When you’re taking creatine or any other supplement, a common question to have is how long it’ll take to start working. I wondered too, so I did some research. So, how long does creatine take to start working?
Put simply, if you do a loading phase (20g of creatine/day), your muscles’ stores will be filled in about 7 days. If you’re only doing a maintenance dose of creatine (5g of creatine/day), your reserves will be filled in about 28 days.
While your reserves of creatine may be filled between a week and a month, the time it takes to actually see results varies not only person to person but based on many other factors. Below, I’ll go over these factors more in-depth.
My first tip: get good quality creatine monohydrate. A high-quality supplement will ensure that you see fast results. In fact, I wrote about my favorite creatine and why it’s the best, so check out my recommendation next and use the code “GET15” for 15% off your order!
How Long Does Creatine Take to Start Working?
Naturally, your body produces about 2 grams of creatine every day. This creatine is used up, for energy, every day before it’s restored again. All of your muscle cells have creatine reserves, which are only ever around 60-80% full if you’re not taking creatine as a supplement.
Once you start taking creatine, you can take it normally, or do a loading phase, where you take a lot more than you normally would before you go down to a “maintenance dose”. I’ll go over the differences between the two more in-depth below, but for now, that’s all you need to know.
As you start taking creatine, the creatine reserves will slowly start to fill, and depending on which method of taking creatine, the time it’ll take to fill the reserves will vary. The time it takes for creatine to start working will also vary based on your weight, your metabolism, and how much meat you consume on a daily basis.
If you didn’t know, animal meat contains creatine, so if you eat a lot of meat, you’ll have more creatine in your system already than someone that eats less meat. To break it down further, a creatine loading phase is where you take about 20 grams of creatine every day, for about a week, before you do a maintenance phase, which is about 5 grams a day.
If you don’t do a loading phase, you’ll start off in the maintenance phase. If you do do a loading phase, you’ll see results much faster than if you only do a maintenance phase. This is because you’re taking 4 times as much creatine every day, which fills up your creatine reserves very fast. A maintenance dose is fine, but it’ll take you longer to see results from your creatine supplementation.
Some brands of creatine might claim that their type will kick in faster, and start working right away. These claims sound good, but they’re usually not true. Read my article on every type of creatine if you want to learn more about what all the different types actually do!
How to Take Creatine for the Fastest Results
To get results from creatine the fastest, you should follow these steps. Any method of taking creatine will get you results eventually, but if you want results faster, follow these steps in order.
1) Get High-Quality Creatine
When you’re buying creatine, make sure that you’re getting pure, creatine monohydrate. There are other forms of creatine out there, usually marketed as “new and revolutionary”, but they usually end up being not as effective. Creatine monohydrate is tried and tested, and it’ll get you to results faster than any other form of creatine.
2) Take 7 Grams of Creatine Every Day, for 7 Days (Loading Phase)
This is what’s known as a loading phase. When you take all this extra creatine, it fills up your creatine reserves in your muscles much faster. Since your reserves are filled faster, this means that you’ll see results from creatine faster. Loading phases aren’t necessary at all, but they are helpful for speeding up the process.
3) After Loading, Take 5 Grams of Creatine Every Day (Maintenance Phase)
After the loading phase, you do what’s called a maintenance phase. It’s called maintenance because you aren’t adding to your creatine reserves, just “maintaining” them. Once you’re in this phase, you can continue doing it indefinitely.
This is because you can really take creatine for years at a time without harmful side effects. In fact, I have another article on how long you can safely take creatine, so check that one out next!
4) Skip the Creatine Cycle
Finally, you can skip the creatine cycle. A creatine cycle is when you stop taking creatine for a while, before starting the process over with the loading phase. While this might sound like a good idea, there’s no evidence proving that it’s effective in any way. On top of this, it’s more of a marketing strategy for supplement companies to sell more creatine.
If you’re interested in that subject, I have another article about why you don’t need to cycle creatine, so check that out too.
While you don’t have to do all of these steps, doing them will help you see results faster. This being said, everyone is different, and everyone responds to supplements differently. Keep in mind that I’m not a doctor, nothing here should be taken as medical advice. If you’re going to take creatine, talk to a doctor first.
Creatine Loading Phase vs Maintenance Phase
One of the best ways to see results from creatine faster is to do a loading phase. A loading phase where you take typically 20 grams of creatine every day instead of 5, and you do this for about a week.
If you do a loading phase, your creatine reserves will be filled after this week. Without a loading phase, it’ll be almost a month before your reserves are filled up. Because your reserves are filled up faster, in turn, you’ll see results from creatine much faster.
After your loading phase, you go into a maintenance phase of 5 grams every day. If you choose not to do a loading phase, you’ll start with the maintenance phase, which will take around 28 days to fill your creatine reserves. Loading phases aren’t necessary, but I highly recommend them.
There’s a chance of some stomach discomfort, so if you experience that or any other side effects, lower your dosage right away. While loading phases aren’t necessarily needed, they can do wonders for seeing results from creatine much faster than without a loading phase.
Does Creatine Cycling Affect When You’ll See Results?
I explained this earlier, so I won’t go too in-depth here, but this is one of my biggest problems with the fitness industry. The idea that cycling creatine will help you see more benefits from creatine, as well as make you healthier, is only a myth.
There is not one piece of evidence showing that cycling creatine has any benefits at all. In fact, creatine has been found to be safe to take in normal doses for up to 5 years.
Creatine cycling is nothing but a myth pushed by supplement companies to get you to buy more creatine because if you do a cycle, you’ll need to go through another loading phase, where you’ll use four times the normal about of creatine.
So, if you want to see fast results from creatine, do not do a cycle. In a cycle, you’ll stop taking creatine for a while. Stopping the use of creatine will not make you see results from creatine any faster.
Does It Matter When You Take Creatine?
Put simply, it really doesn’t matter when you take creatine. Most people have a preference for when they take creatine. In the morning, before bed, before a workout, after a workout, etc.
While it’s fine to have a preference, there’s really no proven best time to take creatine. It all comes down to when it’s most convenient for you, and what feels right for you. If it makes you feel sick taking it early in the morning try it some other time.
Basically, do what feels right for you. The one thing I do have to say about timing is; whatever time you pick, do it consistently. Once you find a time that works for you, take your creatine consistently at this time. This helps you form a habit of taking it and makes you less likely to forget.
Can Creatine Cause Belly Fat? Creatine won’t make you fat, but it will make you gain water weight. This means that you’ll look bigger than you are, without actually gaining any fat. Depending on your body composition, this water weight can either make you look more overweight, or more muscular.
Does Creatine Actually Work? If you take it right then yes, creatine will work. This being said, it’s not some magic supplement and it won’t make you muscular overnight without any work. If you put in work at the gym and take creatine, it will give you some advantages with strength and muscle growth.
How Do You Properly Use Creatine? To take creatine properly, you should take about 5 grams every day. To see results faster, you can do a loading phase, where you take 20 grams of creatine every day for one week, before dropping down to 5 grams per day. Despite popular belief, it doesn’t really matter what time of day you take creatine nor what you take it with.