2021
474.1K Reads
Supplements for Muscle Growth
What supplements are best for muscle growth, and how do I take them? Build the foundation of your supplement program for optimal results.

You squat, you bench, you curl your way to a better body each and every day you set foot in the gym. Your goals are set, you drive up more weight for more reps. You are a disciplined hard worker who accepts nothing less than the best from your workouts and nutrition strategies. Sets and reps are counted and documented as well as grams of protein and carbs. Unfortunately you sometimes find that your gains have slowed or stopped or perhaps even regressed! You need that extra boost. You need a good supplement strategy to get you on the road to gains once again. But how much and when do you take them?

This guide will lay the foundation for a solid supplement program; one that is detailed and tactfully assembled for maximum benefit. It will be perfectly timed for the greatest results and even spelled out for the beginner to the advanced bodybuilder. So if it is mass that you seek, grow on this!

First let us list and describe the supplements used in this schedule. A thorough explanation is a must regarding timing and dosages. As with all workout and supplement programs, please consult your doctor before beginning.

Whey Protein

As the "Big Man on Campus" of supplements whey is a staple of any supplement program. Easily digested, portable and effective, whey is a must for anyone seeking gains in lean muscle mass. It will serve as a foundation to this supplement program.

Protein powders in general are great for when you have no time to fix a meal or need extra protein without downing another chicken breast or steak. Whey is a convenient way to feed the muscle and boost gains especially when you need it most.

Whey Protein Timing:

Regarding timing and dose whey is most effective when taken as follows (note: most dosages in this article will be for a bodybuilder weighing around 200 pounds):

  • 20 grams upon waking in the morning: Your body has fasted for up to eight hours or more, so it is imperative that you down a shake first thing when you wake up. This will shut down the catabolic state you may be in and get you on that road to growth once again. Now, you want the protein to get in rather quickly so no complex carbs or fats, just protein, some simple carbs and a few other things (which we will get to in a moment). Your body will thank you for the surge of amino acids!
  • 20 grams pre-workout: It is time to get the levels of aminos in the bloodstream up once again. Taking whey prior to your workout will ensure that your muscles will have a steady stream of protein during your workout so that it can actually begin the rebuilding process early.
  • 40 grams post-workout: This is prime time to get a quickly digested protein in the body along with about twice the simple carbs (80 grams). No later than 30 minutes after a workout down this cocktail along with a few other ingredients to boost insulin levels which will stimulate protein synthesis by driving glucose and amino acids into the muscle.


Another well known and effective supplement is creatine. As it gets converted into creatine phosphate in the muscles, which produces energy for contractions during training, supplementing with creatine can ensure that levels of it are topped off. Plus, creatine will force more water into the muscle cells creating an anabolic environment increasing protein synthesis. For strength and size it can't be beat!

Creatine Timing:

  • 3-5 grams pre-workout: Taken with a moderate amount of complex carbs and 20 grams of whey protein taking creatine at this time will guarantee your levels are filled up.
  • 3-5 grams post-workout: Within 30 minutes after training combine creatine with 40grams of whey protein and 80 grams of simple carbs to get a potent growth producing shake. After training your muscles are screaming for nutrients so why not give it to them? The insulin response from the simple carbs will also shuttle that creatine right into the muscle.

Casein Protein

Another convenient protein source, casein protein is slow digesting so it will be digested and released into the bloodstream at a steady rate feeding the muscles over a longer period of time. Whereas whey is used for rapid absorption, casein is used when you need protein to "stick around" a little longer, maybe between meals or for when you know you will not get in another meal for awhile.

Casein Protein Timing:

  • 20 grams post-workout: Take in 20 grams of casein along with your other post-workout supplements. Whey is used to get instant nourishment to the muscles while casein is taken for when the whey is digested and the muscles still need aminos for recovery. This will also help you stay satiated until you eat your post-workout whole meal.
  • 20 grams in the middle of the night: Since it is slow digesting, you can also benefit drinking a shake in the middle of your sleep to ensure your body is getting the protein it needs. During sleep the body is basically fasting and this may cause your body to dip into a catabolic state. Ingesting a shake at around three or four hours after going to bed will guarantee your quest for mass is still on track. Now, you may have to set your alarm, but hey, it is all for a good cause.


