If you’re into bodybuilding or performing high-intensity exercise, chances are you’ve most likely heard of the supplement creatine.
Creatine is arguably one of the best supplements available for bodybuilders, athletes, and gym-goers alike for building muscle and becoming stronger.
And there’s a good reason for it – creatine works! Creatine can be beneficial when it comes to building muscle and improving training performance.
In this article, we’ll share everything you need to know about creatine: what it is, why you should take, the different types of creatine available, the best time to take it, and much more.
I can promise that after reading this article, you’ll feel like an expert on creatine. You’ll be able to go away and apply the information in a way that suits your needs, whether that’s trying to improve your strength in the gym, mental performance, or passing on knowledge to your coaching clients.
What You Should Know About Creatine
Creatine is naturally found in the body and is produced by amino acids. In short, creatine helps to kickstart a molecule called ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which is your body’s primary source of energy.
Alongside the creatine that is naturally found in your body, you can also take creatine supplements. Creatine is one of the most researched and safe supplements to consume.
What is Creatine?
Creatine is primarily made in the liver and it helps muscles produce energy. It’s naturally stored in your muscle cells. and is particularly useful during times of intense physical and mental activity.
Creatine can also be found in foods such as meat and fish. Some of the most common types of food that contain creatine include beef, steak, mincemeat, salmon, and herring.
People such as athletes, bodybuilders, and the everyday person wanting to improve training performance take creatine in the form of supplements (either power of tablets). This not only helps to improve mental performance (focus) but it also greatly aids physical performance (strength and recovery).
What Does Creatine Do?
In short, creatine improves energy production which in turn helps you to last longer in the gym, push harder, and recover more quickly.
There are lots of reasons why people take creatine and there are both mental and physical benefits to its use.
Why You Should Take Creatine
There are many reasons why you should take creatine! Some of the best reasons to take creatine include the following:
- It’s one of the best supplements for improving performance in the gym
- It’s one of the most tested and safe supplements (1)
- It helps increase strength
- It protects against neurological disease
- It’s beneficial prior to high-intensity workouts
- It improves mental performance and mood
- It increases cell hydration which leads to enhanced muscle pumps and recovery
- It can help offset sleep deprivation (2)
What Types of Creatine are Available?
There are several forms of creatine available today. Let’s quickly review some of the most popular forms of creatine used by bodybuilders and athletes.
Creatine monohydrate is the most common type of creatine on the market. It is also the form of creatine that has been researched the most.
Creatine malate is a combination of creatine and malic acid. Malic acid has been shown to improve stamina.
Creatine citrate is produced by combining creatine with organic citric acid (found in citrus fruits). Creatine citrate is more easily dissolved in water but no more effective than the popular creatine monohydrate.
Creatine nitrate is a creatine compound that is now bonded to a nitrogen base and is more dissolvable in water, meaning you do not need to take as much. For example, rather than a standard 5g dose of creatine monohydrate, you would only take 2.5g of creatine nitrate.
How to Take Creatine
What is an Effective Creatine Dosage?
There are varying opinions on creatine doses, but it is mostly agreed that 5-10g of creatine per day is a sensible amount and enough to boost athletic performance.
Should You Do a Loading Phase with Creatine?
Nick Screeton, a fitness expert at LEP Fitness recommends doing a creatine load to maximize your results and more rapidly boost your strength. (6) During the load phase, you consume a more considerable amount of creatine to help stock up your muscles.
For example, rather than taking 5-10g per day, you would instead consume 20g of creatine per day for the first 5-7 days. You could either do this in 4x 5g dosages or 2x 10g doses.
How Long is it Safe to Take Creatine?
While many people take creatine throughout the year, it is sensible to have breaks from taking additional creatine in the form of supplements, such as 8-12 weeks taking creatine, 4-8 weeks break, repeat.
The cycles will depend on your goal and the individual. It is wise to seek guidance from a coach.
When To Take Creatine
The timing of creatine is a hotly-debated subject. Below we’ll cover some of the different times that people take creatine and why they take it at these times.
Taking creatine pre-training is an effective way to stock up your muscles before a workout. If you decide to take creatine pre-training, mix the creatine in water or a protein shake 45-60 minutes before training. The dosages will typically be between 5-10g.
Taking creatine after your workout is an effective way to speed up the recovery process and replenish creatine stores that have either been used up or significantly diminished after an intense workout. Dosage post-training will typically be between 5-10g.
Taking creatine upon waking has been said to offset sleep deprivation and improve cognitive performance. Dosages are typically between 5-10g per day.
Finally, you can take creatine in the evening, letting your muscles absorb it, so you can train the next day. This can be extremely effective if you train first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.
Who Should Take Creatine?
If you are looking to gain a performance advantage, increase strength, and maximize your results in the gym, the following type of person could benefit by consuming creatine:
- Athletes – sprinters, track and field, hockey, rugby
- Strength Athletes – looking to lift more weight and recover between sets
- Bodybuilders – looking to increase training volume and muscle pumps
- Everyday Person – looking to improve endurance, muscular performance
What are the Side Effects of Taking Creatine?
Opinions vary on the side effects of creatine depending on who you ask:
- Kidney damage
- Liver damage
- Kidney stones
- Digestive issues
If in doubt, speak to your doctor. The other option is to start slowly with creatine and build up.
If you notice any of the above side effects, you can stop. It may be an underlying health condition that needs to be addressed, or some people report feeling dehydrated taking creatine, but it is not the creatine but lack of water they are consuming.
The Verdict: When Should I Take Creatine?
The most important part of taking creatine is being consistent and consuming a set amount within 24 hours. Most people need not be concerned with when to take, although there may be slight advantages to taking creatine at specific times of the day, especially if you are an elite or high performing athlete.
Interested in learning more about the best creatine supplements? Check out our article here on the 5 Best Creatine Supplements.
When to Take Creatine FAQs
What are the most popular forms of creatine?
Some of the most popular forms of creatine include creatine monohydrate, creatine hydrochloride, and creatine malate.
When is the most popular time for people to take creatine?
Most people take creatine right before training or before bed each night.
Who would benefit the most from taking creatine?
Individuals who perform high-intensity exercise and explosive movements typically benefit the most from using creatine. People in this category include bodybuilders, powerlifters, and sprint-based athletes.