Creatine is probably the most well researched supplement in existence (except possibly whey protein). It has numerous benefits, including increased stored energy, increased strength, increased muscle size (known as hypertrophy), increased muscular endurance, reduced body fat, reduced fatigue, and even cognitive benefits [1].

Main Question

One of the main questions that gets asked about creatine is whether you should take it pre workout, post workout, or whether it matters either way.

In this article we are going to look at the scientific evidence as to which method works best, and we will also look at some of the practical benefits.

Pre Vs Post Workout

Creatine is a really easy supplement to take as a pre or a post workout, it is often found in pre workout supplements, or combined with whey protein (for the ultimate post workout).

Alternatively you can take it on its own. Because of this there isn’t immediately an obvious winner in the pre vs post workout debate.

To find an answer we’ll have to look at the science.

In 2013 Antonio & Ciccone did a study comparing both pre workout and post workout ingestion of creatine monohydrate [2]. The study found that creatine taken post workout was marginally more effective than when it is taken pre workout. The theory goes that post workout you can easily top up your phosphocreatine levels (stored energy in the muscles) with a creatine supplement.

But the difference isn’t big, so it really does come back to preference. If you have a post workout supplement that contains creatine then you can rest assured that you won’t suffer poorer results.

In fact the whole pre versus post workout debate may be moot in the first place.

Overall Intake

Loading Methods

There is a large amount of evidence that points to the fact that creatine loading is the most effective way to increase creatine stores in the body. A study by Van Loon et al (2003) found this out by comparing the two loading methods and assessing the effects of it on sprinting and endurance performance [3].

Side Effects

This is where you take large doses of creatine for a couple of weeks before dropping down to a maintenance dose. This method is incredibly effective at boosting stored creatine levels, but is also the most likely way to suffer from side effects (bloating, dehydration, upset stomach etc).

But whether you choose to load creatine or not, you should be able to understand that it doesn’t really matter. If you have been taking creatine monohydrate consistently for 4-6 weeks then your muscles are probably as saturated with stored energy as they will ever be. At this point it really doesn’t matter when you are taking it.

No Stimulatory Qualities

Because of this you can decide when is the best time for you to take creatine. Do you want to take it at home before you travel to the gym? Do you want to take it immediately post workout? Or what about as an accompaniment to breakfast? You could also take it as a pre dinner supplement as it has no stimulatory qualities.

People also find it beneficial to take creatine in their pre-workout supplement, as well as post workout to get the best of both sides. You get to take advantage of the performance benefits of creatine while during your post workout use to to recover and for the next day.

However, if creatine just is not for you, don’t worry! While it’s a great supplement it’s not for everyone and there a plenty of great pre-workout supplements out there for you to choose from.

If you are one of those people who use creatine (as should everyone), at the end of the day just find a system that works for you, and make sure that you supplement with creatine every single day of the week.

 

References

[1] McMorris, T., Mielcarz, G., Harris, R., Swain, J., Howard, A. 2007. Creatine supplementation and cognitive performance in elderly individuals. Neuropsychology, Development, & Cognition 14(5): 517-28

(link) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17828627

[2] Antonio, J., & Ciccone, V. 2013. The effects of pre versus post workout supplementation of creatine monohydrate on body composition and strength. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition10(36)

(link) http://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1550-2783-10-36

[3] Van Loon, L., Oosterlaar, A., Hartgens, F., Hesselink, M., Snow, R., & Wagenmakers, A. 2003. Effects of creatine loading and prolonged creatine supplementation on body composition , fuel selection, sprint and endurance performance in humans. Clinical Science (London)104(2): 153-62

(link) http://www.clinsci.org/content/104/2/153.long

 

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