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How Long Do Creatine Supplements Take To Work?

time for creatine to work

Taking creatine supplements, in whichever form – Monohydrate, Ethyl Ester, Magnesium Chelate – will help you quickly gain strength and power for weight lifting – that’s now a long-standing fact backed by science [1].  

Creatine has been studied extensively for this activity, and the results are impressive for a dietary supplement. In fact, it’s not only the most popular bodybuilding supplement – it’s also the most studied.

The three amino acids arginine, methionine, and glycine are the building blocks for creatine in the body. Our bodies make some creatine naturally, but we also take it in from eating red meats and fish. The word creatine comes from the Greek word meaning “meat”.

Creatine aids in the regeneration of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the primary energy molecule in your body. Once your muscles’ creatine stores are depleted, your body’s ability to produce ATP is halted and your energy output plummets. 

The availability of fuel to power ATP is increased when supplementing with creatine, which can boost muscle strength, size, and output of power. This is what allows you to push out extra reps and build more muscle.

We know this stuff works, but you want to know how long it takes to see the effects.

When does creatine start to show results?

After taking a 20g loading phase of creatine you should notice an increase in muscle stamina within 7 days followed by a gradual increase in strength and muscle mass over 1 – 6 weeks. 

Of course, we all respond differently because of genetics, metabolism, and lifestyle, but this is a good guide to gauge a timeline for results. First comes muscle muscular endurance (week 1), then an increase in strength (week 1 – 3), and an increase in muscle gain (week 3 – 6)[2]. Think of creatine results working on a sliding scale in that order.

Not all of the size and weight increase will be pure muscle, as creatine can cause some water retention, so bear in mind that fuller muscles and a higher number on the scales could be water weight, which will disappear after use.

Creatine supplements do not produce quick results. Saturation of the muscle with creatine is a process that requires time. Saturating the muscle means filling its creatine stores to capacity.

Muscle saturation is reached when enough creatine has been stored in the muscle to experience the effects of creatine supplementation. Whether or not a loading phase has been used can affect how long this process takes, from as little as 5 days to several weeks. Consuming 5-10g of creatine per day is recommended to keep muscle saturation at a constant level.

Related: Does Creatine Expire?

Results with Creatine After 1 Week

1 week creatine result training

Although creatine is produced naturally and stored throughout the body (95% in muscle and the other 5% in the liver, kidneys, and brain), we don’t reap the benefits or see gains in our training output until we significantly raise our creatine storage and completely saturate our muscles.

Phosphocreatine is the medical term for the creatine form that is retained in muscle tissue. Consider it the same as the energy that is already present in your muscles.

Supplementing with creatine allows us to expend more of our available energy on training, resulting in greater increases in both strength and performance. This can sometimes be felt within one week of creatine use, but don’t expect to see any size gains or extra weight on the bar – at most, some extra reps may be achieved with improved mental focus and energy.

As could be expected, a single dose of creatine will not be sufficient – not even steroids are that good. Depending on whether you begin using creatine with a loading phase of up to 20g per day for the first 7 days days before switching to a maintenance dose of between 5g – 10g per day, ramping up creatine stores in the muscle so there is a surplus there for you to reach, can take up to 4 weeks, but may be achieved after the first week [3].

Alternately, if you begin taking creatine at the maintenance dose, it may take up to 28 days [4] to reach a level of creatine in the muscle that is considered optimal for performance. Studies are mixed because we have different metabolisms and genetics.

Is it realistic to expect noticeable improvements after one week of creatine supplementation?

Creatine’s effects on performance may not become apparent until as long as 4 weeks after beginning use [5], though this time frame varies greatly depending on the individual’s current creatine levels, diet, training, lifestyle, and genetics. 

In some cases, adding a loading phase may accelerate creatine saturation, you may experience small performance gains if you load your supplements prior to exercising.

What to Expect in Week 2

Creatine is a water-binding amino acid, thus increasing your intake will make your muscles look and feel fuller since they will be able to store more fluid [6].

Due to the accumulation of fluid in the muscles, you can put on some extra pounds. There is no actual “muscle gain,” but rather your body is just retaining more water than it would without creatine use.

If you haven’t undergone a loading phase and are instead increasing your creatine intake gradually to reach a maintenance level, it could take you up to four weeks before you notice any improvements in your performance or appearance, but you may notice weight gain and a fuller feeling muscle after 2 weeks.

When used for a month, how much of a difference should you expect creatine to make?

Muscle saturation is likely to have been obtained and sustained after 1 month of daily creatine use – with or without a loading phase was followed by a transition to a maintenance phase.

With this supplement strategy, you should be able to witness gradual increases in your 1-RM and performance [7].

Creatine users who consistently use the supplement have been shown to gain significant strength and experience increased power production during high-intensity exercise. 

