Although it may seem biased, I’d say the answer is pretty simple.
If you’re supplementing with creatine, it may benefit you to consume both 30 minutes before a workout and immediately after as part of your post-workout shake.
That’s the short part of this answer, but Myprotein readers always want to know a little more to make sure they make the smart choice when it comes to their supplement needs.
Here’s the full story…
Why supplement with Creatine in the first place?
Creatine works to increase muscular storage of a form of energy called Creatine Phosphate (CP). CP has an important role in the production of energy for short-duration and high-intensity exercise. Without getting too scientific and technical, by supplementing with creatine, muscular stores of CP are increased, helping to feed the ATP-PC energy system, which is the main energy system that we use in the gym when training with near maximal weight and power-type exercises.
Additionally, When CP is depleted within the muscle, muscular fatigue is increased. Increasing creatine stores within the body has been proven to help increase CP levels so that a greater work output can be achieved during anaerobic activity, in addition to helping reduce the amount that our body’s own natural stores are depleted.
The answer to the title question, therefore, starts to become clear here, as it would make sense that you would benefit from:
✓ Greater than normal levels of creatine stored in the muscle, this means more energy for high-intensity exercise and less depletion.
✓ And, Creatine levels being regenerated quicker, meaning greater recovery, and enhanced storage of creatine for the next time your body wants to use its own stores.
As briefly touched upon, increasing the creatine content within the muscles helps prolong the depletion of phosphocreatine. This in short means an increase in muscular endurance, as well as an increase in strength and power.
What are the Benefits of Creatine?
Just a handful of studies on creatine supplementation have shown people to achieve:
✓ Increases in strength, power, and rate of force development.
✓ Improved sprint performance, both faster and greater recovery between sprints.
✓ Improved agility performance.
✓ Increased leg power during cycling.
✓ Greater strength improvements in both the back squat and bench press exercises.
✓ Increased performance during team sports, such as rugby and football
Creatine also helps muscles look “fuller” due to the fact it actually draws water within muscle cells, increasing the volume of your muscles.
Not only can it draw water into your muscle cells and make them appear larger, almost overnight sometimes; this form of cellular swelling can actually have an extremely anabolic effect on the muscles themselves, and increase protein synthesis. Simply put, by using creatine your muscles can appear larger in the short-term, and in the long-term help them to increase in size!
Creatine has also been shown to buffer the build-up of lactic acid and nasty Hydrogen Ions that are a by-product of intense training.
These are the things that cause that ‘burning’ sensation in your muscles towards the end of a hard set of an exercise, and by helping to alleviate this feeling a little could help you get a few extra reps out during your set. More reps with the same weight = more growth!
When should I take Creatine, and how much?
When using creatine, a ‘loading’ phase is often recommended consisting of 20g per day spread out over 4 servings, ideally taken at meal times. If you’d like to opt for loading, it may benefit you to make sure it last for a period of 5 days, followed by a ‘maintenance’ phase of 4-10g daily.
A loading phase is often recommended as it helps to increase intramuscular stores of creatine the fastest way possible. Once a loading phase begins it is assumed that your body’s creatine stores are topped up to its maximum, and all that’s needed is the amount to maintain and replenish creatine levels. Although this is recommended it’s not essential.
Alternatively, some research has shown that a loading phase may not be necessary, and just consuming 4-10g daily will achieve the same results.
Why creatine before AND after your workout?
Ideally, the best times of day to supplement with creatine would be around 30 minutes to 1 hour before your training session and immediately post-workout alongside your protein shake. Taking creatine 30 minutes beforehand allows enough time for that creatine to be digested and put to good use by the body so that it can have an almost immediate effect on your workout.
Your body’s own creatine levels can become depleted very quickly, and take much longer to replenish, so making sure you have enough creatine in your system for the workout ahead is no brainer.
Taking creatine, which is in effect an energy source, straight after your workout is slightly less common sense, however, but makes perfect sense when you consider that your primary goal after your workout should be to recover and maximise the response from your workout. As your muscles are a bit like a dry sponge straight after a workout, and highly sensitive to nutrients, it would make sense that the nutrients you put into your body in this post-workout window would be exactly what your body needs at this time to do what it needs to do; replenish, recover and get stronger.
Hopefully, by now you’re convinced that creatine is just as effective, if not more so when used post-workout as well as beforehand?!
Take Home Message
Creatine should be used as part of a highly effective pre-workout supplement, or on its own 30 minutes prior to exercise, but also as part of your post-workout shake immediately after exercise, for maximal results!