When is the best time to take creatine?
Should you take it before or after a workout?
Personal Trainer | Weight Loss & Wellness Coach | World Champion Powerlifter
There are three good times to take creatine:
An hour before training
You want the creatine in your system so that your muscles can put out max effort.
Immediately following your workout
You want to recharge your muscles for the next session. Also, creatine has been found to have a muscle sparing effect so less muscle will be broken down in a post-exercise catabolic response and a next gain will be promoted.
The day after a workout
The creatine will support muscle repair and growth and reload the muscles. One thing to note is that you should cycle on and off creatine to give your body a break and let the creatine receptors in your cells clear themselves. That way you will not build up a tolerance. I personally do not take creatine for more than six to eight weeks straight.
Dr. Thanu Jeyapalan
Clinical Director, Yorkville Sports Medicine Clinic
Add it in your post-workout recovery
Creatine is beneficial when taken anytime but I particularly recommend adding it in your post-workout recovery.
After a workout, your body will need to replenish its energy stores as well as your recently reduced creatine stores. Your body is also generally more responsive to absorption in the postworkout state making it an ideal time to supplement.
Creatine doesn’t get absorbed instantly and needs to saturate into the muscle cells for it to have a provide a significant effect. Taking creatine immediately before a workout won’t yield benefits for that workout, but will saturate your muscles and likely be available for the next workout. It’s important to “load” your muscles with creatine for a few days to see the true effect on performance.
Fitness and Nutrition Expert, Getting Fit
Right after your workout
Optimum creatine uptake is right after your workout, taken with a high-glycemic protein shake.
There is a short window of time (approx 30 minutes) right after your workout where cellular uptake of nutrients is maximized. This is the best time to use a creatine monohydrate supplement.
Research shows that pre-workout supplementation is not any better than a daily maintenance dose, so if you don’t want to worry about timing your creatine dosing, you’ll get plenty of the benefits of creatine with a 2-5 gram maintenance dose every day, regardless of when you take it.
Related: Best Tasting Protein Powders
Ashlee Van Buskirk
Fitness Expert | Owner, Whole Intent
Before your workout
Since creatine provides your muscles with the energy you need to perform intense workouts, the best time to take creatine is before your workout.
When you ingest the creatine roughly 30 minutes prior to your workout, it will supply you with a burst of energy throughout your workout and keep your muscles going at a high intensity.
However, it is also worth noting that the effectiveness of the creatine is dependent on your diet. If you’re a vegetarian, you’re most likely not receiving a large amount of protein or creatine from your regular diet, so the creatine you ingest before a workout will have a larger impact on your energy. If you eat meat with every meal, then the creatine may not have as significant of an impact on your workout.
Owner, NG Nutra
Studies show it is post workout
Let’s begin with what Creatine actually is. Creatine Phosphate a high-energy compound found in muscle cells, which is used to convert ADP into ATP by donating phosphate molecules to the ADP. ATP is the molecule that is converted into ADP with a release of energy that the body then uses.
Sounds complicated but to simplify when you sprint or lift weights your body runs out of energy and uses Creatine to make more of it thus you can sprint and lift more weights in the realm of a 5% – 15% increase in maximum power and performance. Short-term creatine supplementation increases 20–30% the number of repetitions at a specified percentage of single maximum-repetition in weightlifters.
This extra work then causes the body to recuperate at a faster rate yielding greater muscle mass and strength gains. Interestingly creatine has no effect on aerobic activities as the body uses energy a bit differently with aerobic training.
Related: 13 Best Fitness Books
Creatine has been available since the early 1990s and has an excellent safety record. A quick search on pubmed.com yields 429 published studies although they vary greatly in scope. Personally having been involved in Sports Medicine and the Nutrition industry for decades, I would say Creatine is very effective for increasing lean muscle and strength & power.
One oddity is the question of water retention. To my knowledge, there have been very few studies done on Creatine Monohydrate and water retention some do point to this. The reason being is that Creatine Monohydrate has poor solubility, you basically need a lot of water to dissolve and absorb it. This extra water in the digestive tract could lead to bloating and a puffy look, but it varies on the individual. There is no doubt that Creatine, in general increases water retention inside of muscle tissue, this is a good thing for recovery.
When looking to dodge the water weight or puffy look I would recommend a product Containing Creatine HCL and/or Creatine Gluconate, these forms of creatine are digested better and require less water for absorption.
When Is the Best Time to Take Creatine?
The correct answer is this – if you had to pick one time, studies show it is post workout!
The reason for this is because your body gets depleted during a workout and is like a sponge sucking up extra creatine for the next work out. But- I believe in also taking a small dosage pre-workout as well.
The reason for this is that your body can use a small amount immediately and that gives you a better workout when taking both pre and post workout you will have the best of both worlds for effectiveness!
An easy way to do this is whatever creatine product you are taking split the dose half before and half after. On your non-workout days, I would suggest you take half a dose in the morning and a half in the afternoon for enhanced uptake.
Some products recommend “loading phase.” This is just for creatine monohydrate and consists of taking 4 dosages per day for the first week or two and then backing off to one dosage per day. This does get into your system a bit quicker, maybe a week or 10 days sooner versus not loading.
A good conservative rule of thumb would be 3 months on and one month off, this isn’t rooted in deep science but I am an advocate of giving your body a break so it doesn’t build up a tolerance.
Certified Personal Trainer and Medical Expert, Maple Holistics
The best time to take creatine powder is pre and post workout
Many think that they should take it before their workout because it makes sense to load your muscle cells with it so you can reap the benefits right away. It will allow you to lift heavier weights if you take it pre-workout.
On the other hand, many prefer to take it post-workout because of the opportunity for the post-exercise recovery. During a workout, your muscles have been torn up, taking the creatine helps restore them.
Therefore, you should take half the dose (about 2.5 grams) 30 minutes before your workout and the other half immediately after. This way, you can reap the most benefits.
Head Coach & Editor, Noob Gains
Before or after your workout session
When it comes to the “best” time to take creatine, it’s actually not as clear as it sounds. The reason is simply that we haven’t done enough research and performed enough studies to come to a clear conclusion.
For example, one study took adult men and had them supplement 5 grams of creatine before or after exercise. The results showed greater increases in muscle and greater decreases in body fat in the creatine group. However, other studies, like one that tested creatine on older adults 50-71 years old, found that taking creatine before or after exercise made little difference.
But even though studies like these appear to arrive at different conclusions, other studies that test the effects of creatine when consumed on rest days showed inferior muscle growth and fat loss. So how can we make sense of all of this?
Based on the current science, we can conclude that it’s better to take creatine on exercise days within a relatively short timespan either before or after your workout session.
Taking it on a rest day just doesn’t produce comparable results. However, the bottom line is if you’re having troubling sticking to a consistent creatine schedule, it’s better to take it when it’s most convenient for you rather than not at all.
Actor | Artist | Entrepreneur
There is no specific time
As someone who has taken the supplement since the first commercially marketed creatine was released on the market by Twinlab, there is no specific time in which taking a single dose will have any direct benefit.
The efficacy of creatine is based on the accumulation of its presence in the body. This is why many brands suggest an initial loading phase of 3-5 grams per day during your first week. During this time your goal is to build your stores of phosphocreatine which helps your muscles produce more ATP – a naturally occurring high-energy molecule in the body.
After seven days you are in a maintenance phase for the duration of your time using the supplement which is 2-3 grams per day for the average gym goer and up to 5 grams for hardcore gym goers or those with a considerable amount of muscle mass. So taking it any time of the day with 24-hour intervals in-between is absolutely fine.