By now, you probably know that creatine is one of the best supplements, but it can be hard to tell if it’s actually doing you any good. How can you tell if creatine is working?
The main ways to tell if creatine is working are:
- Getting Bigger Muscles
- Less Tired in the Gym
- Increases in Strength
- Less Dehydration
- Thirstier Throughout the Day
- More Water Weight
- Less Muscle Soreness
- Your Overall Volume Increases
- Improved Brain Function
Some of these things might seem like they contradict each other, so down below, I’ll break each one down so you can get a clearer picture.
Getting Bigger Muscles
Soon after you start taking creatine, among other things, you’ll notice your muscles grow larger. This is especially the case if you’re actively working out or training.
This happens due to a variety of reasons, including some I’ll go over down below, but mainly because you’re just building more muscle.
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Because creatine helps your muscles to lift more weight, you’ll be able to tell that it’s working when you start to get bigger muscles. This should only take a week or two to start to become noticeable.
However, some people are creatine non-responders, which means they might never see effects from taking creatine. I wrote a whole article on why this happens, and what to do if you’re a creatine non-responder, so check that one out next!
In all likelihood, you’re going to respond well to taking creatine. If you’re not noticing bigger muscles right away though, there are a few other ways you can tell if it’s working for you or not.
Less Tired in the Gym
Creatine mainly works by giving your muscle cells more ATP, which is their main source of energy. When you give your muscle cells more energy, they’re able to complete more work.
This means that after you’ve been taking creatine for about a week, you should notice that you’re able to complete more reps and sets in the gym than you were before, potentially even if you’re lifting more weight.
Delaying the onset of fatigue in the gym means that you’ll be able to lift more, and in turn, build more strength and muscle. In the long run, these benefits are even greater.
So, if you’re noticing that you can spend more time in the gym before you start to get tired, creatine has likely started to work for you.
Increases in Strength
As I just went over, being on creatine means that you should be able to spend longer in the gym, doing the same workouts that you were doing before. As a byproduct of this, it means that you’ll build more strength.
When you start to notice these benefits, you can either lift using the same weights before for longer, (more sets/reps), or lift greater amounts of weight for the same amount of time as before.
Either way, you’ll be able to get stronger much more quickly than you could without being on creatine.
However, this isn’t to say that you can’t build muscle without creatine. I have another article on how much more difficult it is to build muscle without creatine, so if you’re wondering whether or not creatine is really worth it, check that one out too.
When you notice that you’re gaining strength much more quickly, it means that your creatine is working.
When you start taking it, your muscle cells become saturated with creatine. Creatine attracts water, which means that all this creatine in your cells causes them to hold onto more water.
This means that your body will be less dehydrated naturally, and water will be more abundant. This does have some other effects, which might not be the best, but I’ll go over those in a little bit.
Having more water in your cells is not a bad thing. Your body needs water to function, and generally, the more of it there is the better.
Because this is such an internal function, if you were already getting enough water every day, you likely won’t notice this taking effect.
However, this does have a few byproduct effects to it that you will definitely notice, which I’ll go over next.
Thirstier Throughout the Day
Because your cells are holding onto more water, this means that you need to be drinking more water than you were before while you’re taking creatine.
If you don’t drink any extra water, you’ll notice that you’re much thirstier than usual. Again, this is because the water that you are drinking is being taken up into your muscle cells more rapidly than before.
That’s pretty much it for this one. If you’re noticing extra thirst even when you’re drinking your usual amount of water, it likely means that creatine has started working and is being absorbed into your muscles.
It also means that you should drink more water. This is essential, not only to seeing all of the benefits of creatine, but to maintaining a healthy body.
More Water Weight
This is another byproduct of what I mentioned earlier. Because your cells are holding onto water, you’re going to have more water weight. This will also enlarge your muscles and make them look bigger, even if they haven’t grown yet.
Some people experience more pronounced bloating and even puffiness when they take creatine. This is a sure sign that your muscle cells are properly absorbing creatine, and that it’s working.
However, I’m sure you don’t want to look bloated. If this is happening to you, make sure you’re drinking enough water, and think about lowering your dose.
I actually have two things to help you out with this, the first one is my creatine dosage calculator that will help you make sure you’re taking the right amount.
On top of that, I wrote another article all about creatine bloating. It’ll go over the causes, as well as what you can do to stop it from happening.
Anyway, if you start taking creatine and find that you’re holding more water weight, rest assured that it just means creatine is doing its job in your body.
Less Muscle Soreness
As I mentioned earlier, when you take creatine, it gives your muscles more energy. This means that they’re able to complete more work.
In turn, it means that if you do the same exact workout with and without creatine, you’d be less sore after the workout you did with creatine in your system.
Naturally, this is because your muscle cells have a greater capacity to lift weight with all the extra energy creatine gives them.
This all loops back to what I was talking about before. If your muscles take longer to get sore/tired, you’ll be able to lift more weight until you are sore/tired, which creates muscle growth.
Your Overall Volume Increases
This one really wraps it up, and you should have a good grasp on the concept by now. If you’re noticing that you’re able to either lift heavier weights, lift for longer periods of time, or do more sets and reps, it means that the creatine you’re taking is working.
If you read the article I mentioned earlier about creatine non-responders, you’ll know that some people naturally have their creatine reserves filled up, and won’t see much benefit from taking creatine.
This isn’t most people, but it is the case for some. Realistically, unless you are one of these people, the effects of creatine should be pretty obvious if you pay attention to your body and how you feel in the gym.
The easiest way to tell if creatine is working is if you’ve noticed an increased ability to lift, that your muscles are getting bigger, or that you’re getting stronger.
Improved Brain Function
This one is harder to detect happening, but has benefits and results nonetheless, even though it’s not why most people are taking creatine.
According to many studies, creatine helps improve brain function. This includes better memory, and reduced mental fatigue. Creatine affects your brain almost exactly how it does for your muscles!
All in all, you may not notice this happening, but if you start taking creatine and are looking for ways to tell if it’s working, be on the lookout for a better memory and less brain fog.