Supplements To Grow On: What To Take And When

What supplements are best for muscle growth, and how do I take them? Build the foundation of your supplement program for optimal results.

Author: Brad Borland Flex BicepYou 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

Elite Whey Protien
Elite 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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Most popular Arginine product: Twinlab L-Arginine

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.

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

Most popular Tribulus product: Trib 650


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.

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

Top 3 Selling ZMA Supplements:

  1. Dymatize Z-Force
  2. Optimum ZMA
  3. ZMA Pro


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.

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 Growth Schedule

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.

About The Author
Brad has a Master's degree in Kinesiology and is a strength and conditioning specialist, military veteran, cancer survivor and Associate Editor at Muscle & Strength.

121 Comments+ Post Comment

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Posted Fri, 03/12/2010 - 00:06

will this supplement growth plan help gain more muscle weight, do you eat anything else besides these supplements during the day?

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Posted Tue, 07/05/2011 - 12:25
antonio c're scaring me!

you HAVE TO EAT other meals to get bigger. Taking pure supplements alone would not be enough. This article to my understanding are just supplements for muscle growth, not an eating plan.

Please do more research as I understand at first it may be confusing, but supplements are used to "supplement" your eating routine. Just figure out that you need an 'x' amount of calories per day that will come from protein, complex carbs, and healthy fats. Do not count any vegetable in your calorie intake, but count your fruits.

All the best

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Posted Tue, 05/08/2012 - 18:42

@antonio u just made me LOL (dude your scaring me) hahaha

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Posted Tue, 03/19/2013 - 19:06

i need a supplement 2 help he put on mass muscle growth what product do you recommend?

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Posted Sun, 04/04/2010 - 17:11

This article is simply a guide to supplementation and when to take them. If you were to take any or all of the supplements listed, this article is a guideline as to when the best time to take them would be in addition to a solid muscle gain/fat loss whole food diet.

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Posted Fri, 04/09/2010 - 17:23

Does your age effect the rate of muscle growth. I am 47 and good shape and pretty active.

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Posted Sun, 04/25/2010 - 22:12

What about a multi?

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Posted Tue, 05/18/2010 - 11:42

A multi is definitely a great addition. This article specifically targets muscle building supplements.

Yes, age does affect muscle growth, but you will never know until you try! Depending on your lifting experience this can vary greatly.

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Posted Wed, 07/27/2011 - 18:44

What about the supplements to take doing this routine if you are a woman? I dont know that I want testosterone boosts? Would it be the same?

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Posted Wed, 08/03/2011 - 15:15

Of course lower doses would be in order for a female (because of lighter body weight). Also, I am not a huge advocate of testosterone boosters. The supplements listed are more on the protein side of the house.


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Posted Thu, 05/20/2010 - 16:17

Also, are you saying that your morning whey has to be kept separate from breakfast to let it absorb quickly? And when you say simple carbs are needed in a PWO shake, do these carbs have to be in the shake or can they come from other food sources? Much obliged.

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Posted Thu, 11/18/2010 - 05:22

I train in the morning, take O/N Gold whey Standard, with O/N creatine, Myopure Glutamine and BCAA, when im done i take O/N Serious Mass with Creatine. Is this too much carbs to take after a workout as it has 50g of protein and 250g of Carbs?
With the Nitric oxide products, i dont feel the "Pump" to lift heavy. EG, i bench 110kg, 242 pounds 6 reps. With 120kg 265 pounds i can do 2 reps only. My weight is 97kg 6f2 height.
With nitric oxide 30 - 40 min prior to a workout, i didnt feel any strength to push more on doing 110kg or 120kg.
So im questioning wether nitric oxide does actually work, or could it be the brand?
When i first tried Ultimate Greens, i felt the effects it had. That is what i expect in a product otherwise im not convinced.
Your thoughts please.

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Posted Thu, 11/18/2010 - 08:22

Hi Pete,

If you're underweight, and trying to gain weight than it is perfectly acceptable to take Serious Mass after lifting.

