Comparing and contrasting the supplements is a necessary habit if you wish to build the absolute best supplement stack.

On that note, I'll do my best to present you with all the necessary information on creatine and pre-workouts so you can decide for yourself, which one suits your needs more.

There are several notable aspects of athletic performance, so seeing which of these supplements excels in which aspect will bring us closer to the verdict.

Muscle Mass And Strength Building

man doing weights for Strength Building

Creatine is the clear winner in the muscle-building and strength-enhancing category since there are numerous studies proving its efficacy.[1]

When taken as a supplement, creatine:

  • Draws water into the muscle fibers enhancing their size and strength.
  • Improves the muscle-building process.[2]
  • Aids in energy replenishment (it resynthesizes ATP).

Caffeine in pre-workouts is also known to boost strength, although temporarily.

One study showed that supplementing with 5 mg/kg of caffeine can increase strength and power output by up to 8%.[3]

Workout Energy And Endurance

For workout energy and endurance, pre-workout supplements are slightly better than creatine. By utilizing caffeine and citrulline (in adequate dosages), you can expect noticeable changes in both energy and muscular endurance.

For energy, caffeine floods adenosine receptors, making you feel alert and wakeful, which you perceive as elevated energy.  

As for endurance, citrulline has been shown to increase the number of reps performed even in advanced weightlifters when supplemented at an 8-gram dose.[4]

Creatine, on the other hand, does not exhibit any immediate effects, so it won't affect your energy levels, even though it does "replenish energy" on a molecular level.

Read Also - How Long Does Pre-Workout Last?

Cost Comparisons

Creatine monohydrate has an average price of about 25 cents per 5-gram serving, making it an incredibly cost-effective option for fitness enthusiasts. On the other hand, pre-workout supplements hover around $1.50 per serving. 

One thing to note is that pre-workout prices can vary significantly depending on the brand and the quality of the product, with serving prices ranging from $0.5 to $2.

Speaking of servings, an average creatine bottle provides 100, offering more than three months of usage.

In contrast, an average pre-workout container typically contains 30 servings, which means it will likely last around two months if you visit the gym three or four times a week.

Related Article - Pre-Workout Alternatives

pre workout pills

Creatine: Overview And What It Does For Training?

Creatine is one of the most studied and evaluated supplements on the market today.

How To Take Creatine?

Even something as simple as taking creatine can be done wrong, especially if you fall victim to bro science, as many of my friends did.

That said, here's the proper way to take creatine:

Skip the Loading Phase

The loading phase, which involves taking a hefty 20 grams of creatine daily for a week, isn't necessary.

The only thing a loading phase will achieve is faster saturation, which is completely unnecessary in a marathon-like endeavor like fitness. 

Also, taking 20 grams of creatine daily will likely cause stomach discomfort.

Take 3-5g Daily

To saturate your muscles effectively, take 3-5 grams of creatine daily for at least 28 days. This consistent approach will help you achieve optimal creatine levels in your muscles, enhancing your performance over time without the unwanted side effects.

Drink Plenty of Water

Despite popular belief, creatine won't have a dehydrating effect, although stomach cramps could occur.

So, drink at least 12-15 glasses of water daily, depending on your weight, age, or climate you live in.

Don't Obsess About Timing

As long as you stay consistent, the timing does not matter.

Monitor Your Progress

Remember, creatine doesn't work the same for everyone.

Approximately 20% of individuals are what's called "creatine non-responders."  

If you happen to fall into that category, don't be sad. That just means your muscles are already fully saturated.

creatine pills and powder

Types of Creatine

In an attempt to make more money, manufacturers have developed several versions of creatine, none of which are better than creatine monohydrate.

Creatine monohydrate

Creatine monohydrate is inarguably the best form of creatine while also being the most cost-effective. Its efficacy is supported by thousands of pages of scientific literature.

It is made up of creatine and a single water molecule (monohydrate) and is taken as an oral supplement daily, in dosages ranging from 3 to 5 grams.

Creatine ethyl ester

Creatine ethyl ester is a modified form of creatine that has been chemically altered to enhance its absorption.

 Its recommended daily dosage is 2 to 3 grams, but its effectiveness is debated, and it does not offer significant advantages over creatine monohydrate in improving athletic performance.

Creatine hydrochloride

Creatine hydrochloride (creatine HCL or HCl) is a creatine molecule bound to hydrochloride, which is claimed to improve solubility and reduce the potential for gastrointestinal discomfort often associated with monohydrate.

Once again, its superiority over monohydrate in terms of enhancing athletic performance is questionable and an ongoing debate in scientific circles.

Liquid Creatine

Liquid creatine is an attempt to make creatine consumption more convenient and is supposed to be more readily absorbed by the body.

While the idea behind it is simplicity and ease of use is interesting, liquid creatine is often ignored and avoided by the fitness community.


  • May improve brain activity (cognitive function)
  • Improves intense workout performance
  • May help muscles recover faster
  • Might lower blood sugar
  • Increases muscle growth
  • Affordable
  • Can be taken as a pre-, during, or even post-workout supplement.


  • May cause stomach pain
  • May cause bloating or swelling
  • May increase water retention
  • Creatine stores may not carry the best brands

Pre-Workout: Overview And What It Does For Training?

