Should You Take Creatine Before or After Workout?

Whether you currently take creatine or are considering it, you've likely found yourself asking the same questions as thousands of others: should you take it before or after your workout? 

The ideal time to take creatine varies 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 about creatine timing and creatine supplementation in general.

Key Takeaways 

  • Creatine supplementation (generally in the form of creatine monohydrate) can help increase muscle strength and lean body 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, though 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 that creatine supplementation can lead to a variety of benefits including increased muscular strength, increased muscle growth, improved exercise performance, and enhanced post-exercise recovery.

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), which powers muscle contraction during intense exercise. Supplementing with creatine helps to boost phosphocreatine stores in muscle cells 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 easier it will be to build muscle and fat-free mass.

Some studies have also found creatine may help to reduce muscle breakdown and increase satellite-cell signaling to repair and build new muscle tissue post-exercise.

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 on this doesn't show any clear difference between pre-workout supplementation and post-workout supplementation.

Most researchers do agree, however, 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 because it is less impactful.

The main goal of taking creatine on rest days is to keep your creatine stores high. In this case, there's not really any difference if you take creatine in the morning, afternoon or night.

You can take it any time you want on rest days but studies show it may be beneficial to take it with a meal that contains both carbs and protein [11].

The study above showed that creatine retention was slightly increased if taken together with carbohydrates and/or amino acids; when taken alone, more creatine get excreted in the urine, so you may not get quite the same benefits from your creatine supplement.

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 skeletal muscle blood flow that happens with resistance training and high-intensity exercise.

By increasing blood circulation, particularly to the muscles, the body is able to deliver creatine to the muscle tissue more effectively.

However, there is not overwhelming data supporting the benefits of supplementing creatine specifically before or after working out, so ultimately it's down to personal preference and what fits best with your routine.

Benefits of Creatine Before a Workout

Creatine helps provide energy to your muscle tissue, allowing you to push harder and increase output during your workout for longer before you get fatigued.

This increase in performance can help you to put on more muscle mass from resistance training, and help you meet your body composition goals.

Creatine supplementation before exercise may help to boost energy and provide a better performance boost, 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.

One study in particular found a positive effect on strength and skeletal muscle hypertrophy by taking a supplement including creatine prior to resistance training (though this supplement also included various other compounds, including branched-chain amino acids and beta-alanine).

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.

The main reason to take creatine post-workout is if it fits into your pre or post-exercise supplementation routine better.

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

Can You Consider Creatine a Pre-Workout?

You can take creatine as a pre-workout supplement. However, on its own, it may not work the same as your traditional pre-workout.

While creatine helps to provide energy to your muscles to fuel performance improvements, the main benefit 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, and you can even combine it with your favorite pre-workout. However, if you feel more energized before your workout from taking a pre-workout supplement it will likely be the result of caffeine or other stimulants, which are commonly found in pre-workouts.

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 (usually in the form of creatine monohydrate) 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) []. 

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 taking 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 [, ].

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, however you're likely to experience a significant amount of discomfort by taking a dose this high all at once.

The normal recommended dose of creatine is between 2-5 grams per serving. During a creatine loading phase, you'll usually take around 20g of creatine per day, but it's best to split this up in 3-4 doses throughout the day to minimize uncomfortable side effects such as bloating and digestive discomfort.

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.

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, creatine supplementation is most 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 ReadHow Long Does it Take for Creatine to Work?