Creatine is an effective and safe supplement to help you build stronger and bigger muscles. But science also reveals that, when it comes to how to take creatine, there’s a specific way to use it (e.g., creatine before or after workout?) to maximize its benefits and save money while you’re at it. Today, I’ll show you how to do just that in 4 easy steps. But before that, what is creatine? And what creatine benefits can you expect?
What is creatine? Creatine is a substance we naturally produce and use up as an energy source to power our muscles through the first 10 seconds or so of high intensity activities. Increasing our natural creatine levels through supplementation can provide a significant boost in power and strength during our workouts which overtime has been shown to translate to significantly greater muscle growth.
But it’s very easy to waste a bunch of money on creatine without fully reaping its benefits. The first step to avoiding that is to make sure you pick the right type of creatine. Let's reference a 2021 review that analyzed 8 creatine types to determine which was most effective. It also broke down the costs per serving for the different forms of creatine, and found creatine monohydrate to be the cheapest. As it turns out, all 8 worked just as effectively at boosting muscle creatine levels. Meaning? Given that you could save over a dollar every single day from sticking to plain old creatine monohydrate, save your money and stick to that!
The next step in understanding how to take creatine is its dosage. What I’d recommend is stick to 3g per day, a little less than the typical scoop size, as that’s going to be more than enough for the vast majority of people. Those on the heavier side may benefit from just a slightly higher dose based on your bodyweight. Now with that being said, when you first start taking creatine, you may actually want to consider bumping up the dose far above this. This is where step 3 comes into play.
It takes time for creatine levels in your muscles to gradually increase and fully saturate. Depending on how fast you’d like to experience the benefits of creatine, there are 2 protocols you can use. The loading protocol saturates your muscles in 7 days, while the non-loading protocol takes about 3 to 4 weeks. The loading method is advantageous if you’d like to reap the benefits as quickly as possible. It’s also the protocol I’d recommend if you’re dieting. The only potential downside of a loading protocol could be some digestive distress from taking so much at once, but this seems to be mitigated if you space out your 20 grams over the day.
Step 4: when to take it and what to avoid taking it with to maximize its benefit. So, creatine before or after workout? Well, remember that creatine doesn’t have an immediate effect. This means that taking it pre-workout doesn’t provide any unique benefit. As for what to take it with, there is some evidence that taking creatine with carbohydrates and protein increases saturation levels more than just taking creatine on its own, but this only really makes a difference during the initial saturation phase.
That said, there is a small possibility that caffeine consumption may actually hinder the benefits of creatine. For now, the best recommendations are if you’re extremely concerned about the potential interference between caffeine and creatine, ditch regular caffeine consumption as creatine tends to provide greater benefits overtime. Instead, save your caffeine consumption just for times or workouts when you need it the most. But that can be a tough ask for many. In which case, a more suitable alternative is to simply avoid taking creatine and caffeine together. But again, research is far from conclusive.
Here are the main key points to get the most bang for your buck. Using creatine monohydrate, follow either the loading protocol or non-loading protocol to saturate your muscles and then take about 3g of it whenever you wish every day to maintain it. Then, after a few weeks, there are a few signs you want to look for to see if it’s working for you. It won’t work for everyone. But don't worry, this is something I’m going to cover in a follow up video!
All that said, guys, creatine, just like any other supplement, is not magic. It doesn’t do the work for you. But when paired with the right training and nutrition plan, can help give you a bit of an edge. And if you’re looking for a simple yet effective science-based program you can trust, that shows you exactly how to train and how to eat to transform your body as efficiently as possible, then take the analysis quiz to discover which science-based program would be best for you and where your body is currently at below:
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