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Should You Mix Creatine & Coffeine?
Are There Any Side Effects?

Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: October 8, 2021

Both creatine and caffeine are helpful on their own.

But, taking them together may promise to bring your training to an even higher level.

To provide you with comprehensive guidance, I delved into intensive research to find out if creatine and caffeine can work together and how their combination can benefit you.

And with the help of some credible health and fitness experts, I will ascertain if co-consumption can help you increase muscle mass fast.

Let's roll.

Summary of the Key Findings

  • Both caffeine and creatine are scientifically proven to have performance-enhancing effects.
  • They can be found separately, or together in pre-workouts.
  • There are both benefits and downsides to taking creatine and caffeine together. You should know what these are if you intend to take these supplements. 
  • Follow three tips when taking these two supplements together.

Creatine And Caffeine: What Research Has To Say

white powder in a bowl, and coffee powder in a bowl

Creatine and caffeine are individually known for their performance-enhancing effects in many athletic populations. While caffeine may boost strength [1], creatine speeds up muscle recovery [2].

You can find these two substances together in numerous pre-workouts, but they are also available as individual supplements in separate doses.

Creatine

Creatine is a natural chemical produced from amino acids in the body that helps your muscles make more energy during high-intensity exercise.

When you take creatine as a supplement, your muscle cells store it as creatine phosphate. This high-energy compound is responsible for more ATP production needed for muscle gains and strength development.

We've compiled a list of the best creatine supplements on the market for you to check out.

Caffeine

Caffeine is a natural stimulant in coffee and tea, popularly used as an ergogenic aid to increase stamina and improve performance.

The caffeine you get from consuming energy drinks, soda, and pre-workout supplements stimulates the central nervous system to improve mental alertness and sharpen focus.

Do Creatine and Caffeine Taken Separately Enhance Exercise Performance?

man in a gym and a woman with a tumbler

Taking creatine and caffeine may not enhance exercise performance as much as taking multi-ingredient supplements.

Most pre-workouts have multiple ingredients that work collectively to provide energy and boost athletic performance. Without the benefits of other ingredients, caffeine and creatine may not equal the ergogenic action of these pre-workouts.

Also, modern research has shown variable reports on the benefits of creatine and caffeine.

Research suggests that caffeine intake with creatine for five days showed no significant differences in strength and sprint performance among participants. Thus, no pharmacokinetic interactions were reported.

But since numerous pre-workout supplement formulations containing both creatine and caffeine were found to support a powerful performance, more analysis on possible interaction is needed.

"Some studies show there is a possibility of performance being affected by the co-consumption of both substances, but results are mixed." - Andres Ayesta, MS, RD, LD, CSCS, CSSD 

And while more studies are yet to confirm the conflicting reports on their combined ergogenic effects, you might be guessing what other benefits it can give if you take them together.

What Are The Benefits Of Creatine Supplementation With Caffeine Intake?

While there are benefits that explain why they may be better together, there are also possible downsides that may arise from the combination.

Let's start with the benefits.

3 Benefits Of Taking Creatine And Caffeine

woman smiling while working out and a man showing off his body muscles

Increased Physical Performance 

The performance-enhancing effect of caffeine ensures longer strength training [3], while creatine increases exercise capacity for high-intensity interval training (HIIT).

Together, they are shown to improve muscular strength and power in sprinting and higher intensity exercises.

Developing Lean Body Mass 

While creatine encourages long-term muscle tissue accumulation, caffeine provides immediate, short-term thermogenic calorie burn during a workout [4].

Together, they can make significant improvements to overall body composition to reduce body weight.

Related: How Much Creatine Should You Take Per Day?

Boosting Energy And Sharpening Focus

Caffeine stimulates the body's central nervous system by blocking adenosine from binding to receptors in your brain. It results in its ergogenic effect, i.e. makes you more alert.

Likewise, creatine boosts energy by increasing your muscles' phosphocreatine, a substance that produces more power during intense fitness exercises.

3 Downsides Of Mixing Creatine And Caffeine

man laying down in bed with insomnia and a woman holding her stomach in pain

Increased Risk of Dehydration 

Creatine can significantly influence muscular water retention, while caffeine has a diuretic effect on the body. Thus, co-usage in most people might increase the risk of dehydration.

