Seems like every workout supplement these days has creatine, and there can only one reasonable explanation for this: creatine works.
Simple as that.
In fact, very few natural ingredients in workout supplements work as reliably and effectively as creatine, especially for bodybuilders and weightlifters looking to enhance their anabolic muscle and strength gains. (Which is every bodybuilder and weightlifter, right?)
Because creatine works so reliably and effectively—not to mention safely—there’s very little controversy around creatine anymore, outside of misinformative clickbait headlines, with exception to perhaps the question of: when should you take it?
It’s a good question. When should you take creatine? First thing in the morning? In the evening? Before working out? After? Periodically throughout the day?
Or, like protein, is the key thing that you simply “get enough” creatine daily?
For the most part, how much creatine you consume daily is more important than when you consume creatine.
However, research does suggest there may be certain anabolic advantages to timing your creatine supplementation appropriately, namely related to when you exercise.
In this article, we cover the importance of creatine timing—specifically, whether (and why) you should supplement creatine before or after working out—as well as a breakdown of the best creatine supplement for the job.
But before all that, let’s first address the basics: what does creatine do and who should take it?
What Does Creatine Do and Who Takes It?
Naturally synthesized by the body and found in the diet, creatine plays a key role in the bodily production of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) energy, the basic energy unit of muscle contraction and power.1
It is creatine that partly fuels high-intensity exercise and activities, and, thus, it’s creatine depletion that tends to precede muscular exhaustion late into one’s workout.
In other words, when your natural creatine reserves deplete due to high-intensity exercise, muscle fatigue kicks in, followed by lactic acid accumulation and muscle-burning soreness.
This explains the usefulness of supplementing additional creatine: the extra creatine saturates muscle tissue, providing a greater amount of ATP-producing fuel for longer and more intense exercise before reaching muscular exhaustion.
Naturally, this makes creatine appealing to bodybuilders and weightlifters—however, athletes of virtually all types, both aerobic and anaerobic, may enjoy the benefits of creatine supplementation.2
3 Reasons Why You Should Supplement Creatine
The main reason people take creatine is to workout harder for longer, with the added benefit of muscular water retention that gives one a bulkier appearance. Let’s keep it real, the main reason many people take supplements: vanity.
However, there are a few more specific health and fitness reasons for adding a creatine supplement to your workout supplement stack. The three top reasons why you should supplement creatine include:
#1) Increases Muscle Mass and Strength
Creatine fuels the production of cellular ATP energy in moving muscles, which in turn drives more intense exercise and produces better exercise results.
From that aspect, the claim that creatine enhances muscle and strength gains makes sense. However, creatine also seems to impact muscle growth more directly by stimulating protein synthesis.
While it’s not 100% certain how creatine promotes protein synthesis, research does suggest that creatine plays a significant role.
In one review on the potential mechanisms of action of creatine supplementation on skeletal muscle metabolism, a group of researchers found enough evidence to conclude that “ may exert its effects through multiple approaches, with converging impacts on protein synthesis and myogenesis.”3
Via the promotion of protein synthesis, creatine seems to support greater exercise-induced enhancement of muscle mass and strength.
#2) Buffers Lactic Acid
Once your primary energy reserves—creatine, glycogen, etc.—deplete, muscle exhaustion kicks in, encouraging the production of lactic acid via a secondary “backup” fermentation process for producing ATP energy.
As lactic acid accumulates in muscle tissue, your muscles start to “burn” with prolonged exercise, a “burning” sensation associated with catabolism (muscle breakdown) and muscle soreness.
While some lactic acid buildup is to be expected with a successful workout, too much may be detrimental to your performance and gains.
Thankfully, supplementing creatine seems to help mitigate the accumulation of lactic acid buildup, as observed in one study in which a group of researchers concluded that “creatine supplementation decreases lactate during incremental cycling exercise and tends to raise lactate threshold.”4
#3) Improves Cognitive Performance
One of the underappreciated benefits of creatine: enhanced cognitive performance.
Especially under conditions of mild cognitive decline and impairment, creatine supplementation seems to improve certain aspects of cognitive performance and mental energy. However, even under conditions of healthy cognition, creatine seems to boost performance.
In one systematic review, there was enough evidence to link creatine to improved mental performance in healthy participants, concluding that “creatine administration may improve short-term memory and intelligence/reasoning of healthy individuals… potential benefit for aging and stressed individuals.”5
Should You Take Creatine Before or After Workout?
Creatine enhances muscle growth and strength gains, buffers lactic acid accumulation, and boosts cognitive performance—and it does all this as a result of long-term supplementation, meaning you have to take creatine for a while before really noticing its benefits.
Which begs the question: does it matter when you take creatine or is simply getting enough creatine daily all that matters?
Well, first and foremost, getting enough creatine daily is fundamentally important to its success. However, some research does suggest that taking creatine immediately before or after working out seems to provide significant anabolic advantages over taking creatine long before or long after exercise.
- In a single-blind, randomized study on the effects of supplement timing on muscle hypertrophy (growth), a group of resistance-trained men was administered a stack of creatine, protein, and carbohydrates either immediately pre and post-exercise, or long before and after exercise (in the morning and evening).
- The study’s results: “PRE-POST demonstrated a greater increase in lean body mass and 1RM strength.”6
Backing this study is another study that observed that creatine supplementation plus resistance exercise increases fat-free (muscle) mass and strength, with the additional finding that “consuming creatine immediately post-workout is superior to pre-workout vis a vis body composition and strength.”7
While this supports the post-workout timing of creatine supplementation, the key thing seems to be to take your creatine close to when you exercise—both pre- and post-exercise.
How Much Creatine Should You Take?
