As you stare down at the chalk covered barbell you know what’s about to go down.
It’s game time and there’ll only be one winner. It’s time to hit that PR and show the weights who’s boss.
Focus, motivation and effort are what will make you stand out here – strength, power and stamina are what counts now.
In this article we look at creatine and pre workouts, two supplements renowned for their ability to boost strength and power.
Can you take them together or do you have to stagger your stack?
Let’s take a look at what the science says…
What is Creatine?
Every time you move, play sports or hit the gym, you use up stored energy. The more intense the activity, the quicker your fuel gauge goes down.
In order for your body to use this stored energy it has to rely on an energy currency named adenosine triphosphate or ATP.
This compound is used in every single one of your cellular processes, and without it you wouldn’t be able to function because you wouldn’t be able to use carbs, fats and proteins as fuel.
ATP is made up of an adenosine molecule and three phosphate bonds.
Although the biochemistry is complex, what you need to know here is that each of the phosphate bonds contains energy.
And when your body decides it needs this energy (because you are lifting weights or are on the treadmill or want to walk to the shops) one of the phosphate bonds breaks off to give you some fuel.
Once that phosphate has been used up, your body needs a system where it can generate new ATP by essentially finding the lost phosphate and joining it back to adenosine again.
Creatine helps you make more ATP at high intensities
Depending on how fast you need ATP, your body uses one of three energy ‘systems’ for regeneration.
For example, when you need ATP at low intensity, your body uses fat and stored glycogen. At higher intensities it only uses glycogen.
For maximal intensity exercise such as sprinting or heavy weightlifting your body only stores enough ATP to last around 3-4 seconds. And once this runs low, your body relies on creatine to make more ATP.
If you have sufficient stores of creatine in your muscles, you’re likely to be able to sustain maximal exercise for as much as 10-12 seconds.
If you don’t have enough, you’ll run out much quicker.
And that’s where creatine supplementation comes in.
Taking a high-quality supplement keeps your muscle stores of creatine topped up. That way, when you are working out in the gym you can train harder for longer before fatigue kicks in.
And that means better results.
The benefits of creatine supplementation include:
- Increased strength, power and force
- Boosts athletic performance
- Elevated muscle protein synthesis and muscle growth
- Enhanced cognitive performance
A recent meta-analysis study suggested that taking a creatine supplement can increase strength by 1.4% per week and net lean muscle mass by as much as 0.36% per week when combined with resistance training .
When Should You Take Creatine?
There’s no disputing the fact that as a serious lifter you should be taking creatine in your supplements to really hit peak progress.
If you care about your strength, power and mass then it’s a no-brainer.
The question is though, when should you take creatine to get the best results?
You can take creatine as part of your pre workout
One common method is to take it with your pre workout.
That way you can saturate your muscles with the compound prior to exercise, and therefore provide your body with potential for faster ATP regeneration.
By taking creatine as part of your pre workout you can load up with compounds that compliment it, and also enhance workout quality – caffeine, L-theanine and rhodiola rosea all work well prior to an intense workout.
Taking creatine after a workout could help with recovery
After a tough workout you’ll feel depleted and tired. Your muscles feel empty and you can’t wait to grab a post-workout snack and recover.
The argument here would be that your muscles could potentially be more ‘primed’ to soak up the creatine while muscle concentrations are low.
The problem with that though is that you can’t take advantage of the strength and power properties like you would by taking it as part of your pre workout.
All in all, the research suggests that when you take your creatine is completely down to preference.
Can You Take Creatine With Pre Workout?
High-quality pre workout supplements are purposely designed to explode into every facet of your workouts.
From improving strength and endurance to focus and co-ordination, the nutrients in these supplements will enhance your gym sessions, regardless of whether you’re lifting weights or hitting the running track.
Yes, you can take creatine and pre workout together
There are a number of similarities between these two supplements – the most obvious being that they flood your body with energy and help you train hard at higher intensities.
They do this via different mechanisms and pathways though.
For example, while creatine directly stimulates ATP regeneration, caffeine (a common ingredient in pre workout), boosts energy by inhibiting your adenosine receptors.
This helps to switch on the part of your nervous system responsible for elevating heart rate, blood pressure and energy production.
Both nutrients work together, not against each other.
Creatine is often added to pre workout to enhance its results
Some workout supplements such as 4 Gauge have creatine added to them.
This is based on current research suggesting that combining the two nutrients can significantly increase workout productivity and results.
For example, a study published in Medicine in Science in Sports and Exercise  found that when a group of athletes were given a pre workout containing the two compounds, a number of benefits were reported:
- Maximal oxygen consumption (a marker of cardio fitness) increased by 10.3%
- Critical velocity and anaerobic running capacity both increased – 3% and 22.9% respectively
- Training volume was 11.9% higher
- Body fat decreased by as much as 3%
- Lean mass went up from 54 kg to 55.4 kg
This was over as little as 3 weeks too.
Another study found that caffeine supplementation after a dose of creatine helped a groups of male athletes to boost body mass, maximal fitness and tolerance at high intensity .
These two nutrients definitely compliment each other. If you want to optimize your workouts then you should consider a pre workout supplement that contains creatine.
Smash Your Workouts With 4 Gauge
4 Gauge is an exhaustively researched, all-natural pre workout designed to rip the lid off your gym sessions, sports games or workouts.
Packed with performance-enhancing nutrients such as caffeine, L-theanine and creatine, 4 Gauge will take your training to a completely new level.
Smash your workouts – feel your nervous system firing on all cylinders
Cell-splitting muscle pumps – harness the power of vasodilation and deliver more nutrients to your muscle cells
Determination like never before – feel unparalleled focus and motivation
Relentless energy – train for longer without fatigue
- Nissen, SL et al. Effect of dietary supplements on lean mass and strength gains with resistance exercise: a meta-analysis. J Appl Physiol. 2003; 94(2): 651-9
- Smith, AE et al. The effects of a pre-workout supplement containing caffeine, creatine, and amino acids during three weeks of high-intensity exercise on aerobic and anaerobic performance. JISSN. 2010; 7: 10
- Doherty, M et al. Caffeine is ergogenic after supplementation of oral creatine monohydrate. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2002; 34(11): 1785-92