People will feel varying degrees of the pump. I would suggest trying a different pre-workout supplement such as Muscle Marinade or Scivation Quake 10.0. Some pre-workout supplements work great for one person and not so good for another.

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Posted Sun, 11/21/2010 - 12:30

This is just a simple guide to supplements and when to take them. I would start with one, see how your body responds and then move to another.

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Posted Sat, 12/11/2010 - 11:57

Wat should someone. Do if they where 180 lbs instead of the average 200 lbs bodybuilder, would the same guidelines apply. As far as the protien n supplements go. I want to find a middle ground.

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Posted Sun, 12/19/2010 - 20:54

Yes, generally. A 20 pound difference isn't too much of a gap for supplements. Protein, on the other hand, is. Generally you need 1 gram of protein per pound of body fat. Following this guideline will ensure you are getting enough protein for those tough workouts.

Trying lower doses of supplements to start is a good idea, though. Start with a few grams less of supplements like creatine and monitor your results.

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Posted Mon, 12/20/2010 - 05:29

I dont disagree on the body needing potein, glutamine, bcaa, creatine etc before and after a workout, however, to get a certain physique weather lean or bulk, there are certain whole foods the body requires during the day. Types of lifts require form and technique, along with certain rep and set ranges.
To become a bodybuilder, requires a very good diet that you must follow 100%. Thats when a Nutritionist / holistic lifestyle coach can help you build what you want to achieve.
As most people should know, to build a body "naturally" takes time, remember Rome wasnt built in a day!

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Posted Mon, 12/20/2010 - 10:49


I could not agree more. The article was written mainly as a guideline for those interested in taking certain supplements - a general guide on timing.


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Posted Fri, 12/24/2010 - 14:45

Hey! Great article! My problem is that I workout first thing in the morning (5:00 a.m.). Most supplement guides/articles I read seem to be geared to individuals who workout later in the day. With that in mind, I am often confused about when to take certain supplements. So, should I use the "Pre-workout" supplements upon waking in the morning and then take it from there?

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Posted Wed, 01/05/2011 - 15:05


Yes, surround your training with pre and post workout nutrition (food and supps). You are on the right track!


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Posted Sat, 02/12/2011 - 14:03

How would you alter this if you work out in the morning? I usually go to the gym at 5:30 AM. Also, what about "off" days?

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Posted Thu, 02/17/2011 - 14:36

Hi Jeff,

Just surround your training with your choice of pre and post workout supplements listed in the schedule.

Also, please remember that this is just a template for specific supplements. I am not advocating everyone take every single supplement listed.


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Posted Wed, 06/01/2011 - 13:13

I currently take an Animal Pak (multi) after lunch, C4 pre-workout, and a 75g whey/60g carbs (waxy maize/malto/dextrose combo) shake post-workout. How would adding these other supps affect my current regime?

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Posted Tue, 06/07/2011 - 16:59

Hi Adam,

The only way to find out is to try them. But I would advise experimenting with one at a time, as that will reveal waht worked and what didn't.


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Posted Sat, 06/18/2011 - 09:40

This is Sai, recently visited your site for info regarding protein shakes. I have been working out for past 4 months but it doesn't seem to get a proper definition and its like I loose the shape after a day of workout.
Do I need to take protein shakes?
My BMI is 22.1kg/m^2
Weight 78kg
Height- 6ft 2"
BF- 17.8%

And I don't want to add more fat
Which is the best supplement or is natural food enough for muscle building?

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Posted Thu, 07/14/2011 - 16:30

Hi Sai,

Check out some of my other articles on


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Posted Mon, 06/20/2011 - 17:16

How much weight should I be looking on gaining in a month to two month period of following this supplement schedule? I currently work out 3 times a week with heavy weight, (5 sets of 5 on big muscle groups), and I only take whey protein. I'm on week 9 of the workout and only gained about 8 pounds. Can't get over the 170 lbs mark. Thanks.