There is so much misinformation surrounding pre-workout supplements, mostly stemming from false claims made by manufacturers, so here's what you can realistically expect from one.

How To Take a Pre-workout Supplement?

While there are various methods of consuming pre-workout supplements, there's honestly only one proper way to do it.

Mix the powder in 8-12 oz. of water (or other liquid of your choosing) and drink it all approximately 30 minutes before your workout begins. This gives your body enough time to process and absorb the active ingredients.

Some people enjoy dry scooping pre-workouts, but I advise you not to. I've done it in the past, and if the serving size is quite large, that can be a choking hazard.

Related Article - Is It Bad To Take Pre-Workout Everyday?

can you mix creatine with pre-workout

What's In a Pre-workout?

Pre-workouts have a lot of varying ingredients depending on the brand and type you choose.

However, there are three main ingredients that are critical for pre-workout supplement success.


Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant that increases alertness and reduces the perception of effort during exercise by blocking adenosine receptors, leading to increased energy, improved focus, and enhanced endurance.

Commonly, caffeine is dosed anywhere from 100 to 400 mg.

Learn More - How Much Caffeine Is In Pre-Workout? 


Citrulline is an amino acid that boosts nitric oxide production, which can enhance oxygen and nutrient delivery to muscles, reduce fatigue, and support better exercise performance in several ways.

For performance-enhancing effects, the recommended dosage is 6 to 8 grams of citrulline, although as little as 3 g can improve vasodilation.


Beta-alanine can buffer lactic acid buildup in muscles during intense exercise and delay muscle fatigue. It is beneficial in bouts of exercise lasting 1-10 minutes.

However,  it is necessary to understand that regular beta-alanine supplementation (6.4 g/day for 28 days) is necessary for these effects to take place.[5]

Learn More - Why Does Beta-Alanine Makes You Tingle?


Tyrosine is an amino acid that supports the production of neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine.

In a pre-workout setting, tyrosine enhances focus, concentration, and mental clarity, if its dosage falls between 500-2000 mg.


Theanine is an amino acid often paired with caffeine in pre-workouts, and its effective dosage ranges from 100 to 200 mg. 

When taken, theanine promotes relaxation without sedation and helps offset the potential jitters from caffeine, resulting in a smoother energy boost.


  • Increases energy levels
  • Improves focus and strength
  • Aids in muscle pumps
  • Can improve muscle endurance
  • Lasts up to 3 hours with a high-intensity workout


  • Caffeine jitters can occur
  • Can cause tingles and itching
  • Proprietary blends and low dosages

Can Pre-Workout & Creatine Be Taken Together?

Pre-workout and creatine can be taken together, and many pre-workout formulas already contain creatine as one of their ingredients. In fact, mixing creatine with pre-workout may offer additional benefits for overall workout performance.

That said, taking the two together won’t exactly enhance one or the other. Instead, they’ll simply work alongside each other and fuel your performance in different ways.

However, the more important thing is that there won’t be any negative interactions between the two.

You may stumble upon some older research suggesting that caffeine could inhibit creatine absorption, but based on current scientific data, that isn't the case.

One thing worth noting is that it is essential to monitor the total intake of each component, especially if you’re already using creatine and your pre-workout contains it.

While it isn’t common for pre-workouts to contain maintenance doses of creatine, adding an additional gram or two to your 5-gram maintenance creatine dose could cause some stomach discomfort.

topless man with pre workout drink

Frequently Asked Creatine Versus Pre-Workout Questions

Is creatine different from pre-workout?

Yes, creatine is different from a pre-workout. Creatine is a standalone compound, while a pre-workout in a concoction of different active ingredients designed to boost your immediate performance.

What pre-workouts do not contain creatine?

There are many pre-workout supplements that don't contain creatine, such as Transparent Labs BULK pre-workout, Alani Nu pre-workout, CBUM's Thavage pre-workout, Total War pre-workout, and many others

Should I take creatine or pre-workout first?

It does not matter whether you take creatine or pre-workout first. As long as you take creatine daily and take pre-workouts 30 minutes prior to your training sessions, you will do it properly.

Can creatine make you fat?

Creatine does not make you fat, as its calorie content is negligible. 

How do BCAAs differ from creatine and pre-workout?

BCAAs or branched-chain amino acids (leucine, valine, and isoleucine) are simply amino acids - building blocks of proteins.

Their role is to aid in muscle protein synthesis, not necessarily enhance performance as creatine and pre-workouts.


There is no clear winner in a creatine vs. pre-workout battle. Both can be quite beneficial if used correctly.

The fact is that they both have their purpose and aren't mutually exclusive. What's more, as a tandem - they work great. So, there's is no reason for you to choose between one or the other.

Some will argue that creatine is objectively better and far more useful than a pre-workout - but I wouldn't agree, as they're simply not used for the same purpose, and the one you need is the one that's better for you.



Last Updated on November 2, 2023

Paul J

Paul J

Paul J is is an ex-professional footballer who has seen a gym or two and is an expert at knowing what is required for home gym setups. When he isn’t testing out products for his readers, he’s usually going for a run in the park or out for coffee.