Glutamine is considered a long-term commitment. Though not as noticeably effective as creatine, glutamine has many unseen benefits. As one of the most plentiful amino acids in the body, glutamine assists in recovery by helping muscle cells take up glycogen after a workout, boosting growth-hormone levels and maintaining immune function so you can stay healthy. It can also help delay fatigue during a workout so you can turn up the intensity for a longer period of time. The digestive system requires so much glutamine to function that it will take it from muscle tissue so supplementing is a no brainer.

Glutamine Timing:

  • 7-10 grams upon waking in the morning: This will be taken with your small whey shake mentioned above. Again, this will be absorbed quickly to help get your body out of a catabolic state it may have slipped into overnight.
  • 7-10 grams pre-workout: This will help you workout longer and keep up your intensity.
  • 7-10 grams post-workout: Again, taking glutamine after a workout will help with glycogen uptake to quickly start the recovery process and get you in that anabolic state.
  • 7-10 grams 30 to 60 minutes before sleep: This is another great opportunity to protect your hard earned muscle right before you go to bed. This taken with the small casein shake will help fend off the nightmare of catabolism.

Branched Chains Amino Acids (BCAAs)

BCAAs leucine, isoleucine and valine are used for fuel during intense workouts thus preventing your body from scavenging hard-earned muscle for energy. At other times of day BCAAs help stimulate protein synthesis and ward off cortisol, the catabolic hormone.

BCAA Timing:

  • 5-10 grams upon waking in the morning: BCAAs first thing in the morning is just another weapon in your arsenal to ward off the catabolic effects of fasting most of the night. Your body can readily utilize BCAAs as fuel while whey and glutamine quickly get to muscle tissue.
  • 5-10 grams pre-workout: Again, taking BCAAs before a workout can fuel the body with energy so you can spare muscle tissue and it will also keep you in an anabolic state for growth.
  • 5-10 grams post-workout: This will enhance protein synthesis and depress the catabolic hormone cortisol which can enhance muscle breakdown and limit testosterone's effect on muscle growth.


Readily converted to Nitric Oxide (NO) in the body arginine is a powerful supplement with a host of benefits. It allows more blood flow to muscle by dilating vessels to allow more nutrients in such as amino acids and glucose as well as hormones like growth hormone, testosterone and insulinlike growth factor-1 (IGF-1). Also, having a greater water delivery into the muscle cells means an increase in protein synthesis, which, in turn, spells more muscle growth.

Argenine Timing:

  • 2-3 grams upon waking in the morning: At this time arginine will dilate blood vessels to shuttle in the nutrients of other supplements.
  • 2-3 grams pre-workout: This will enhance the natural increase of growth hormone before a workout.
  • 2-3 grams 30-60 minutes before sleep: This is another time to take advantage of the burst of growth hormone as arginine will only enhance this effect.

Tribulus Terrestris

As a proven hormone booster Tribulus Terrestris can increase testosterone from cholesterol in the testicles. It also has the ability to enhance the firing of nerves in muscle for increased strength during workouts. If you need that extra boost in power before a workout Tribulus delivers.

Tribulus Terrestris Timing:

  • 250-500 mg pre-workout: Get that extra surge of testosterone before heading to the gym.


ZMA (the combination of zinc magnesium plus vitamin B6) has been shown to increase IGF-1 and testosterone levels. Zinc has very powerful recovery benefits and magnesium will actually calm the nervous system down so the body has an easier time resting. The better you sleep the more opportunity your body has to grow.

ZMA Timing:

  • 30-60 minutes before sleep: 30 mg of zinc, 450 mg of magnesium, and 11 mg of B6.


Antioxidants have the ability to rid the body of free radicals which are produced from periods of severe stress such as from an intense workout. It is wise to supplement with vitamins C and E to combat this damage and keep your body in an anabolic state.

Antioxidants Timing:

  • 500 mg of vitamin C at your post-workout whole meal: Vitamin C will help with joint health and immune function.
  • 200-400 IU of vitamin E at your post-workout whole meal: Vitamin E has the ability to reduce muscle cell damage and helps with recovery. This antioxidant is also important for skin, nail and hair health.

