Should You Take Creatine on Off Days?

If you have just started taking a creatine supplement, you may be wondering: should you take creatine on off days? What are the implications of taking it or skipping until your next workout?

Yes, you should take creatine on rest days. Before you can experience its benefits, your muscles have to be saturated with creatine. Taking creatine on your off days aids in keeping the reserves high, ready for your next workout. Timing is not important on rest days, as long as you take it.

This is the simple answer. In the following article, we are going to dive deep and explore:

  • What creatine is and how it helps you
  • How to optimize creatine intake on your workout days (timing & dose)
  • Why you should take creatine on your off days (& how to time it)
  • What to take creatine with for the best results, both on workout and non-workout days

With everything that you are about to read, backed up by actual scientific studies.

What is creatine and how does it help you?

Picture of a cup of creatine monohydrate on a piece of paper

Creatine is an energy source for muscle contraction, naturally occurring in your body.

Aside from the fact that your body naturally produces 1-2g of creatine per day on its own, you are also getting ~2g of creatine from your diet if you are eating meat and other animal products.

This molecule helps maintain a continuous supply of energy to working muscles.

Unfortunately, between your body's natural production and the creatine intake from your diet, you are still not reaching the full creatine capacity of your muscle cells. To be more specific, your muscle cells are only 60-80% full with creatine at any given time.

For this reason, supplementation with creatine can lead to:

With these benefits in mind, people who are serious about their athletic performance should consider creatine as a reliable and safe supplement.

How to optimize creatine intake on workout days?

You already know you should be taking creatine on days you exercise. In the following paragraphs, we will tell you how much creatine you should take and when to take it for optimal results.

There are two avenues you can take with creatine dosage:

  • Maintenance phase. In the maintenance phase, you should take 3-5g of creatine per day. If you choose this route, it will take up to 28 days for your muscles to get saturated and for you to start seeing the benefits.
  • Loading phase. With a loading phase, you should take 20g of creatine per day for 5-7 days to reach creatine muscle saturation. Once this phase is over, you will follow up with a maintenance phase.

We have written at-length about how much time creatine takes to work here.

The shortened version is: you will reach saturation within seven to 28 days.

When you are building up your muscles' reserves of creatine, you should take the supplement on off days too.

Once you reach complete creatine muscle saturation (i.e. your muscle stores of creatine are at 100%), you will continue to take 3-5g of creatine daily, for an indefinite period of time.

Should you take creatine pre or post workout

There is a (not so heated) debate in the fitness industry regarding creatine timing: should it be taken prior to or after a workout session, and what is the difference?

There are some researchers who tried to come up with an answer to this question.

In one study, 19 recreational male bodybuilders were split into two groups - one group supplementing before their workout, the other supplementing after. During the study, the participants trained five days a week and took creatine before and after exercising, respectively.

At the end of the 4-week study, the group taking creatine post-workout noticed:

  • Greater increases in muscle mass
  • Larger decreases in fat mass

Which could lead you to believe that supplementing post-workout is better.

However, another study reported no difference between taking creatine pre or post exercise.

So, unfortunately, the data is still scarce.

There is no reliable difference between taking creatine before or after a workout.

However, there is strong evidence supporting that taking creatine shortly before or after workout may be better than long before or after.

Should you take creatine pre or post workout

Taking creatine in the vicinity of your workout - whether before or after - seems to have a better effect than taking it long before or after a workout.

In one study, participants were split into two groups and given a supplement containing protein, creatine, and glucose. One group took the supplement before and after their workout, with the other supplementing in the morning and late evening.

The group supplementing in the proximity of their workout saw:

  • Greater increases in muscle mass
  • Improved 1RM strength in two of three assessments

From this study we can conclude that it may be more beneficial to take creatine shortly before or after your workout, rather than at some other time of the day.

Should you take creatine on off days?

Should you take creatine on off days? Picture of a man drinking from a shaker bottle

As mentioned above, you should take creatine on rest days too. The purpose of supplementing even on rest days is to keep the levels of creatine in your muscles elevated.

There is a caveat though.

If you work six days a week, you can get away with skipping creatine on that one off day. However, here is a bit of a warning and an opinion:

  • For optimal results you shouldn't skip any day during a loading phase
  • There is literally no benefit to skipping a day of creatine intake

So, yes, we can say that if you have one rest day a week, you may get away with skipping creatine on that particular day. But then again, why would you?

Since there is no added benefit to not taking creatine, there is no point.

What about creatine timing? Does it matter on rest days?

No, it doesn't really matter when you take your supplement on an off day, as long as you take it.

What to take creatine with for optimal results?

Most people in the gym will tell you to take creatine with carbs. There is a grain of truth to that, as some studies suggest that carbohydrates can increase the uptake of creatine by your muscles.

That said, other studies have shown that there is no added benefit to taking creatine with carbs.

Furthermore, some researchers have used up to 100g of carbohydrates - or 400 calories - in their studies. If you have already eaten your calories for the day, taking your creatine with an additional 400 calories will certainly lead to weight gain.

Obviously, if you want to take your supplement with carbs you can strategize a bit.

Whenever you have one of your big meals consisting of carbohydrates, add your creatine too.

This can be a bit tricky on workout days. For optimal results, you would need to have said big meal right after your workout. However, you should take creatine on non-workout days whenever you feel like it, so timing it with one of the meals would be less of a hassle.

The bottom line

Creatine is one of the best supplements for natural athletes. If you want to squeeze the most of your performance capabilities, taking creatine is mandatory.

Before you can reap its benefits though, you need to fill your muscle reserves with it. And to do that, you need to take creatine for an extended period of time. So, should you take creatine on off days? Absolutely, supposing you want to get the most out of it.

And to optimize it further, timing is important too.

On workout days, we recommend you to take your supplement in the vicinity of your workout. Whether it is before or after your workout is of no importance.

And lastly, try to mix in some carbohydrates. But if you can't, don't stress about it.

Over to you.