With all the solid science behind creatine, it is no wonder it is often one of the top supplements for improving exercise performance and increasing lean gains. However, one of the problems of creatine supplementation is that it can be fairly complicated, and there are a lot of myths regarding how and when to take creatine. For the purpose of this article, we are mainly referring to creatine monohydrate. If you are after a detailed explanation of how to take creatine, its doses, loading, and maintenance, etc, please refer to our How to Take Creatine article.
Creatine on an Empty Stomach
One very important thing to keep in mind about creatine is that its absorption is hugely improved through the action of the insulin hormone. This is because insulin is able to help carry creatine into the muscles, where it is stored and can act. Therefore, taking creatine on an empty stomach is not advised, not because it is harmful, but rather, because its effects would be boosted if you consumed it together with insulin spiking carbohydrates and/or whey protein. In other words, don’t have creatine without having it with a meal, or a shake containing carbs and whey protein.
Creatine Before or After Workouts
Taking creatine around the workout period is an excellent time to consume this supplement, especially if it is combined with some fast acting carbs. However there is plenty of debate regarding which is better for gains, creatine before or creatine after a workout? Ignoring all the bro-science and hearsay, there is actually some real science to suggest that taking creatine after training has slightly better results in regards increasing lean mass, reducing fat mass, and increasing strength (Antonio & Ciccone, 2013).
Creatine on Rest Days & Off Days
For creatine to be effective, you need to be able to maintain high levels in your muscle tissue. To do this, creatine must be consumed on a daily basis to prevent levels from trickling down. Creatine, unlike pre workouts should therefore be taken every day, including on rest and off days.
Creatine in the Morning
There is no hard and fast rule about whether or not you should use creatine first thing in the morning. As mentioned above, taking creatine after a workout with insulin spiking nutrients is ideal. However, if you are not training, then your dose of creatine can be taken any time of the day, including in the morning with your breakfast.
Creatine Before Bed
Much like taking creatine in the morning, there is no strict rule that says you cannot take creatine before bed. If however you are conscious about eating carbs before bed, and considering that carbs are a great way to spike insulin, then it may be best to have creatine earlier in the day.
Antonio J, Ciccone V. The effects of pre versus post workout supplementation of creatine monohydrate on body composition and strength. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2013 Aug 6;10(1):36. [Epub ahead of print]