Supplement Schedule For Muscle Growth

Time of Day Supplements
Upon waking in the morning 20g whey protein
2-3g arginine
7-10g glutamine
5-10g BCAAs
Mid-day Whey (20g)/casein (20g) protein shake
Pre-workout 20g whey protein
2-3g arginine
7-10g glutamine
3-5g creatine
5-10g BCAAs
250-500mg Tribulus Terrestris
Post-workout 40-80g simple carbs
20g whey protein
20g casein protein
7-10g glutamine
3-5g creatine
5-10g BCAAs
Dinner 500mg vitamin C
200-400 IU vitamin E
30-60 minutes before sleep 20g casein protein
2-3g arginine
7-10g glutamine
ZMA (30 mg zinc, 450 mg magnesium, 11 mg B6)
Middle of the night 20-30g casein protein

So there you have it. All of your supplement questions answered from timing to dosages, now you can get on the road to growth. This may seem like a lot to "digest" right now, but if you are new to supplements start by taking some whey protein at the specified times of day and then experiment with the others to see what will work for you. Everyone is different so some supplements may be a better choice for you than others.

Just make sure you are eating a bodybuilding friendly whole food diet because without it supplements will not save the day. Eat plenty of complex carbs such as potatoes, wheat pasta, rice, wheat bread, and oatmeal along with lean proteins such as lean beef, turkey, chicken, eggs and fish. In no time you will be on your way to a bigger self.

Posted on: Wed, 07/11/2018 - 00:48

Can I take arginine and in kaged bcaas at the same time?

Posted on: Mon, 07/09/2018 - 16:43

Daily 30g BCAA and 40g Glutamine aren't too much?? Not to mention included fillers in protein powder.

Posted on: Tue, 11/21/2017 - 15:14

Can a powerlifter follow this schedule

John Smith
Posted on: Tue, 08/29/2017 - 09:06

I always use whey protein isolate and BCAA most of the time.

Posted on: Wed, 11/16/2016 - 14:36

I read from other research that taking glutamine and creatine at the same time is bad.

Posted on: Sun, 08/09/2015 - 06:09

Nothing has been mentioned about Omega Fatty Acid like fish oil. Should I include it?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 08/10/2015 - 10:28

Yes, you should be consuming some fish oil or eating oily fish 2x/week (at minimum). You can find more up to date supplement suggestions here:

Posted on: Fri, 07/10/2015 - 03:56

Hi how long should i take these supplements?

Posted on: Sun, 08/09/2015 - 06:12

It should be number of days you alive. You may reduce the amount with age. You create muscle when you are young, you maintain those muscle when you are getting older.

Posted on: Tue, 05/05/2015 - 02:07

I heard somewhere that you shouldn't take ZMA at the same time as you take casein protein because it reacts with the calcium. Has anyone else heard about this?

Posted on: Sat, 09/20/2014 - 17:22

Hello, im just wondering what supplements i should take (i am taking no pre or post at the moment) and where to buy them? Im a beginner (second week at the gym) so i have very little knowledge on this subject. Im 6 feet tall, 165 pounds. thanks

Posted on: Wed, 09/10/2014 - 09:29

Very nice.
Your article is full. I'll follow your tips in my supplementation.

Posted on: Wed, 09/10/2014 - 00:48

I had one question for you guys after reading this. I was wondering do I take all of that that is listed in the supplement growth schedule? Cause all I've been takin was a pre workout and whey post workout.

Posted on: Mon, 04/07/2014 - 20:35

this all talks about you need to wake up eat and all that then go to the gym later. all I have time for is a wake up, get dressed and ready and off to the gym. I have about 30 mins from time of wake up to the gym so no real time to eat and take all of these suppliments prior to going to the gym. I take a pre-workout drink and a bit of creatine and go, after my work out I drink my protein and a bit more creatine.... is there anything I can do with what time I have to do all of this?

Posted on: Wed, 01/15/2014 - 21:54


I'm currently using the recommended supplements on training days and have noticed good results but I was curious to know what should be taken on days which I don't train? By the way, how long should the cycle be or would you recommend this type of supplementation plan all year round. Thanks for all the helpful advice.

Posted on: Tue, 12/17/2013 - 12:43

I have read alot of the comments in this article but I didn't see anything on what to do about the days when your not working out? Do the supplements give instructions on this or is there guidlines to follow? I have a hard time building the muscle (aka: hard gainer) and I've had some tips given to me with workouts to help with this. Taking the supplements is the only thing im not sure of. Any advice would be appreciated.

