When To Take Creatine: The Best Time To Take The Supplement

When  to Take Creatine Cover Photo

Creatine supplementation has become increasingly popular among fitness enthusiasts and athletes seeking to enhance their performance and muscle growth–but it's important to know when to take creatine for optimal results.


The truth is that creatine timing depends on your schedule and intended use for creatine. And as more uses for creatine come to light, like its potential nootropic benefits, the best time to take creatine becomes even more nuanced.


The best time to take creatine will vary on strength training days and maintenance days. There is some argument about whether it's best to take creatine before or after exercise. 


Not to worry–we’re going to explore the optimal timing for creatine intake to help you achieve maximum benefits from this powerful supplement. Let's get answers:

What is Creatine?

Creatine is a naturally occurring compound found in small amounts in animal products like meat and fish. It plays a vital role in providing energy to cells, particularly during high-intensity activities. 


Many people utilize creatine supplements to increase their creatine uptake. Creatine monohydrate is the most common form of creatine used. Vegan creatine supplements may be beneficial for vegetarians and vegans who do not naturally get creatine from food sources. 


When you consume creatine, it is converted into phosphocreatine in the body, which helps replenish adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the primary energy source for muscle contractions. This, in turn, may have a wide range of benefits, including:


  • Enhance muscle strength and power during high-intensity activities (2021 )

  • Increase muscle mass and hypertrophy ( 2022 )

  • Improve exercise performance, especially in short-duration, high-intensity activities like weightlifting and sprinting ( 2012 )

  • Accelerate post-exercise recovery, reducing muscle soreness and fatigue ( 2024 )

  • Enhance brain function and cognitive performance, particularly in tasks requiring short-term memory and decision-making ( 2023 )

  • Provide potential protective effects against neurological diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, although further research is needed to confirm these benefits ( 2014 )

  • Improve hydration status due to creatine's ability to increase water retention in muscle cells, which may benefit overall athletic performance and exercise endurance ( 2012 )

When’s the Best Time to Take Creatine According to Research?

Currently, most scientific evidence has focused on the potential benefits and side effects of creatine supplementation and there isn’t much evidence to help us understand when’s the best time to take it.


Existing studies have conflicting results, likely due to different methods used and unique participant characteristics. Therefore, adjusting creatine intake based on exercise timing isn't currently backed by strong evidence. 


It’s a better idea to adjust your creatine dosage based on your personal lifestyle factors and remain open to changing your dosage as you see how your body responds.


Here’s what current research says about when to take creatine:

Before Exercise vs After Exercise

Research examining the optimal timing of creatine supplementation in relation to exercise has yielded conflicting results. One study investigated whether consuming five grams of creatine before exercise yielded superior outcomes compared to consuming it after exercise.


Over the course of a four-week study period, adult men engaged in weight training five days per week while consuming creatine either before or after exercise. The group that ingested creatine after exercise demonstrated greater increases in lean mass and strength.


However, other studies ( 2014 , 2015 ) have reported no significant differences between pre- and post-exercise supplementation.


Consequently, based on the current body of research, there is insufficient evidence to conclusively determine whether taking creatine before exercise offers distinct advantages over taking it after exercise. 


Some people believe that taking creatine before working out can help to prevent creatine weight gain, but there is no evidence to support this claim.  

Supplementing Near Exercise Times

Other research suggests that supplementing with creatine shortly before or after exercise may confer greater benefits than supplementing at other times of the day. 


In a 10-week study , participants received a dietary supplement containing creatine, carbohydrates, and protein while engaging in weight training. The study divided participants into two groups: one group consumed the supplement close to exercise, while the other group consumed it in the morning and evening, well before or after exercise sessions.


Ultimately, the group that ingested the supplement close to exercise experienced greater gains in muscle mass and strength. This suggests that timing creatine intake close to exercise may be more effective than consuming it at other times of the day.

Maintenance Days:

Supplement timing on rest days likely holds less significance compared to exercise days. During the initial phase of creatine supplementation, known as the loading phase, individuals typically consume higher doses (approximately 20 grams) for around five days to rapidly increase muscle creatine levels.


Following this loading phase, a lower daily maintenance dose of 3–5 grams is recommended . The purpose of supplementing on rest days is simply to sustain elevated creatine levels in the muscles.


While the timing of this maintenance dose may not significantly impact its effectiveness, taking the supplement with a meal may be advantageous, as it could enhance absorption. Overall, the timing of creatine intake on rest days is unlikely to have a substantial effect on its efficacy.


When to Take Creatine Based on the Results You Want

If you’re ready to get started with your creatine supplementation regimen, there are a few times throughout the day that may be best for working in your creatine dose, depending on your overall goals and lifestyle. Here are some good options:

Creatine as Pre-Workout

Taking creatine before a workout can help increase phosphocreatine levels in the muscles, leading to improved strength, power, and endurance during exercise. Creatine is a great nootropic pre-workout and can be used alongside other performance-enhancing supplements. 


