Creatine monohydrate is a supplement that has become very popular over the last few years. Creatine helps increase muscle mass and strength.
The problem is that some people don’t know when to take creatine.
Creatine provides higher levels of energy during workouts and increases muscle size, and this is why it has become so popular with bodybuilders and extreme athletes.
A popular time to take creatine is right after you wake up in the morning. This allows your body to absorb the creatine into your muscles, yet some people prefer taking it much closer to exercising.
In this article, we look at creatine and its benefits in closer detail, but most importantly, when the best time to take it is.
What Is Creatine?
Creatine is an organic compound found naturally in meat, fish, dairy products, eggs, and vegetables. It’s also used as a food additive and can be purchased in supplement form.
The main function of creatine is to help build muscle tissue by increasing the amount of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) within cells.
ATP is the primary source of energy for all living things. When you exercise, your body breaks down ATP to give you energy.
If there are not enough ATP molecules available, then your body will use other sources such as fat or sugar.
If you want to build more muscle, then you need to ensure that you have plenty of ATP available to power your workout.
You do this by consuming foods rich in creatine, or by taking a creatine supplement.
How Does Creatine Work?
To understand how creatine works, you first need to understand what happens when you exercise.
During exercise, your body produces lactic acid which builds up in your muscles. Lactic acid causes your muscles to burn, making them feel sore.
Lactic acid builds up because your muscles cannot produce enough oxygen to meet their demand. As a result, they begin to break down ATP to provide energy.
Once your muscles start breaking down ATP, your body begins to consume glycogen from your liver and converts it into glucose. Glucose is then converted into lactic acid.
This is where creatine comes in. By providing extra ATP, creatine prevents your muscles from using up all of the available ATP.
This means that you can work out longer without feeling tired. Your muscles will still get the same benefit from working out, but now they won’t run out of ATP before the end of your session.
When Do I Take Creatine?
When to take creatine depends on personal preference and when you plan on exercising that day. There are three options.
It should either be taken about 30 minutes before exercising, shortly after you exercise, or even at a time that is not as close to when you are exercising.
You could also split your dose into smaller doses, and take it throughout the day.
Creatine is one of the recommended things to take for muscle recovery so taking it near the workout may help you recover faster. It could also lead to more muscle mass and strength gains, but splitting your daily dose into smaller doses throughout the day may make it easier to remember to take it.
There is limited research available on the time to take creatine and there are no reliable differences reported that it is more beneficial taking it before or after exercise.
That being said, there was one study that suggested taking creatine after exercise could be more beneficial.
This was proven via a four-week study into creatine and bodybuilders where the bodybuilders trained five days a week, seeing more of an increase in lean mass and a decrease in fat mass when taking the supplement post-workout.
However, other research has reported no difference and therefore it is hard to provide a definite answer. The most important thing is taking it, as long as you remember to do so, the time is not as important!
How Near Exercise Should I Take Creatine?
Although we have told you that you can take creatine before or after exercise, it seems to end up that taking it shortly before or after provides better results than taking it long before exercise.
One study using two groups saw that the group who supplemented closer to exercising gained more muscle and strength than the group who took it at night and in the morning.
This means you could take your whole dose after or before your exercise, or split it to take half before you exercise and half afterward to see the best results.
Should I Take Creatine On Rest Days?
Supplementation on rest days is likely less important than on exercise days, but the goal of supplementing on rest days is to keep the creatine level of your muscles elevated.
The loading phase should be done before you start to take supplements regularly. A loading phase is done by taking approximately 20 grams for 5 days.
This increases the creatine content in your muscles over these five days at a steady pace.
After that, a maintenance dose of 3-5 grams daily is recommended.
When you reach a maintenance dose, the purpose of taking creatine on rest days is to maintain the higher levels of creatine in your muscles.
However, the timing of when you take it on a rest day is less important. It may, however, be beneficial to take it with a meal.
What Should I Take With Creatine?
Studies have shown that consuming carbs with creatine can increase how much is taken up by your muscles.
However, other studies have proven that adding carbs provides no extra performance benefits.
Some of these studies used doses of around 100 grams of carbs which equals about 400 calories, but since there is no evidence it helps to take it with carbs, it’s not worth it, as eating this much every time you take a dose could lead to weight gain over time.
Instead, you could always take creatine when you would normally eat a meal containing carbs if you did want to see if it had extra performance benefits.
You should also add protein into this meal, as protein and amino acids can increase how your body retains creatine.
Benefits Of Taking Creatine
There are many reasons why you should consider taking creatine. Here are just a few:
Increased Muscle Mass
One of the biggest benefits of taking creatine is increased muscle mass.
Improved Strength And Endurance
Another benefit of taking creatine is improved endurance. Research shows that creatine supplementation can improve both short-term and long-term strength and endurance.
In one study, participants were given either creatine or placebo pills for eight weeks. The results showed that those who took creatine had significantly greater improvements in strength than those who didn’t.
Better Recovery From Exercise
Taking creatine can also help with recovery. One study showed that athletes who supplemented with creatine recovered faster from intense workouts than those who did not.
Better Performance On Longer workouts
Finally, studies suggest that creatine may improve performance on longer workouts.
In one study, cyclists were given either creatine or a placebo pill for four days before a race.
They found that those who took creatine performed better during the race.
We hope after reading this article you have learned all you need to know about creatine and most importantly, when is the best time to take it.
Although there is not much evidence around if timing can increase performance benefits, it’s ideal to take it closely before or after you exercise as this can often provide you with the best results.
Remember, never take more than the recommended dosage when taking supplements and always follow instructions on the supplement’s label!