Should You Take Creatine Before or After Workout?

Whether you currently take creatine or are considering it, you’ve likely found yourself wondering the great debate: should you take it before or after your workout? 

The ideal time to take creatine will vary on workout and non-workout days however, most research agrees that taking creatine shortly before or after exercise is best, so do what works best for you. Read on to learn more.

Key Takeaways 

  • Creatine supplements can help increase muscle strength and mass, boost exercise performance, and enhance post-exercise recovery.
  • Most researchers agree that creatine works best when taken either shortly before or shortly after exercise compared to taking it long before or after. 
  • On rest days, the timing of creatine is less important as the main goal is to continue to keep creatine stores high.
  • Whether you take creatine before or after your workout depends on your personal preference as there are not enough studies to support the benefit of one over the other. 
  • Taking large doses of creatine can cause uncomfortable side effects however these typically subside once you enter a maintenance phase.


How Creatine Works for Your Muscles

Creatine is one of the most popular and well-researched sports supplements on the market. Studies have found this supplement can help to provide a variety of benefits including increasing muscle strength and mass, boosting exercise performance, and enhancing post-exercise recovery [1, 2, 3, 4, 5].

But how does it work? 

Creatine is naturally found in your body’s muscle tissue. It helps to produce energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) for muscle contraction during intense exercise. Supplementing with creatine helps to boost phosphocreatine stores in our muscle which helps you to produce more ATP.

To put it simply, the more energy you have in your muscles the heavier you will be able to lift, the more reps you’ll be able to do before getting fatigued, and the more muscle you’ll be able to build [6, 7].

Additionally, some studies have found creatine may help to reduce muscle breakdown and increase satellite-cell signaling to repair and build new muscle tissue post-exercise [8, 9].

Best Time to Take Creatine According to Research

The best time to take creatine will vary on workout days and rest days. 

When it comes to workout days, the jury is still out on the best time to take creatine. Research studies on this are limited however, most researchers agree that creatine works best when taken either shortly before or shortly after exercise compared to taking it long before or after [10].

On rest days, the timing of creatine is less important because it is less impactful. 

The main goal of taking creatine on rest days is to continue to keep creatine stores high. Therefore, you can take it any time you want on these days but it may be beneficial to take it with a meal that contains both carbs and protein [11].

Should I Take Creatine Before or After a Workout?

As mentioned above, it’s ideal to take creatine shortly before or after a workout. While there is no hard and fast rule to this, creatine should be taken within 30 minutes to an hour of exercise. 

It’s hypothesized that creatine works best when timed closely with exercise due to the increase in blood flow. This can help more efficiently deliver creatine to the muscle tissue [12].

Aside from that, whether you take it before or after your workout depends on your personal preference as there are not enough studies to support the benefit of one over the other. So, do what feels best for you or works best for your routine.

Benefits of Creatine Before a Workout

Creatine helps to provide energy to your muscle tissue, allowing you to push yourself harder during your workout without getting fatigued. This increase in performance can help you to boost your muscle mass and better meet your goals.

Taking your creatine before exercise may help to boost this energy for better performance, especially if combined with a pre-workout or caffeine. However, if you prefer to work out in the evening, this may not be a good combination. 

Additionally, there are limited studies to support taking creatine before exercise as being superior to performance compared to taking it after.

Benefits of Creatine After a Workout

Taking your creatine post-workout may help to better fuel recovery. However, as with taking creatine before exercise, there are limited studies available to support any significant differences between the two different times. 

Taking creatine after a workout may be helpful for those who already take protein post-workout and want to combine their supplements.

Can You Consider Creatine a Pre-Workout?

You can take creatine as a pre-workout supplement however, it may not work the same as your traditional pre-workout. While creatine helps to provide energy to your muscles to fuel performance improvements, this comes from consistent intake of creatine to keep those levels high while pre-workout helps you to feel more alert and focused during exercise. 

Don’t get me wrong, you can use creatine as a pre-workout, you can even combine it with your favorite pre-workout. However, you may feel more energized before your workout from taking a pre-workout supplement as these typically contain caffeine or other stimulants. 

If you already take creatine consistently, there’s no need to move it to before your workout routine as the differences will be nil to none. However, if you move creatine to post-workout and opt to add in a pre-workout supplement, you may notice even greater improvements in energy during your next gym sesh.

What is the Best Way to Take Creatine?

Creatine is typically found in powdered supplements but is also available in capsules, gummies, and liquids. Powdered creatine supplements should be mixed into a liquid, such as water or juice.

A common side effect of creatine can be bloating, upset stomach, diarrhea, and gas. This typically occurs during the loading phase where you may be taking larger doses of creatine (20-25g) for a short period (5-7 days) [13]. 

If you want to avoid these uncomfortable side effects, you can skip the loading phase altogether. Most noted no side effects with taking the normal dosage of creatine which is about 2-5 grams per day.

If you still wish to take a loading dose, these uncomfortable side effects will likely cease once you begin the maintenance phase.

Additionally, creatine can cause dehydration if you don’t consume enough water while taking larger doses. Be sure to drink plenty of water while taking this supplement to avoid this. 

What Can I Mix With Creatine for the Biggest Strength Boost?

If you are wanting to maximize your creatine to build strength, consider mixing it with a whey protein powder. Both of these supplements have been shown to provide significant boosts in strength when taken in combination with regular resistance exercise [14, 15].

While both of these supplements work differently, they can complement each other to maximize muscle mass and strength.

FAQs About Creatine Supplementation

Can I Take 20g of Creatine at Once?

You can safely take 20 grams of creatine monohydrate in one sitting. This is a common dose seen in creatine loading however, it is encouraged to only do this for a short period.

The normal recommended dose of creatine is between 2-5 grams per serving. Once you have completed creatine loading there is no need to continue with large doses of creatine as you can no longer increase your muscle's creatine levels any further. Instead, opt for a maintenance dose of 2-5 grams per day to keep your levels up.

Additionally, large doses of creatine may cause uncomfortable side effects such as bloating and digestive discomfort in some.

Should I Take Creatine Everyday or Every Workout?

To keep your muscle creatine stores up, you should be taking creatine daily, even on rest days. However, taking creatine is especially important on workout days as this is when you will notice the biggest impact. 

Although it’s not required to take creatine every day to notice results, it will provide the biggest benefit. In fact, taking creatine on rest days can help to boost post-exercise recovery.

Bottom Line

Creatine can be a beneficial supplement to help you build muscle mass and strength as well as improve exercise performance and recovery. 

Studies agree that creatine works best when taken shortly before or after exercise while you are experiencing increased blood flow. The timing on rest days is less impactful but overall it is encouraged to take creatine consistently to maintain your stores for optimal benefits.

Creatine can be used as a part of your pre-workout routine or post-workout recovery and it compliments other supplements well, such as whey protein and pre-workout supplements. 

So if you aren’t sure if you’re taking your creatine at the right time, don’t fret. There’s no hard and fast rule for the best time to take creatine. Just make sure you get it in sometime before or after you hit the gym.

Also Read: How Long Does it Take for Creatine to Work?