How often you subject your body to that kind of exercise is also related to the rate of progress in performance that you acquire. That’s why, in addition to taking creatine, you need to commit to a regular resistance exercise regimen if you want to see any gains from either method.

When you take the same amount of creatine every day and give your body time to adjust, you may notice that the number on the scale stabilizes, which is a good indicator of physical health.

If no loading phase has been performed beforehand, the first noticeable effects on performance and physical changes like muscular fullness may not appear for up to a month. This is more in line with the typical effects of creatine after a week of loading.

However, the rate at which you get results will depend on your starting creatine levels and the time it takes to reach creatine saturation. This varies from person to person, so it’s important to monitor physical changes to get a feel for how the body is reacting to creatine supplementation.

Results From 8 Weeks of Daily Creatine Supplementation

using creatine mono for 8 weeks

After 8 weeks (2 months) of creatine supplementation, you should experience an improvement in overall performance, size, and strength relative to where you were before you started. In one study, compared to the control condition, the rate of muscular power production significantly improved in the creatine group. 

These results show that CM supplements significantly increase power generation (strength), and lean body mass over the course of numerous cycle ergometer sessions [8]. This is true whether or not a loading phase was used at the beginning of supplementation.

It depends on the type and intensity of training you do, but you should feel like you have more stamina and strength when performing high-intensity exercises like sprints or explosive weight repetitions. 

Longitudinal studies on the effects of creatine on strength have shown that the supplement, when used in conjunction with resistance training, can increase the user’s maximum strength to 8 weeks and beyond.

After 3 months of creatine supplementation, you have the option of continuing supplementation to sustain further improvement, discontinuing use altogether, or doing 3 months on 2 months off cycle. There’s no single set-in-stone protocol for cycling creatine, it’s really up to you.

Studies have shown that creatine can be used safely over the long term, so there’s no need to cycle on and off the supplement if you don’t want to drop any size or strength. Weightlifters and bodybuilders have been known to use low doses of creatine almost daily for up 5 years without any issues. [9]

If you’ve been using creatine to improve your performance and you decide to take a break, you won’t lose those much in the way of gains -perhaps some water weight and a slight decrease in power – as long as you continue your regular training routine.

Formulas for Maximizing Creatine’s Time Efficiency

making creatine work faster

For optimal outcomes, studies recommend first loading with 20g per day for 5-7 days and then transitioning to a maintenance phase. It is recommended that the daily loading 20g dose be broken up into five 5g portions for optimal absorption. Something like – 5g morning, 5g afternoon, 5g in the evening, and 5g before bed.

After this 7 days of 20g per day loading phase, drop the done down to 5g per day taken 1 – 2 hours pre-workout. Stay on this 5g dose for as long as you like. You could do 10g on training days – 5g per then 5g post workout, and a maintenance dose or 5g per day on non-training days.

Get Creatine to Work Faster

  • Do a 7-day loading phase of 20g
  • Space the loading dose out into four 5g doses
  • Take 10g on training days (5g before and 5g after a workout)
  • Maintain a 5g daily dose
  • Optimize protein intake
  • Stay consistent with your training program
  • Get adequate rest (sleep) and water intake.

Pair it with a dedicated training routine and healthy eating, and you should start to see a difference in how you look, feel, and perform within 2 – 4 weeks.

Related: How to Take Creatine Monohydrate Powder

Does Creatine’s Efficacy Depend on Dosage?

How quickly your muscles become saturated with creatine depends on the amount you consume at the outset. The faster we reach full saturation in our muscles with creatine, the sooner we’ll feel the benefits of creatine supplementation.

However, there is a limit to how much creatine the human body can absorb before it begins to treat it as waste and excrete it via the urinary system. Avoid overdosing and stick to the protocol above for optimal results.

In order to reach muscle saturation as soon as possible, we must rapidly increase creatine stores in the muscles before switching to a maintenance quantity that will allow us to continually replenish our muscles and maintain high creatine levels in the muscle system.

The goal of determining an appropriate maintenance dose of creatine is to prevent depletion of muscular creatine reserves, minimize waste, and prevent adverse effects such as gastrointestinal distress.

There are two methods that can be used to find the optimal creatine maintenance dose:

Research shows that a daily intake of 5g is sufficient for establishing and maintaining creatine reserves in the body. Most creatine capsules, pills, and powdered formulas on the market recommend this dosage. Lower levels of activity will be represented by the lower end of this spectrum, with 5g being the more judicious quantity for elite-level athletes.

Maintaining a dose of 0.1g of creatine per kilogram of lean body weight has been found to be effective at cellular level training adaptations. This strategy may be useful for athletes or individuals with a larger percentage of lean body mass because it provides some leeway in determining the appropriate quantity of creatine maintenance needed to sustain creatine reserves at a steady level.

