Author: James O’Sullivan • Fact checked by: Gainful Registered Dietitians • Aug. 1, 2022
If you’re looking to add a nutritional supplement to your daily routine, creatine is a great choice to boost athletic performance and increase muscle mass.
Creatine is an important amino acid that’s popular in the fitness world due to its muscle-strengthening benefits: It helps support short energy bursts, the power output of muscle, recovery and increases in lean body mass. Typically, people who supplement with creatine are looking for greater gains in lean muscle mass, muscle strength for their resistance, interval and strength training workouts.
However, getting the benefits of creatine requires the proper absorption of creatine.
While there is no bad time to take creatine, the supplement may be more effective when taken at certain times of the day and under certain conditions.
Read on for our recommendation for when to take creatine.
Creatine is an amino acid derivative that is formed from two amino acids, glycine and arginine. Amino acids are substances that form the foundation of protein, and they are sometimes referred to as the building blocks of life.
There are 20 different types of amino acids that your body needs to function. These molecules combine in different ways to create different types of protein. Some amino acids, known as nonessential amino acids, are produced in sufficient quantities by the body itself.
Others, known as essential amino acids, cannot be produced by the body and must be obtained through diet alone. Some amino acids may be considered nonessential in some cases but must be consumed through the diet in times of illness or stress. These are known as conditionally essential amino acids.
Your body naturally produces about one gram of creatine per day on its own. Although the body produces some creatine naturally, it is excreted daily. You can find creatine in many foods like beef and other red meat, chicken, milk, some seafood and cheese; however, the dose in these foods is very small. Also, creatine is found mostly in animal products, so vegetarians and vegans are at risk for low creatine levels in the muscle. The majority of your body’s creatine (about 95%) is stored in the cells of your muscles, where creatine helps produce a molecule known as ATP.
ATP is your body’s main fuel source at the cellular level. ATP is used to power you through basic functions, like breathing and digestion, as well as higher-level functions, like sprinting down the court in a basketball game. People who can produce more ATP generally have more strength and endurance than those who produce less.
Creatine is also found in the brain, liver, and kidneys, where it also helps produce ATP. Your brain needs enough creatine to create sufficient ATP to power its cells. Without enough creatine, your body struggles to produce ATP in the brain and may experience symptoms like poor concentration, increased fatigue, difficulty remembering, and issues with mood.
Due to the consistent excretion and the lack of creatine in most foods, many people choose to supplement creatine. Most creatine supplements are created from sarcosine and cyanamide, which are combined with other catalyst compounds to form creatine crystals. The creatine crystals are vacuum-dried and milled into a fine powder so they’re easily dissolved.
Gainful’s Creatine Performance Boost, for example, is sifted through a very fine sieve, which means that the particles dissolve and absorb easily, allowing the body to get and use the creatine it needs for optimal performance. People can mix fine creatine powder with their protein powder to create a drink that gives their muscles a boost and supports effective muscle gains and muscle recovery.
Creatine is critical for increasing muscle mass, boosting strength, increasing endurance, and improving athletic performance. As a result, it is popular with those who seek to improve their athletic performance and fitness with a nutritional supplement.
People who workout often know that post-workout lactic acid buildup and soreness happens, but creatine is able to counteract that effect. Creatine enhances energy production in your cells: The most basic form of energy in cells is adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is what your cells use to perform their various functions. ATP depletes quickly during exercise, but creatine helps replenish the ATP that’s lost. The more creatine your body has to use, the more energy your muscle cells have for exercise and post-workout recovery.
In terms of performance, creatine helps beginner and advanced athletes alike achieve a variety of fitness goals, from building muscle and strength gains to maintaining your goal weight. A creatine-saturated muscle enhances an athlete’s performance — especially for activities involving repeated high-intensity exercise. Supplementing with creatine increases the water content of your muscles, which allows the muscle to increase in size in a short amount of time and speed up the time it takes to increase lean body weight. Creatine also gives the body energy for sprints or surges in endurance events where the athlete wants to break away from the pack. Research shows that creatine is for all types of athletes of all different levels: Female and male bodybuilders, endurance athletes, gym-goers, sprinters — all athletes can use the benefits of creatine to achieve a number of different fitness and muscle growth goals.