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Posted Thu, 07/14/2011 - 16:32

Hi J.I.,

Wow! Those are some awesome gains! Usually a gain of 1-2 pounds is significant - of course depending on your experience.

Keep up the great work!

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Posted Mon, 07/04/2011 - 01:21


I'm new to this website. I am very impressed with the website and will be recommending it to friends!

Is it okay to mix creatine in with a protein shake?

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Posted Tue, 08/02/2011 - 11:47


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Posted Tue, 07/19/2011 - 13:39

What do you recommend for me, I am a 30 yr old female, i want to uild more muscle and not gain i am 135 now i teach alot of classes so i am looking for a safe energy suplement to, I really want to get on a healthy supplement regimine

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Posted Tue, 08/02/2011 - 15:13


I am not a huge advocate of "fat burners," but there are some that have significant value. As far as building muscle goes, try whey protein pre and post training and add in one new supplement at a time such as creatine or arginine for a 6 or so week span. See if they have an effect and chart your progress.

The guidelines in the article are just that, guidelines. So, try not to do everything all at once.


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Posted Wed, 07/27/2011 - 17:59

How about taking a fish oil? recommended ? and if so when?

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Posted Wed, 08/03/2011 - 15:17

Hi Rafael,

Fish oil is a great addition to a diet plan. You can take them throughout the day with the exception of before and after training. I, however, like to get my healthy fats from food.


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Posted Wed, 07/25/2012 - 08:50

hey brad. nice article.
is there any reason for not taking fish oil pre or post wo?

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Posted Wed, 08/24/2011 - 19:07
Francisco Zavarse

Hi Greetings to everyone in the forum. Such a great tool for people that want to live a healthy life this is like a bible in your hands.

what i want to ask you more experienced people on the field of hard training, if the supplements i'm taking are safe and well distributed

Age: 29
Height: 5'5
Weight: 171.6 lbs
No heart disease or any health complications

Supplements I'm taking right now

Pre-Workout= Upslabs Jack3D Grape
only using on legs days when i need a little boost

Fat loss=Lipo6 Black
3 Caps in the morning, 3 caps in the afternoon Empty Stomach

Glutamine= Dimatize Micronized
Right after Workout

Muscletech Whey Protein 100% 40g
Right after workout

Pink Magic
2 caps breakfast, 2 caps lunch, 2 caps dinner

these are all the supplements i'm taking right now and a friend gave me a gift a 6.6 Lbs Cell-Tech hardcore Pro Series Fruit Punch

I want to know if i should add this cell-tech since i wanna gain more muscle but i don't know if the cell tech will make me get fat also

and if all these supplements together doesn't mean any harm or health problems to me.

Thanks in advance to all of you, Great Community congrats to overyone in here

and big applause for people sharing their experience here to help others in the way to a better healthier life

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Posted Thu, 09/22/2011 - 22:13

This site is exactly what I've been looking for, starting next month the doc said I can work out again after not working out for a whole year and I've found the perfect workout and diet plan, but I still needed the supplement plan and now I've finally found it. Thank you so much, you don't realize how much this helps me. I can't thank you enough.

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Posted Fri, 09/23/2011 - 16:08

Remember to start out with just one supplement at a time and see if it works for you. Too much too soon can get your head spinning with confusion.


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Posted Fri, 09/23/2011 - 11:14

Im new to really trying to become healthy and working out. Im trying to gain Strength and mass and ive been doing alot of research to find the best supplements and training for me. ive been hitting the gym 6 days a week getting a feel for it and taking protien and creatine everytime before and after. the only problem is I think ive been taking to much creatine. it says to take one scoop before and one scoop after a workout and thats equivilent to 48 grams per scoop. This is telling me to only take 3-5 grams. What should i do and has this beeen unhealthy for me? mind you im 22 and wiegh 140. Thanks in advance

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Posted Fri, 09/23/2011 - 16:06

Hi Pat,

3-5 grams is what I recommend for creatine pre and post workout. Years ago "loading" creatine for one week was what the manufacturers recommended initially. Research has shown that the loading phase is not absolutely necessary for significant results.