Posted on: Fri, 11/01/2013 - 17:12

20 push & 40 sits

Posted on: Fri, 11/01/2013 - 17:10

I If Eat a Protiens But No Workouts Not I Will Grow A Muscles

Posted on: Thu, 10/03/2013 - 05:58

Good guidence

Posted on: Thu, 08/15/2013 - 13:13



Posted on: Thu, 08/08/2013 - 11:39

So this might sound stupid but if I had all these supplement they are talking about and took them as prescribed then I would be maximizing the effects of the different supplement? or

Posted on: Sat, 07/20/2013 - 14:37

so days you dont work out do you just not take the stuff or do substitute it with other amts

Posted on: Fri, 06/28/2013 - 16:09

I'm a female 115 lbs, 18% body fat, prepping for a show in 12 weeks. I've competed before but only taking whey, I think Incould benifit from adding more but im unsure of hom much? I was interested in taking the following supplements on top of whey protein that I already take:
Does anyone know how to caculate how many grams I shod take per day?


Posted on: Wed, 06/19/2013 - 07:31

lol at the amount of thumbs down on each of the posts... I expect at least 10 for this comment

Rafael Hernandez
Posted on: Sun, 06/02/2013 - 14:32

what about non exercise days? what and how should i take them??

Posted on: Mon, 05/20/2013 - 16:18

If I were to follow a similar plan, with supplements and whey protein to enhance muscle growth, and then I decided I was happy with my body mass and wished to maintain it, is it possible to come off the supplements and do it naturally??

Posted on: Sat, 05/04/2013 - 13:38

I'm 27 and in pretty good shape but want to build mass what supplements can I take and what workout methods would show better results .

Kirk Rogers
Posted on: Thu, 04/25/2013 - 23:20

On off days,what amount of proteins should be taken

Posted on: Thu, 04/25/2013 - 15:14

Thanks for the information. I am a beginner and was searching for this info to help get me going in the right directions... very helpful

Posted on: Wed, 04/17/2013 - 13:00

Hello! I am have been researching for some time now about supplements and i am really confused.

I am planning to take whey protein , creatine and BCAA for now since i am just starting.

Can anyone check if this is a good schedule?

This is my schedule if i am going to workout during the morning since its summer here

When i wake up
30 grams of protein shake
5 grams of BCAA
5 grams of creatine

( after an 1 hour since creatine is advised to be taken an hour before a workout )


30 grams of protein shake
5 grams creatine

( after an hour then i will eat a heavy meal )

then just eat light snacks in every 3 hrs
like eggs since i dont want to drink another protein shake

My questions now are :

1.) Do i have to eat my breakfast already or just a protein shake with creatine? Assuming that my workout schedule is during the morning right after i wake up.
2.) Since after my work out i have to drink another protein shake with creatine, i have to wait another hour before i consume my first meal which is i think around lunch time already ( heaviest meal of the day ) . Before eating i will have to drink the BCAA

NOW assuming that my workout is during the afternoon or during late evening
Wake up :
- Protein shake or is it okay to just eat a meal?
- BCAA's

An hour before workout ( 30 grams of protein shake and creatine )
light snack
Right after workingout ( 30 grams of protein shake again with creatine )
after an hour dinner


3.) Is it bad to eat breakfast including a protein shake before going to the gym ? or should i eat my breakfast ( late lunch ) after working during my morning schedule.
4.) It is not bad to consume 2 shakes a day right? just making usre :)

thank you everyone!

Posted on: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 10:30

I've just recently turned 16 would this be okay to take at my age, or would it be to much stress on my buddy?

Posted on: Sat, 03/30/2013 - 21:38

i'm an 18 yo male weighing 104 and 5'9" and just starting out and needing advice see i work out at home and have no weights except for a backpack full of rocks and i got two weeks to build up 25 pounds of muscle but as i said i'm just starting out and any advice would be helpful

Posted on: Fri, 03/01/2013 - 03:29

Hey mate,
What about green tea extract, CLA, L-Carnitine, 7-Keto, and Hyper Shred by BSN?

I'm currently taking those to cut but unsure if all are necessary. I take creatine, Whey Protein and BCAA's daily also.

It'd be great to hear back! Cheer!

Posted on: Fri, 02/15/2013 - 02:17

Strange, I thought you couldn't take zink with calcium...

david barks
Posted on: Wed, 01/30/2013 - 23:50

is it ok to mix bcaas and glutamine in the same drink...or should i have glutamine in my protien shake and the bcaa on its oun...thanks

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 01/31/2013 - 11:14

It's fine either way.

