Creatine works for size and strength gains. It works when you load it, it works when you don't load it but take it consistently, and it works for just about everyone who lifts weights. It may even boost longevity and help with heart function.
And thousands of studies have shown that it's perfectly safe, despite all those ninnies in the 1990's who told us we were going to blow out our kidneys and get all roid rage-y on the waitress at IHOP. Yeah, didn't happen.
You'd think science would be "done" with creatine by now, but the studies keep pouring in. For example, we're still looking at dosing protocols. Is there a best time to take it?
Well, for years we assumed the best time was before training. Makes intuitive sense. Take the magical muscle powder before you apply resistance to said muscles, right? Sure, that works fine, but it turns out that taking creatine AFTER training is even better.
In You're Taking Creatine at the Wrong Time, TC Luoma summarized a 2013 study that showed that taking creatine monohydrate lead to twice the lean muscle mass gains in those using it right after training compared to those using creatine pre-training. The same group of lifters who took their creatine post-workout also lost more fat than the pre-workout group doing the same workout.
Now, researchers Forbes and Candow have looked at two more newer studies. In a nutshell, both show that post-workout creatine ingestion is slightly more effective than pre when it comes to size gains.
Why? As TC noted, it could be because the workout itself somehow sensitized the cells to creatine uptake. Based on the meta-analysis, it could be because you have a pump going after lifting (increased blood flow, better delivery).
How to Use This Info
It's really hard to take creatine "wrong." But for best results, take it after training. You can also take it before and after training if you'd like. Five grams is the standard dose, but try 3 grams before and 3 grams after.
If you're using a pre-workout nutritional supplement like Plazma™, just toss your creatine into that. Likewise, if you're using Surge® Recovery or Mag-10® post-workout, just add creatine to the mix. For best results, use micronized creatine monohydrate.
- Scott C. Forbes, Darren G. Candow, "Timing of Creatine Supplementation and Resistance Training: A Brief Review" Journal of Exercise and Nutrition, 2018.