Creatine 101

Creatine 101: 17 Surprising Creatine FAQs

If you’re reading this then I’m going to make the assumption that you know most of the typical benefits and uses of creatine. It makes you stronger, gives you more energy, helps replenish ATP, is super cheap to buy, is one of the most researched supplements in terms of sports performance…

Due to its popularity, you’ll often see the same questions and answers in relation to creatine and I’m certainly guilty of going into this supplement in more detail than what is necessary. 

What I have noticed though, is that people have some really interesting and surprising questions about creatine that you don’t see covered in the typical “do you need to do creatine loading in the first week”. 

After looking into creatine in more detail, I’ve found a range of questions that most coaches never even consider and would probably struggle to answer if asked it on the spot. 

In this article, I’ve therefore compiled some of the best facts and uses in relation to creatine consumption to put some people’s minds at rest. Some of these are quite basic but often, the most basic question can be the most overlooked and also yield the best results!

Below are the 17 most uncommon creatine tips and frequently asked questions:

Creatine

1. Can You Take Creatine Before Bed

Creatine is naturally occurring in the human body and it is also not a stimulant. This means that there is no ideal time to take creatine throughout the day and it can be taken before bed with no side effects. 

Whether this is the optimal time to take creatine is a different question completely. If you are looking to supplement creatine for the general benefits it brings then there is no issue with consuming creatine before bed. 

If however, you want to supplement creatine for optimal performance in the gym, then there could be a more optimal time to consume it. 

A study shows that it could be more optimal to take creatine post workout for improved body composition and strength. It is worth noting that this was only compared with creatine supplementation pre workout so we don’t yet have a definitive time that you should be taking creatine. 

2. Does Creatine Affect Sleep

Creatine is usually studied and supplemented for its effects on physical performance, strength, endurance, and energy but does supplement with creatine also help you get a better night’s sleep? Well, studies into creatine and sleep are still in the early days and provide inconclusive results. 

At present, there is nothing to suggest that supplementing creatine will help you sleep better or have an impact on sleep quality. One study into creatine supplementation on rats did show a creatine supplementation reduces sleep need and homeostatic sleep pressure in rats. This could indicate a potential for treatment for sleep-related disorders. 

Further to this, another study showed that supplementing with creatine following a 24 hour period of sleep deprivation had a positive effect on mood state. Therefore creatine does not seem to affect creatine directly but it can be shown to help with sleep-related disorders or sleep deprivation. 

Just keep in mind that the effect is likely to be so minimal that you are unlikely to notice it in your day to day life. 

3. Can You Take Creatine When Cutting

During a cut, the primary goal is fat loss. Most people get this confused with weight loss which then puts creatine in a bad light during a cut. The reason for this is that creatine is an osmolyte and draws water into the muscles with supplementation and heavy resistance training. 

This is why people will gain weight when they first start to supplement with creatine, it’s purely down to water retention. Therefore, when cutting you should still look to supplement creatine for the benefits it has on performance and muscle fiber adaptations

If water retention is an issue, you can always stop your creatine intake towards the end of a cut to flush the excess water weight whilst still having benefited from the supplement for the duration of your cut.  

4. Should You Take Creatine on off Days

We typically produce 1-2g of creatine per day as an average. Those utilizing heavy resistance training will have a greater demand for creatine but will also be more likely to consume more creatine daily from their dietary choices (meat/fish). 

While we typically get 2-3g per day through food and 1-2g produced by the body, our maximum cellular limit is around 10g of creatine. This means in order to keep your creatine stores full, you should be consuming 3-5g daily even on off days. 

5. Can You Be Immune To Creatine

Humans cannot be immune to creatine as it’s a naturally occurring substance that we produce in the liver and kidneys. It’s true that some people can build up intolerances or have a low response threshold when it comes to additional creatine supplementation but it’s not possible to be immune to creatine. 

6. What Is a Non Responder To Creatine

Following on from the last point, a non-responder to creatine is essentially someone that sees no additional benefit when supplementing with creatine. This is the case regardless of how much they supplement and whether they do a loading phase or not. 

It’s estimated that around 25% of all people that supplement with creatine are thought to be non-responders. This means you won’t see any noticeable benefit to supplementing with creatine and you certainly won’t see the strength and extra rep improvements that come with it. 

It’s not yet fully understood why people are non-responders to creatine but I’ve also seen figures to suggest that it could be as high as 33% are non-responders. These people do not metabolize and store supplemental creatine optimally. 

Some suggest this could be down to fiber type as those with a higher proportion of fast-twitch muscle fibers are more receptive to supplemental creatine whilst others believe people have different thresholds for how much they make or can store. 

With that said, creatine is inexpensive enough to take it regardless. Unless you actually take a lab test to see the effects of taking creatine, you’ll never truly know if you’re a non-responder. 

7. Does Creatine Make You Fat

This is a topic I’ve covered previously in more detail in another article “does creatine make you gain weight” and I touched on it earlier in this article but creatine does not make you fat. The way it metabolizes in the body has no impact on the storage of excess body fat.  

Creatine can, and most likely will, make you hold additional water and gain weight but none of this will be fat and if it was a genuine issue, you could lose this additional water weight in 3-7 days by stopping creatine supplementations and spending a few days in a calorie deficit with a low carb intake. 

8. Does Creatine Expire

Creatine monohydrate is a long-lasting product but one which does expire. Most brands of creatine monohydrate will have an expiration date of 2-3 years after production. With that said, creatine monohydrate is a resilient product and can last 1-2 additional years after its expiration date before it starts to break down into its waste product of creatinine. 

