Want the perfect workout program?Take Quiz
Fact checked by Andrew Lenau, ISSA CPT & Sports NutritionistFACT CHECKED
If you're not taking creatine, you're missing out on serious results. At SET FOR SET, we believe that all athletes and lifters should take creatine as it's one of the best supplements on the market.
If you've been in the fitness world for any length of time, you probably have a baseline understanding of creatine's importance. But what you may not know is precisely how to optimize your creatine supplementation strategy, and one of the best ways to do that is with timing.
So, this leads us to the questions: Why does taking creatine at different times matter, and how can it affect your adaptations? Let's find out.
Table of Contents:
Before we can understand if we should take creatine at night, we need to understand what creatine does and how supplementation helps performance.
Creatine is a non-proteinogenic amino acid. Internally, it's produced in the liver and kidney by synthesizing three other amino acids: arginine, glycine, and methionine.
We can also consume creatine through our diet. Large amounts of creatine are found in various animal products, especially red meat and fatty fish. Therefore, diets rich in these foods will have higher creatine stores. Regardless of your stores, approximately 95% of the body's creatine is stored in the muscles, while the other 5% is located in the brain and testes.
Due to its role in our physiology, our body constantly uses creatine, so we need to keep our stores stocked.
One of its major roles is in the phosphagen energy system, or ATP-CP system. This system supplies ATP (adenosine triphosphate), our body's energy source, for high-intensity activities such as sprinting or jumping. These explosive activities require energy as fast as possible, and creatine phosphate is the perfect source.
When we need that type of fast-paced energy, a phosphate group breaks away from ATP, producing energy plus ADP (adenosine diphosphate). Your phosphagen system will then take a phosphate group from the available creatine phosphate and add it back to ADP, producing ATP again.
You can learn even more about what creatine is in our article: What Are The Different Types of Creatine?
If our bodies already contain creatine, why do we need a supplement?
As mentioned above, our body's stores are constantly being used and replenished again, but it's rare for anyone's stores to be completely full. This is especially true in active populations or those who consume an inadequate amount in their diet. For example, it's known that the average creatine store of a vegan is significantly lower than that of omnivores.
In order to fill our stores and keep them full, we can supplement with exogenous creatine. Doing so ultimately provides more creatine for the replenishment of ATP so that you can produce more work at higher intensities.
In the gym, this results in more intense workouts with high volume, which leads to adaptations such as greater muscle growth, more muscular strength, better muscle recovery, and improved performance. Regarding performance-based benefits, new users can expect a 5-10% increase over the first month.
Researchers are finding that creatine has many other uses as well, such as enhanced recovery, improved tolerance to heat, brain and spinal cord neuroprotection, and improved cognition1.
We can expect to see even more robust evidence as research increases. This is why we say that most people should take this supplement, as it will likely benefit them somehow. Creatine is so important that we've even included it in our round-up of the 7 Supplements For Men Over 40.
Now let's look at some more specific questions regarding creatine supplementation: Can you take creatine before bed? To fully answer this question, we need to answer it from two angles:
The first question regarding creatine timing before bed is easy to answer: Yes, you can take creatine before bed! By this, I mean there's no reason why you shouldn't. It's not going to affect your sleep, and you'll still receive the benefits of creatine without experiencing any adverse effects.
Many other supplements, like caffeine, affect us immediately, so timing matters a lot more. But caffeine is a stimulant, and creatine is not. Now, if you were to take a preworkout with creatine, timing would matter much more, as those will contain stimulants that should not be taken before bed.
But, circling back to creatine only, remember that we are merely topping off our creatine stores when supplementing with it. The benefits you receive from creatine come from chronic consumption, so regardless of when you take it, you're not going to "feel" any immediate effects.
The speed of this process is why most people start with a loading phase. Higher initial doses help it "kick in" faster, but it'll still take days to weeks for any noticeable effect. Once this phase is done, continuous supplementation with smaller doses maintains your supply.
It's creatine's consistent supplementation that works, not so much the exact timing, so studies on creatine and timing are limited. Further, existing studies differ significantly in protocols, so it's challenging to compare them.
For example, a review from 2021 that examined this very issue concluded:
"More well-controlled studies determining whether the timing of Cr supplementation around training truly influences the increases in intramuscular Cr content and its ergogenic effects are required to substantiate any such claims (that timing of creatine matters)2."
This leads us to the second part of the question: Should you take creatine before bed? From a physiological or performance standpoint, no evidence exists that this will provide any support or benefit.
As we saw above, there are too few studies on creatine timing to say it matters at all, let alone at night. Even the studies that do exist on creatine timing, as well as interest, are concerned with consumption around training.
The only reason we could think of to take creatine at night may simply be because this is when you take your supplements. Perhaps taking creatine at this time can help you remember.
Another reason may be due to your diet. Creatine monohydrate should be taken with complex and simple carbs to help optimize absorption. If you follow a fasting diet or OMAD, you may only eat at night. In this situation, you should take creatine at night to use it with carbs.
