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How Long Does It Take for Creatine to Work?
The Definitive Answer

Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: May 20, 2021

As one of the most popular supplements in the fitness industry, many trainers recommend creatine to their clients to help them achieve lots of different health benefits and goals in the gym.

However, a common question usually left unanswered is: how long does it take to show results?

Since I’m a trainer whose clients wondered the same, I’ve done thorough research to find individual experiences backed up with scientific evidence and fact-based information on how long it takes for creatine to start working.

This content piece also provides tips on how to make it work more quickly.

How Long Does It Take for Creatine to Work?

Supplements spilled on floor

It may take between a week or two to a whole month until creatine supplement starts showing results.

It’s different for everyone and depends on various factors explained below, including the supplementation type, quality, purity, ways of taking it, workouts you do, etc.

4 Key Aspects

Scoop of creatine and supplements surrounding it

The following key aspects usually determine whether you’ll start noticing the results and benefits of creatine supplementation you’re taking in a couple of days, weeks, months, or never.

1. The Type of Creatine You Take

There are different types of creatine available on the market nowadays. Most of the supplements have turned out to be ineffective despite promising revolutionary results.

According to scientific research, powdered creatine monohydrate supplementation has been proven to produce the best results.

Some supplement companies claim that creatine HCL, creatine ethyl ester, liquid, or other forms are superior to powdered creatine monohydrate and better absorbed, but studies have shown that’s not true. [1] [2] [3]

Such products often contain creatinine instead of creatine. That’s a compound made when your body breaks down creatine, and it doesn’t enhance your exercise performance at all.

2. The Quality and Purity

Now that you’re aware of the best tried and tested creatine type to use, when choosing a specific product, make sure it’s not only highly effective but 100% pure and safe.

In short, carefully check the label for the following information:

  • The product’s been tested for impurities before or after packaging, and the findings are clearly displayed.
  • It’s made in the USA, ensuring top quality control (no lead or other harmful ingredients or impurities).
  • Choose an extra-fine micronized powder so that it easily dissolves without sticking to your glass.

3. The Way You’re Taking It

Studies find that taking creatine with food, especially fruit juice or other sources of carbs that rapidly raise your insulin level, can more effectively maximize creatine stores in your muscles.

People following Keto or any other low-carb diet can take it with a post-workout protein shake for similar effects.

Also, research shows that timing isn’t so critical, but there are some indications that taking your supplement after a workout may increase your muscle stores more effectively.

There are two safe and tested methods of taking creatine:

  1. Creatine loading phase - take 20 grams of creatine daily in 2-4 servings for 5-7 days; then, take a maintenance dose of 5 grams daily in a single serving to keep your muscles filled up - preferred when athletes want to maximize their muscle stores to see results fast (typically within a few days);
  2. A single serving per day -  take lower doses of 3-5 grams of creatine every day - instead of 3-5 days, this method takes at least 2-4 weeks to get noticeable muscle gain, strength, and other results.

Luckily, any method you choose will provide results.

However, the way you take creatine directly influences how fast you’ll see results of a specific product. [4]

4. The Type of Your Workouts

Individuals who work out harder are more likely to experience the benefits of using creatine faster.

In other words, lifting weights, sprinting, playing football, or doing any other intense exercises will enable you to increase muscle strength, gain muscle mass, and notice other positive effects sooner than if you participate in endurance activities such as long-distance running. [5]

That’s because creatine provides a source of instant energy increase and power output required for resistance training, strength training, and other high-intensity activities.

How to Take Creatine Most Effectively

Powdered creatine on a container

Although you cannot expect to experience significant changes in your body composition, muscle-building, training volume, and quality improvements, or any other effect instantaneously, following the steps below can help you see results faster.

Use High-Quality Creatine Supplementation

We’ve already learned that not all creatine supplements are created equal.

Some brands add electrolytes and other content to their products, claiming they can kick in immediately and improve your sports performance faster, which is often untrue.

