How Long Does Creatine Take to Work?

creatine powder with a scoop

If you’re thinking about taking creatine, you might be wondering, “how long does creatine take to work?”

Like many nutrition questions, the answer is, “it depends!”

In this post, I’ll explain how your dosing strategy plays a role in how long it takes to work. I’ll also talk briefly about how to know which dosing protocol is best for you.

But first, let’s just talk quickly about what creatine is, for those who aren’t familiar.

What is Creatine?

Creatine is a substance that helps your muscles create more energy during exercise.

Your body’s most readily available energy source during intense exercise is a molecule called adenosine triphosphate (ATP). And unfortunately, you burn through your stores of it after just a few seconds of hard effort (say, a heavy lift).

Creatine donates some of its molecules to another molecule called ADP and, in the process, generates more ATP.

Your liver and kidneys make about 1 gram of creatine per day, and you get a gram or so extra, on average, if you eat animal proteins every day.

But more creatine means more energy, and supplementing can increase the amount of it in your muscles quite a bit.

Now, I’m not usually a big supplements gal, but I do make an exception for creatine because it’s the most extensively researched sports supplement on the market. Plus, a strong body of evidence shows that regular creatine supplementation can help increase exercise capacity and muscle mass when combined with resistance training.

(And here’s another fun fact. Small studies have linked creatine supplementation with other health benefits, like better blood sugar control and brain health. I shared my thoughts on that here).

How Long Does Creatine Take To Work?

So now that we’ve talked about why creatine is helpful for CrrossFitters and strength athletes, let’s get to the question at hand.

How long does creatine take to work?

Like any supplement, it takes a bit of time. You can’t expect to hit a massive PR in the gym by taking one dose right before you lift.

Some of this will also come down to outside factors, like your sex, age, and diet preferences (I weighed in on that here).

That being said, the lag time between starting creatine and seeing results depends on whether or not you load.

Creatine loading involves taking 5 grams of creatine four to five times per day for the first 5-7 days to really saturate your muscles. After a few days of loading, you transition to taking a smaller daily dose to maintain your intramuscular creatine levels.

This dose depends on your size but generally ranges from 3-10 grams. I typically just recommend 5 grams per day, unless I’m working with an athlete who’s either very muscular or very petite. 

Overall, loading allows you to maximize the amount of creatine in your muscles within just a week.

An alternate approach would be to simply jump to 5 grams per day (a little more if you’re larger, and a little less if you’re smaller). This method should help you reach your peak within about 4 weeks or so.

Is Creatine Loading Right for You?

When it comes to fitness, I think it’s natural to want to see gains as quickly as possible.

That being said, I don’t think most recreational crossfitters or weightlifters need to load.

Creatine is generally safe, but diarrhea, bloating, and other side effects are more common with higher doses.

At the end of the day, you’d need to decide if that risk of discomfort is worth it. It might be if you are training for a competition or other event! Otherwise, the slow route is probably just fine.

Hopefully, this gives you some idea of how long it’ll take to start reaping the benefits of creatine. But if you need help with a supplement plan (or nutrition in general), I’d love to help!

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