The desire to work out towards a goal of bigger, muscular and ripped bodies is as old as the ages, and is instinctive. Developments in nutraceutical science, and the study of the muscular system have helped to bring a formal and more scientific approach to exercising and its results. One of the more common and popularly used supplements of all time is creatine, that has helped individuals see better results, faster. However, despite the popularity and the proven results, a common question in the minds of a large number of individuals is the timing of intake – when is the best time to take creatine, before or after workout? Following subsections offer a quick look at the question with simple explanations to justify the conclusion.

Role of creatine in muscle building

It is undisputable that creatine has a role in muscle building outcomes. It is known to promote an increase in skeletal muscle mass, apart from improvements in lean body mass and the size of muscle fibers. Studies have clearly documented that creatine helps in increasing muscular strength and power.

Creatine is naturally available in the cells of the body, and the supplementation delivers additional creatine. Therefore, it is also considered to be a safe supplement with no known or recorded side effects of creatine or long-term effects, when it is taken in moderation or when the individual does not have any underlying health issues. There is unanimous agreement on the role of creatine and the its effects. However, as outlined above, the question is the timing of intake – pre or post exercise.

Typical creatine intake and the what is the golden hour of nutrition?

Generally, individuals take creatine before a workout, after a workout, or in the nights before hitting the bed. The idea is to give the body the desired nutrition before and after work out and also to ensure that the body receives nutrition during the rest and recovery phase. It is also important to note the concept of the golden hour of nutrition in exercising.

Golden hour of nutrition – the science behind protein after workout

This refers to the period (usually one hour) immediately after a workout and is known to be the most important time for nutrient intake. Studies have clearly shown, that during this period, the body absorbs maximum nutrition and this helps in building better, longer, stronger muscles. Glycogen that is depleted during strenuous workouts is quickly replenished and the absorbed nutrients help to build bigger muscles.

Studies that evaluated results

Studies have essentially looked at the results of intake before, or after exercise.  One group of participants in a study conducted over one month, were given 5 gms creatine before workouts, while another group was given 5 gms after a workout. The participants were measured and observed before and the study. The aim was to look for measurable changes in lean mass and strength, and compare the results between the two groups.  The study, did not show major differences between the two groups. However, other studies conducted in a similar manner, have shown differences, with some claiming better results when creatine is taken before a workout, while others claimed better results after a workout.

However, there is one assessment from various studies that have unanimous agreement. Creatine intake has delivered best results when the supplement is taken closer to the time of workout than when taken at a time much before or after a workout. This does not contradict the earlier findings of creatine or supplement intake at bedtime. Groups that have supported creatine intake at bedtime, have always recommended that the supplement is to be taken during workouts as well as during bedtime.

What is loading phase and maintenance phase

In supplementation, terms such as loading phase and maintenance phase are relatively common. This refers to higher intake of creatine initially (around 20 gms), and this intended to increase the amount of creatine in the body over many days. Subsequent to the loading phase, the maintenance dose kicks in, and this refers to a relatively lower dose (around 5 gms). Many individuals are known to stick to a maintenance dose on days when no exercise is performed. When exercising, it is important to take supplements as close as possible to the time of exercise. During rest days, the timing of intake of supplements is inconsequential, as it is only for the purpose of keeping creatine levels high.

Expert tips on maximizing results

Most experts agree that taking creatine with other essential nutrients helps in delivering better results. For instance, intake of other proteins and carbs have always been recommended. When carbs are part of supplementation, it is known to help the absorption of creatine by the muscles. This in turn is known to help deliver better outcomes. The amount of carbs intake along with creatine is however, a subject of discussion, with many suggesting 100 grams while others proposing higher intake. The best choice would be to take just the right amount of carbs required to facilitate better absorption and keep the calorie count within limits to ensure that there is no weight gain. Remember, the idea is to have muscle mass and not just excessive weight gain.

Best combination to enjoy maximized results

The best option, considering the results of studies, the opinions of experts, and the science behind the effects of creatine before or after workout, best results would be experienced when creatine intake is timed as outlined below. Individuals who have decided to take creatine twice a day on exercise days, may benefit by taking creatine along with proteins, carbs and amino acids immediately after a workout and at bedtime. Individuals who have decided to take creatine thrice a day on exercise days may take creatine, proteins, carbs and amino acids before workout, after workout and at bedtime. However, the quantities taken before workout are to be much lesser than the quantity taken after workout.

On rest days, supplements may be taken at any time of the day, but it would be a better option to take it at bedtime, as this will help the body to adjust to the additional intake on all days. During exercise days, the intake of creatine and supplements more or less goes directly towards replenishing and will therefore not make a difference. To sum up, creatine consumed immediately after a workout is considered as delivering better results than creatine consumed before a workout.

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