Despite what a few contrarians have claimed, it does matter when you take certain nutrients and supplements. Specifically, it does matter if you get the proper supplements pre-, during or postworkout. Some refer to the entire period as the peri-workout window of feeding (peri means “about” or “around”).
So when it comes to enhancing muscle glycogen repletion, muscle protein synthesis, performance and overall recovery, it’s critical that you take in the proper supplements during the peri-workout window. A simple example would be taking the correct dose of caffeine roughly a half hour before doing cardio—say, running a 10K race. Timing is critical. Getting the caffeine two hours before the race might help, but to take full advantage of its ergogenic effects, closer to the race would be better.
What about creatine? Does it matter if you take it pre- or postworkout? One study has shed some light on that question,and it was performed at Nova Southeastern University—where I’m a professor—by my students.1 Here’s the lowdown.
Nineteen healthy recreational male bodybuilders were randomly assigned to one of the following groups: PRESUPP or POSTSUPP workout supplementation of five grams of creatine. The PRESUPP group got the creatine immediately before exercise, while the POSTSUPP group got it immediately after. The subjects trained on average five days per week for four weeks, performing a periodized, split bodybuilding routine. They also took the supplement on the two nontraining days at their convenience.
The results: After four weeks of training, the average changes in the PRE-SUPP and POST-SUPP groups, respectively, for bodyweight, fat-free mass, fat mass and one-rep-max bench press were, listed in kilograms: bodyweight, 0.4 vs. 0.8; fat-free mass, 0.9 vs. 2.0; fat mass, -0.1 vs. -1.2; 1RM bench press, 6.6 vs. 7.6. Using some fancy statistical analysis courtesy of my good friend and fellow sports nutrition scientist Dr. Jeffrey Stout, who crunched some numbers using qualitative inference, we found that creatine supplementation plus resistance exercise increases fat-free mass and strength.
So our statistical analysis suggested that taking creatine immediately postworkout is superior to preworkout in terms of body composition and strength.
There you have it. In already well-trained young men, taking creatine postworkout seems to work better. Does it matter in the long run? That is, if you’ve been taking creatine for years, will it matter what time of the day you take it? Inquiring minds want to know.
—Jose Antonio, Ph.D.
Editor’s note: Jose Antonio, Ph.D., is an assistant professor at Nova Southeastern University in sunny South Florida and co-founder of the coolest sports nutrition society ever, the ISSN.
1 Antonio, J. and Ciccone, V. (2013). The effects of pre versus post workout supplementation of creatine monohydrate on body composition and strength. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 10:36.