Supplements contain essential nutrients and vitamins your body needs to function efficiently. Many people take supplements for various reasons. It could be to build body composition, get better at exercise, or maintain overall wellness.
Most supplements require that you take them once a day, and most people prefer doing this in the morning. However, different supplements work best at varying times of the day. You can choose supplements according to your needs. For example, you can try muscle building supplements.
Creatine is an effective supplement used by many people to support their muscles. But, like a few other supplements, it might not be as effective if you take it in the morning.
So, if you think you’re taking creatine at the wrong time, you’ve come to the right place. Moreover, we’ll also help you if you want to start taking the supplement and need more information about it.
This article covers what creatine is, how it works, its benefits and side effects, and most importantly when to take it. Read on to find out more.
What Is Creatine?
Creatine is a chemical naturally found in your body composition. Your body makes this chemical through your liver and kidney. You can get a regular dose of the chemical by eating red meat or seafood.
However, some people have a higher concentration of this chemical in their systems. This is due to their various lifestyles and diets. For example, vegetarians usually have a lower creatine level.
Furthermore, scientists can also recreate creatine in a lab. It is also a well-known gym supplement in the fitness industry. Numerous studies show that the supplement also increases muscle mass and strength. Furthermore, studies suggest that it is safe to consume and has no side effects.
Creatine works by helping in producing cellular energy during exercises such as high-intensity workouts. Your muscles turn creatine to creatine phosphate, which is then turned into adenosine triphosphate (ATC). Your body uses ATC to perform intensive activities.
With the help of a creatine supplement, you do not need to consume several pounds of meat to get the creatine you require. The nutrient is easy to ingest as it comes in powdered, pill, or liquid form.
By taking creatine in this form, you can increase its concentration in your system to improve body composition, health, and athletic performance. You can also use it to support muscle growth as you exercise.
Benefits of Creatine Supplementation
This nutrient has a lot of benefits in improving muscular strength and athletic performance. It makes strength training and high-intensity exercise easier. Furthermore, it also positively affects other parts of the body. Some benefits of creatine include:
Increased Muscle Mass
More creatine in the muscle leads to greater lean body mass. This growth of muscle mass happens for two reasons. You can use mass gainer supplements to achieve this. Firstly, the muscle retains water, so if you gain weight, it is not fat; but water. Secondly, muscle mass increases due to an increase in intense workout sessions.
Prevents More Muscle Loss Due to Aging
Losing body mass as we get older is entirely natural. So, when older people use this supplement, it helps them maintain and sometimes even gain muscle mass.
However, according to a study, the supplements work best when the user actively exercises and carries out heavy resistance training.
Possibly Reduces the Effects of Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s disease reduces the amount of dopamine in the brain. This loss of dopamine leads to the death of brain cells. Moreover, it also leads to symptoms like speech impairment and tremors.
A study examined how mice suffering from this disease had their drop in dopamine levels reduced by 90% after taking this nutrient. However, there is no proof that creatine works similarly in humans.
May Help Battle Diabetes
Diabetes is identified by how quickly your body reacts to sugar after a meal. A slower response is an indicator of diabetes risk.
After a 12-week study, results showed that people who exercised and used a creatine supplement had better blood sugar levels than those who only worked out. Although these results are promising, more research needs to be done.
Improved Sports Performance
Research over time has identified that taking more creatine helps gain muscle mass and strength. It helps athletes perform better in sports by improving their rowing skills, jumping capabilities, and overall performance.
Aids in Creatine Deficiency
Some people suffer from a condition that does not allow their bodies to produce creatine naturally. Without any creatine content in the brain, seizures and movement issues may occur. However, taking supplements of this nutrient helps reduce symptoms among people with this condition.
Other Benefits of Taking Creatine
There are many other benefits to taking creatine, such as increased blood flow, aiding with depression, improved cognitive abilities, fighting other neurological diseases, and more. However, some of these still lack solid research, and there is little evidence to back them up.
Side Effects of Creatine Supplements
Generally, creatine is safe when taken in moderation, and many international sports organizations, such as The International Olympic Committee, allow its use.
However, before taking this nutrient, you must consider several factors. While supplements are usually considered safe to ingest, they might adversely affect certain people.
People with kidney diseases or those with only one kidney do not have the same filtration system as other people. This scenario also applies to people with conditions that could lead to kidney complications, such as diabetes.
There have been complaints that creatine worsens kidney problems in certain people. So, if you suffer from kidney problems, ensure you consult your doctor or physician, so they can advise you on whether your body can process the supplement or otherwise.
Alongside claims that creatine worsens kidney diseases, some studies show that excessive use can cause kidney damage among healthy individuals.
People living with a liver condition or on medication for one may have issues taking and processing creatine. Again, it is best to consult your doctor before committing to any particular supplement.
There is limited information regarding the use of creatine during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. However, pregnant and nursing mothers should stay away from taking creatine. You can always contact your health care provider for more advice on this.
