Last updated on October 13th, 2023 at 10:31 am
Every time you engage in physical activity, you expend stored energy. The more strenuous the activity, the faster your energy reserves deplete. For your body to utilize stored energy, it relies on a vital energy currency called adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is used in every cellular process in your body. Carbohydrates, fats, and proteins cannot be used as fuel without ATP.
Regeneration of ATP occurs through one of three energy systems based on how quickly you require ATP. For low-intensity activities, your body uses fat and stored glycogen; for higher intensities, it only uses glycogen. For maximal intensity exercises such as weightlifting or sprinting, your body only stores enough ATP to last 3-4 seconds. After this, your body relies on creatine to produce more ATP. If your muscles have adequate stores of creatine, you can sustain maximal exercise for up to 10-12 seconds. Otherwise, you will run out of ATP quicker.
To keep your muscle stores of creatine topped up, it is advisable to take a high-quality supplement. This way, you can train harder for longer in the gym before fatigue sets in, leading to better results. Benefits of creatine supplementation include increased strength, power, and force, boosted athletic performance, enhanced cognitive performance, and elevated muscle protein synthesis and muscle growth. A recent meta-analysis study suggests that taking a creatine supplement combined with resistance training can increase strength by 1.4% per week and net lean muscle mass by as much as 0.36% per week.
As a serious lifter, taking creatine in your supplements is essential for maximum progress in strength, power, and mass. The question is, when is the best time to take creatine to achieve optimal results? One common method is to take it as part of your pre-workout to saturate your muscles with the compound prior to exercise, providing your body with potential for faster ATP regeneration. By taking creatine as part of your pre-workout, you can also load up with compounds that compliment and enhance it, such as caffeine, L-theanine, and rhodiola rosea. These nutrients work together, not against each other, to enhance workout quality.
Taking creatine after a workout may help with recovery, as your muscles could be more primed to absorb the compound while muscle concentrations are low. However, you cannot take advantage of the strength and power properties like you would by taking it as part of your pre-workout. Ultimately, the research suggests that when you take your creatine is completely down to personal preference.
You can take creatine and pre-workout together, as there are many similarities between these two supplements. They both flood your body with energy and help you train harder at higher intensities, albeit through different mechanisms and pathways. For example, creatine directly stimulates ATP regeneration, while caffeine (a common ingredient in pre-workout) boosts energy by inhibiting your adenosine receptors, which switches on the part of your nervous system responsible for elevating heart rate, blood pressure, and energy production. These nutrients work together to enhance your gym sessions and achieve better results.
In some workout supplements, such as 4 Gauge, creatine is added to pre-workout to enhance its effects. Research suggests that combining the two nutrients can significantly increase workout productivity and results. For example, a study published in Medicine in Science in Sports and Exercise found that athletes who took a pre-workout containing creatine and caffeine experienced an increase in maximal oxygen consumption, critical velocity, anaerobic running capacity, training volume, and lean mass. Another study found that caffeine supplementation after a dose of creatine helped a group of male athletes boost body mass, maximal fitness, and strength.