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Creatine – when to use – before or after training?

More and more people realise that it is worth reaching for appropriately selected nutrients and supplements when practising sport, even at an amateur level. Due to the increased physical effort, the body needs more than just the so-called healthy nutrition. However, many questions and doubts arise in what forms, amounts per kilogram of body weight, and when to take special preparations to make them work most effectively.

Let’s note that one of the most popular and essential supplements for the body is creatine – so it is worth considering how to take creatine so that it is effective and safe to use.

What is creatine, and why is it so crucial for a sports person?

The creatine we all know is called β-methylguanidinoacetic acid in organic chemistry. Like many organic compounds produced by our body, it is necessary for further metabolism of other chemical structures and thus for the proper functioning of the body. When explaining how creatine works, we should first of all focus on the process of protein synthesis because creatine is not only present in human and animal muscles and tendons, but above all, it is a specific brick that builds other protein muscle structures – hence the great interest in it among many athletes, especially those practising bodybuilding, triathlon or CrossFit. Through anabolic and anti-catabolic processes, the substance stimulates protein synthesis, which results in increased muscle mass and volume.

How does creatine act in other areas of our metabolism? First, it influences the regeneration on the cellular level – thanks to it, the mitochondria (the central element of a muscle cell), which were degraded during the physical effort, are rebuilt. Second, creatine also protects cells from the so-called oxidative stress, i.e. it has antioxidant properties. As we know, a less oxygenated muscle cell has a lower ability to work, a lower ability to adapt and to regenerate after an intensive effort.

When to take creatine?

Hundreds of articles have been written on the optimal time for creatine supplementation, and every athlete has their own opinion and habits in this area. However, let us try to put this generally available information in some order.

Intense exertion causes a loss of phosphocreatine, which is naturally produced in the body, which may disturb the correct work of muscles in the long run. Theoretically, therefore, there should be no contraindications against starting creatine supplementation at whatever training threshold we find ourselves.

So what about the specific time of taking this product? Her opinions are very divided. Some specialists think that there are no obstacles to supplementation taking place every day. Also, no cycles or saturation phases are required, and all that matters is the regularity of use in a fixed-dose. On the other hand, there are supporters of the loading method, which involves taking more of the product for several days to improve its storage in the muscles. At the end of this phase, doses should be reduced to maintain saturation.
There is also some disagreement as to whether supplementation should take place before or after training. Again, we may risk a statement that this is a very individual matter and both options have their advantages. However, research shows that creatine in the post-workout period is more beneficial for strength and lean muscle mass. This is due to faster transport to the muscles, where the concentration of the compound is stabilised or higher. There is also an increased feeling of muscle performance and a more powerful glycogen loading. Protein synthesis and injury reduction also benefit. In addition, ATP is replenished more quickly.

It is still worth noting a few fundamental issues:

If you take a pre-workout mix on training days, check how much creatine the manufacturer has already included in this nutrient before you get down to creatine. It may turn out that there is no need for additional supplementation.
For beginners, we recommend creatine monohydrate or creatine malate, the primary forms. Both are characterised by high absorption and anabolic activity.
Creatine should also be used on non-workout days to increase its reserves and support muscle regeneration. Between training cycles, our organism quickly notices that it has been given time for rest and rejuvenation. As a result, it begins to search intensively for the source of creatine, and if it has it in abundance, muscle recovery takes place faster.
When reducing weight, we often reduce the caloric value of our diet and by default, we conclude that we can also “save money” on creatine. Such an approach is a big mistake. The organism receiving a less caloric diet often begins to save on adaptation to the next effort (this manifests itself as an impression of irremovable exhaustion) and a decrease in strength. So when deciding when to take creatine, don’t forget about the reduction period – creatine supplementation in this mode helps to inhibit the reduction in force.

How to take creatine

Creatine is usually available in powder or tablet form. However, the choice does not matter much here as both are absorbed very well. So we decide based on our preferences.

The answer to the question – how much creatine per day – is not unequivocal. The dose of the substance should be matched to the weight and gender of the user. The specific values are very diverse due to more recent results of specialist research and changes in athletes’ approaches. However, more and more often, we are leaning towards a ratio of 1 g for every 10 kg of body weight, given in two doses. It is also worth paying attention to the specific recommendations of the manufacturer of the purchased product.

Taking creatine with protein, magnesium, taurine, carbohydrates or a balanced meal significantly improves its bioavailability. It is also beneficial from the point of view of aerobic capacity. There are no contraindications to taking it with water or other supplements. This does not affect retention and does not cause “competition for absorption”.

To sum up, creatine is a popular and well-received supplement with a visible effect on performance and regeneration. It can be taken regardless of experience, time of day, training time or additional supplementation.


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