Poor kidney and liver health is often hereditary. If there are cases in your family incapable of processing supplements, you may also be unable to do it. Consult your doctor before taking creatine supplements if there is a history of liver or kidney disease in your family. Your doctor should be able to help you decide which supplements are safe for you to take.
If you are taking drugs to improve your strength or performance, you should confirm with your doctor whether taking creatine is safe or not. Many strength-enhancing supplements already contain creatine, and too much creatine in your system can have adverse effects.
Staying hydrated is very important when creatine supplements. Muscle creatine removes water from your body and transfers it to your muscles. So, drinking more water than usual is a must to avoid dehydration. If you are working out, ensure you have ample water to drink and stay hydrated, especially during hot weather.
Additional Side Effects
Other side effects of creatine include:
- Muscle cramps
- Stomach pain
- Weight gain
- Kidney stones
- Compartment syndrome
When to Take Creatine
According to a study, the best time to take creatine is right before or after you work out. Researchers carried out a test with two groups of humans, and these groups took a creatine supplement at different times. Here are the results:
Taking creatine in the morning and at night – People in this group took creatine like any other supplement (at morning and night times). These people gained some benefits from the supplement, such as increased muscle mass. Remember that they did not take creatine pre or post workout.
Taking creatine pre workout or post workout – The second group took creatine immediately before or after an exercise session. They gained more muscle mass than those in the first group.
These studies show that taking creatine close to your workout sessions will offer the best results. Furthermore, you may even get better gains in muscle strength from post workout creatine than pre workout supplements.
Creatine at Different Times
While taking creatine around your workout session is best, it works no matter when you take it. Here are the effects of taking creatine at different times.
It is hard to get all the creatine you need from a regular diet; this is truer for vegans and vegetarians. Therefore, supplements are the best way to maximize muscle stores before working out.
As we mentioned earlier, a dietary supplement of creatine in the mornings is usually insufficient to maximize the body’s creatine stores.
This is why taking creatine post workout is one of the best times to take it. It can help your muscle recover the energy and mass lost while working out. Furthermore, it keeps muscle stores at optimal levels, so you are ready for the next session. You can use various post workout supplements for this.
Additionally, numerous studies show that creatine can aid in increasing muscles’ glycogen storage when you take them with carbohydrates (as opposed to taking carbohydrates alone).
Glycogen is energy stored in the muscle. You can use this energy in your next workout session to boost performance and reduce fatigue. Also, creatine is known to reduce inflammation. So, it can help with injury recovery.
While it is not the most effective method, taking creatine on non-training days helps to maintain high levels of the supplement in your system.
This is because when you stop taking creatine, the level in your system drops to the dietary standard. Therefore, to replenish creatine to optimal levels and keep it that way, you should take the supplement even on non-workout days. This way, you are preparing your muscle for the next workout session.
It is best to take creatine before and after a workout. However, taking a low daily dosage of the supplement builds and maintains your muscle creatine stores, which improves brain health, and minimizes bone loss, among others.
How to Take Creatine
Creatine comes in different forms, and creatine monohydrate is the most common form of these popular supplements. This is because it is affordable and fast-acting. Once you ingest the supplement, it starts to work 30 minutes later.
Just so you have it handy, and for quick digestion, you can mix the powdered creatine monohydrate with water before you leave for your workout. After working out, you should take creatine with carbohydrates or protein (like red meat), aiding muscle retention.
You can start the supplementation through a loading protocol. You should start with 0.3 grams for every kilogram of your body weight daily. Do this for 5 to 7 days. Afterward, you can continue with at least 0.003 grams per kilogram of your bodyweight indefinitely (you don’t need an extra loading phase)
You may experience stomach cramps if you perform creatine supplementation without enough water, and you may also experience nausea and diarrhea if you take too much at once. If this happens, ensure you take your supplement in lesser doses throughout the day and with food.
Ultimately, you should try to take creatine with carbohydrates or protein, whether before or after a workout, on a rest day, or a regular day.
FAQs About Creatine
Why is creatine monohydrate the most common form of creatine?
There are five reasons why creatine monohydrate is the most common form of creatine.
- Safety – Numerous studies show creatine monohydrate as extremely safe for consumption, and even long-term use of two to five years seems to have no negative effects. The regular dose for this supplement is 3-5 grams daily, but people have used up to 30 grams for five years with no issues. Other forms of creatine are safe for consumption, but there’s little evidence to back this up.
- Most evidence – Over 1000 studies on creatine, most of which used creatine in monohydrate. While there are over five forms of creatine, and they have all been tested, these tests are limited. However, you can find all the benefits of creatine in monohydrates.
- Just as or more effective than others – Experts have compared monohydrate to other forms of creatine in exercise performance, and in most cases, it was more effective. However, some forms were just as effective.
- Accessible – You can only find some forms of creatine mixed with other ingredients in a product. To buy these forms, you must purchase other unnecessary supplements. Other forms are sold as individual ingredients but are hard to find. But, you can find monohydrate as a single ingredient in several stores and online.
