best time to take creatine

What’s the Best Time to Take Creatine? – [2022]

Creatine is the most popular sport supplement in the market. It's safe, cheap, and effective. In this post; what's the best time to take creatine?

Are you ready? Scroll down!!

What’s Creatine?

Creatine is an organic non-protein compound found naturally in nature. It's involved in the phosphagen energy system (study), providing short-term energy to your body.

Creatine provides a phosphoryl group to ADP to form ATP, main metabolic energy currency (study).

Phosphocreatine is rapidly depleted during intense exercise, with almost complete depletion after 3min (study).

Creatine supplementation increases muscle creatine (study). Supplementing with creatine can improve anaerobic energy production and increase training performance and muscle fatigue (study)(study)

Why Should You Take Creatine?

Creatine works. Thousands of studies have investigated the safety and evidence of creatine, concluding creatine to be a cheap, safe, and effective supplement to help build muscle and improve your performance.

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Improves Strength

Creatine increases intramuscular creatine, improving anaerobic energy systems (study). It also upregulates anabolic pathways related to muscle hypertrophy (study).

In this meta-analysis done with over 700 participants, there was an increase in muscle strength in both upper and lower limbs on the group supplementing with creatine (study)

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Creatine Increases Muscle Mass

Creatine favours muscle building (study).

It provides energy to your body, allowing to increase the intensity and duration of your trainings. This will consequently lead to muscle growth.

Creatine upregulates mTOR and affect myogenic processes (study). Additionally, it could increase the proliferation and differentation of satellite cells (study).

Other mechanisms by which creatine increase muscle growth is by reduction of ROS species (study) and downregulating myostatin (study)

Creatine Prevents Muscle Loss

Creatine can help you prevent muscle loss. In other words, it has anticatabolic effects on the muscle.

Creatine reduces increased oxidative stress after acute exercise (study). Excess oxidative stress increases protein breakdown and muscle loss (study).

ROS species can also upregulate muscle breakdown by making myofibrilles more susceptible to catabolic markers and accelerating protein degradation (study)

In this review, there was a significant difference on the muscle mass preserved of the supplementation group when compared to the placebo (study).

TAKE-HOME MESSAGES

  • Creatine is a safe and effective supplement

  • Creatine improves muscle strength by increasing intramuscular phospocreatine and enhancing anerobic energy production

  • Muscle hypertrophy is upregulated by creatine supplementation

  • Creatine can be used to preserve muscle mass during inmobilization or circumstances of high risk of muscle loss.

How Do You Take Creatine?

Creatine works by accumulation in the muscle cell.  It needs of 21-28 days to increase muscle creatine by 20-40% and start see really ergogenic effects (study).

There are two main protocols to take creatine: linear and loading-phase.

Linear Dose Protocol

Here, subjects simply take 0.03-0.1g/kg daily creatine, showing increased muscle creatine after 20 days (study).

Once the muscle stores are filled up, you could drop creatine dose by 3-5g/kg, which mantains muscle creatine levels (study)

This protocol doesn't overwhelm your body with too high doses, and it's easy to follow.

However, it takes longer than the loading-phase protocol to increase muscle creatine (study)

Phase-Loading Protocol

During the phase-loading protocol, start by taking 20g/d creatine divided in 4 doses of 5g for 7 days. After, drop the dose to 3-6g/kg/d to mantain muscle creatine stores (study).

This protocol, compared to the linear model, increases creatine store levels much faster (study). However, it may cause abdominal pain, bloating, or mild headaches.

How To Take Creatine

Both protocols lead to the same end-point; increas muscle creatine levels.

The loading-phase model achieves the increase much faster than the non-loading phase, but big doses the first days may be a problem in terms of practicality and digestions for you.

If that doesn't work out, drop the dose to 3-6g/kg and remember to do it everyday! (creatine works by accumulation)

What’s The Best Time to Take Creatine?

Creatine is one of the most studied substances in the supplements industry. It works by accumulation. Hence, the most important factor here is to take it daily.

Acute intakes could have potential benefits as well. So, what's the best time to take creatine?

Popular believes: Any Time Works

This is what all people think. Creatine supplementation increases muscle creatine levels over time (study).

The effects are not noticeable right after the ingestion. It's the prolonged and routinary supplementation which increases muscle creatine levels (study).

What you are achieving with creatine supplementation is to induce a positive creatine balance. Creatine supplementation increases creatine in your body while there's a higher retention of creatine.

This leads to more "creatine in" than "creatine out".

What's the best time to take creatine

Creatine around Exercise

What if I take creatine during my workout, or before? What if I split the dose in two for my pre and post workout?

If you want to answer this questions, scroll down and find out what's the best time to take creatine.

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Exercise increases muscle creatine levels. In this study (study), creatine levels were higher on the leg that exercised compared to the resting leg.This suggests an upregulation of creatine metabolism due to the higher energy demands.

Exercise improves creatine metabolism by increasing muscle blood flow. The increased blood flow matches with the increased energy demands and improves nutrients and oxygen delivery to the muscle.

Exercise also improves Na+/K+ activity.This leads to a higher creatine uptake through muscle cell membrane (study).

Creatine transporter (CreaT) acts in Na+ gradient. Improved Na+/K+ flow increases CreaT activity, and higher creatine uptake.

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Creatine During Pre-Workout

Create reaches a maximum plasma concentration in 2h (study), and it remains elevated up to 4h post-ingestion (study).

In this study, the group close to exercise showed higher muscle creatine levels and a greater increase in muscle strength and muscle hypertrophy (study).

Pre-workout creatine ingestion could benefits your gains. Creatine reaches maximal concentration during exercise. This can further increase creatine delivery an uptake by muscle cells.

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Post-Workout Ingestion of Creatine

Timing affects creatine supplementation. Taking it around exercise could improve your gains and creatine efficiency.

But what's the best time to take creatine, before or after the workout?

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The answer is... post-workout creatine is more effective than pre-workout!! (study) (study).

Creatine improves glucose uptake by increasing levels of GLUT-4 (study). This improves the anabolic response and muscle recovery.

Creatine in your Intra-Workout

Is creatine best to take it during your workout?

There's no clear evidence about intra-workout creatine supplementation. In this study (study), the creatine group showed greater gains per time.

In this other study (study), there were no difference between on-set supplementation or placebo groups.

Taking creatine intra-workout could be a nice way of remembering to take it daily.

Conclusion

Creatine is the most popular supplement used in the fitness community. It shows a huge evidence and safety.

In this post we gave a brief introduction to what creatine does and why it works. But the question to answer was: what's the best time to take creatine?

Both pre- and post-workout show to be effective at maximizing creatine supplementation. But, if I had to go for one, I would  take it post-exercise. It's easy to remember, and the emerging evidence lines towards this protocol.

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