Interestingly, I can not conclusively say that a "best time" even exists for taking creatine supplements, let alone when that time is. As we have stated before, creatine supplementation works by maintaining creatine stores rather than having a direct, acute effect.
With that in mind, if I had to guess, I would recommend that you take creatine monohydrate post-workout for several reasons:
I want to reiterate that this is most speculative, and we are not claiming post-workout to be the best time. Instead, I am looking at the limited information available to make an informed guess.
At the same time, taking creatine before bed will most likely be just as effective for things like building lean muscle mass as taking it after waking or mid-day.
When it comes to its muscle-building benefits and improving exercise performance, taking creatine before bed doesn't necessarily provide any sort of advantage over taking it with a morning shake. Creatine uptake and its effect on building muscle and muscle recovery do not seem to be affected by the time of day.
That said, taking creatine at night could be a benefit if it gets you on a schedule. Consuming creatine as part of your nightly routine could ensure you don't miss a dose.
Regardless, you can expect the same benefits as above by taking creatine at any point in the day. The most important thing is that you're taking it.
An important aspect of creatine is that even though there are claims of dangerous side effects, creatine monohydrate is generally safe for all persons to take, apart from a few groups. There have been numerous studies, both short and long-term, that have shown this.
That said, there is a chance you may suffer from a few more minor side effects. The most commonly reported effects are gastric distress and bloating.
I should mention that these usually occur during the loading phase as a person is taking a large amount of creatine. This can easily be diverted by skipping a loading phase and taking smaller amounts of creatine throughout the day. It will take you longer to see any benefits, as building up your stores takes longer, but it can help avoid side effects.
Even when taking your maintenance dosage, you can still divide it into smaller doses. Remember that the benefits come from the accumulation of consuming creatine rather than a dose.
As far as how to take creatine, when you first begin taking creatine, many start with what's known as a loading phase. During this initial period, you want to quickly fill up your stores to the maximum. You will want to take around 0.3g of creatine per kg of body weight daily to do this, which can be divided into 4-6 smaller doses3.
After this period, your creatine stores will be full. You can now lower the dosage and enter your maintenance stage, taking around 0.03g/kg of creatine/body weight daily.
To optimize your creatine supplementation, you need to consume your creatine monohydrate with carbs. When co-ingested, creatine may also enhance glycogen resynthesis, providing mutual benefit to both carb and creatine absorption. Either will positively affect athletic performance if you're an athlete or lifter.
Aim to take each dose with a mixture of around 50-70g of simple and complex carbs. There may also be some benefit to taking creatine supplements with protein, which is why adding creatine to a post-workout shake is so popular. Not only do you get the addition of both protein and carbs, creatine can further aid with post-workout recovery as it may enhance your glycogen.
To start, a common discussion is whether to take creatine pills or powder. Both will work, and it's largely a personal choice based on several factors. To determine which is right for you, check out our article: Creatine Pills vs Creatine Powder: Which Is Better?
Regardless of your choice, creatine monohydrate is the gold standard of creatine supplements. Creatine monohydrate delivers consistent results and should be on the top of your supplement wish list.
My top pick for creatine monohydrate is Optimum Nutrition Micronized Creatine Monohydrate due to the brand's quality control and third-party testing.
For more great options, check out our article on the 8 Best Creatine Supplements.
Still have some questions? We chose some of the more common questions and answered them below.
Does creatine affect sleep? The answer is no! Creatine may actually help with the effects of sleep deprivation, so it might make you feel more like yourself after a bad night's sleep.
You would still fill up your creatine stores. In addition, you may experience some of the non-performance benefits as well as maintain lean muscle mass.
Yes. In fact, taking creatine twice a day may help those who are sensitive to gastric distress since it allows for smaller doses.
If you are losing weight, creatine won't impede this and may help by mitigating muscle mass loss and improving recovery. Claims of water weight gain have been misunderstood, and for more information, I highly recommend reading our article: Should You Take Creatine While Cutting?
Yes, taking creatine alone will still give you its benefits. However, you should take creatine with carbs and protein if you can.
The loading phase for creatine will take about one month. This tends to be when you start seeing noticeable results. Learn more about this in our article: How Long Does Creatine Take To Work?
Every serious lifter or athlete should be taking creatine or at least have looked into taking a creatine supplement. If you're doing that, everything else will have a relatively small effect on its effects, including taking creatine before bed.
Therefore, whatever time works for you is awesome. After lunch? Go for it! Every day at 4:37 PM sharp? Absolutely! Do whatever works best for you, as the more important thing is keeping your creatine stores topped off!
The most important part of a creatine routine? Finding a good supplement! Head to our article on the 8 Best Creatine Supplements to find the perfect one for you.
At SET FOR SET, we strive to equip you with the tools and knowledge needed for your fitness journey. Our team of experts, including certified trainers, dietitians, and athletes, brings over a decade of industry expertise. Our goal is to be your primary resource for all fitness inquiries, guiding you toward a stronger and healthier life. Sign up to stay up-to-date!