TL;DR Summary: How long before a workout should I take creatine?
Most people take creatine 30-60 minutes before a workout. Many pre–workout supplements contain creatine powder for that reason. Creatine levels can deplete rapidly during a workout, so supplementing around 30 minutes or 1 hour before your workout gives your body the opportunity to digest it and put it to use during your workout.
Creatine is one of a handful of supplements that ever single athlete will use at some time in their life. So popular has creatine become that it is now second only to protein powder in terms of popularity among average people working out at the gym. Ask anybody at any gym in the US, Canada or the UK today, and chances are they’ve either tried or are currently taking creatine.
This isn’t a bad thing. Creatine is, after all, one of the most effective and reliable performance enhancing supplements in existence. No other natural sports supplement has been tested as thoroughly as creatine, and none show the same clear benefits as creatine either.
But while everybody is right to be taking creatine to improve performance in the gym, not everybody knows how to use creatine correctly. That is, many people don’t know how to get the most out of creatine.
One of the main mistakes we see with creatine supplementation is to do with timing; people take creatine at the wrong time. This means they don’t get to enjoy all of the benefits associated with creatine.
When should you take creatine?
How long pre-workout should you take creatine?
Or is creatine better when used as a post workout?
Let’s look at the benefits of creatine and how it works to answer this question in detail.
Benefits of Creatine
Creatine is primarily known as a sports performance enhancer. Most people know it as a supplement meant for bodybuilders, powerliftes and strength athletes. While this is true, creatine is by no means just for enhancing performance in sports.
In fact, creatine has many different benefits.
The main benefits of creatine include:
- Increased muscle strength
- Increased power output
- Increased muscle endurance
- Increased muscle size and weight
- Enhanced cognitive function
- Reduced tiredness and fatigue
- Improved nervous system function (and may help guard against neurological disease)
As you can see, creatine does a lot more than just increase strength and explosive power. This supplement increases energy efficiency at the cellular level. This means it improves your mental performance as well as your athletic performance. It also raises overall energy levels and combats fatigue more generally.
That said, the main reason people use creatine is because it is so effective at increasing strength and explosive power.
Creatine is needed for the conversion of cycling of ATP and ADP. As we have explained in our best creatine supplements guide, the conversion of ATP to ADP and back again is how your cells release energy from food. How much energy you can release at any one moment is limited by your ATP stores; once you run out of ATP, you run out of gas.
This can be seen most clearly when doing maximum effort repetitions. After 1-2 reps, you suddenly feel totally unable to move the bar an inch. That is because you’re out of ATP. Well, creatine is responsible for turning ADP back into ATP. More creatine means faster ATP-ADP cycling, which means you can release more energy during training.
Creatine also increases muscle size by pulling water into your muscles. Because creatine is a salt, your body needs to retain more water when your muscles are saturated with creatine to maintain the balance between fluids and salts. This means creatine rapidly increases your fat free mass, allowing you to move more weight in the gym.
That’s why so many bodybuilders use creatine!
That’s also what makes creatine such a great pre-workout.
But when is the best time to take creatine?
How long before a workout should you take creatine?
When is the best time to take creatine?
The best time to take creatine is as a pre-workout. This has been found to be most effective for increasing strength and explosive power, and it also produces the biggest increases in mental energy which further helps your training.
But how long before working out should you take creatine?
Generally speaking, it is best to take creatine at least 30 minutes before a workout. Ideally, you’d take creatine 45-90 minutes pre-workout to give your body plenty of time to absorb and utilize the creatine you’ve consumed. If the creatine hasn’t reached your muscle cells by the time you come to work out, then you wont see any benefits!
Of course, when you take creatine doesn’t matter as much as taking it consistently. You will always see better results when taking creatine consistently, every single day. If you can’t take creatine pre-workout, just take it when you can; it will still support strength, explosive power, and muscle size.
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Pavel Sadovnik is a leading biochemical scientist with a PhD in biochemical engineering. He has spent decades working in industry as a chemist and pjharmaceutical consultant. He has extensive experience with the supplement industry, and specialises in supplement tsting and formulation consultancy. He is the Editor of NARSTO.