“Do you take creatine on rest days?” Often asked, and so answers appear in this science-lite tribute to our best gym buddy.
Our good pal creatine
Like a trusty workout partner, creatine is there for us during every workout.
Derived naturally from amino acids, it’s been in the limelight of sports nutrition for years, with countless athletes and fitness enthusiasts toasting its benefits.
But what exactly is creatine anyways? To put it simply, it’s a molecule that’s stored in your muscles and brain and is used to produce energy during high-intensity exercise.
The science behind creatine is as strong as the muscles it helps to build. Research has firmly shown that it can enhance strength, increase lean muscle mass, and improve exercise performance.
Now that’s a power-packed punch for such a tiny little thing.
My aim with this article
But like with any good tool, knowing how and when to use creatine is key to getting the most from it.
Just like you wouldn’t hit the gym without a game plan, diving into creatine supplementation without understanding it is a no-go.
How much should you take? When should you take it? And the question you’re probably here for – should you take creatine on your rest days?
Don’t worry, we’re about to untangle all these threads and weave them into a clear understanding…so let’s go.
Science resources included
As is my custom here on heydayDo, I will provide links to all of the relevant sports science and medical resources, clinical studies, & nutritional data used in this article.
TLDR: Do you take creatine on rest days or not?
Indeed you do take creatine on rest days, or rather it’s recommended if you’re on a steady workout program.
You could skip your off days, but just remember: consistency is vital in maintaining high levels of creatine in your muscles, supporting your next workout effectively.
All that said, the fascinating part is the “why” and “how” behind the way creatine can benefit our muscles, our strength, our energy, & our recovery.
From the role of ATP, creatine’s link to muscle growth, to some helpful tips for intake, there’s quite a bit to unpack.
Definition and explanation of creatine
You see, creatine is a rather interesting substance. Your body naturally produces it, using three amino acids: glycine, arginine, and methionine.
It’s also found in animal-based foods, like red meat and fish, but the amounts are rather small compared to what you can get from a supplement.
Creatine’s hand in muscle building & exercise performance
Now, you might be wondering what creatine does, and why it’s so popular among us fitness folks. Well, it has a lot to do with energy production in your muscles.
When you’re lifting heavy or sprinting, your muscles need a quick source of energy. This is where creatine shines – it helps in the rapid regeneration of ATP, which is the primary energy currency of your cells.
And guess what? This energy boost isn’t the only thing creatine brings to the table. Research shows that it can also increase water content in your muscle cells, which might contribute to muscle growth.
Plus it may play a role in reducing protein breakdown, promoting better muscle retention.
The significance of ATP in relation to creatine
And speaking of ATP, let’s take a moment to appreciate this energy powerhouse. ATP stands for Adenosine Triphosphate, and it’s like the fuel that keeps your body running. When you’re doing any intense physical activity, your body uses ATP for energy.
Now the thing with ATP is that your body can’t store large amounts of it. So, once you start exercising, you can run out pretty quickly.
And that’s where creatine comes in.
The creatine stored in your muscles helps make more ATP, giving you the extra energy needed to push through those high-intensity workouts.
So you see, creatine isn’t just another supplement – it’s a tool that your body uses to keep you moving.
Best ways to take creatine
So, you’ve decided to supplement with creatine. That’s great, but how should you go about it to maximize its benefits for you?
You could ‘load’ when you first start it
You might have come across the term ‘creatine loading phase’ in your research or gym chats. This refers to the practice of taking a higher dose of creatine for the first few days of supplementation, typically around 20 grams per day for 5-7 days.
The idea is to saturate your muscle stores quickly. After this phase, you’d switch to a lower maintenance dose, generally around 5 grams daily.
If you do decide to start your creatine by loading at 20g per day, it’s strongly recommended you split that up into several doses, say 4 doses of 5 grams each.
This is because a lot of creatine — and 10g at once is a lot for some people — can give you an upset stomach.
Or just start taking your daily 5 gram dose
Some research suggests that starting with the maintenance dose and continuing it faithfully can achieve the same muscle saturation over a slightly longer period.
