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Is Creatine A Pre-Workout?

A Lean Life Editor David

Published by David Williams

As an engineer, David loves technical product comparison and analyzing the data to assess top products.

Given its beneficial effects on training performance, many people wonder, “Is creatine a pre-workout supplement?” Or at least can it be effectively used as one?

With studies dating as far back as the 1970s, it’s universally accepted that creatine is one of the most beneficial and well-studied supplements on the planet. It has a proven history to improve your workouts and build muscle.

But can you take it strictly as a pre-workout, and is that an intended use?

Let’s discuss.

What is Creatine, Anyway?

Creatine is an organic acid produced inside the body using three amino acids: glycine, methionine, and arginine. Most of the creatine is stored in skeletal muscle, with small amounts found in the liver, kidneys, and brain. (1)

The substance is also found in certain foods like red meat and fish. Unfortunately, most of it gets lost during the cooking process.

Creatine also comes in supplement form that serves to saturate your muscles and bring about several notable benefits.

Table of Contents

Creatine Powder

Is Creatine a Pre-Workout?

A pre-workout supplement is one that you take shortly before training to improve your performance, have better workouts, and make greater progress in the long run. Most pre-workout products on the market contain several ingredients, including citrulline malate, beta-alanine, and caffeine. (2)

Many formulas also include a gram or two of creatine, so people often wonder if they should take the supplement before training for the best results.

According to research, you don’t have to take creatine before training because its benefits don’t show up immediately. Instead, the objective is to take creatine for an extended period, slowly increasing levels of the substance in your muscles. (3)

So, yes, creatine is an absolute great supplement to take for your workouts! It can supercharge your workouts and give you a blast of energy. 

But you just don’t need to take it as a “pre-workout” per se, as there is not really any advantage to that timing window. However, including it in your workout regimen to take advantage of the benefits is a positive thing.

What Benefits Does Creatine Offer?

The most notable creatine benefits are that it:

  • Will supercharge your workouts and promote athletic performance
  • Speed up your muscle recovery after workouts and resistant training

As a result, you can train harder, do more work in less time, and make better long-term progress with improved muscle recovery.

Creatine achieves these effects thanks to its ability to speed up adenosine triphosphate (ATP) synthesis. ATP is the primary energy currency for all the cells in the body, and demands for these molecules can increase as much as 1,000-fold during training.

Creatine lends phosphate groups to ADP molecules, allowing them to convert to ATP more quickly, leading to more strength, endurance, and athleticism. (4)

Another advantage of supplementing with creatine is that it can promote cognitive function. Since the substance stimulates ATP production, supplementing with creatine provides more energy for the brain. Some studies find that people who supplement with creatine experience memory improvements and perform better on tests. (5)

Creatine Before Workouts

When Should You Take Creatine?

The beauty of creatine is that you can take it whenever it’s most convenient––in the morning, at noon, or late at night before going to bed. As mentioned above, creatine works by accumulating in your muscles. Taking it once won’t deliver noticeable benefits, so you don’t have to worry about taking it before working out.

The standard dose of creatine monohydrate is three to five grams daily. That is enough to saturate your muscles within three to four weeks and maintain levels afterward. And pills vs powder is another consideration when taking creatine, as well as knowing the types of creatine.

People interested in quicker results initially can do a loading phase, where they take 20 grams of creatine daily for five days before lowering the amount to the standard five grams. The only drawback is that you might experience some stomach distress and feel bloated, so splitting the 20 grams into several doses and taking them several hours apart would be better.

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David Williams

A diet and fitness enthusiast, David is an ex-Army Airborne Ranger and Infantry soldier with decades of fitness and wellness experience. A West Point graduate with a degree in engineering, he focuses on technical research related to fitness, nutrition, and wellness. He loves the beach and working out, and spending time with his wife and daughters.

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  1. BSc, A. A. (2019, February 12). Methionine vs. glycine – is too much muscle meat bad? Healthline.
  2. WebMD. (n.d.). Beta-alanine: Overview, uses, side effects, precautions, interactions, dosing and reviews. WebMD. 
  3. Tinsley, G. (2017, June 18). When is the best time to take creatine? Healthline. 
  4. Adenosine triphosphate synthesis. Adenosine Triphosphate Synthesis – an overview | ScienceDirect Topics. (n.d.). 
  5. Avgerinos, K. I., Spyrou, N., Bougioukas, K. I., & Kapogiannis, D. (2018, July 15). Effects of creatine supplementation on cognitive function of healthy individuals: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Experimental gerontology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6093191/