Whether you're a casual athlete or a bodybuilder, you've probably heard talk of creatine. When it comes to workout supplements, it can be tricky to separate fact from fiction, so we're here to set the record straight and break down what exactly it is that creatine does.
Vital Note: This article has been made available for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Your licensed healthcare professional can best provide you with the diagnosis and treatment of any medical condition and assist you as well in deciding whether a dietary supplement will be a helpful addition to your regimen.
What does creatine do?
Creatine is an amino acid found in your muscles and brain. Athletes typically take creatine to boost their muscle power and endurance.** Many workout supplements, including Vital Performance™ PRE ($39; shop now on vitalproteins.com), contain creatine.
It can also be found in seafood and red meat, but in much smaller quantities than a supplement, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Is it okay to take creatine every day?
"Yes, it is okay to take creatine daily," Kristin Gillespie, MS, RD, LD, CNSC, advisor for Exercise With Style, tells Lively. "Studies have not demonstrated any negative effects of taking creatine daily for prolonged periods of time."
Many athletes take creatine daily, as it may increase your body's creatine levels more quickly and help aid in muscle gain,** Lisa Richards, CNC and Author of The Candida Diet, tells Lively.
Can I mix creatine with protein?
Although it is certainly safe to mix creatine with whey protein, studies have not shown any benefit of doing so. Research has suggested that taking either whey protein or creatine is equally as effective as taking the two in combination when it relates to strength and muscle mass,** Gillespie explains.
How long does creatine take to work?
The speed at which creatine works depends on how you are taking it. Creatine loading, which consists of taking 20g daily for 5-7 days and then reducing to a maintenance dose, results in quicker results according to research.
Those who practice creatine loading may see results in as little as a week or less. Those who choose not to do a loading phase can skip straight to the maintenance dose, taking 3-5g daily, but it may take longer to see results. Those who practice this method of supplementation may not see results for 3-4 weeks as it will take longer to maximize muscle stores, according to research.
Should you take creatine before or after a workout?
This is where it gets a bit tricky. Research has suggested a benefit of taking creatine close to a workout (either soon before or after), so it may not matter as much if you start or end your workout with creatine. But it has been found to be most beneficial when taken near your workouts, as opposed to other times of the day, explains Gillespie.