The Best Time When Creatine Should Be Taken

The Best Time When Creatine Should Be Taken

Creatine is quite possibly the most successful supplement in the history of sports nutrition, save for whey protein or caffeine (which is the backbone of every pre-workout supplement and fat burner)

It's been studied hundreds of times and shown to not only be effective for building muscle, increasing strength, and improving athletic performance but (more importantly) it's safe. [1,2,3]

Still, there is much discussion about the best time to take creatine (if there is such a thing).

There are a few different schools of thought on when is the best time to take it:

  • Pre-workout
  • Post-workout
  • Any time of day

Join us as we review the research and discuss the best time when creatine should be taken!

Taking Creatine Before Workout

Proponents of taking creatine before a workout ascribes to the belief that since creatine enhances ATP production and cellular hydration, taking it before training would supply your muscles with more ATP (the primary currency of cellular energy) and keep them more hydrated, which improves stamina and delays the onset of fatigue...better hydration also increases muscle fullness and gives better pumps too! 

Another benefit of increased ATP is greater power available to the muscles, enhancing muscle activation leading to more weight lifted and ultimately more muscle.

However, creatine's effects are not acute in the way the caffeine's are. You have to take it consistently (i.e., daily) for a few weeks to saturate the muscles. It is only after they are saturated that you start to realize the benefits of creatine supplementation.

Taking Creatine After Workout

One of the most popular (and convenient) times to take creatine is immediately after your workout is done. Many individuals choose to mix their creatine right into their post-workout protein shake.

And it just so happens that there is some research indicating that taking creatine post-workout might be more effective than taking it at other times of day (such as pre-workout).

One four-week study had subjects training five days per week and supplementing with creatine either before or after training. [4]

At the end of the 4-week study, researchers noted more significant increases in lean mass and more considerable fat mass reductions in the participants who took creatine after exercise. 

Another study (this one lasting ten weeks) divided individuals into two groups and had them consume a creatine-based supplement (that also included protein and carbohydrates) either before and after working out or several hours before or after their workout. [5]

At the end of the study, researchers found that individuals who took their creatine supplement close to training experienced more significant muscle and strength gains than the individuals who took it early morning or late evening (not close to their workout). 

Based on these studies, there is good evidence for taking creatine directly before or after your workout (with the edge being post-workout).

Taking Creatine on Rest Days

As we mentioned above, creatine is a supplement that works best when taken daily. This helps ensure that your muscles remain saturated.

Since creatine's timing is secondary to taking it each day, on your non-training day's timing is irrelevant.

Feel free to take it whenever is convenient -- upon waking, with breakfast, mixed into a smoothie made with whey protein powder, combined with your multi-vitamin or greens, and/or mixed into a pre-bed protein shake...the options are endless.

Just make sure that you take it.

Combining Creatine with Other Foods

Creatine is highly bioavailable and readily absorbed and utilized by the body; still, many individuals wonder if combining it with other foods/supplements can enhance its effects even further. 

The first food/supplement that jumps to mind is carbohydrates, increasing insulin release in the body. Insulin is the hormone tasked with taking nutrients from the bloodstream and transporting them into muscle cells.

Several studies have found that taking creatine with carbs increases the extent to which your muscles absorb it. [6,7]

However, other research indicates that combining creatine + carbs offers no additional benefits.[8]

It may also be useful to consume creatine alongside protein and amino acids as they may help increase the extent to which your muscles retain creatine. [9]

The Bottom Line on The Best Time When Creatine Should Be Taken

Creatine has been extensively researched, with hundreds of studies demonstrating its safety and efficacy. 

Many individuals wonder if there’s a “best” time to take creatine.

Looking at the big picture, remembering to take your creatine every day is far more important than the timing.

Now, if you're looking for that extra "little something," there is a case to be made for taking creatine post-workout as that is the time when your muscles are most receptive to nutrients.

Still, it's essential not to get mired down in the minutiae. Taking it daily is more important than when exactly you take it.

If you've got that down and you're looking to optimize your supplement regimen even further, take your creatine post-workout, preferably with protein and carbohydrates, which can help maximize the benefits.

One of the easiest ways to do this is by mixing your creatine monohydrate with your post-workout shake (using SteelFit® Steel Whey® or Steel Vegan™).

References

  1. Kreider, R.B., Kalman, D.S., Antonio, J. et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 14, 18 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-017-0173-z
  2. Devries MC, Phillips SM. Creatine supplementation during resistance training in older adults-a meta-analysis. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2014 Jun;46(6):1194-203. DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000000220. PMID: 24576864.
  3. Poortmans JR, Francaux M. Long-term oral creatine supplementation does not impair renal function in healthy athletes. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1999 Aug;31(8):1108-10. DOI: 10.1097/00005768-199908000-00005. PMID: 10449011.
  4. Antonio J, Ciccone V. The effects of pre versus post workout supplementation of creatine monohydrate on body composition and strength. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2013 Aug 6;10:36. DOI: 10.1186/1550-2783-10-36. PMID: 23919405; PMCID: PMC3750511.
  5. Cribb PJ, Hayes A. Effects of supplement timing and resistance exercise on skeletal muscle hypertrophy. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2006 Nov;38(11):1918-25. DOI: 10.1249/01.mss.0000233790.08788.3e. PMID: 17095924.
  6. Green AL, Hultman E, Macdonald IA, Sewell DA, Greenhaff PL. Carbohydrate ingestion augments skeletal muscle creatine accumulation during creatine supplementation in humans. Am J Physiol. 1996 Nov;271(5 Pt 1):E821-6. DOI: 10.1152/ajpendo.1996.271.5.E821. PMID: 8944667.
  7. Steenge GR, Simpson EJ, Greenhaff PL. Protein- and carbohydrate-induced augmentation of whole body creatine retention in humans. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2000 Sep;89(3):1165-71. DOI: 10.1152/jappl.2000.89.3.1165. PMID: 10956365.
  8. Islam H, Yorgason NJ, Hazell TJ. Creatine co-ingestion with carbohydrate or cinnamon extract provides no added benefit to anaerobic performance. Eur J Sport Sci. 2016 Sep;16(6):685-93. DOI: 10.1080/17461391.2015.1071877. Epub 2015 Aug 27. PMID: 26313717.
  9. Pittas G, Hazell MD, Simpson EJ, Greenhaff PL. Optimization of insulin-mediated creatine retention during creatine feeding in humans. J Sports Sci. 2010 Jan;28(1):67-74. DOI: 10.1080/02640410903390071. PMID: 20035494.