When should I take creatine? How much should I have to start? Is it okay to take it every day? These are all questions that many of us ask when we begin taking creatine for the first time, and it can be surprisingly tricky to find a straight answer.
Taking a new supplement can seem pretty daunting with the sheer amount of information that there is out there. It’s easy to slip into analysis paralysis with all of the conflicting opinions we can find online, and then we forever doubt if we are supplementing our creatine correctly.
If that sounds like you, then you have come to the right place. This article will break down the current research and look at what each camp says in regards to creatine consumption and tell you the optimal ways to take creatine to get the results you want.
Table of Contents
Why Take Creatine?
Creatine is one of the most popular fitness supplements on the market, with millions of people consuming it each year. It has become synonymous with bodybuilders and strength trainers looking to increase their power output and overall strength gains.
The creatine in your muscles is mainly used to helps you recover between sets. The more of it you have, the faster and more efficiently your muscles with recover, and the harder you can continue to train.
When you have a shorter recovery time, you can train your muscles that little bit harder in the gym and push yourself to new limits faster than you would have been able to naturally.
Contrary to popular belief, creatine isn’t some magical pill or powder that will increase your muscle mass. It merely allows you to train harder for longer with shorter recovery time. Over an extended period, these small improvements add up to be substantial power increases.
Taking Creating on Workout Days
For your body to feel the full benefit, it needs to receive the creatine supplement at the right time.
Here we will look into the best times to take creatine on a workout day. As these are the days that we will be working our muscles and requiring the stores of creatine, it makes sense for us to increase our levels these days.
Should I take it before or after working out?
So let’s break this one down to the basics. We have three options with taking creatine on a workout day. We either take the creatine before we workout, after we workout or sometime in the day other than that.
The research indicates that it is far better to take the creatine as close to your exercise as possible. Similar to protein, there appears to be a window of optimal benefit either side of training.
As far as the recent studies go, it is better to take creatine as close to the training as possible. Either immediately before or exercise. There is no clear evidence that suggests one or the other is better, just that it must be consumed close to the time of exercise.
What are the researchers saying?
Creatine has been the center of controversy in the fitness industry for quite some time, but the research now resoundingly points towards a host of positive benefits. The main one being strength gains from weight training programs and overall muscular health.
Interestingly, some recent studies show that creatine can give a significant benefit to people who are sleep deprived. One of the main issues that that lack of sleep gives us is a sharp drop of creatine in the brain.
If sleep-deprived people take a creatine supplement, it is said to have a similar effect to coffee, such as increased alertness and reduction in tiredness. This can be a big boost for those gym sessions following a night of little sleep.
Can I take it on rest days?
Taking creatine on rest days is far less important than taking it on training days. You will not see a significant difference in your overall results if you opt to take creatine on these days or not.
If you do decide to take creatine on rest days, then do not have to worry about the timing. As you will not be training your muscles, you will not need to have high levels of creatine in your tissues to produce excess ATP.
It is advised to take a lower dose (maintenance dose) of around 5g on your rest days. This will ensure that your creatine levels astay elevated and ready for your training in the following days.
Best ways to take creatine
If you take the creatine before your workout, then you are preloading your muscles with vital stores of creatine and aiding your ATP production.
ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) is one of the chemical compounds responsible for efficient contraction of the muscles and production of cellular energy. The more ATP you have in your muscles during a workout, the better.
If you take your creatine after your workout, then you are simply replenishing your muscles with the vital nutrients it needs. Your muscles will have been heavily depleted during your training, and the creatine will help to replenish and repair, ready to build more muscle.
When first starting with your creatine supplementation, you can start with a more significant ‘loading dose’ to quickly increase your baseline level. This is somewhere in the range if 10-20g depending on your body weight.
The loading period should last between 5-7 days. After this is completed, it is advised to move down to a maintenance dose of around 5g per day. This will allow you to supplement creatine for longer without facing any side effects.
In the past, creatine was often cited for causing people side effects such as post-workout cramps and kidney problems.
There have since been studies that have debunked these claims and declared creatine safe to take regularly, as long as you stay within the recommended dosing guidelines.
If you have suffered from kidney problems in the past or you are already taking a wide range of supplements, then it may be worth seeking advice from a doctor before starting on your loading dose.