How Long Does It Take For Creatine To Work?
Okay, so, after years of promising yourself that this will be the year that you get in shape, you’ve finally decided to get off your butt and actually make it happen.
That’s awesome, and you’ll thank yourself for it a year from now.
Getting into better physical shape isn’t an easy process, but it’s an extremely rewarding one that provides countless benefits along the way.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re looking to burn fat and tone up, build muscle, or completely transform your physique, you need to resign yourself to the fact that it’s not a quick or easy process.
Getting in shape takes time, it requires patience, it requires diet, exercise, and discipline.
Once you’ve nailed all of the above, however, you can then start to think about supplements.
Supplements such as whey protein and creatine are hugely popular in the fitness community, though not everybody knows how they’re used.
If you’re thinking of adding creatine to your supplement stack but aren’t sure where to begin, you’ve come to the right place.
But how long does it take for creatine to work?
Let’s find out, shall we?
- 1 What Does Creatine Do?
- 2 How Long Does It Take for Creatine To Work?
- 3 Should You Use Creatine After 3 Months?
- 4 What’s The Best Way To Take Creatine?
- 5 What Are The Downsides To Creatine Loading?
- 6 Signs That Your Creatine Is Working
- 7 Mistakes When Using Creatine:
- 8 Final Thoughts:
What Does Creatine Do?
If you were to line up 100 bodybuilders and ask them if they used creatine as part of their supplement stack, we’d wager that 99 out of those 100 bodybuilders used creatine, or had used creatine at some point in their life.
Creatine is hugely popular in the fitness community.
In fact, it is the second most popular supplement currently for sale, lagging behind only whey protein, which has been at number 1 for decades.
Despite being a supplement, we produce creatine in our bodies.
Creatine is a naturally occurring organic amino acid-like compound that is found primarily within our muscle tissue.
In fact, 95% of all creatine in the body is found within our skeletal muscle system.
In the body, creatine is stored as creatine phosphate. It functions almost like an emergency energy reserve that the body, usually the muscles, taps into when it is lacking energy and knows it needs a boost.
Creatine basically assists with the production of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which is the primary source of fuel used by all of the cells in our body.
The problem is that, like gasoline at the moment, there’s only so much ATP to go around, and if your muscles are working hard, i.e., while exercising, you’ll quickly use up all of the ATP, meaning your muscle cells are now empty and your muscles will become fatigued.
The body needs ATP and will replenish it in numerous ways.
It will either replenish it with creatine phosphate stored in muscle tissue, it will use glycogen to replenish it, or for longer spells of endurance-based exercise, it will replenish it via glucose and oxygen.
The more creatine your muscles have stored, the more ATP you can produce, which means your muscles will have more energy and can work harder when you exercise.
It might not sound like much, but supplementing with creatine means you’ll be able to run that little bit faster or further, squeeze out that extra rep, or lift those extra few pounds in the gym.
Basically, it’s like stockpiling wood for the winter, except this time you’re storing creatine in your muscles so that you can produce more ATP when you work out.
Pretty neat, huh?
How Long Does It Take for Creatine To Work?
Okay, so we now know that creatine provides more energy for your muscles and allows you to train harder, and for longer, but how soon does creatine take to work?
In the muscles, creatine is stored in the form of phosphocreatine.
The idea here is to build up a good and healthy store of phosphocreatine so that the muscle cells have plenty of energy to get you through tough and grueling workouts.
Building up creatine muscle reserves takes time, so don’t expect to take creatine for one day and suddenly have the most amazing workout you’ve ever had.
I find it takes at least a week for me to notice results from creatine, though for others, it can take as long as four weeks.
How soon you see improvements will depend on your diet and lifestyle, your training, and the creatine levels in your muscles.
How do you increase muscle creatine levels quicker? I experience better strength and hypertrophy gains when I implement a loading phase.
The idea behind creatine loading is that you consume more than normal for around 5–7 days in order to saturate the muscles with creatine and flood your muscle cells with it.
If you perform an aerobic activity such as cycling, one study found that following a 4-day loading phase with creatine, athletic performance was increased by as much as 3.7% (1).
After a week of using creatine, you should also notice changes in how you look and how you feel.
I typically notice that my muscles look fuller as the cells are now saturated with creatine. Also, at this point, I am training harder, performing more repetitions and sets than usual.
I will also be heavier and look bulkier after this loading phase.
This is largely down to water retention; don’t worry too much about that or what the numbers say on the scales in your bathroom.
Without a loading phase, I find it takes longer to begin seeing improvements in strength, performance, and muscle size.
Creatine Results After 1 Month
If your diet sucks, your training is sporadic, and you find yourself making unhealthy lifestyle choices, don’t be surprised if you don’t notice any real improvements after a month of taking creatine.
If, however, you loaded creatine and then began a maintenance phase, after a month you should begin to notice a lot of improvements.
Again, as long as you’re doing things correctly, you should notice yourself having more energy, feeling stronger, doing more productive workouts, and looking bigger, fuller, and more muscular.
Numerous studies have found that creatine supplementation could lead to strength and performance increases of as much as 8% (2).
This is assuming that you’re training relatively hard. If you go to the gym once or twice per week and do the bare minimum, you won’t see any real improvements, nor should you really be taking creatine as it will be pointless.
From weeks 1–4, you should notice your weight increasing week by week.
By week 4, though, you should notice that things begin to plateau in terms of weight gain. Don’t worry, that’s perfectly normal, it just means you’re gaining less water weight.
Creatine Results After 3 Months
Okay, now we’re getting serious because now we’re onto 3 months of creatine use. Hopefully, over those 3 months, you’ve been eating right, getting plenty of protein, and training hard.
After 3 months you should have noticed a dramatic improvement in terms of strength levels, energy levels, and athletic performance.
