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There’s some debate over when to take creatine powder – before a workout, after a workout, or whenever is convenient. There are benefits either way, so your choice often comes down to meeting your own personal needs and preferences. Here is everything you need to know to make the right decision.
The term “nutrient timing” refers to how the timing of certain meals and supplements can affect the way your body absorbs and uses them. Timing nutrients properly can affect things like muscle growth, energy levels, and even recovery to a degree. What’s more, nutrient timing can help you make certain that you’re getting the most for every dollar you spend on your supplements – including creatine.
When you take creatine, you improve your stores of ATP, which is your body’s main source of fuel. When you have more ATP available in your body, your muscle fibers can enjoy better activation and contraction, which means you’ll get more strength. The more weight you can lift, the more muscle mass you can pack on. It’s a fairly simple concept, and that’s why so many people choose to take their creatine before they work out.
There’s yet another argument regarding when to take creatine powder. Many people prefer taking it following a workout, instead. That’s because after you work out, your muscles are depleted of nutrients and filled with lactic acid, which is a metabolic byproduct. When you take your dose of creatine along with some carbs and protein, your body is able to better use the creatine and make it even more effective. Along those same lines, you can shorten your recovery time significantly.
Finally, there’s a third group of people who believe you should take your creatine powder whenever it is convenient for you to do so. These people argue that taking creatine before or after a workout is nothing more than superstition, and that the supplement is just as effective at any time of day. They even argue that stressing out over taking your supplement at just the right time may even negate some of its benefits.
A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition seems to favor the group of individuals who believe in taking their creatine following a workout. However, both groups – those who took it before and those who took it after – benefitted significantly. More research is needed, though, since this study was incredibly small and focused only on 19 athletes.
What does this mean for you? How do you know when to take creatine powder? It’s a personal choice. If you want the best possible energy boost during your workout, take it an hour beforehand. Conversely, if you want to improve the supplement’s ability to help build lean muscle tissue and assist in recovery, then take it immediately after. For best results, split the dose and take it both before and after.