When to Take Creatine

March 4th, 2015
creatine monohydrate cycle

There are so many different opinions on when to take Creatine.  Log onto any health related website or weightlifting and/or bodybuilding website and they will all have their opinions.  Some will quote research, some will tell of personal results.  They are all right and wrong at the same time.  They are right in the fact that creatine will produce results but are wrong about a designated time being correct.

The Pre-Workout Theory:  The thought process behind this, though flawed, is understandable.  Unlike other supplements that work better before working out (such as whey), Creatine is not a designated pre-workout supplement.  The way Creatine works is that creatine helps boost the production of ATP, a natural energy source in your body.  ATP cannot be made without creatine.  In the muscles, creatine changes to phosphocreatine which converts to ATP.  ATP equals energy, so it is immediately thought that a pre-workout ingestion is best.  The actual effect of creatine – water being pulled into the muscle which increases mass, happens after that ATP boost, so, the results are noticed post-workout.  The forgotten factor in this is that creatine is naturally produced in your body and that the energy boost will happen no matter what – albeit a bit faster with creatine powder.

During The Workout Theory:  This theory, though not as popular as the pre and post theories, uses the energy boost as a tool while you work out.  Again, the thought of a boost is something most in training salivate over.  The truth is, this boost is short lived and not worth the hassle of trying to guzzle while you pump.  The difference is barely palpable.

The Post Workout Theory:  This is probably the most common theory due to a study done back in 2013 by the Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition.  The conclusion was “Creatine supplementation plus resistance exercise increases fat-free mass and strength. Based on the magnitude inferences it appears that consuming creatine immediately post-workout is superior to pre-workout Vis a Vis body composition and strength.” 

This sounds very conclusive, but, if you look closely – it isn’t.  Clumping all the data from the 19 participants together gives a false belief that post workout returns are greater than any other time.  If you look at the data on an individual basis, however, the difference isn’t there.  Miniscule at best and not any better than taking creatine at any other time.  It is a false representation based on convenient, yet inconclusive data.  So, discounting this report, there is no evidence that the post workout theory is best.

In the world of supplementation, there are so many factors that have to be considered.  Most of the issues turn out to be personal preference.  Everyone does it their own way – some follow the strict instructions on a can.  Some use a trial and error method to find what works best for them.  Some use information from internet blogs.  In this particular case, it is truly a personal decision and really it has no bearing on the effectiveness of the creatine supplement.  The creatine will do its thing – give energy, create muscle mass no matter when you take it.

Some find that it can be a bit rough on the stomach, so that may influence when they take it.  Some may use it as muscle recovery and take it before bed.  It is the one supplement that you can get all the benefits from, without having to take it at a certain time.

One important note about creatine is that whenever you decide to take it, you should remain constant to that schedule.  You want the dosage, approximately 5 grams a day, to be replenished every 24 hours.  Sticking to a schedule will keep things from getting complicated.  Not taking enough, will hamper your results and taking too much is a waste of your time and money.  Sticking to a specific time will help keep the creatine in your system and prevent you from under or over taking it.

The best thing that can be done for your workout is for you to pay attention.  You are spending time, effort and money to train your body.  The last thing you need to do is derail the process by messing up a routine and not paying attention to your body.  You may find that you really like taking the creatine before you work out – you feel like it helps.  Great! Go for it!  You may find that post – workout creatine is hard on your now empty stomach or you may not like the feeling you get from filling your stomach up with a creatine drink right after working out – or you may feel replenished by it.  You may not want to mess with mixing a drink during a day or trying to keep it on schedule – maybe your schedule does not allow a specific time for working out – just maybe taking it before bed might work for you.  You have the deciding vote on creatine.  Creatine is flexible.  It will work whenever you decide to take it.  Listen to your body – pay attention to how it reacts.  Try different times until you find the one that feels right to you.  Then, be diligent.

Creatine is proven time and time again to be a fantastic addition to your training.  Years of study and formulas and expense have gone into making sure it is a product that is safe as well as productive for your workout. It’s made by your body, naturally, so absorption isn’t even an issue.   This is one supplement you don’t have to get hung up on the timing of.  Take 100% pure creatine.  Anything but 100% creatine and you are wasting your time and worrying about when to take it won’t matter.  Stick with pure, no fillers, no colors, no dies.  Take the appropriate amount (usually in the 3 – 5g range).  Taking more than recommended is a waste of money – you’ll burn through a tub in no time and the results will be the same as if you had used a more conservative dose.  It doesn’t matter when you use it – just use it consistently and proportionally.