Also, be sure that your creatine product does not include any additives such as extra sugar or other "transporting" substances. Many products add in delivery systems to creatine for (they claim) better absorption post workout. This isn't necessary (in my book) either.

Stick with 5 grams pre and post training.


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Posted Mon, 10/17/2011 - 08:57

How would I incorporate these supplements if i work 12 hours at nite and trying to workout in the morning before I go to sleep and is that ideal and my job is physical also

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Posted Mon, 10/17/2011 - 10:44

Well, the list is only to suggest how and when certain supplements should be taken. Try one or at most two to start and do your best to get in solid food. Have an organized plan of action.


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Posted Fri, 10/21/2011 - 10:24

How much whey protein would you recommend to take on rest days?

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Posted Fri, 10/21/2011 - 12:22

I normally take only one whey protein shake that would be around training time of about 30 or so grams on rest days.

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Posted Tue, 11/01/2011 - 22:27

Hi Brad!

Thanks all this! Has been a great help and i got a lot of questions answered. :)
Was just wondering if I should mix in everything/all the supplements (cassein,whey,bcaa,creatine etc.) into one shake?; in reference to your pre- and post-workout supplemetation guide above.

Thanks again for everything!


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Posted Wed, 11/02/2011 - 11:31


Yes, you can mix them all together. Just be sure nothing has any weird flavors that don't mesh. For example, you don't want to mix chocolate whey protein with fruit flavored casein.


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Posted Mon, 11/07/2011 - 18:32

Thanx for this informative article. I have done research on all the sups you mentioned. It sounds like a good blueprint for someone trying to get "bigger". So me personally, I am 186lbs.. I was 200lbs about 5 months ago. My goal is not necessarily to lose weight. I want to get big and cut (lean). But my main goal is to lose my stomach.#1 what sups will have a negative effect on that?..#2 Which of those sups can help in burning fat?
Any help would be appreciated...

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Posted Fri, 11/11/2011 - 10:23

Hi Omar,


Most of the supplements listed will not make you fat so to speak. I am not a huge advocate on fat burners, but one supplement that has been shown to have lasting effects and health benefits is fish oil.


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Posted Mon, 11/14/2011 - 23:44
mahesh kumar

is body grow ...which is manufactured in india it a good body suppliment? ..plss tell me .
and it contin whey protein, creatine and ashwagandha and it really a good suppliment plss ans as soon as possible/.....

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Posted Fri, 12/09/2011 - 15:44
Alex Staveley

Hi Brad.
Very informative article you've made there. I'd just like to ask your opinion please on the below:

I've had a year long fight with Cancer, which is finally over with, and now I'm trying to gain some extra muscle/weight as I couldn't train during treatment.
Im currently 24yrs old, 178cm & 61kg (Varied 2-3kg over last 5-7 years. Can't seem to bulk at all)

So I've got myself:
100% WHEY PROTEIN WHEY PROTEIN ISOLATE & CONCENTRATE FORMULA (Vanilla - And It tastes pretty evil, can I add anything to it to make it taste better? Maybe mix it with the Fast Grow below?).

I used to train before I was ill, so exercise wise I've an idea on what I'm doing.

Started 2 days ago... Training every other day, with rest day in-between. (6 week training plan - then I'm flying back out to the UK)

100% Whey says 1x22g/150ml Water or 2x22g/300ml 1-3 times/day.
I take 1x22g/150ml when waking, 2x22g/300ml, after training and 1x22g/150ml before bed.

I just purchased the Fast Grow and Creatine today.
Fast Grow says 3scoops/525ml Water 2times/day for 5 days, then 1/day thereafter as I'm under 80kg.
Pure Creatine says 1teaspoon 4-5times/day with 250ml diluted fruit juice then 1teaspoon 1-2times/day.

Do I stick to what the labels say, even for rest days? I understand I need to be taking in roughly 1950-2250 calories a day as well. I'm also guessing that these supplements should be taken before meals?