Creatine monohydrate is a popular supplement that has been shown to increase strength and hypertrophy with long-term supplementation. However, it is unknown whether timing its consumption around the workout impacts adaptations from resistance training.
This study sought to determine whether taking creatine pre- vs. post-workout impacted body composition and strength gains following a short-term resistance training program. 19 young, amateur male bodybuilders were randomly assigned to a group consuming 5g of creatine pre- or post-workout.
Subjects in the study followed a four-week bodybuilding program, five days per week that was similar to a push-pull-legs split. The program was periodized for repetitions across the four weeks (i.e. sets of 5 week 1, sets of 10 week 2, etc.), however it is unclear how load was progressed across each exercise.
Outcome measures included fat-free mass (FFM) and strength, which were measured via BodPod and 1RM bench press, respectively.
Results demonstrated that while there were no statistically significant differences between groups in either measure, the post-workout supplementation group tended to experience greater gains in FFM.
While this study found a modest benefit in favor of post-workout creatine supplementation in comparison to pre-workout supplementation, it should be interpreted cautiously. This is one of just a handful of studies directly comparing pre- to post-workout creatine supplementation, and therefore more research is needed in this area to replicate these findings. Given the slow time course of muscle hypertrophy, it’d be particularly helpful to see these results confirmed in a longer trial. This would theoretically allow for more divergent hypertrophy patterns to emerge over time, if creatine timing truly has an effect.
The bottom line: For now, it seems likely that it is most important for a lifter to prioritize simply supplementing with creatine on a regular basis regardless of timing (previous research hasn’t found issues with achieving saturation), though there may be a SLIGHT benefit for consumption close to the workout, particularly in the post-workout period.