This is provided you are storing it in a cool, dry area in a sealed container. You might notice your creatine hardens over time with additional exposure to air but in general, the expiration date and longevity could see creatine easily last half a decade. 

9. Does Expired Creatine Still Work

As mentioned above, creatine monohydrate is a resilient product and provided you are storing it correctly, you could still consume it for 1-2 years after its expiration date (see source here). 

With other types of creatine though like creatine tablets, creatine ethyl ester, and liquid creatine, you could find they break down much closer to their expiration date and would become unusable after they expire. 

The reason for this is that once creatine breaks down into creatinine, the effects on athletic performance are significantly reduced to the point where it becomes useless to consume as a supplement.  

10. Does Creatine Break a Fast

No, taking creatine will not break a fast and it will also not prevent you from entering ketosis. It’s calorie-free and while it does have an impact on glucose homeostasis, it has no impact on insulin levels (blood sugar). 

Creatine is naturally produced in the body and while some feel that supplementing it will involve some level of breakdown in the liver and release of enzymes that will trigger insulin, the above study shows that not to be the case. 

The real answer is that there is no definitive answer to this question yet so if you are unsure about what does/doesn’t break a fast, it’s best to stay on the side of caution and not consume the item, creatine included. 

11. Does Creatine Cause Acne

You might be wondering why this question is on the list because surely creatine does not cause acne. The reason this is a frequently asked question is that many teens and beginners will start to supplement with creatine (among other products) and start to notice some breakouts. 

Creatine can often take the blame but creatine does not cause acne. One of the leading causes of acne is raised levels of testosterone. The very hormone that people try to raise when training as a result of its muscle-building effects. 

Training, diet choices, and other supplements that all contribute to raised levels of testosterone are usually the primary reason why people might start to notice an acne breakout. Creatine often acts as a scapegoat but it has no impact on testosterone and no studies have shown a link to creatine and acne. 

12. Does Creatine Cause Constipation

Undissolved creatine is one of the most common causes of people having an issue when supplementing creatine. This is because creatine is an osmolyte and absorbs water in surrounding cells. When this happens in the stomach, you’ll either hear of people suffering from bloating, diarrhea, or even constipation.

While diarrhea is the most common side effect of supplementing creatine, especially when you do a loading phase and hold significantly more total body water, it can in rare instances cause constipation. This would be most common when you are dehydrated as creatine pulls water into the muscles. 

If it does this and pulls water from your lower intestines to do so, then constipation could be a side effect. The easy way to combat this though is to simply stay hydrated.

13. Does Creatine Dissolve in Water

Creatine monohydrate does dissolve in water but it’s a stubborn substance, especially if you get a poor blend that does not have a higher percentage of creatine like Creapure does. It’s also much less likely to dissolve in cold water as a result of the kinetic process. 

Therefore, if you are finding it difficult to dissolve your creatine in water, the two steps you should take are to use a higher proportion of water to creatine of 0.75 – 1 liter or dissolve it in warm/hot water. The latter is by far the easiest way to dissolve creatine in water. 

14. How Much Water Should You Drink With Creatine

Due to its poor solubility, creatine should first be consumed with a glass of warm water. I recommended 0.75 liters above but the reason for that is if you are consuming it with cold water post-workout as many people will do. 

Otherwise, a glass of warm water will be fine. In terms of daily water consumption when supplementing with creatine, you should look to consume an additional 0.5 liters of water above your regular and recommended daily water intake for every additional 3-5g of creatine. 

Therefore, if you do a loading week and take 20g daily, you should also consume an additional 2 liters of water. 

15. Does Creatine Need To Be Fully Dissolved

This links into my point earlier about bloating, diarrhea, and constipation because the number of times I’ve seen people drink a cloudy and gritty looking shaker with undissolved creatine inside is unbelievable. The goal of creatine consumption is to shuttle it to the muscles as quickly and efficiently as possible. 

This means that it should be fully dissolved in water before you consume it. This improves the efficacy of it and if taken undissolved, it will pass to your stomach and the body will try to solubilize it in the GI tract and this is where you’ll find issues with diarrhea and upset stomachs. 

Studies even show that dissolved creatine is utilized better by the body and when consumed in an undissolved form, it can still be present in the body and underutilized up to 6 hours later. 

16. Does Creatine Make You Thirsty

The first time I ever supplemented with creatine I noticed the effects. I gained weight in the first week, genuinely could squeeze out a few more reps in the gym (though this could be a placebo), and was constantly drinking water and urinating. 

A side effect of creatine is listed as an increased level of thirst. Creatine is a water-hungry molecule and will pull water from surrounding tissue and cells as it passes through your body and something that is key with creatine consumption, especially during a loading phase is to stay hydrated. 

17. Does Creatine Taste Bad

This is my favorite question because creatine does taste bad when you do not let it dissolve. This is more to do with the texture rather than flavor though. 

Creatine is an unflavored product and when creatine monohydrate is fully dissolved, it has no taste. Therefore, creatine does not taste bad because it is flavorless when consumed properly. 

Some people will state that creatine can have a bitter flavor and you’ll find suggestions to take it with sugar or the companies will even add a flavoring agent to some brands of creatine but if it’s fully dissolved, you shouldn’t be able to notice much of a taste at all. 

Final Thoughts

Creatine is a great supplement hands down and is one that I’d recommended to someone training at any level. Whether you are looking to build muscle, strength, or muscular endurance, supplementing with creatine will have a benefit, even though it might be minor. 

Hopefully, this article has either answered some personal questions that you had in terms of creatine supplementation or it’s just helped to give you some interesting viewpoints from people who have been asking the questions above.

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