Mild Digestive Discomfort 

Caffeine may stimulate intestinal muscle contraction and relaxation, leading to stomach discomfort and frequent bowel movements.

Similarly, some possible side effects of creatine ingestion involve nausea, stomach pain, diarrhea, and muscle cramps [5].

Disrupted Sleep Schedule

Caffeine has a stimulating effect of activating brain activity. Thus, experts don’t recommend taking caffeine prior to bedtime, as this may result in sleeping difficulties.

At the same time, regular creatine supplementation may reduce the amount of sleep needed to feel rested [6], which can increase the risk of depression and poor sleeping habits.

Apart from the typical possible negative effects that all supplements may have, it's essential to talk about some reports of counter-interactions.

Does Caffeine Counteract Creatine Supplementation?

scooper pouring powder in a glass water

According to some studies, caffeine may have a counteractive effect on creatine.

In fact, a great deal of reaction against mixing creatine with coffee arose from a study by Vandenberghe in 1996, which explored creatine supplementation combined with caffeine ingestion.

The research was based on the expectation that complete creatine absorption should result in an increased level of muscle phosphocreatine and a significant improvement in strength among healthy male volunteers during intense intermittent exercise.

However, the report that caffeine intake has completely eliminated the effect of creatine has called the attention of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN).

The ISSN claimed that the study was inconclusive since there were only nine participants, which is far too low a test sample to get conclusive data.

While there is no solid evidence to confirm this counteraction, taking creatine with coffee may not be at all that bad.

Is It Safe To Mix Caffeine and Creatine?

woman holding up a tumbler in gym clothes, and a man making protein shake

Yes, it is safe to mix creatine and caffeine, given the correct practices.

Creatine and caffeine separately are known ergogenic aids in sports, and combining them can be more effective in enhancing the body’s ability to perform.

However, it's good to determine the proper practices to avoid some opposing effects of their mixture.

3 Tips When Taking Caffeine And Creatine

Good Hydration

Research shows that caffeine increases physical demands and time to exhaustion during exercise, resulting in elevated blood lactate levels.

Staying hydrated during a workout can speed up the breakdown of any excess lactic acid build-up.

Also, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends that athletes start drinking in preparation for, during, and after resistance training to consume fluids at a rate sufficient to replace all the water lost through sweating [7].

Correct Dosage

Caffeine levels higher than 10 g can be toxic. However, 400 mg a day is considered safe for most healthy individuals [8].

So, if you're consuming too many caffeinated beverages, you might want to limit them. It’s crucial to know your body's tolerance to caffeine to avoid unwanted side effects.

Also, taking in too much creatine may be pointless as it may result in stomach-related problems.

To build muscle, you can start with 20 g of oral creatine monohydrate per day until you saturate the muscle phosphocreatine level, then maintain a 3-5 g daily dose for optimal muscle stores.

Proper Timing

Health experts recommend drinking coffee or taking a caffeinated supplement at least 6 hours before bedtime to avoid having difficulty sleeping at night.

On the other hand, most athletes are advised to use creatine 30 minutes before their workout or shortly after working out. Since it helps short-term physical activity, it is beneficial to take it soon before working out to create an immediate impact.

Does Combining Caffeine And Creatine Promote Muscle Mass?

Combining creatine and caffeine can effectively contribute to increased power and muscle mass.

If taken with best practices in mind, the combination shouldn't negatively impact but rather boost your overall exercise performance.

Like with any pre-workout ingredients, each person may experience adverse effects. So, it's best to consult with a healthcare provider before adding creatine to your coffee to support an active lifestyle.

With proper diet and nutrition, enough sleep, and good hydration, this supplement combo can improve your health and overall athletic performance.


References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5839013/
  2. https://www.webmd.com/men/creatine
  3. https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-018-0216-0
  4. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/expert-answers/caffeine/faq-20058459
  5. https://www.drugs.com/creatine.html
  6. https://nakednutrition.com/blogs/supplements/does-creatine-affect-sleep
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9303999/
  8. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/caffeine/art-20045678

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