If you’ve considered trying creatine to pack on some muscle, you might be wondering, “how long does creatine take to work?”
The good news is, that creatine can kick in after a few weeks, or in some cases after just a few days!
In this post, I’ll explain how your dosing strategy plays a role in how long creatine 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 by helping your body create more of a molecule called adenosine triphosphate (ATP).
ATP is your body’s most readily available energy source during intense exercise. And unfortunately, you burn through your stores of it after just a few seconds of hard effort (say, a heavy lift).
Creatine gives your muscles more stamina by donating some of its molecules to another molecule called ADP–a process that generates more ATP.
Higher creatine levels mean more energy for your muscles. Your body produces some creatine (about 1 gram per day), and omnivores can get another gram or so by eating meat, poultry, dairy, and other animal proteins.
But studies suggest that supplementing can increase the amount of creatine in your muscles quite a bit, allowing you to work a bit longer and a bit harder in the gym. And a large body of research has shown that regular 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 CrossFitters 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.
But for most people, the amount of 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 can 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.
So just to summarize, 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 around 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 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.
Still, 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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