It is a fact that creatine increases energy levels, improves anaerobic performance and speed, increases strength and improves lean muscle mass gains, when combined with regular workouts. But there’s still a doubt about the best moment to take it. There are different opinions on studies about creatine. Some people say that creatine works better if it’s taken before working out, claiming it might give you more energy during a physical activity period. Others believe that, when taken after working out, creatine will be better absorbed, once it will mix with high glycemic index carbs and bring bigger muscle gains, both in strength and muscle mass. There are also those who believe it’s better to take creatine in different moments, during the day.
A study published in 2013 focused on analyzing the differences between taking creatine before and after working out and focused also on realizing which time was the best time to take it, in order to make it more efficient when it comes to physical results. Nineteen bodybuilders were tested. They worked out for 4 weeks, 5 days a week. They followed the same diet plan, a diet high in protein. Half of them took 5g of creatine right before working out and the other half took 5g right after working out during the study period. On the 2 days when they didn’t work out, each one took creatine on a time of day of their choice.
After 4 weeks, the athletes who took creatine after working out presented muscle mass gains and an increase in resistance (the maximum weight (1MR) they could lift in the bench press increased more than 1kg), comparing to those who took creatine before working out.
What you should do is try to understand how your body reacts to certain methods and chose a strategy that adapts to your physical condition, because each body is different.
Creatine is taken in a liquid form, mixed with about 250ml of juice, milk or added to you protein or carb shake. You can start your creatine cycle in two different ways: there’s the loading phase that allows you to get results more quickly, although it is not imperative to do it. At this stage, you can take 4 servings of 5g of creatine during the first 5 days: in the morning, after lunch, in the afternoon and after dinner. Creatine is better absorbed when taken with juice, between meals.
You can also take it only once or twice a day and get the same results in the medium term. Taking more creatine than you should doesn’t mean you’re going to get more benefits. There are a few studies that prove that the body expels most of the creatine, if you take servings that are higher than 10g a day.
For instance, you can choose to take 5g of creatine in the morning and 5g after working out, mixing it with your shake (on workout days). On non-workout days, you just need to take 5g at breakfast. 5g of creatine is the equivalent to 1 teaspoon.
READ ALSO: 4 reasons to take creatine
The importance of cycling creatine
If you take creatine for more than two months, your body will stop synthesizing it in the liver and pancreas and will end up compromising muscle mass gains and the good functioning of your body; that’s why cycling creatine is so important. Take creatine for two months without stopping and take a one month break. After the break, start taking creatine for two more months again, and so on.
Most popular creatine cycles:
4 Week Cycle
Week 1, Loading Phase- 20g a day (4 servings x 5g).
Weeks 2-4, Maintenance Phase, 5-10g per day.
Weeks 5-8 – Pause.
9 Week Cycle
Week 1, Loading Phase- 20g a day(4 servings x 5g).
Weeks 2-7, Maintenance Phase, 5-10g per day.
Weeks 8-9 – Pause.
1. Avoid taking creatine if you’re trying to lose weight. Creatine provokes a natural weight increase, because your body will be retaining more fluids. When you lose weight, the body tries to eliminate the excess of fluids and the subcutaneous water, so it makes no sense to try to “fill in” the body when you’re trying to “empty” it. Save the creatine for when you decide you want to increase muscle mass.
2. Do not take creatine if you don’t exercise more than 3 times a week. If you don’t have a significant physical expenditure, your body doesn’t need the extra creatine. This way, your body will be expelling all of the creatine through your urine.
Fernando Ribeiro, A creatina funciona melhor depois do treino, 29th of December 2013, translation and adaptation of the original version
Heavy Health, Creatina: A Poção Mágica do Desporto, 6th of July 2010, translation and adaptation of the original version
Antonio J, Ciccone V., The effects of pre versus post workout supplementation of creatine monohydrate on body composition and strength., Journal of The International Society of Nutrition 10:36, August 2013
N/d, Creatine Supplements Guide: Learn How To Choose The Right Product, n/d, adaptation of the original version