The road to developing a functional and aesthetic physique is paved with training, eating, sleeping and last but not least, proper supplementation.
Supplements like creatine, for example, can help you improve athletic output and recover energy better, leading to more gains.
However, there are certain variables you need to monitor and adjust, in order to get the most benefit out of the product.
In this article, you are going to learn all about the optimal distribution of creatine and the best time to take it.
We are going to give you the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.
But first, let’s answer this very important question.
What is creatine?
When most people think of “Creatine” and “Protein”, what comes to mind are supplements.
But, as a matter of fact, no one realizes that creatine is a part of the energy-releasing processes of the body.
The main energy molecule that the body uses during intense physical activity, is called “Adenosine triphosphate (ATP)”.
Though ATP is the most potent source of biological energy, its reserves are relatively limited.
After about 8 seconds of intense muscular work, the ATP reserves are depleted.
That is exactly when creatine phosphate comes into play, getting into the energy cycle and restoring ATP for another 5-10 seconds of work.
In other words, creatine is the body’s secondary energy reserve.
And so you see, there is nothing unnatural about creatine, contrary to popular belief.
Creatine is the body’s natural, secondary immediate energy resource, used during intense activities.
Use of Creatine
If you follow the logic so far, you know where this goes.
Increased creatine storages mean that you will have more resources (energy) available to pump out extra, heavier repetitions.
That, in turn, leads to a greater overload and therefore, more muscle gains during periods of muscle building.
This is the exact reason why creatine is without a doubt the best-known fitness supplement.
A variety of researches has shown how sustained creatine intake of about 5 grams daily, can in fact massively improve athletic performance.
However, there are many questions that pop to mind when it comes to creatine.
One of the most common ones is about the timing of creatine intake.
Creatine before or after workout?
Should you take creatine before your training session or after it?
Well, to answer this question let’s breakdown the purpose of pre and post-workout supplements, after which, we can see how it matches with the effects of creatine.
There are a variety of pre-workout products available on the market, most of which, contain some type of stimulant.
Pre-workout supplements primarily aim to give you skin-bursting pumps, along with more focus, strength and endurance.
The effects of the ingredients in most pre-workout formulas kick in after about 30 minutes.
However, that is not the case with creatine.
Unlike the stimulants that give you a rush, creatine works with a build-up effect, meaning that it won’t work like caffeine for example.
Instead, by consistently supplementing with creatine, you will naturally increase strength and endurance.
Almost as if you have not taken anything.
Alright, you already learned that pre-workout supplements aim to maximize your athletic output.
A greater output means more energy expended, which therefore means a greater recovery demand.
This is exactly where post-workout supplements come into play.
You now know that creatine is one of the body’s two main energy resources.
That, in turn, makes isolated creatine one of the perfect products to facilitate post-workout recovery.
Nevertheless, you should also consider the fact that post-training recovery is a multitude of processes.
Creatine is far from the only thing which can help you with that type of recovery, but then again, it is an important part of the stack.
Pre-workout supplements aim to improve athletic output, while post-workout supplements have the main goal of improving recovery. This makes creatine suitable for both a pre-workout and post-workout supplement.
What is the best time to take creatine?
Our goal over at supplementnerd is not to just give you the most updated and scientifically backed info, but to also help you understand it.
That is exactly why we break down each and every piece of information.
Now, what did you learn so far?
Well, firstly, during intense workouts, the body uses it’s immediate energy reserves – ATP & Creatine.
ATP is the primary energy molecule and creatine is the secondary reserve.
Therefore, the bigger our creatine storages are, the stronger and longer you will be able to train.
But what is the best time to take your creatine?
Well, unlike pre-workout stimulant-based supplements, that grant short-lasting effects in about 30 minutes after intake, creatine works with a build-up effect as we already mentioned.
This is exactly why creatine can be taken during ANY time of the day and still be effective.
However, there is some research that shows the superiority of post-workout creatine intake, compared to pre-workout intake. (Check study HERE)
Nevertheless, taking it before a workout won’t completely erase the effects of it.
Creatine before AND after workout?
Whether you purchase creatine, protein or even a multivitamin supplement, odds are that you are going to want to use it the BEST way possible.
Specifically for creatine, that fact begs the question – Is the more the better? Should you take creatine before AND after workout?
Well, we are going to put it to you this way – The MOST important thing when it comes to creatine intake is the TOTAL amount.
That is to say that the timing of intake is pretty much the least important factor when the task at hand is reaping maximum benefits.
You can, in fact, take creatine both before and after a workout, but in the long term, the effects won’t really be better, compared to taking it on just one side of the training bout.
Taking creatine before and after a workout can be done at the beginning of your creatine cycle to do the so-called “Loading phase”.
During the loading phase, your creatine intake is doubled or tripled (10-15 grams a day) for 5 to 7 days.
While this won’t give you better increases in strength and endurance, you will see those improvements quicker.
Creatine before bed
Lastly, let us answer this question – Is creatine a suitable supplement to take before bed?
To answer this, let’s think out loud for a bit.
Sleeping is an 8-hour fasting period, during which we get the deepest and most powerful recovery throughout the entire 24-hour period of the day.
Most pre-bed supplements have a couple of goals:
1. Help you fall asleep easier
2. Facilitate deep sleep and make it last longer
3. Improve overall sleep quality
4. Maximize intra-sleep recovery
Specifically for creatine, there is no firm evidence that supports the fact it is beneficial for your sleep cycle.
That is to say that taking creatine before bed won’t really be any different than taking it in the morning or on both sides of the training bout.
Creatine is one of the most researched fitness supplements, that has been proven times and again to be effective.
It is, in fact, the only supplement that will give substantial strength and endurance gains in the long term.
Whether you decide to take it before or after a workout, or even with a meal, 5 grams of creatine monohydrate per day, will give you noticeable increases in athletic performance.
In the next article, we are going to talk about one of the commonly asked questions about creatine – Does it cause hair loss?