Gainful offers our Creatine Performance Boost to support muscle strength, energy, recovery, and overall lean body mass. This product can also support short bursts of energy to fuel you through your workouts.
We also offer Personalized Pre-Workout, which contains creatine alongside l-citrulline for circulation, l-theanine for focus, and BCAAs for muscle recovery, and it is personalized based on your goals regarding muscle strength and endurance.
Taking a creatine supplement can help you build up your body’s reservoirs of the substance, which means your cells may be able to produce ATP for a longer period of time during your workout. As a result, you can build strength more quickly, notice improvements in endurance, and lift heavier weight.
The amount of creatine that your body can store varies from person to person. Contributing factors include your personal activity level, how much meat you eat, your current amount of lean muscle mass, and hormone levels.
If you’re hoping to achieve improvements in your athletic performance, you may be wondering when you should take creatine in order to maximize its effectiveness.
There are pros and cons to taking creatine at various times.
As noted above, creatine provides your body with energy that can help power you through a workout.
As a result, you might think that the best time to take creatine is right before a workout. It’s important to note that creatine does help increase your body’s available energy, but it acts differently than caffeine, a short-term stimulant.
Instead, creatine supplements improve your energy by building up the amount of available creatine stored in your muscle cells, which can then be used to produce ATP. This doesn’t happen quickly, especially compared to the jolt of energy you get after drinking a cup of coffee.
There is no conclusive evidence demonstrating that it is better to take creatine before a workout as opposed to after a workout. Instead, some studies indicate that there is no difference in effectiveness between the two.
What we do know is that it is better to take creatine right before a workout as opposed to several hours before a workout.
One study found that those who took creatine right before or after exercise increased their strength and muscle mass more than those who took the supplement several hours before or after their workout.
The best time to take creatine may be after a workout. Although some studies, as noted above, find no difference between creatine taken before or after a workout, others point to a notable benefit in taking the supplement after you exercise.
One study found that adult men who ingested five grams of creatine after weight training five days per week demonstrated more gains in lean muscle mass and lost more fat than those who took creatine before the workout.
However, as noted above, other studies indicate no significant difference between taking creatine before or after a workout. Instead, the evidence indicates that the timing of your creatine supplementation is more important; namely, you should take creatine shortly before or shortly after a workout rather than several hours before or after.
If taking a full dose of creatine at once causes gastrointestinal distress or other side effects, you will be happy to know that creatine can be equally effective when split into multiple doses.
For example, it’s possible to take half of your creatine dose shortly before a workout and half shortly after and obtain the same benefits.
Ideally, users should take creatine before their workout, or as close to their workout as possible (either right before or right after). If you are new to creatine and want to build up the level faster, 20 grams of creatine divided into 4 daily intakes of 5 grams in combination with carbohydrate and protein is recommended to “load” the muscle. The study notes that carbohydrate supplementation before exercise is essential to improve exercise performance.
Before beginning your workout, try adding a scoop of creatine to your protein drink, hydration formula or pre-workout. If you really want to load the muscles with creatine and the tendons with collagen before exercise, you should also consider taking a combination of creatine and collagen before your workout. There are many different types of creatine and collagen supplements on the market, but Gainful offers Performance Boost supplements of Creatine and Collagen that are designed to pair together.
Creatine loading is a strategy of creatine supplementation that involves taking very small doses of creatine, multiple times a day, for a set period of time. The idea behind this is that this dosing schedule works to build up the body’s creatine stores, after which point a person can experience maximum benefits.
General recommendations suggesting taking 20g of creatine each day for creatine loading, split into doses of 10g or less, taken throughout the day. After the loading period, an athlete would continue supplementation with lower, maintenance doses as a means of sustaining their creatine stores.