“If you’re going to add a supplement in, make sure it’s creatine monohydrate. A lot of other supplements out there will have a lot of junk that you don’t need, and they’ll be much more expensive.”

 

- Carolyn Brown, Registered Dietitian

If you don’t want to pee your hard-earned money away, make sure you stick to 100% pure creatine monohydrate powder because experts say it’s most researched, effective, and affordable, with a lower risk of side effects than any other available creatine form.

Pay Special Attention to Your Nutrition

Creatine has a different effect on every person. Besides genetics, metabolism, exercise, etc., one critical factor determining how your body may respond to creatine is your diet.

For example, vegetarians and individuals who don’t regularly eat meat and other foods rich in creatine may notice a greater change.

Also, quality food is critical for fueling up your high-intensity workouts and supporting your post-workout recovery process, i.e., your body needs an adequate intake of carbs to get energy and strength, plus protein replenishment to repair damaged muscle tissue.

That’s how you’ll take advantage of taking creatine.

To speed up the whole process, here’s another expert advice:

“Save money and buy creatine powder and [mix it with] fruit juice. [...] If your diet is junk, there’s no point in adding creatine. It’s better to eat good sources of carbohydrates and lean protein.”

 

- Chad Kerksick, Ph.D. in Exercise Physiology, University of Oklahoma

Reason:  The sugar from fruit juice or other sports beverages increases your insulin levels, helping increase creatine uptake into your muscles.

Engage in High-Intensity Activities

A woman doing a high intensity activity

Keep in mind that you won’t build muscle or benefit from creatine if you don’t work out really hard.

Creatine influences the ATP production in your muscle cells, increasing your energy and power output during intense exercises such as weightlifting or sprinting, which results in more strength and better performance.

That’s why it’s a good idea to increase your exercise intensity when you use creatine.

Start with the Loading Phase to Boost Your Creatine Stores

Although it’s not necessary, it’s recommendable to start with the creatine loading phase to reach higher levels of muscle saturation and speed up the process for quicker results.

It means taking higher amounts of creatine, e.g., 20 grams per day for 7 days (as previously explained).

Follow Up with the Maintenance Phase

After the loading phase, there comes the maintenance phase, in which you take a lower maintenance dose of 5 grams daily to keep adequate creatine levels [6] and avoid depleting creatine stores in your muscles.

No Need for Running a Creatine Cycle

Many people stop taking creatine for a while after taking a high dosage for several months. Then, they resume the loading phase.

Besides being a good marketing strategy for selling more creatine, there’s no research evidence to support the effectiveness of this process.

FAQs

How Do You Know Creatine Is Working?

You know creatine is working when you notice that your training volume and quality have increased, i.e., you can perform a few more reps or your last set gets easier to complete, e.g., when lifting weights.

How Much Creatine Should I Take a Day?

An optimal long-term creatine dose is 5 grams a day or 20 grams of creatine daily in the loading phase (as explained above).

It’s generally recommended to take 0.03 grams per 1 kg of your body weight.

Read more: How much creatine should I take per day?

How Long Does Creatine Monohydrate Stay in Your Bloodstream?

Creatine monohydrate stays in your bloodstream for around one and a half hours.

Does It Matter When You Take Creatine?

Science claims it doesn’t matter much when you take your creatine.

So, How Long Does It Take for Creatine to Work?

In summary, you may benefit from creatine within a week, a month, or more, depending mainly on the supplementation type, purity, quality, amount, ways of taking it, and your workout regimen.

So, for a faster end result, besides choosing a high-quality supplement, fuel up your muscles with clean foods, boost your workout intensity, and consider starting with the loading phase.

If you follow a plant-based diet, you should consider taking premium vegan creatine supplements.

Besides these general guidelines and questions answered, it’s advisable to consult your physician to determine the best approach for you.

Remember to share your experience with us.


References:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22971354/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19228401/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17997838/
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12660409/
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12945830/
  6. https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-017-0173-z

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The Definitive Answer

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