As supplemental debates go, this is a very common dispute. The issue probably never would have been brought up if it hadn’t been for a study conducted almost 20 years ago, in 1996. This study made a statement that caffeine blocks the effects of creatine. There a holes so big in this study, you could drive a truck through them. But, because it was the first “study” on the subject, it was written into the supplemental world as truth. Thankfully, other researchers have questioned this instead of just assuming it was true. Two years later, another similar study was conducted, with no truck size holes that concluded just the opposite. It is easy to see why this is such a difficult question to answer with a flat out yes or no.
The biggest theory, second only to the above study, is that if you are taking creatine and consuming caffeine, there is a hydration issue. It is understandable that this has been dragged into the light. For years, people have known that creatine requires an increase in hydration. So, add that to the idea that caffeine is a diuretic, the answer has been a result of dehydration. This would cause the creatine to fail and people to collapse from dehydration. This is incorrect. Caffeine, while it does stimulate every nerve in the body, including the urinary tract, it is not a diuretic. When using creatine, people are often told of its water drawing properties and that hydration must be increased. The average amount of water intake should be increased by about 16 oz., at the least. If you are consuming this extra 16 oz., then adding caffeine to the mix should in no way add to this dehydration.
Most recent information agrees with the second study in 1998 that says it really just doesn’t do anything. When measuring performance where repeated short-term muscle contractions are the concern there is no difference between Creatine or Creatine + Caffeine.
You must take into account several factors when you delve into this argument. The first issue is that although some studies brazenly concur that we people are exactly the same, and treat each as duplicates, people are not. Some people have an incredible reaction to creatine, some do not. Some people have been drinking caffeine daily for years and some avoid it altogether. How can a study be accurate when this is the case? It cannot. The combination of reactions to caffeine or creatine or caffeine and creatine together is different from one person to the next. People digest and metabolize things at different rates. Some don’t digest them at all. Some are hypersensitive and have the most incredible reaction to the tiniest thing. There is really no way to know specifically how you personally will react. Medications can also be an issue as well as how well your body produces or doesn’t produce creatine. So many different areas for variation, it is almost impossible to know for sure.
What we do know for sure, is how creatine works. Creatine is like rocket fuel for the body builder. Increases ATP and gives you an energy burst. Again, this varies from person to person but the majority who use it do get this energy burst that is significant and improves their performance. Caffeine works on the nervous system and stimulates every inch of it. This effect varies from person to person. Some can have a tiny amount and bounce off the walls while others have built a tolerance and it takes a lot more to get the stimulant effect.
The best advice would be to try it and monitor yourself. If you have been taking creatine sans caffeine and really know the reaction your body has to it, then test it with a dose of caffeine and wait and see. Has the energy level usually produced by creatine waned at all? Has it increased? The idea that caffeine will increase the action of creatine is just not possible – they work on two completely different areas of the body. But, as stated before, you may react differently and maybe the caffeine helps you stay focused and alert which allows you to have a better workout. Why not try creatine before and caffeine after. There are many combinations you can try and ultimately no one knows how your body works like you do.
If you have medications that you have been prescribed, you should consult the prescribing physician about drug interactions or medication contraindications before adding another substance to your training program. Some prescription medications are not to be taken with caffeine (such as thyroid medications) as they have a negative reaction. Always check with your doctor.
The more advanced research becomes, and the more the knowledge of the human body increases, the more answers will be made available. Exacting studies of the body’s reactions may lead to a definitive answer some day. Most, if not all, of the present day research suggests that no reaction between the two happens and that they are safe to mix if you would like to.
If you have been taking creatine without caffeine, then there is no reason to start now. No added bonus effects for your workout will be felt. If it is a matter of convenience and you would really like to add creatine to your cup of coffee in the morning, then have at it. (The temperature of the coffee actually may help to dissolve the creatine better for faster absorption – but again, this is an individual reaction, not 100% for all). Caffeine is classified as an addictive drug but is rarely seen as more than an additive to drinks and food. For your overall body health, why bother? Water is free and is exactly what your body needs in training.
Technically there is not a right or wrong answer. No yes or no to clear this argument forever. Just remember it is your body – you only get the one – so do what is best for your body and overall health.