So you see that while the loading phase can be beneficial, it’s not mandatory by any means.
The choice is yours, and it’s all about your patience and comfort.
As for the dosage, 5 grams a day is a commonly suggested amount, and most of the popular creatine supplements dose it at 5 grams = 1 scoop, like Optimum Nutrition does below.
A note about the ‘taking creatine on off days’ advice you see
Before we go on I wanted to point out that the info here — and most of what you’ll read elsewhere — is based on two assumptions:
- you’re currently working out with some intensity on a regular basis;
- you’re currently taking creatine to support your exercise program.
So for instance, if you’re taking a recovery week or two off away from the weights or gym, there’s no crisis if you chill on the creatine.
Just know that your creatine stores will decline a little each day after a week or so off it, so you’ll need a couple of weeks to get them back up to peak level when you circle back to your workout routine.
And if you’re just starting out, then the advice given in the previous Best Ways To Take Creatine applies. Take it daily every day, so you can build up your body’s creatine stores.
Should you take creatine on rest days?
Ahh, the million-dollar question with an easy answer: Absolutely take it daily, if you’re in the middle of a training block or intense workout cycle.
This is particularly important during the initial phase when you’re trying to saturate your muscle creatine stores. As mentioned earlier, they’ll take a few weeks to reach ‘full’ mode if you skipped the loading phase when you began taking it.
In the long run, consistent supplementation, even on rest days, is essential. It’s not about creating a short-term spike in muscle creatine levels but maintaining an elevated level over time, rest days included.
So even if you’re just lounging on the sofa binge-watching your favorite series or going for a leisurely walk, don’t skip your creatine. Your muscles will thank you.
What happens if you skip a day of creatine?
So you might wonder what happens if you don’t take creatine on your off days. Well it won’t spell disaster, but it could potentially slow your progress towards saturating your muscle creatine stores & keeping them in that state.
Remember, the goal is to maintain elevated creatine levels in your muscles over time, not just on workout days.
And rest days are often days when you’d focus more on recovery and repair, which includes protein synthesis, so know that creatine has been found to have a synergistic effect with protein.
This Nitro-Tech Whey is made with creatine to take advantage of their synergy.
Synergistic just means things that can work together to make a little extra, like 1+1=3. So taking your creatine with a protein source, even on rest days, could offer an extra boost to your recovery process.
Now it’s not like one day missed will set you back weeks, but regular supplementation is important.
It’s much like sticking to a healthy diet or maintaining a workout routine. It’s what you do most of the time that counts.
Best time to take creatine: is there even a best time?
OK, let’s talk about the ‘when’. Is there a perfect time to take your creatine supplement?
Well on rest days you have a bit more flexibility; you can take it in the morning, in the evening, or split it throughout the day — the choice is all yours.
On workout days however, the timing can be a tad more contentious, especially when it comes to sports science people talking about it. 😉
Some studies suggest that taking it before a workout could maximize its uptake, while others claim that post-workout is the ideal time.
But here’s the thing, these differences in timing are relatively minor compared to the impact of daily intake.
So whether you’re an early bird or a night owl, creatine doesn’t care. Just remember its mantra: ‘consistency is key’.
Here are answers to some of the many questions people ask about creatine.
How does creatine affect muscle fullness?
Creatine draws water into your muscles, which makes them look fuller. It's not just about looks, this also helps performance. That extra water provides a beneficial environment for muscle growth & repair.
Does taking creatine with protein enhance its absorption?
While not necessarily enhancing absorption, taking creatine with a protein/carb meal can help with muscle recovery & growth. All their nutrients work together to fuel & repair your muscles.
How does water retention relate to creatine supplementation?
Creatine pulls water into your muscle cells, which can cause a bit of weight gain initially. It's not fat, just extra water. This temporary gain typically subsides as your body adjusts to the supplement.
How fast do you see results from creatine?
Ah, the other million-dollar creatine question.
Look, it isn’t instant magic, but typically you might start noticing a difference in strength and endurance within a week or two of consistent use. However, results will vary depending on your workout routine and dietary habits.
Do your muscles shrink when you stop taking creatine?
