Creatine monohydrate is one of the most well-researched performance enhancing supplements on the market. It has been used for years to increase muscle creatine content, aid in ATP production, maximize strength, and shorten recovery time.
In fact, according to literature published in the International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand, creatine monohydrate is the most effective nutritional supplement currently available to athletes in terms of increasing lean body mass and high-intensity exercise capacity during training.
Although you’re likely already familiar with the great benefits of taking a creatine dietary supplement, there remains confusion around when to take creatine.
In this article, we’ll dive into what the research says about how and when to take creatine to build lean muscle mass and strength.
- Creatine supplementation is considered to be the most effective supplement to help athletes increase lean muscle mass and high-intensity exercise capacity during training.
- Creatine can be taken at any time. However, most studies suggest taking it right before or after exercise to support muscle growth and improve body composition. You can also split your dose up and take half before a workout and half after.
- For best results, consistency is key. Continue your creatine supplement on rest days to keep your muscles saturated.
CREATINE BEFORE OR AFTER A WORKOUT?.
In short, taking creatine supplements before or after a workout can be beneficial. However, timing does appear to matter.
One study examined the effects of supplement timing and resistance exercise on skeletal muscle hypertrophy. Two groups of adults who performed resistance training were given a supplement containing creatine, protein, and carbs.
One group took the supplement right before and right after exercise, while the other group took it in the morning and evening.
The group who took creatine supplementation closer to exercise gained more strength and muscle mass than the group who took it in the morning and evening.
Basically, what we’re saying is taking your supplement right before or right after exercise may be the most beneficial.
Whether you decide to take creatine supplementation immediately before or after a workout will depend on your individual goals.
Below, we will discuss the benefits of taking creatine pre and post-workout and what you can pair it with to maximize your results.
BEFORE A WORKOUT…
People mainly take creatine before a workout to improve mental performance and achieve effective muscular performance.
The primary job of creatine is to fuel our muscles with energy when we’re exhausted. It also helps increase endurance to fight off muscle fatigue during exercise. Our bodies can produce between 1-2 grams of creatine per day. But it’s not enough to carry you through an entire workout session.
This is where taking a creatine supplement before your workout comes into play. Supplementing with creatine helps with continuous ATP production, which is the muscle’s main source of energy.
More creatine means enhanced ATP production and more power to your muscles, allowing you to lift more weight. This ultimately leads to superior gains in strength and an improvement in body composition.
Without taking a creatine supplement before your workout, you may experience a higher level of lactic acid buildup, which is associated with muscle breakdown and soreness.
To help you push harder and train longer, you can combine creatine with your pre-workout supplements to increase energy, endurance, and mental clarity.
Alternatively, you can pair BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids) with creatine to improve your exercise performance, stimulate muscle protein synthesis, and increase energy levels.
AFTER A WORKOUT...
Taking creatine immediately after a workout is extremely popular because it supports muscle recovery. During exercise, your muscles are depleted of important nutrients and are primed to receive additional nutrients. Using creatine right after your workout can help you replenish what was lost during exercise and aid in quick muscle recovery.
Creatine supplementation paired with strength training post-workout also increases fat-free mass and improves muscular strength. This is because you’re immediately ingesting ATP, which leads to increased muscle fiber size and lean mass instead of unnecessary fat mass.
Lastly, creatine supplementation can enhance post-exercise recovery and prevent injuries. Several studies have shown that creatine users experience fewer muscle cramps, less dehydration, and fewer total injuries than those not taking creatine. Those who take creatine are also less likely to experience muscle tightness and strains.
To further enhance the benefits of creatine, you can take it with carbs. Studies show that taking creatine with carbs maximizes its uptake into the muscles.
Consuming creatine with carbs also increases muscle glycogen storage, which is important to promote sustained energy and delay fatigue well after your workout has ended.
CREATINE ON REST DAYS
In order to produce maximum results, you should be consistent and take your creatine on rest days. After all, don’t we take our vitamins and eat food every day? Supplementing with creatine on non-training days is vital because it keeps your muscles fully saturated.
The good news is that the timing doesn’t matter as much on rest days. You can take it at whichever time is convenient for you.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
WHEN TO TAKE CREATINE MONOHYDRATE?
On days you exercise, the best time to take creatine is right before or right after exercise, depending on your goals. Both are extremely beneficial. If you’d like, you can even split up your daily dose and take half pre-workout and the other half post-workout.
During rest days, you can take creatine supplementation at whatever time of the day that works best for you.
HOW MUCH CREATINE A DAY?
A “loading phase” is often recommended to quickly increase muscle creatine levels when starting a creatine supplement.
During a creatine load, you’ll consume between 20-25 grams of creatine per day for around five days. After the loading phase is over, you’ll change to a maintenance dose of 2-10 grams per day.
Although it is possible to fully saturate your muscles with a lower dose, it will take much longer before benefits are seen.
If you choose not to do a loading phase, you should consume between 3-5 grams of creatine each day (even on your rest days!).
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE FOR CREATINE TO WORK?
If you’re just starting out and choose to go with a lower dose, it can take several weeks before you see results.
However, if you choose to go the quicker route and start with a loading phase, you will see results much faster.
Studies have found that creatine loading can maximize your stores in less than one week! This will allow you to experience benefits such as increased muscle strength, muscle gain, injury prevention, and improved performance much sooner.
HOW LONG DOES CREATINE STAY IN YOUR SYSTEM?
When you stop taking a creatine supplement, your muscles will slowly deplete their creatine stores and your serum creatine levels will decline.
It usually takes 4-6 weeks before your creatine levels return to their pre-supplementation levels. Once this happens, your body will return to producing 1-2 grams per day. You may experience reduced strength, fatigue, and loss of water weight gain during this period as creatine levels decline.