Now that you know what creatine does, why you should take it, and when you should take it, the question remains: how much creatine should you take?
Several factors go into determining the creatine dosage that works for you, including your total body weight, muscle mass composition, fitness goals, and much, much more.
However, generally speaking, the average recommended creatine dosage is 3-5g creatine daily, whether taken all at once or distributed throughout the day.
Are there any creatine side effects?
For the most part, creatine is considered generally safe. However, it is possible to take too much creatine, especially if you’re not expending enough creatine energy in the gym. Some common side effects of creatine overdose include:
- Muscle cramps
- Gastric distress
If prolonged over a long time, dehydration associated with excess creatine intake may even lead to tendonitis and other connective tissue pains and strains.
Though these issues may be easily mitigated by sticking to a reasonable creatine intake and expending enough creatine energy through exercise—not to mention by drinking enough water!
Creatine Loading: A Good Idea?
It’s commonly recommended to “load” up on creatine when first supplementing it. This means taking a high dosage, even upwards of 20g per day for 5-7 days, to allow your creatine consumption to sufficiently saturate your muscle tissues.
While it’s not 100% necessary to “load” creatine, it may help to enjoy the fitness benefits of creatine quicker.
Having said that, supplementing a pure, potent creatine source that more readily absorbs into muscle tissue than inferior standard creatine may lower the “loading” dosage requirement, allowing you to stick to the 3-5g daily dosage from the get-go without having to wait too long to notice significant muscle and strength gains.
Best Creatine Supplement: Creapure® pH10
Typically, when we talk about creatine, we’re referring to the specific bioactive creatine compound, not any specific type of creatine supplement.
While there is only one creatine compound, there are several different creatine supplement forms, each of varying effectiveness and safety. Of all the different forms, by far the best creatine supplement is Creapure® pH10 creatine monohydrate.
As one of the most research-backed creatine brands, Creapure® pH10 has been found in clinical research to safely and effectively elevate exercise performance and anabolic muscle gains with minimal risk of the usual side effects associated with creatine—e.g., gastric distress, bloating, etc.
Much of this is thanks to the pH-balancing process Creapure® employs to ensure a greater purity and bioavailability of its creatine monohydrate.
While Creapure® may be taken at any time of the day, at dosages ranging from 3 to 5 grams, you may get the most benefits of Creapure® by taking it either immediately before or after working out.
And with such a heightened bioavailability, Creapure® lowers the “loading” requirements expected of other standard creatine supplements, allowing you to notice results quicker with smaller, more manageable dosages.
Performance Lab® Pre and Post
Supplying clinically active doses of creatine, as Creapure® pH10, both Performance Lab® Pre and Performance Lab® Post help maximize muscle and strength gains while minimizing muscle breakdown and soreness.
Respectively, Pre and Post acutely prime pre-workout muscle performance and promote post-workout recovery for total health and fitness enhancement.
- Performance Lab® Pre: naturally strengthens muscle power and circulation for an acute boost on muscular endurance, stamina, and strength.
- Performance Lab® Post: combats exercise-induced catabolism (protein breakdown) and dehydration for decreased soreness and a speedier recovery.
With easy-to-absorb Creapure® pH10 available for both pre-workout and post-workout delivery, the stackable combination of Performance Lab® Pre and Post can help you get the right amount of daily creatine at the right time for maximum benefits on muscle mass and strength gains—in addition to many other natural ergogenics and recovery agents.
To ensure proper creatine timing, it’s not uncommon for athletes, bodybuilders, and exercisers to buy standalone creatine powder that they can use to administer at will.
However, with bioactive amounts of the best creatine supplement on the market, Creapure® pH10 creatine monohydrate, both Performance Lab® Pre and Performance Lab® Post make it easier to get a clinically effective daily amount of both pre-workout and post-workout creatine as part of a complete stack of natural muscle primers and protectors.
While the main thing with creatine is simply getting enough daily creatine, allowing for your muscle reserves to sustain saturation throughout an intense workout regimen, timing does seem to matter if you’re looking to achieve greater muscle mass and strength gains in a shorter amount of time.
With that in mind, Performance Lab® also offers a maintenance creatine stack for the more advanced exercisers: Performance Lab® Maintain, a “rest day” supply of Creapure® pH10 to be taken on “off” days to keep your creatine levels in check.
Taken alone or all together, Performance Lab® Pre, Post, and Maintain can help you stay energetically charged with natural ATP-promoting cellular energy with no risky stimulants or synthetics—only clean, green, vegan-friendly ingredients for athletes and exercisers of all dietary lifestyles.
- Riesberg LA et al. Beyond Muscles: The Untapped Potential of Creatine. Int Immunopharmacol. 2016 Aug; 37: 31-42.
- Cooper R et al. Creatine supplementation with specific view to exercise/sports performance: an update. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2012; 9: 33.
- Farshidfar F et al. Creatine Supplementation and Skeletal Muscle Metabolism for Building Muscle Mass—Review of the Potential Mechanisms of Action. Curr Protein Pept Sci. 2017; 18(12): 1273-1287.
- Oliver JM et al. Oral creatine supplementation’s decrease of blood lactate during exhaustive, incremental cycling. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2013 Jun; 23(3): 252-8.
- Avgerinos KI et al. Effects of creatine supplementation on cognitive function of healthy individuals: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Exp Gerontol. 2018 Jul 15; 108: 166-173.
- Cribb PJ, Hayes A. Effects of supplement timing and resistance exercise on skeletal muscle hypertrophy. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2006 Nov; 38(11): 1918-25.
- Antonio J, Ciccone V. The effects of pre versus post workout supplementation of creatine monohydrate on body composition and strength. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2013; 10: 36.