Sports Scientists have shown that knowing how to manipulate key nutrient windows can have a profound effect on your training. But it’s a recent study conducted at Nova Southeastern University in the USA that has got creatine users rethinking the way they use it.
Traditionally it was believed the timing of your creatine supplementation didn’t matter. Experts theorised taken anytime of the day creatine would enter the body, improve the efficiency of the phosphagen system and in turn the size, strength and speed of the muscles. But scientists Dr Jose Antonio and Victoria Ciccone disagree. According to their research taking your creatine post workout is more effective than any other time of the day.
So, firstly how does creatine improve the speed, strength and size of your muscles? Research shows this is directly related to its unique ability to increase the muscle’s production of a substance called ATP (or Adenosine Triphosphate). Adenosine Triphosphate is basically the molecular source of energy for the muscles. It’s partly responsible for how efficiently they can contract. So put simply having more of it in the body means you can lift that final rep in the gym. Or, in theory, whilst others fade in the final 40 metres of a 100m sprint, you can continue to accelerate.
Now knowing the benefits, the next question is when to take it? To test this Nova Southeastern University researchers took 19 strength athletes and analysed them over a 4 week period as they trained 5 times a week. The 19 athletes were divided into 2 different groups. Group 1 took 5g of creatine before training. Group 2 took 5g of the same creatine immediately after training. All athletes were then given the same strength training protocol to adhere to which consisted of 5 gym sessions per week.
Following the 4 weeks of training, body composition was measured and each athlete’s 1 repetition maximum on the bench press were recorded. Results showed Group 2 taking the 5g of creatine post workout increased their 1 repetition maximum on the bench press and also displayed an improved body composition (increased muscle mass) compared to Group 1 taking the creatine pre-workout.
Whilst the study served to objectively present the data, there could be 2 possible explanations for this result. Firstly research shows the body is in its most absorbent state immediately after training. This is mainly because muscle glycogen levels are depleted and blood flow/ vasodilatation remains elevated from training. This then gives the body a ‘sponge-like’ quality which means it can absorb all nutrients (like the 5g of creatine in the study) far more efficiently compared to before training.
Secondly it could be theorised that immediately after training most strength athletes will ingest a high glycemix index carbohydrate with their protein shake to spike the anabolic hormone that is insulin. Insulin being a ‘storage hormone’ is needed post workout to help rapidly shuttle the protein to the muscle and replenish muscle glycogen quickly. It basically triggers the entire recovery process. So it could be argued that this spike in insulin post workout also helps to transport the creatine to the muscles more effectively than it would be when taken pre-workout.
In summary, according to the research from Nova Southeastern University it makes sense based on sound scientific theory to take your creatine post workout instead of pre. It’s exactly the same creatine, you’ll just see better results by manipulating your body’s increase absorbency during the post workout window.
• Jose Antonio and Victoria Ciccone (2013) ‘The effects of pre versus post workout supplementation of creatine monohydrate on body composition and strength.’ Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, Volume 10
• Campbell, Bill I PhD, CSCS; La Bounty, Paul M PhD, MPT, CSCS; Wilborn, Colin D PhD, CSCS, ATC (2011) ‘Dietary Supplements Used in Combat Sports’ Strength & Conditioning Journal: December 2011 – Volume 33 – Issue 6 – pp 50-59