- Most Affordable – Monohydrate is not only the easiest to find but also the most affordable. Because it has been on the market the longest, manufacturers have found cheaper ways to produce it. Additionally, since the supplement is widely produced, most companies will compete to have the most affordable product.
Can creatine boost testosterone levels?
Creatine is primarily known for improving physical performance. However, some people say it is a testosterone booster.
Some think this way because lifting weights leads to a temporary rise in testosterone production, and creatine supplementation is known to increase your weight-lifting capabilities. Therefore, working out using creatine should also increase testosterone levels. Unfortunately, this is untrue. Most studies show that creatine boosts exercise performance but will not affect testosterone levels.
While the world would love to see a legal supplement that boosts workout performance and testosterone level, there is no concrete evidence to prove this.
Do professional athletes benefit from creatine?
Everyone benefits from creatine supplementation when it comes to strength. However, professional athletes enjoy fewer benefits than novice athletes.
Creatine does, in fact, positively affect professional athletes. It has shown benefits for these professionals in soccer, swimming, volleyball, and others. But, they do not always benefit from this sports nutrition, especially regarding factors not related to more power.
For example, professional athletes claim that they barely noticed lower levels of fatigue and increased strength as opposed to novice athletes who see a significant difference,
Is creatine a steroid?
Creatine is, in no way, a steroid. It has no resemblance to steroids in terms of structure or what they do.
Creatine is a compound comprised of three amino acids (L-arginine, L-methionine, and L-glycine). It does not possess any of the properties of steroids, so scientifically, it is not a steroid. Furthermore, steroids are illegal, while creatine is not. Lastly, the compounds in creatine do not affect hormones as much as the ones in steroids.
Does creatine cause cancer?
There have been no studies that point to creatine being a causative agent for cancer. Any claims of such are completely invalid, and there is no evidence to prove it. In fact, creatine has been shown to defend DNA against damage from sources like exercise.
Must I load creatine?
Loading creatine is not a necessity. Yes, creatine is known for having a loading, maintenance, and wash-out phase. The three parts make the typical creatine cycle. However, neither loading nor the cycle is necessary.
Basically, loading is used to “test the water.” You do it to see if you react to the supplement or want quicker results. But, you do not need it for creatine supplementation. Several studies started with 5-10 grams daily and no adverse effects. They call it “Just taking creatine.” With that said, it doesn’t hurt to do it either, but you might get digestive discomfort.
What is the difference between loading and not loading?
With creatine loading, you will get faster results. This is because your muscles will get saturated with creatine faster and increase your strength and body’s fat-free mass through water retention.
Alternatively, a smaller dosage will yield the same results but take longer. So, it depends on how patient you are.
Can creatine cause hair loss?
It is possible, but not likely. One of the many reasons for hair loss in men is because DHT interacts with hair follicles. DHT is a substance gotten from testosterone, and from a previous answer, creatine does not affect testosterone levels. Hoverer, there was a study done that linked creatine to DHT, but every other one proved otherwise.
So, there is no concrete proof that creatine increases DHT, but it could cause hair loss if it does. Remember that DHT is only one of many factors that cause hair loss, so having high levels of DHT in your blood does not mean you will lose your hair. To date, no study has proven that creatine affects hair loss.
What is creatine nitrate?
Creatine nitrate is another form of creatine. In this form, the molecule is found in a nitrate group Creatine nitrate is still being tested to see how nutritional it is.
A study has shown that creatine nitrate is about ten times more soluble in water than both creatine monohydrate and buffered creatine. This means you need about ten times more creatine in a specific volume of water for sediment to form.
If this study is proven correct, it means creatine nitrate would be easier to drink than creatine monohydrate.
However, there is currently no study to prove that creatine nitrate is ineffective in exercise performance or strength enhancement. All claims that creatine nitrate is better than creatine monohydrate have no support from any study.
If a creatine nitrate supplementation enters the market, it would probably be a combination of creatine and nitrate supplementation. Creatine nitrate is more soluble in water than monohydrate; it is not more effective.
The Bottom Line
Increasing muscle mass, tone, and strength isn’t simply about intense exercising. You need to consider your diet, hydration, rest days, and in some cases, supplements.
Creatine supplementation is a fantastic sports nutrition and a great way to achieve your body and health goals while gaining more muscle power as you perform high-intensity exercise. Not only is this sports medicine great for exercising, but it also has some brain health benefits.
However, many people are unsure of when to take creatine. According to research, the best time to take creatine is before or after you work out.
While taking the supplement right before or after a workout works best, you can take them at any time. All you need to do is consider your lifestyle, what works best for you and how to fit it into your routine.
Creatine is safe, according to several studies and research. However, it is not safe for everyone. If you have pre-existing health conditions such as liver or kidney issues, ensure you talk to your doctor before you take creatine.