Of course, this all depends on what type of exercise you’re taking part in in the first place.
If you lift weights and take creatine for resistance training purposes, you could enjoy an all-around strength increase of around 14%.
Furthermore, studies conducted on the bench press found that 3 months of creatine supplementation could lead to strength increases of as much as 43% (3). However, in my experience, this number seems to be on the high side.
It isn’t just weightlifting that can benefit from creatine supplementation, either.
Studies have also found that sprinters can benefit from creatine supplementation (4), as well as cyclists.
Should You Use Creatine After 3 Months?
Some people claim that creatine needs to be cycled.
Creatine is not a steroid.
The main reason why people say that creatine needs cycling is to make it sound stronger and more potent than it actually is.
If you use creatine supplements, there is no reason not to continue using them after 3 months.
Creatine, if used as instructed, is perfectly safe and is unlikely to cause any adverse side effects or symptoms.
If you wish to stop using creatine for a few weeks, you can, and then you will simply begin with a loading phase again before jumping back into maintenance and repeating the process all over again.
What’s The Best Way To Take Creatine?
Okay, so in terms of how fast creatine takes to work, we’ve looked at its effects over several weeks, but how should you consume it for optimal results?
The optimal daily amount of creatine is 5g per day, which is a maintenance dose.
A loading phase requires you to consume 20g of creatine per day for 5–7 days.
Thus, afterwards, you drop down to 5g per day.
Now, most people split this into 4 x 5g servings throughout the day.
Studies, however, have found that less creatine is wasted if you consume 20g per day in the form of 20 x 1g servings (5).
This means that the muscles absorb much more creatine and waste less, so you get more for your money.
Again, we keep saying it, but if you aren’t training intensely and eating right, the creatine won’t prove anywhere near as effective, so you may as well save your money.
What Are The Downsides To Creatine Loading?
Despite looking more beneficial, creatine loading isn’t for everybody. We have seen some people complain of bloating and feeling unwell. This can be attributed to excess water retention in the body.
Creatine powder is usually dissolved in water or the liquid of your choice and then consumed that way. I find it generally tastes best when I dissolve it in Gatorade.
If you do begin to feel unwell during the loading phase, simply skip to the maintenance phase instead and consume your creatine that way.
Signs That Your Creatine Is Working
If you’ve been taking creatine for a while but aren’t sure whether or not the creatine is actually working or not, it pays to know what to look out for.
Here are several signs that your creatine is working and doing what it is supposed to be doing.
Your Strength Is Increasing
First and foremost, if you take creatine and you’ve noticed how your strength has increased over the last several weeks, this isn’t a coincidence.
Creatine helps to provide more ATP to the muscles, which in turn means that they can work harder and lift heavier weights.
As mentioned, one study found that supplementing with creatine as part of a healthy lifestyle could help a person increase their bench press 1 rep max by as much as 43% (6).
Does that mean that creatine will turn you into a bench press specialist?
Of course not, but it should help you lift heavier weights while you train.
You Build More Muscle
Another benefit of creatine is the fact that it can, and will, help you build more muscle.
Not only does creatine help your muscles look bigger and fuller thanks to the saturation of creatine within your cells, it also helps you to train harder.
By being able to train harder your workouts will become more productive so you can get more done. The more productive your workouts are, the greater your results will be.
Improved Athletic Performance
It isn’t just your strength levels that will improve when you take creatine supplements, you’ll also find that your athletic performance improves too.
Creatine essentially helps your body to produce more energy.
If you have more energy you can run faster, lift heavier weights, run further, throw harder, hit harder, and exercise harder before you begin to fatigue.
If you want to enjoy a greater all-around athletic output, creatine is a fantastic supplement.
Less Risk Of Injury
Finally, the last sign that creatine is working is the fact that it will reduce your risk of being injured.
With creatine enhancing ATP levels, you’re less likely to suffer from muscle cramps, fatigue, or lactic acid buildup. Injury often occurs when your muscles are tired.
Mistakes When Using Creatine:
Finally, before I leave you to head out and pick up my favorite tub of creatine (Beast Creature), let’s take a look at some common mistakes to avoid when using creatine.
In my experience, one of the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to creatine is expecting miracles and overexaggerated results.
Creatine is a great supplement, but it does not work miracles.
You won’t gain 30 pounds of muscle by using creatine or add 200 pounds to your deadlift.
You will, however, enjoy an improvement in your athletic performance and your physique.
Buying Cheap Brands
Creatine is already affordable, so if you see very cheap creatine offered for a ridiculously low price, it will likely be worthless.
Creatine is like anything else, in that you get what you pay for.
If you buy cheap creatine, it will be an inferior product and won’t work properly.
We aren’t saying you need to spend a fortune, but at least buy a decent product from a reputable manufacturer. Beast’s Creature, CreaKong, and Swolverine’s Kre-Alkalyn are a few of the leading creatine products that I have found to be effective.
Not Working Out
If you expect to be able to take creatine and not work out, you’re in for a rude awakening.
Creatine improves athletic performance, in that it helps you to exercise harder, faster, and for longer.
If you aren’t exercising, all creatine will do is cause you to become bloated and gassy.
You won’t get faster, you won’t get stronger, and you won’t build any muscle.
Not Eating Right
Why would you spend money on a supplement designed to help you get in shape and become a better athlete, and then go and undo all your hard work in the gym by eating junk?
No matter how hard you train, if your diet sucks you won’t make any real progress when working out at all.
To get the most from your creatine supplement, be sure to follow a healthy and balanced diet rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fruit, vegetables, protein, complex carbs, and healthy fats.
Okay, so we know that users can see results in as little as one week.
But is it worth taking?
If you are patient, creatine will really take your training to the next level and leave you looking great in the process.