It has been hypothesized that maintenance doses of creatine higher than 10g are unnecessary.

Does Loading Creatine Make it Work Faster?

How quickly we get full creatine muscle saturation is affected by the loading phase. So, it certainly can affect how quickly the effects of creatine will manifest. A faster rate of creatine muscle saturation means a greater rate of energy storage in the muscles when it comes time to lift weights at the gym.

Creatine loading phases usually last between five and seven days and involve ingesting 20 grams per day over this time period. Users can usually reach muscle saturation with creatine at this dose.

However, sometimes consuming too much creatine might leave you feeling sick. Although this method facilitates the rapid uptake of more creatine by the muscles, it is not essential for everyone – you will reach muscle saturation be 4 weeks whether you front load or not. 

If too much creatine doesn’t sit well for you, then 5-10g per day will still work, you’re only reducing the time by 1 – 3 weeks with a loading phase.

At the typical maintenance dose, creatine can still cause muscle saturation. It could take an extra 3 weeks to reach the directed level, but it will aid in the management of any gastrointestinal sensitivities that may arise.

What Creatine Brand Works the Fastest?

There does not appear to be much evidence linking the specific creatine brand to more rapid outcomes -despite what they may promote in their marketing. Creatine monohydrate is the same substance inside each brand, the only difference being purity, but the brand works faster than the other.

Checking the creatine supplement for quality and purity is crucial. You can verify that your creatine supplement contains pure creatine monohydrate by checking the label – look for Creapure. 

If you’re looking for a starting point, you should know that creatine monohydrate is the most widely utilized form of creatine and the primary form used in the vast majority of the research demonstrating creatine’s efficacy. 

Creatine Ethyl Ester (CEE) is marketed as the fastest absorbing creatine. There is some evidence to suggest that this is true, although the benefits are non-statistical when you compare Creatine Ethyl Ester to monohydrate. 

It’s true what they say – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Stick with the time test results and provide pure creatine mono for peace of mind. 

Does Creatine Work With All Exercises?

Scientific evidence reveals that the advantages of creatine are most noticeable during anaerobic intermittent exercises like weight training and HIIT. Creatine has been shown to speed up recovery after intense workouts, so it’s a good choice if that’s how you like to train [10].

It has been demonstrated that steady-state endurance training is beneficial, though perhaps not to the same amount as the anaerobic training stated. The increased energy stores in muscles assist users in trying to progressively overload the muscle, causing muscular and strength changes, which is why most studies agree that creatine increases weightlifting performance and training volume.

The main idea I want you to take away from this is that as we exercise, our muscles release energy that has been stored as creatine.

Consistency with creatine supplementation is ideal when introducing creatine and sustaining a high training output, regardless of the activity type being pursued.

Signs That Creatine is Working

In the end, knowing whether or not your creatine supplementation is helping is crucial. After all, what’s the point in spending time and money on something if there are no results to show at the end of the day?

The first thing you want to do is make sure you’re using the most effective creatine by checking the brand reputation and reviews, and if possible lab test results for purity. Agins, look for the Creapure logo, you can’t go wrong. 

You should start to feel your creatine kick in after one week, with a gradual increase in muscle mass, endurance, and strength gains. It’s even been shown to improve cognitive function [11], so you may feel more focused and experience an improved sense of well-being over several weeks of use.

Muscle growth from using creatinine mono is supported by scientific research. One such study found that after 12 weeks of resistance training, participants saw gains in thigh size, fat-free mass, and strength. Keep an eye on the scale to see if your weight is going up quicker than usual.

A higher training load and more muscle adaptations have both been proved to be a direct result of creatine supplementation combined with resistance training, so you’ll start to see that you’re able to move more weight, for more reps.

You will enjoy enhanced power output from creatine use with research proving good outcomes for those who trained in intense physical sports like cycling and sprinting.

Reduction in Training Injury

Creatine supplementation has been shown to reduce the risk of cramping and muscle injury. Creatine users report fewer instances of dehydration, cramping, muscle tightness, and muscle strains compared to those who do not take the supplement.

The effectiveness of creatine supplementation is proportional to the intensity and consistency of your training and diet. There are two main factors that need to be optimized for creatine supplementation to work on the body, muscle, and performance.

Assuring adequate carbohydrate intake before exercise ensures that you’ll have the energy to push yourself to your workout’s maximum intensity and make the most of your body’s creatine stockpiles.

Since creatine is insufficient on its own, it is essential to consume an adequate amount of protein to facilitate muscle development and repair of damaged tissue.

If you ignore the aforementioned – consume adequate protein, carbohydrates, and training, you may be hindering your growth and not reaping the full benefits of creatine supplements and the speed at which it works.

Athletes on a professional level frequently take creatine supplements in powder or tablet form it’s permitted by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), and the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and is not a banned substance.