Posted on: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 01:28

I'm glad to see my supplement profile looks very much the same as this and I'm making good gains and staying lean, my only difference is that I have a pre work out shake 'MP Assault' which covers all the bases and keeps me going, if I don't have this then I add some Taurine to a home made pre shake with Creatine, my protein is a tapered blend so I can use it in most circumstances and I add instant oats to it when needed, for anyone looking for better sleep I can recomend ZMA it's brilliant.

Posted on: Fri, 01/11/2013 - 13:46

Reading the Nutritional Info for Dymatize Elite XT Whey Protein I've noticed that it includes alot of the supplements you've stated (BCAA's, L-Arginine, Glutamine). My question is if you take Dymatize Elite XT Protein do you still need to take the recommended dosages of other supplements (BCAA's, L-Arginine, Glutamine) seperately on top of that? Is it harmful to go over the recommended dosage above?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 01/23/2013 - 11:37

All proteins have these amino acids - they are the building blocks of protein. Supplementing additional BCAAs can be very helpful in regards to protein synthesis and recovery. BCCAs are absorbed much faster (most would take during a workout) than your average whey protein.

Posted on: Wed, 01/02/2013 - 06:28

Hey guys just wondering what are some good supplements (if any) I should start taking to get back in shape and gaining more muscle??

Posted on: Sun, 12/09/2012 - 15:05

This is crazy, unfounded and very very expensive. Adding up the lower ranges of your suggested dosages, thats more that 200g of protein just from supplements! Thats so insane!! Besides the fact that no study EVER showed that more than 0.86g/pound of lean body mass is necessary for growth, this is so expensive. Not to mention the fact that your other meals will also have protein in them. How do you have a masters degree, yet supply such unscientific information? :S

Posted on: Fri, 11/02/2012 - 16:22

This article is correct with what supplements to take but I disagree on when to take some of them. Certain supplements interact with other supplements in a detrimental way when taken within a couple hours of each other. For example you should not take glutamine at the same time as creatine. They use the same receptors, so by taking them at the same time you will be minimizing their effects. They should be taken two hours apart. I usually take my glutamiine before workout and creatine after. Also, this article is telling to to take up to 20-3 grams of glutamine per day, as well as arginine. Both supplements are great muscle builders and should both be taken, but not in these amounts. Most arginine and nitric oxide manufacturers recommend that you should not exceed 10 grams of glutamine per day when taking arginine or nitric oxide at the same time. So in sum, you need to be careful when you take these supplements to avoid one counteracting the effects of another.

Posted on: Sun, 10/21/2012 - 22:45

I already use whey but I'm a highschool football player and I want to gain muscle and energy after my classes and during my workout in the gym. I see players using creatine but I don't trust it and it adds a lot of water weight to them. Im not looking for anything major but if you could recommend a supplement for a young athlete I'd appreciate it

Posted on: Sat, 10/06/2012 - 07:42

hey.. how r u?
i'm 172 pound, 178 cm height and want to know exactly how much dosage of creatine, glutamine and L-arginine can be counsumed by me at one time.

Posted on: Fri, 10/05/2012 - 11:14

Sorry for d question, is this plan appropriate for 210 lbs ?

Posted on: Sat, 09/29/2012 - 15:19

My name is robert and i weigh 135 5'6 and i am 21...i really want to get body mass...not get really big but get some body mass in me...and get cut at the same time....what should i take?

rahul kalita
Posted on: Sun, 09/23/2012 - 04:11

plz help me out how 2 tke zma with casein coz it is said that zma should not be taken with calcium containing food and casein contains calcium.
plz help.

Posted on: Sun, 09/16/2012 - 16:53

what about amino acid

Posted on: Sun, 09/02/2012 - 13:53

Hi, I know this article is old. But I want to try these supplements. Right now I take whey protein and a pre-workout supplement (c4 or acg3). I want to follow the schedule you listed above. Like I mentioned I take either c4 or acg3 as a pre-workout right now. So my question is will it be okay for me to take Tribulus terrestris, Arginine, Glutamine, Creatine, and BCAAs along with C4 and ACG3 before my workout? I know c4 and acg3 already have Creatine in it. So should I not take additional Creatine? And is it ok to take the other supplements that you listed to take before workout with C4? Thanks for your time and all the info.

Posted on: Sat, 09/01/2012 - 02:34

i always train very early in the morning when i wake there a need to take the wake up suppliments first or its all the same taking the pre work out supliment?