Creatine supplements have become one of the most popular fitness supplements that improve athletic performance and add muscle mass.
One thing people always ask about these supplements is if creatine on empty stomach is a good idea.
Like most issues surrounding supplements, it depends on the individual and several other factors. In the guide below, we will show you how to optimize your creatine routine.
Should You Consume Creatine On An Empty Stomach?
There’s no simple answer to this question, but in general, it is beneficial to take creatine fasted or first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.
This is because it gives your stomach a better chance of absorbing the creatine when it’s empty. It makes sense when you think about it. Since your stomach is empty, your creatine won’t have any competition in your digestive system.
Faster absorption means it will hit your muscles faster.
However, when some people take creatine supplements on a completely empty stomach, they experience side effects like nausea and cramping.
Creatine supplementation with just a tiny amount of food will help offset these negative side effects without interfering with the supplement's absorption.
Learn More - Can Creatine Cause Stomach Pain? (How To Stop It)
Some General Guidance On Taking Creatine
Even though you might want to take them simultaneously, avoid taking creatine with a pre-workout.
The caffeine in pre-workouts is generally considered detrimental to the supplement's efficacy. If you take creatine with food, try to take it with protein and carbs, not just simple sugars like fruit juice.
Taking it with a liquid carbohydrate or protein shake, especially something that will up your blood sugar quickly, will help with creatine uptake and assimilation.
However, the more grams of creatine you take, the greater your risk of experiencing adverse side effects. So if you're in a loading phase, you should take it with a meal with protein and carbs.
Except for people with sensitive bowels, the best time to take creatine is on an empty stomach just before or after a resistance training workout.
You should experience better results because your body can process amino acids faster compared to taking them with a lot of food.
Different Types Of Creatine (Benefits & Side Effects)
There are a few different types of creatine. Choosing which to take will ultimately come down to personal preference since there currently isn’t data supporting whether one is better than the other to take on an empty stomach.
Creatine monohydrate is the most effective and most common of them all. When people talk about creatine, they are generally talking about monohydrates.
Taking creatine monohydrate can increase the concentration level in your cells, leading to several health and performance benefits. These benefits include:
Studies have shown that consuming creatine daily increases strength gains from a weight training program by about 5–10%.
These performance benefits likely derive from its role in cellular energy production. Monohydrate is an excellent supplement to increase muscular strength and promote overall health.
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Creatine malate is growing in popularity, but it is a less common and studied form of creatine than monohydrate. Malate combines one molecule of malic acid with three molecules of creatine through an ester bond.
Malate is as safe as monohydrate, and the presence of an ester bond in the molecule reduces the susceptibility of creatine to degradation, so it should have a higher absorption rate. You can take malate just as you would take monohydrate.
Creatine citrate is the least-used version of creatine, so there isn’t as much research on the supplement. Citrate is also bonded with other molecules that increase absorption.
It’s slightly more water-soluble and absorbent compared to the others, but you have to take twice as much, and it is usually much more expensive.
This form of creatine is also several times more likely to cause stomach upset and gas. That likely means you should not take it on an empty stomach.
When Should You Take Creatine? (Get Your Timing Right)
Creatine On Training Days
You have three main options regarding taking creatine on training days. For example, you can take your creatine supplement pre-workout or post-workout, or you can take it sometime outside your exercise window.
You can also split your daily dose and take it throughout the day. For example, one study aimed to determine whether it was more effective for adult men to take five grams of creatine before or after they head to the gym for their training session.
When the study concluded, it found that greater increases in lean mass and strength were seen in the group that took creatine after exercise.
This is because taking it after a workout protects the muscles and restores this amino acid to pre-workout levels.
Other research suggests that there isn't a difference between taking it before or after exercise, and you should have similar or the same results either way. So, based on the limited research available, there's no definitive answer to this question.
Most research shows that supplementing creatine on workout days shortly before or after exercise is better than supplementing long before or after exercise.
A 10-week study found that a test group that took creatine close to exercise gained more muscle and strength than a group that took the supplement in the morning and evening. That’s a good strategy to use in your training.
Creatine On Rest Days
Supplement timing on rest days isn’t as important as on exercise days. Supplementing with creatine on rest days keeps the creatine content of your muscles elevated.
A “loading phase” is often recommended when you first begin supplementing with creatine.
During this phase, you’ll take a relatively high dosage of the supplement (approximately 20 grams) for about five days. This increases your creatine levels much faster, increasing the supplement's effectiveness.
Once that’s done, you start a lower daily maintenance dose of 3–5 grams per day. During the maintenance phase, you will supplement on rest days to maintain the high levels of creatine in your muscles.
It really won’t make a big difference when you take this dose on non-workout days, but it could be beneficial to take it with a meal.
Related Article - Should You Take Creatine On Rest Days? (Garage Gym Pro)
Common Questions About Creatine Intake
The science is mixed, but taking creatine on an empty stomach is better for absorption. However, some studies have found that creatine absorption may be improved with whey protein or carbs, meaning taking it with a meal might improve results. However, the notion that you must take creatine with an insulin spike producing carbohydrates is unfounded. The key is experimenting and finding out what works best for you, but the right foods shouldn't make it less effective.
Creatine’s a nonessential amino acid, meaning your body makes it naturally, so you don’t need to consume it primarily from food. If you’re doing rigorous training, though, you should aim for 1-2 grams of creatine per day from natural food sources. Most people can get enough creatine from what their body naturally produces and from natural food sources. However, if your creatine needs are higher than average, or if you don't eat animal products or your nutrition is lacking, you should take a creatine supplement.
Research has found it is safe to consume creatine supplements every day. There aren't any studies supporting the idea that there are significantly detrimental side effects in people who consume high doses of creatine daily. Regardless of the best timing or whether you take it before breakfast or with or without food, the key is being consistent and taking it every day.
Based on the available evidence, creatine supplementation is generally recommended on an empty stomach. This is because your stomach should absorb the creatine much faster when it's empty. However, eating right after taking creatine shouldn’t have any detrimental effects.
Creatine transports more water to the muscles, so less water is available for the rest of the body. That's why proper hydration is essential. For example, 6-8 cups of water is recommended when you aren't training. When supplementing with creatine every day, you should drink an additional 8-10 cups of water daily, depending on your exercise regimen.
In the bodybuilding and fitness communities, it’s suggested to consume 5 grams of creatine with 20 grams of whey protein isolate and 40 grams of fast-digesting carbohydrates (sugar) for the most consistent results. This temporarily increases the strength of muscles to give you the most consistent results when you hit the gym.
Verdict – Should You Take Creatine First Thing In The Morning?
Creatine is an incredibly effective supplement that can help you reach your fitness goals, especially if taken the right way.
If you don’t tend to suffer from upset bowels when you take whey protein doses or other supplements, your best option is to take all the creatine shortly before or after a workout on an empty stomach.
Make sure you take it with enough water to thoroughly dilute the supplement, even if you’re taking a capsule. Stick to the recommended daily amount of 5 grams during the maintenance phase.
Supplementing this way should provide the best muscle strength and recovery results for your body without significant issues like weight gain and water retention.
The most important thing you can do is stay consistent. When you take it is far less important than actually taking it. For optimal results, you have to have consistency.