Creatine is one of the most reliable health supplements for increasing power, size, and lean muscle mass, which is why athletes of all types consider it the gold standard supplement.
Taking it pre and post-workout is pretty much established, but there is some debate over whether taking creatine before bed is good or not.
Is it safe to take at night? Will it affect your ability to fall asleep?
Let's find out.
What Is Creatine, And How Does It Work?
Creatine monohydrate is a naturally occurring molecule found in your cells.
Using three amino acids, namely glycine, methionine, and arginine, your liver, kidneys, and pancreas produce about 2g of it every day.
Although your body already makes it, taking creatine supplements will benefit you, especially if you frequently do weight training and high-intensity resistance workouts .
When you lift weights, your muscles rely on the energy provided by adenosine triphosphate (ATP) during contraction.
However, this substance tends to deplete very quickly, and once it’s all been used up, your muscles will start to give out.
That’s when creatine comes to the rescue.
It takes over and supplies that much-needed energy boost to improve your exercise performance, increase your strength, and assist in post-workout recovery.
Creatine supplements will mostly benefit those involved in power sports, e.g., football, wrestling, hockey, and bodybuilding.
Although its strength and muscle-building benefits won’t manifest immediately, creatine helps you push out an extra rep per set, and that compounding effect will aid in building muscle mass over time.
Learn what the difference is between creatine and whey protein and how they both work.
Taking creatine supplements has also been shown to possess brain-boosting abilities, i.e., improving short-term memory and intelligence/reasoning of healthy individuals .
Does Creatine Affect Your Sleep?
Now onto the million-dollar question: can you take creatine before bed?
Short answer -- it depends on your body’s reaction to it.
Since it’s an energy source, many people wonder if taking creatine before bed is a bad idea.
But the truth is, there has been no conclusive evidence saying that doing so will affect your ability to fall asleep.
However, research suggests that consuming creatine before you hit the sack can diminish the effects of sleeplessness .
A recent study involving sleep-deprived athletes found that supplementing with creatine had the same effect as caffeine in enhancing athletic performance .
Although it’s perfectly safe to take creatine before bed, you have to understand that everyone is different.
That means your body will also react differently to consuming creatine, no matter what time of day you take it.
My advice? Determine what works for you and stick to it.
If you find that taking creatine after your evening workout interferes with your sleep, then it might be better for you to train early and supplement with creatine after your morning exercise.
This may sound like a very simplistic recommendation, but there is often a trial and error involved in taking supplements. In the end, you should do what you see is best for you.
Related: Does Creatine Expire?
When Is The Best Time To Take Creatine?
There is no best time to take creatine; what’s more important is for you to take it consistently and at the right dosage.
However, studies have shown that taking creatine before and after your workout within a specific time frame can improve its efficacy .
When you supplement with creatine 30 minutes before training, your body will have enough time to absorb it before you workout. This may result in improved lifting power and, ultimately, more muscle gains.
"Supplementation with creatine serves to increase creatine stores and phosphocreatine availability in the body, resulting in faster ATP formation. Bottom line: The more phosphocreatine you have, the more work you can accomplish before fatigue sets it." Ciaran Fairman, Ph.D., Exercise Physiologist (from the article "6 Side Effects of Creatine Debunked”)
When you top up with creatine immediately post-workout, it will help your muscles recover faster.
Your muscles are drained of nutrients at this point, which means it's ready to absorb a massive inflow of nutrients and receive all of its benefits during this time.
If you want to enhance creatine's muscle-building benefits while you sleep, consider taking creatine with casein protein and complex carbs.
Casein protein digests very slowly and does an excellent job of helping your muscles absorb protein during sleep.
On the other hand, complex carbs help your muscles absorb creatine a bit faster due to its interaction with insulin.
How To Take It
For those taking creatine for athletic performance, a suggested practice is the short-term loading phase, which involves taking 20 grams of creatine for four to seven days.
This recommended dosage must be divided into four intakes throughout the day, which means you get to consume 5g of creatine per serving.
After the loading phase, you must lower the doses and take it down to 2 to 5 grams of creatine per day.
This should be enough to keep it at optimum levels and prevent a creatine deficit.
For those taking creatine supplements for muscle strength, a short-term loading phase followed by a long-term maintenance dose is also recommended.
Typically, the loading dosage is also around 20g per day for five to seven days. Afterward, a creatine dose of 2 to 5 grams may be followed .
If you want to undertake the loading phase, you can add it to your morning smoothie, take it as a pre-workout meal, or drink it to cap off your evening workout - all are perfectly fine.
However, if you opt not to do the loading phase, the maintenance dosage for this supplement is still at 2 to 5 grams of creatine per day, including training days and rest days.
Any Side Effects?
Creatine is one of the safest supplements on the market, as determined by a study on long-term creatine supplementation .
According to Cleveland Clinic, you may experience potential weight-gain as a side effect because of increased water retention in your muscles .
However, keep in mind that this added weight isn’t fat; it’s just water.
While there’s no data to prove that creatine supplements cause any significant adverse side effects, you should steer clear of them if you have diabetes, bipolar disorder, or a history of kidney disease .
Consider consulting your doctor before you take creatine to be on the safe side, especially if you're already taking other supplements or medicines.
Factors To Consider When Choosing A Creatine Supplement
The right bottle of creatine can help increase your muscle gains and strength. The wrong one, on the other hand, is just money down the drain.
Here’s how to choose the best creatine supplement for your fitness goals.
- Creatine monohydrate is best - Other forms of creatine, e.g., ethyl ester, anhydrous, citrate, don’t have enough scientific backing to prove its efficacy and safety.
They’re also usually more expensive than the more superior creatine monohydrate.
- Powder is the way to go - Creatine is unstable in liquid form and breaks down in your blood system.
As for pills, you have to take at least two to five capsules daily to complete the recommended five-gram dosage. If you can, get a creatine product that contains micronized creatine that easily dissolves in water.
- Extra ingredients are unnecessary - Some creatine supplements have added sodium, magnesium, or other electrolytes, and they’re usually more expensive than plain creatine.
While these nutrients may improve your exercise performance, endurance, and recovery, they do nothing to enhance creatine’s effects.
If you really want electrolytes with your creatine, I suggest mixing the powder with your preferred sports drink or fruit juice. The sugar in the juice increases your insulin levels, which then increases creatine uptake into your muscle.
- Choose one with an NSF certification - The FDA doesn’t evaluate supplements, so you should check for NSF’s “Certified for Sport” mark to confirm that a creatine product is safe, high-quality, and effective.
So, Should You Take Creatine Before Bed?
There’s no clear evidence stating that taking creatine before bed will affect your ability to fall asleep, so there should be no reason for you to worry too much about timing it.
Just make sure that you take this supplement within the recommended dosage so you can avoid any adverse reactions and fully experience its benefits.
Most importantly, remember that creatine is just a supplement.
While it may contribute to increased energy levels, endurance, and muscle gains, your results will still mostly depend on your overall lifestyle and eating habits, so make sure you pay attention to those things too.
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