When to Take Creatine: The Ultimate Guide

    Published 23 December 2019
    Fact Checked
    Reviewed by Olga Adereyko, MD, Primary Care Physician, General Practitioner, Medical Consultant
    Flo Fact-Checking Standards

    Every piece of content at Flo Health adheres to the highest editorial standards for language, style, and medical accuracy. To learn what we do to deliver the best health and lifestyle insights to you, check out our content review principles.

    Taking supplements to support your health is a common practice. Many people take supplements once a day in the morning. Some supplements are more effective at different times, though. 

    Supplements can provide necessary vitamins and minerals that support your nerves, skin, and bones. Creatine is a supplement that supports your muscles. If you’d like to begin taking creatine or are trying to decide when to take it, we’ve got you covered. We’ll tell you how creatine supports your body and the best times to take it. 

    What is creatine?

    Creatine is one of the most popular performance supplements on the market. Creatine is a chemical that is found in the body — mostly in muscles but also in the brain. Creatine is found naturally in red meat and seafood and can also be made in a lab.

    Creatine stays in the muscles, helping your body by providing energy during high-intensity workouts and activity. We normally get a dose of creatine whenever we eat red meat. 

    Some people have a higher amount of creatine in their bodies than others. Usually, this is caused by their diet and lifestyle. Vegetarians tend to have a lower amount of creatine in their bodies, which can inhibit their strength training. Adding a creatine supplement to your diet can greatly increase the amount of active creatine in your body and make your workouts much more effective.

    So now that you know what it is, you may be asking yourself if you should take creatine.

    Benefits of creatine

    Creatine has many benefits; the most important is that it increases your muscle mass. It can make building muscles and strength easier and your workouts more impactful. 

    Numerous studies have shown other possible positive benefits of creatine, including:

    • Preventing age-related muscle loss — As we get older, we naturally lose muscle mass. Taking a creatine supplement has been shown to help older people retain and regain muscle mass. The best results were found when the research participants were also doing resistance training and actively using their muscles.
    • Athletic performance — When tested, creatine was shown to provide muscles with bursts of power. It improved jump height, rowing ability, and soccer performance in athletes. 
    • Aiding with certain syndromes — Some people have a disorder called guanidinoacetate methyltransferase deficiency that prevents their body from making creatine. This disorder can lead to low levels of creatine in the brain and cause seizures, decreased mental function, and movement problems. Taking a creatine supplement regularly can improve movement and reduce seizures in individuals with low levels of creatine in the brain.

    Some people claim that there are many other benefits of creatine, but there’s insufficient evidence to support those claims. 

    Creatine is considered safe when taken appropriately and according to directions. The International Olympic Committee, professional sports leagues, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association allow athletes to use creatine supplements. 

    Side effects of creatine

    There are some things you need to consider before taking creatine. 

    Not all supplements — however safe — can be taken by every person. You should talk to your doctor before beginning to take creatine in the following situations:

    • People who have kidney disease or have had a kidney removed, don’t have the same filtering ability that most people do. This is also true for people who have a disease that increases the chance of developing kidney disease, such as diabetes. There is some concern that creatine might make kidney disease worse. Your doctor may advise that your body can’t process additional supplements safely.
    • People who have had a liver condition or are taking medication for liver-related illnesses may not be able to safely take supplements. 
    • There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking creatine while pregnant or breastfeeding. Pregnant people should avoid taking creatine as an extra precaution.

    Some people don’t process supplements well because their body’s filters — the kidneys and liver — are not healthy. If you have a family history of kidney or liver disease, talk to your doctor before taking any supplements. They can help you decide what supplements will work best with your body. 

    If you’re taking any strength or performance steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs, talk to your doctor about adding a creatine supplement. Many strength supplements already have creatine in them, and you may end up taking too much if you add more creatine to your diet.

    Creatine takes water from your body and adds it to your muscles, so be careful of dehydration while taking creatine. When exercising, you need to have water on hand and be extra careful in hot environments. You’ll need to drink more water than normal while using this supplement in order to stay properly hydrated.

    When to take creatine

    Now that you know what creatine is and how it helps the body, you might wonder when to take creatine. Should you take creatine before or after a workout?

    Research shows that it’s better to take creatine immediately before or after your workout. In a test with two groups of people taking creatine at different times, these were the results:

    • Creatine at morning and night — Those in the study who took creatine like a normal supplement (in the morning and at night) received some benefits. Their muscle mass increased. They did not take creatine near a workout.
    • Creatine right before or right after a workout — A different group of people took creatine either right before or right after a workout. They gained more muscle mass than the first group. 

    These studies suggest you should take creatine close to your workout for the maximum benefits. What’s more, post-workout creatine may produce superior gains in strength in comparison to pre-workout supplements. 

    The bottom line

    Improving muscle tone and strength involves more than just working out. It includes proper hydration, vitamin-rich foods, and rest days. It can also include supplements. 

    Supplements like creatine can boost your muscle mass and help you become stronger. Studies show that the best times to take creatine are before or after your workout. Creatine can help prepare you for large bursts of energy when performing a high-intensity activity. 

    Although creatine is the most popular supplement for strength training and hundreds of studies have shown that it is safe, there are some precautions you need to take. Talk to your doctor if you are pregnant or have known kidney or liver diseases. They can determine if supplements are appropriate and safe for you.

    History of updates

    Current version (23 December 2019)

    Reviewed by Olga Adereyko, MD, Primary Care Physician, General Practitioner, Medical Consultant

    Published (23 December 2019)

    In this article

      Try Flo today