I have been clearing the myths about creatine in parts, in different videos on my channel We R Stupid, time and again. This is because creatine is an extensive topic, and one video will not be able to justify the amount of research involved in this subject.
This time we are discussing another common doubt related to creatine, i.e. “What is the best time to take creatine?”
For the answer to the best time to take creatine, there have been mainly two types of prescriptions from various coaches or supplement dealers:
- Pre Workout – which is due to the argument that it will increase strength and power output during the workout.
- Post Workout – this argument was based on the age-old concept of enhanced nutrient absorption post-workout, so creatine would be absorbed better.
A 2013 study in the International Journal of Sports Science & Nutrition, by Jose Antonio & V. Ciccone, tested the best time to take creatine intake, on 19 male bodybuilders. Subjects were assigned to one of the following groups: PRE-SUPP or POST-SUPP workout supplementation of creatine (5 grams). The PRE-SUPP group consumed 5 grams of creatine immediately before exercise. On the other hand, the POST-SUPP group consumed 5 grams immediately after exercise. Subjects trained on average five days per week for four weeks. Subjects consumed the supplement on the two non-training days at their convenience. The study concluded that creatine supplementation plus resistance exercise increases fat-free mass and strength. Based on the magnitude inferences it appears that consuming creatine immediately post-workout is superior to pre-workout vis a vis body composition and strength.
However, the problem with this study was that the difference observed was extremely little, which actually means that the timing didn’t matter. The conclusion was merely for the sake of the concluding. When the study was broken down on a case-by-case basis, they did not find any significant differences between the groups, but they did find a trend that suggested that there may be a difference.
Another study by a team of Canadian researchers, led by D.G. Candow, in 2014 in the journal Research in Sports Medicine, compared the effects of creatine supplementation before vs. after supervised resistance training in healthy older adults as compared to a placebo. Participants were divided into one of two groups: Resistance training (RT) was performed 3 days/week, on non-consecutive days, for 12 weeks. Over the 12-week training period, both groups experienced a significant increase in whole-body lean tissue mass, limb muscle thickness, and upper and lower body strength and a decrease in muscle protein catabolism, with no differences between groups. Changes in muscle mass or strength were seen to be similar when creatine was ingested before or after supervised resistance training in older adults.
In a 2015 study in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition & Metabolism, by D.G. Candow & team, studied creatine intake timings in older adults (50-71 years), as compared to a placebo. They found that Creatine supplementation, independent of the timing of ingestion, increased muscle strength more than placebo. However, the researchers also suggested that creatine supplementation in close proximity to resistance training may be an important strategy for increasing muscle mass and strength.
I couldn’t find any study which dictates the best time to take creatine intake conclusively. According to Kamal Patel of examine.com, “As creatine is stored in the body, you can take it any time. While some personal trainers recommend taking it after a workout, this has no difference in uptake.”
As a final conclusion, I would suggest, that creatine can be taken anytime, better would be to take to near to your workout.