In the never ending quest for improvement in the gym, many people wonder if they should take their creatine before or after their workout. While there has been a lot of research into nutrient timing around workouts, particularly around protein and carbohydrate intake, there’s actually not much research at all on creatine timing. Most of the evidence in anecdotal – which often passes for fact in the gym – but there’s some common sense in either argument.
Creatine has been used for years in the fitness world, and has been proven to be an effective supplement in countless studies. The claims of additional muscle size, more strength and improved aerobic capacity have all largely been shown to be true, and it may have a more positive impact on our health than we already know.
Recent information has suggested that taking creatine supplements might have a positive impact on things like memory, cell protection and anti-ageing, so it deserves that space in your shaker bottle next to your whey protein.
Before a Workout
The logic behind taking creatine before a workout is the link between creatine consumption and increased formation of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Without delving too deep into the science behind this, ATP is essentially one of the main sources of cellular energy.
Increased ATP levels means that the muscles have more access to this additional power, allowing you to lift more weight. Moving more weight means more strength and additional muscle mass, so there’s logic behind taking creatine pre-workout.
After a Workout
On the other side of the argument we have the post-workout creatine crowd. The logic here is that the muscles will be depleted and deprived of nutrients following a workout, and are primed and ready to make use of whatever you put into your system.
This has been shown to be the case for both post-workout protein and carbs, so the thinking is that by adding creatine to your post-workout nutrition your body will be able to absorb more of the creatine and the reap benefits that go along with it.
Before AND After a Workout
As Lincoln once said, “I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends”. Rather than decide on pre or post workout creatine consumption, why not go for both? There are sensible arguments on both sides, and one of the few studies to incorporate taking creatine either side of a workout linked it to an increase in results.
A 2006 study had subjects who were experienced in weight training drink a shake containing creatine, protein and carbohydrate immediately before and after their workout. Over the course of the 10 week study, those taking the shake experienced an 80% greater increase in lean muscle and a 30% increase in strength when compared to the group that took the same shake in the morning and at night.
While this could be largely down to the protein and carbs post workout, it’s no reason to ignore the potential role of creatine in these improvements. The thinking behind taking it pre and post exercise is sound, and if you’re having a protein shake at either side of your workout it doesn’t take much effort to throw a scoop of creatine in there too.
While there’s no solid evidence one way of the other when it comes to timing your creatine intake, it’s probably best to hedge your bets and take some before and after your workout. That way you’re targeting all the potential benefits and getting the maximum result for minimal additional effort.