How Long Does Creatine Take To Work?


Creatine monohydrate is one of the most well-studied and effective supplements available on the market for improving athletic performance, building muscle, and even improving brain health.

But how long does it take for creatine to work?

Don’t worry. We won’t keep you waiting!

Per the multitudes of scientific evidence that exists on this powerhouse supplement, you can begin to see the effects of creatine in as little as one to two weeks if you use the loading phase strategy or four weeks if you begin with a maintenance dose.

If you’re curious about how to squeeze out the benefits of creatine more quickly, though, you’ll want to keep reading.

In this article, we’ll not only cover how long it takes creatine to work and what dosing strategies to use, but also provide a brief overview of what creatine is, how it works, and the many health benefits of creatine.

How Long Creatine Takes to Work

List of loading and maintenance strategies that will dictate how long it takes for creatine to work.

How long it takes for creatine supplements to work entirely depends on the dosing strategy you use––or, in other words, how much creatine you take when starting the supplement.

However, we want to mention that there are no added benefits to getting creatine to work more quickly, other than maybe flexing slightly bigger muscles on your upcoming vacation.

Like anything when it comes to sports nutrition, your body’s response to taking creatine may also vary. 

So, there are no guarantees that following either of these dosing strategies will deliver results on an established timeline.

With this in mind, just know that the best strategy is always consistency and preparedness. 

So, whether you’re a competitive bodybuilder or an elite football player, start taking creatine daily sooner rather than later before you’re on a time crunch to deliver results.

Loading Phase Strategy

The creatine loading phase dosing strategy prescribes 20-25g of creatine per day (or 0.2g of creatine per kg of body weight) for five to seven days. 

This amount is spread out in 4-5 doses taken throughout the day to reduce the potential for stomach and digestive discomfort.

This loading phase is then followed by the maintenance phase of 5-7g of creatine per day.

By using the creatine loading phase dosing strategy, you can more quickly increase the creatine levels that are stored in your muscle cells.

With this strategy, you may be able to begin seeing the benefits of creatine in just one to two weeks.

Some of these benefits could be increased muscle mass and improved exercise performance. 

You may also see side effects such as water retention, stomach discomfort, and increased body weight. 

However, these are not symptoms to be worried about. Your muscle cells are simply holding onto more water, and, in turn, this will make them appear larger. 

If you are experiencing digestive issues, you may want to decrease the amount of creatine you are taking per day if the symptoms are unmanageable.

Maintenance Dose

With the maintenance dose strategy, you will skip the loading phase and go straight into the maintenance phase with 5-7g of creatine per day.

With this method, creatine results will start to kick in at about four weeks.

Some of the benefits of beginning with the maintenance dose instead of a loading phase are convenience and avoiding digestive discomfort.

Additionally, it could be more optimal to start with a maintenance dose if you plan to take creatine long-term.

Speaking of long-term use, let’s also take a look at how long you should take creatine once you start.

How Long Should You Take Creatine?

There is overwhelming evidence that creatine use in both the short and long term is perfectly safe, effective, and well-tolerated by many populations––young, old, fit, untrained, etc.

That said, there are some different effects you can expect when taking creatine for a short or long period of time.

Short-term Use of Creatine

When you first start to use creatine, there may be an initial increase in water retention at the intracellular level.

In other words, creatine helps our muscle cells hold onto a bit more water, which, in addition to building muscle and improving muscle recovery, also adds to the physical appearance of larger muscles.

Yes, this does mean that creatine initially may cause you to gain weight.

As a result, creatine has gotten a bad rap in certain online fitness circles, leading some to believe that creatine makes you bloated, causing you to gain weight.

In reality, seeing the scale rise is not always a bad thing! As our muscles grow, our weight will increase unless we also lose fat at the same time, which can be difficult to achieve for some.

However, this effect primarily only occurs with short-term use and when using the loading phase dosing strategy. 

If you begin with a maintenance dose, this can potentially help you steer clear of those side effects.

That being said, short-term creatine use when using the loading phase dosing strategy will lead to elevated levels of creatine stores within your muscle cells, which is shown to increase exercise performance capacity by 5–10% in just the first 5-7 days.

Another study shows that even a low dose (≈2.3g/day) taken over six weeks can result in improvements in fatigue during high-intensity contractions (knee extensions). 

In other words, the participants could do heavier knee extensions and felt less fatigue with multiple sets.

So, as you can see, there are tradeoffs between both strategies in the short term.

Long-term Use of Creatine

After many decades and countless scientific studies, the sports nutrition community is confident that creatine is a safe, effective, and well-tolerated supplement for the majority of people. 

Here are just a few of the studies that exist on long-term creatine use and its effects (or lack thereof).

As you can see, there are many benefits to taking creatine long-term, especially when combined with resistance training.

What is Creatine?

Your body can produce creatine naturally from the amino acids glycine and arginine. However, you can also get creatine from an animal-based diet.

Once consumed or synthesized in the body, 95% of creatine is stored in the muscle cells and helps your body produce more adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a high-energy molecule that helps our cells produce energy.

The other 5% is stored in the brain, heart, and testes, and around 1.5 to 2% is converted for use by the liver, kidneys, and pancreas.