No need to worry, your muscles won’t just disappear if you stop taking creatine. At least not right away…(just teasing, you’re good).
However, you might notice a bit less of that ‘full’ look since creatine helps with water retention in the muscles. But you’ll still maintain the muscle gains made during the creatine supplementation period, provided you keep working out.
Will creatine make me look leaner?
Creatine primarily helps build strength and muscle, and it causes some water retention, which can actually make muscles look bigger.
To look leaner, you’ll want to focus on overall body fat reduction. Incorporating a mix of cardio (maybe HIIT it?) and strength training exercises could help in achieving that lean look.
What is the concept of creatine loading?
Creatine loading involves taking a higher dose for a short period (usually a week), then reducing to a maintenance dose. It’s one way to increase your muscle creatine stores faster.
This method may suit some individuals better, but it’s not a necessity for all. The thing to keep in mind if you don’t load is, it’ll take a few weeks for your body’s creatine stores to be in peak form if you’re just taking the daily 5 gram dose when you start it.
A reminder if you decide to load: Split up your daily dose throughout the day, so your digestive system is happy.
What supplements should be taken to build muscle?
Along with creatine, protein supplements can aid muscle recovery and growth. As discussed, protein & creatine are a simpatico team when it comes to your lean muscle goals, growth, & recovery.
But remember, supplements are just a part of the picture; a balanced diet and regular exercise are the main factors.
It’s also beneficial to consume a variety of nutrient-dense foods to fuel your workouts and muscle growth.
Can you overdose on creatine?
Short answer: no one has ever died from a creatine O.D., but man that tummy ache must’ve been gnarly.
More thoughtful answer: It’s highly unlikely you’d ever have any overdose problems, since major complications are quite rare.
However, like anything consumed in excess, high doses of creatine can potentially cause minor side effects like stomach upset, bloating, or thirst.
I (& countless other creatine users) have experienced low-grade versions of those unwanted symptoms during a creatine loading phase, but I’ve never had a hint of bad times when cruising along on my 5-6 grams a day.
I heard about creatine & kidney damage; what about that?
One concern that often comes up is about kidney damage. This was a false gym-bro meme from a long time ago (I was there to hear it firsthand) that still echoes from time to time.
So it’s important to clarify that while creatine is processed by the kidneys, creatine studies have never found a link between normal creatine supplementation and kidney damage in healthy individuals.
Common creatine myths debunked
Hey — while we’re swatting fibs like flies in summertime, let’s dispel a few creatine myths that might be muddying the waters for you.
“Creatine only makes you gain water”
Speaking of water…First off, the whole idea of creatine causing only water weight gain & no muscle gains – it’s just not accurate. Yes, creatine does draw water into your muscles initially, but it also promotes muscle growth over time, contributing to lean muscle mass.
“Creatine’s a steroid”
And then there’s this wacky idea of creatine being a steroid, another echo from the pre-internet past. Creatine is not a steroid, it’s a natural substance found in foods like meat and fish and even produced by our own bodies.
Damage from long-term use
What about the safety of long-term creatine use? You’ll be glad to hear that numerous studies have confirmed the long-term safety of creatine supplementation, even in large doses.
Creatine monohydrate is the most-studied fitness supplement of all time, and it is very well understood by a lot of very smart sports scientists, expert strength & conditioning coaches & advisors, sports medicine doctors, etc.
Related articles here on heydayDo
Well, we’ve certainly covered a lot of ground together. We’ve delved into what creatine is, how it functions, and why it can be beneficial for your workout regimen – and yes, even on your rest days.
Saying it again — yeah, you should consider taking creatine on rest days. It’s all about maintaining that creatine reserve in your muscles, helping you get ready for the next intense workout session.
But still, everyone’s body responds differently, and it’s crucial to listen to yours when it comes to supplement choices, diet, workout schedule, all that.
At the end of the day, your health and wellbeing are paramount. So whether you’re starting a new workout regimen or considering adding creatine to your supplementation, this is always about what works best for your unique health goals.
I hope this creatine article is useful to you, and I wish you well on your fitness journey.