Dosage Recommendations

  • A typical pre-workout dosage ranges from 3 to 5 grams, taken 30 minutes to an hour before exercise.

Creating for Post-Workout

Consuming creatine after a workout can aid in muscle recovery and replenish depleted energy stores, promoting muscle growth and adaptation.


Dosage Considerations

  • Similar to pre-workout supplementation, a dosage of 3 to 5 grams is recommended for optimal results.

Timing for Non-Training Days/ Maintenance Dosing

On non-training days, many people benefit from a maintenance dose. This dose may be best taken with food to eliminate any potential digestive upset. However the timing is not as important if you aren’t planning to exercise.


Dosage Considerations

  • On rest days when you're not exercising, a lower maintenance dose of 3 to 5 grams can help sustain elevated creatine levels in the body.

Timing for Cognitive Support

In addition to its physical benefits, creatine may also support cognitive function. For cognitive support, smaller doses of creatine taken consistently in the morning may promote mental clarity, focus, and cognitive performance throughout the day.


Dosage Considerations

  • A small morning dose of 2 grams may help to boost cognitive function without drawbacks.


Factors That Affect Creatine Efficacy and Timing

Individual Differences

Individual factors such as body composition, metabolism, and genetics can influence how individuals respond to creatine supplementation. Some people may experience more significant benefits than others.

Type of Creatine Supplement

There are various forms of creatine supplements available, including creatine monohydrate, creatine ethyl ester, and creatine hydrochloride. Each type may have different absorption rates and effectiveness. You can also consider adding foods rich in creatine, like meat and fish, to your diet to increase your creatine intake. 

Exercise Regimen and Goals

Your exercise routine and specific fitness goals should also be taken into account when determining the best timing for creatine intake. Whether you're focused on muscle building, strength training, endurance, or cognitive function, the timing of creatine supplementation can play a significant role in achieving your objectives.

Sleep Sensitivity

Some individuals find that creatine affects their sleep, especially when taken too late in the day. However, this is a rare side effect. Monitor changes in your sleep to help you alter your creatine dosage time. 

Loading Phase vs. Maintenance Phase

Some individuals may opt for a loading phase during the first week of supplementation, where higher doses (around 20 grams per day) are consumed to saturate muscle creatine stores, followed by a maintenance phase of 3 to 5 grams per day thereafter.


There is no difference in timing for creatine dosage in loading or maintenance phases–the only difference is the dosage amount.

Practical Tips for Optimal Timing


  • Consistency is Key: Stick to a regular creatine supplementation schedule to maximize its benefits over time.

  • Individual Experimentation: Explore various timing strategies to discover the most effective approach for your body and fitness objectives.

  • Consulting a Healthcare Professional or Nutritionist: Seek advice from a healthcare provider or nutrition specialist to customize your creatine supplementation plan based on your unique requirements and situation.


Conclusion

In conclusion, timing plays a crucial role in maximizing the benefits of creatine supplementation for both physical performance and cognitive function. By understanding the best times to take creatine and considering individual factors and goals, you can optimize its effectiveness.


Remember to approach creatine supplementation with a personalized mindset, and always consult professionals for personalized advice. As research continues to uncover new insights into creatine's potential, the future holds promise for further advancements in supplementation strategies and applications.




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Resources


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  2. “Creatine supplementation post-exercise does not enhance training-induced adaptations in middle to older aged males” https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00421-014-2866-1

  3. “CREATINE SUPPLEMENTATION ALTERS THE HORMONAL RESPONSE TO RESISTANCE EXERCISE” https://www.webofscience.com/wos/woscc/full-record/WOS:000279896700003?SID=USW2EC0A26WF27O7Hn5oztRZgNLJq

  4. “Effect of Creatine and ß-Alanine Supplementation on Performance and Endocrine Responses in Strength/Power Athletes” https://journals.humankinetics.com/view/journals/ijsnem/16/4/article-p430.xml?content=abstract

  5. “The effects of creatine supplementation on muscular performance and body composition responses to short-term resistance training overreaching” https://journals.humankinetics.com/view/journals/ijsnem/16/4/article-p430.xml?content=abstract

  6. “Effects of short term creatine supplementation and resistance exercises on resting hormonal and cardiovascular responses” https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0765159715000039?via%3Dihub

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  8. “International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine’ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5469049/

  9. “Effects of supplement timing and resistance exercise on skeletal muscle hypertrophy” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17095924/

  10. “Timing of Creatine Supplementation around Exercise: A Real Concern?” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8401986/

  11. “Strategic creatine supplementation and resistance training in healthy older adults” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25993883/

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  13. “The effects of pre versus post workout supplementation of creatine monohydrate on body composition and strength” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23919405/



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