I was recently asked ‘should I take creatine on off days?’ To be honest, I’d never thought much about whether or not you should. I figured maybe you shouldn’t, especially once you’re through the loading phase and have filled up your muscles to their maximum capacity.
Then I gave it some consideration and did the research to answer this question for you as accurately as possible.
The reason for this is simple. In order to get the most from creatine supplements your muscles need to ‘filled up’ with as much as possible. This is why it’s recommended to first do what’s referred to as a a 5-7 day loading phase.
Should I Take Creatine On Off Days?
Yes, if you want to get the most from creatine you should take it daily, whether you’re working out or not.
The reason for this is simple. In order to get the most from creatine supplements your muscles need to ‘fill up’ with as much as possible. This is why it’s recommended to first do a 5 day loading phase.
I describe how to do this below in the section titled ‘So, How Should I Take Creatine?’
The thing is, once they’re ‘loaded’, they won’t stay that way unless you keep taking it every day. Studies show that if you don’t take a small dose (1 teaspoons worth) daily, your muscles will lose all the creatine you’ve filled them with after 30 days.
Creatine Isn’t A Pre-Workout Supplement
Since you need to build up an adequate store of creatine to see results, only taking on the days you train isn’t going to be enough. Unless you’re training 7 days a week.
Research finds that even if you cut the maintenance dose of 5 grams (1 teaspoon) a day in half, the amount of Creatine you’re storing will begin to diminish. Over a period of months, this may make it less effective.
So, How Should I Take Creatine?
Based on the results of 100s of scientific studies and the experiences of myself and our customers, the best way to take creatine is to quickly fill up your muscles over 5 days. This is the ‘loading phase’ I wrote about above.
You can then reduce to a single serving every day to continue getting benefits.
Here’s how to do it.
- Days 1-5: take 20 grams a day in 2-4 evenly divided doses (5-10 grams per serving).
- Day 6 – on: take 5 grams every day.
You can take your creatine with water, protein shakes, and anything else you like to drink.
If you’re not worried about counting carbs, you may get a little better results by taking it with some type of fruit juice that’s higher in sugar. No need to overdo it, a tablespoon (15 grams) of sugar (how much OJ is this) is enough.
When I am going through a loading phase I like to take one serving post-workout. Studies show you can more into your muscles this way, without including any sugars in your drink.
I take the rest of my servings in water or a whey protein shake. Like sugar, there’s research that finds combining creatine and protein works better than water alone.
I personally have always taken it with water and sometimes my protein shakes and have always gotten great results.
Then Why Is Creatine In My Pre-Workout Drink?
Marketing. Since so many people have at least heard of Creatine and how it can help you gain 5 pounds of muscle in a month, rapidly get stronger, etc. putting it in a supplement and on the label helps sell more products.
The amount included in most supplements isn’t even enough to use as a maintenance dose. Remember, we need to take 5 grams a day after we’ve filled our muscles up to keep getting benefits.
I did some research and found that most pre-workout products with creatine contain at most 1-2 grams. If that’s all you take on days you train you’re not going to see much, if any benefit.
So, unless your pre-workout supplement has 5 grams of creatine monohydrate listed on the label, I wouldn’t bother counting it toward your daily dose.
Which Creatine Supplement Is Best?
The only creatine supplement you take should be one that contains creatine monohydrate and nothing else.
The reason I say this is simple. It’s been proven to work. Hundreds of peer reviewed research studies and millions of customers say so.
Also, research and feedback on other types of Creatine find that they don’t work. At all. This includes liquid creatine, creatine ethyl ester, creatine HCL, etc. oftentimes, they don’t even have any creatine monohydrate in them, just junk ingredients that won’t do you any good.
Also, make sure the creatine you chose is made in the United States in a GMP certified facility. Companies that buy their creatine from China and other countries often end up with a product that’s contaminated or doesn’t contain any creatine monohydrate.
The product I use is Creatine Edge. Every container contains 100 servings of pure creatine monohydrate. It’s made here in the United States in a GMP certified facility under the same conditions used to manufacture pharmaceuticals.
This means that every scoop you mix up and drink down contains nothing but pure, muscle, strength, and endurance building creatine monohydrate.
van Loon LJ, Oosterlaar AM, Hartgens F, Hesselink MK, Snow RJ, Wagenmakers AJ. Effects of creatine loading and prolonged creatine supplementation on body composition, fuel selection, sprint and endurance performance in humans. Clin Sci (Lond). 2003 Feb;104(2):153-62. doi: 10.1042/CS20020159. PMID: 12546637.
Preen D, Dawson B, Goodman C, Beilby J, Ching S. Creatine supplementation: a comparison of loading and maintenance protocols on creatine uptake by human skeletal muscle. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2003 Mar;13(1):97-111. doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.13.1.97. PMID: 12660409.