Should You Take Creatine Before Or After A Workout?

Creatine is one of the most popular sports supplements, offering tangible benefits for gym-goers and pro athletes alike. This compound supports the production of adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, which provides energy, explains Simply put, it helps your body produce energy, especially during short, intense bursts of exercise.

The human body produces about 1 gram of creatine per day, according to 2012 research published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (JISSN). Except for vegans, most people get an additional 1 gram of creatine daily from food. Meat, eggs, and dairy products all contain this nutrient. Creatine is also available in supplement form and can be used before or after exercise. When consumed as part of a balanced diet, it may improve body composition and sports performance. Depending on your goals, you can take creatine to get stronger, build lean mass, or recover faster from training.

This supplement is generally safe for healthy individuals, says the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). Most athletes take anywhere between 3 and 7 grams per day depending on body weight.

The question is, should you take creatine before or after exercise? Does it really matter? Let's find out. 

When should you take creatine for optimal results?

Some athletes take creatine before a workout, saying that it boosts their energy. Others use this supplement after training to speed up muscle repair. Another option is to take creatine during exercise or anytime throughout the day. But what does the research say?

Let's start with a 2013 study published in the JISSN, which assessed the effects of creatine timing on body composition and strength. Recreational bodybuilders who took creatine post-workout for one month got slightly better results than those using it before exercise.

A 2021 review featured in the Journal of Exercise and Nutrition had similar findings. As the researchers note, taking creatine after resistance training may produce greater gains in muscle mass — but not in muscle strength — compared to pre-workout supplementation. Other studies suggest that creatine can increase muscle size and strength, regardless of the time of ingestion. For example, a 2015 clinical trial found that older adults who took this supplement before or after exercise for 32 weeks had similar results in terms of mass and strength gains (per Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism).

The NASM, on the other hand, recommends taking creatine both before and after hitting the gym. All in all, the research is conflicting, and it may take some trial and error to determine what works best for you.