Creatine supplements are like the Kardashians. They aren’t going away any time soon.
But unlike the Kardashians, creatine works.
As one of the most clinically studied supplements on the market, its effectiveness is unmatched. With more discoveries about this wonder supplement surfacing, it’s no surprise gym-goers have more questions than answers.
The most common questions relate to supplement timing. Is it better to take a dose before or after training? Let's tackle this question and others to make sure you make the most of your creatine intake.
What Can Creatine do for You?
Creatine is an integral piece to the energy production, expenditure, and recovery process. Since the body primarily uses ATP (adenosine triphosphate) during resistance training sessions, it breaks this compound down to ADP (adenosine diphosphate). It’s creatine’s job to replenish ADP back to ATP to support repeated work.
Since the body can only do so much with what it has naturally, supplementing with creatine monohydrate makes sense. You will be able to replenish ATP stores quicker with a ready supply.
Additionally, creatine “superhydrates” muscle cells, allowing it to easily and efficiently carry out vital processes involving cell organelles, protein synthesis, and other important jobs at the microscopic level.
The result? Hydrated and restored muscle cells enabling you to work longer, harder, and more often. In turn, you get stronger and bigger faster.
Creatine Pre- or Post-Workout?
So, when should you take a dose of creatine? The short answer is both pre and post workout. Before training it would be wise to load your muscle cells with this super supplement to reap the advantages early on.
But let’s not forget about the critical post-workout recovery opportunity. While the old concept of the vital “window” has been shot down, you can’t argue the importance of timing. It still matters when it comes to gaining the most muscle possible while staying lean.
After training, your muscles have undergone a brutal session of being torn down, ripped up, and beaten blindly. Now is the time to shove some good stuff into them to help kick-start your recovery process. You'll want to load in another dose of creatine so it can have first dibs on those starving muscle cells.
Why after? The work has already been done, you say? Taking creatine after training is preparing you for your next training session. There is an old saying that after training you should eat for your next workout, not the one you just completed. If you follow through, you will be more than ready for your next session.
How Much Creatine and When?
So, you know you need it. You know when to take it. Now the question is: How much? Total bodyweight, lean muscle composition, and other factors play a role in dosages, but start with 3 to 5 grams both pre- and post-workout.
Important point of note: Don’t be one of those guys in the gym locker room downing dry creatine powder one minute before going out to the gym floor and lifting. That’s dumb and here’s why. It takes your body time to initially digest any food source, process it, and then distribute it to where it needs to go (even on an empty stomach).
Be sure to give any small pre-workout meal and/or supplement at least 30 minutes to properly digest to reap the full benefits.
Should you "load"?
Loading creatine was a practice that was highly recommended when it first came to market. The theory was that you could saturate your muscles with creatine to create a primed effect. The thought was that this would kick-start initial gains in strength and size.
But research has proved that this practice isn’t necessary. Several studies have concluded that through short and long-term supplementation, both maintenance and loading protocols had similar end results. In short, you can simply start with a maintenance dose if loading isn’t your thing.
Dosing on Off Days
Here’s another common question when it comes to creatine. What do you do leading up to or after rest days? On off or low intensity days (maybe you perform cardio on off days), take only one maintenance dose of creatine. A morning dose would be best when your body is primed for nutrient absorption.
What Type of Creatine is Best?
Monohydrate, creatine ethyl-ester, liquid, powder, dicreatine malate, micronized, kre-alkalyn, and effervescent. There are many forms of creatine on the market with each promising to be better than the one before it.
Time and time again research has proven that good ole fashioned creatine monohydrate (in powdered form) is still the most effective way to get the benefits. Creatine monohydrate is also the cheapest around so your wallet will thank you too.
Supplementing with possibly the world’s most popular legal performance substance is a no-brainer! If your goals include a bigger, stronger physique, choose wisely. Take a simple creatine monohydrate at the right times of day and, as with any supplement protocol, be patient. Building muscle the natural way takes time and serious work in and out of the gym.