Studies show that creatine loading is not technically necessary in order to increase the amount of creatine in your body, meaning you will likely achieve results to some extent even without a loading phase. However, it all comes down to what works best for you as an individual.
The exact timing for taking your creatine on rest days is not as important as timing on exercise days; however, you still want to supplement on rest days to keep the creatine content of muscles elevated. To really see the benefits of creatine, it needs to be taken daily.
It’s true creatine does have a bit of a bad reputation due to its common side effects, which include bloating — especially if you’re not working out that day. People who use creatine but don’t engage in regular or intense physical activity may find creatine leads to weight gain or a bloated appearance.
When it comes to avoiding side effects, the ingredients and processing used to create your creatine formula can be a game-changer. The Creatine Performance Boost’s supreme absorbency along with its vegan, keto, paleo, non-GMO, cGMP, gluten-free, no sugar added, HPLC-tested, micronized formula is what allows Gainful’s creatine to stand out among the rest. Users can get all the benefits of creatine, without those unwanted side effects.
If you don’t work out every day, you may be wondering how to approach creatine supplementation on rest days. The good news is that you can relax; creatine supplementation timing is considered much less important on rest days than workout days.
On rest days, any creatine you ingest is simply used to increase your body’s stores of the substance and is not used as immediate fuel.
You attain the maximum benefits from creatine supplementation when you allow time for the substance to build up in your muscles. Some studies show that you may gain an advantage from a strategy called “creatine loading.”
During this process, a person consumes large amounts of creatine (about 20 to 25 grams per day) for a total of five days. This strategy boosts your muscle stores of creatine and helps maximize your body’s ability to produce ATP. After completing the loading period, the person returns to normal consumption levels of three to five grams of creatine per day.
If you open your medicine cabinet, you’re likely to find that plenty of medications and supplements provide guidance as to whether to take the product with or without food. Several studies have been conducted that examine whether creatine is more effective when ingested with certain ingredients, such as protein, carbohydrates, and amino acids.
Numerous studies have examined the effectiveness of creatine when combined with ingredients like carbohydrates, protein, and amino acids. Some studies have found no link between the combination of creatine and food, while others have shown that the body absorbs creatine more easily when it is consumed with carbohydrates.
These studies used relatively high amounts of carbohydrates in their testing, an average of 100 grams or about 400 calories. The human body needs carbohydrates in order to function properly, but your body composition goals could be thrown off if you end up consuming extra carbohydrates and taking in more calories than you burn.
As a result, it’s recommended that you consume creatine with a carb-heavy meal or snack that you were already planning on eating rather than adding additional carbohydrates into your diet. It likely won’t hurt to make sure that meal has some protein as well, since some studies have found that ingesting creatine with protein and amino acids may help your body to store creatine more effectively.
There is no conclusive scientific evidence that points to the most advantageous time to take creatine. However, some studies have pointed to a possible advantage when the supplement is taken shortly after a workout. Others have indicated that your body may store creatine more readily when paired with carbohydrates and protein.
Our recommendation for when to take creatine is shortly after a workout with a combination of carbohydrates and protein. At Gainful, we recommend using our Creatine Performance Boost between 30 and 90 minutes either before or after exercise for maximum effectiveness.
Think you could benefit from creatine supplementation? Find out by taking Gainful’s quiz. Gainful’s quiz was designed by a team of experts who can analyze and review your answers to determine a complete sports nutrition that’s right for you. From a personalized protein powder to a personalized pre-workout to a personalized hydration formula to a personalized creatine — all dosages and formulas are designed with your body and your goals in mind.
Our experts have the skills and experience to figure out what nutrients will best support your lifestyle and fitness goals. We take every dietary restriction and preference into consideration, whether you’re plant-based, keto, lactose-free, etc. If you’re already a part of the Gainful family and have the basics of your nutrition system set, the Creatine Performance Boost can be conveniently added on to your order.
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