While our bodies can produce creatine on their own, athletes who follow plant-based diets may want to consider taking creatine as a supplement to support their workouts and recovery.

How Does Creatine Work?

Once it makes its way to the muscle cells, creatine helps improve exercise performance by boosting anaerobic energy capacity (the process of breaking down glucose into energy without using oxygen) and reducing protein (muscle cell) breakdown.

Together, these two functions can improve physical performance, speed up recovery, and increase muscle mass.

This is why creatine supplementation is so popular among gymgoers, both recreational and competitive.

By supplementing with added creatine, you can increase the body’s creatine stores.

When combined with resistance training and a high-protein diet, you can see noticeable improvements in athletic performance, strength, and muscle size.

But what else can creatine do?

Creatine Benefits

Creatine supplementation isn’t just for building muscle! It has loads of benefits for every type of athlete and even for those looking to improve their brain health, too.

Increases Muscle Mass and Lean Body Mass

Creatine is a proven and safe supplement for building bigger muscles and enhancing lean body mass, particularly in healthy young individuals.

Here’s how it works:

It also shows promise for injury prevention, but further research is needed, especially in older populations and those with muscular diseases.

Improves Exercise Performance

Creatine provides cells with more energy by replenishing ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the energy currency of our cells. This leads to sustained energy levels during exercise, particularly high-intensity exercise. This results in performance benefits such as increased strength and power output, as demonstrated by studies on elite athletes, including elite Brazilian soccer players.

Injury Prevention

Studies suggest that creatine supplementation may reduce the risk of sports-related injuries, including cramping, dehydration, muscle tightness, strains, and various contact and non-contact injuries, particularly in college football players.

Improved Exercise Recovery

Creatine accelerates exercise recovery by promoting cell repair and growth, preserving lean tissue mass, and preventing the breakdown of muscle protein. It proves beneficial during immobilization due to injury or age-related decline.

Improves Symptoms of Aging

Creatine supplementation exhibits potential in preventing sarcopenia and dynapenia, preserving and increasing muscle mass and strength in aging individuals. It also enhances bone mineral density and reduces the risk of falls, addressing various aspects of age-related decline.

May Help Improve Brain Health

In addition to physical benefits, creatine positively influences brain function and cognitive processing. It aids recovery from trauma, such as traumatic brain injury, by meeting the energy demands of brain cells. Long-term supplementation also has noticeable positive impacts on brain health and improves aspects of neurological diseases.

Helps Preserve Muscle Mass

Since creatine prevents muscle protein breakdown, it may also help prevent muscle loss during what’s called the “cutting phase.” This is a dieting phase where individuals (both bodybuilders and “regular people” like us) are trying to cut down on fat while preserving muscle. During this phase, you will take in fewer calories to help slim down and lose fat, but this can also lead to unwanted losses in muscle mass. With the combination of creatine supplementation and a high-protein diet, you can not only improve your initial muscle growth but also preserve muscles during this phase of caloric restriction.


How do you know if creatine is working?

After a few weeks of supplementing with creatine monohydrate, you may notice a slight increase in your body weight, muscle size, athletic performance, and recovery. This is assuming you are following a training regimen and a healthy, balanced diet high in protein. The effects won’t be so noticeable to other people, but they should be noticeable to you.

How fast does creatine build muscle?

You could begin to see increased muscle size in just a matter of three to four weeks. However, this will largely depend on genetics, training regimen, diet, sleep, and overall stress levels. Creatine is not a golden ticket to becoming Mr. Olympia overnight.

Should I load creatine for 5 or 7 days?

There are two dosing methods for creatine supplementation: the loading phase followed by a maintenance dose or starting with just a maintenance dose. If you want to quickly increase your muscle stores of creatine, you can start supplementing with creatine using the loading phase for 5 to 7 days. There is no difference in results with fewer or more days. It just depends on how your body is adjusting to the supplement. With a loading phase dose, you may experience a bit more water retention, and some people report digestive discomfort. However, you may see results more quickly with this dosing strategy. If you plan to use creatine long-term, there is no need to start with a loading phase.

Why am I not gaining weight on creatine?

Not everyone experiences immediate weight gain on creatine. If you are a “hard gainer,” it may take you more time to see a noticeable difference in muscle growth. You can alleviate this by increasing your caloric intake. Others who are trying to lose weight and gain muscle at the same time may see very little fluctuation in their weight as they go through body recomposition. You may begin to see an increase in weight as the rate of your muscle growth overtakes your fat loss. If you still are not seeing muscle growth, take a look at your training and diet regimen to see if you can make any improvements there. 

When Should I Take Creatine?

As long as you are consistent with your creatine supplementation, there is no particular time of day you should take it. You should take creatine daily and choose a time you will always remember to take it. If you want to learn more, read our article about when to take creatine.

Who Should Not Take Creatine?

Creatine is generally safe for healthy individuals when taken as directed. However, individuals with certain kidney concerns, such as those who suffer from pre-existing kidney disease, should avoid creatine since it can affect kidney function. Those with liver disease or high blood pressure are also advised not to take creatine. If you have any digestive issues, you may also want to be cautious when taking creatine, as it can cause stomach discomfort in large doses. If you have any concerns about taking creatine due to an existing illness, consult your primary care physician. 

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