It’s a commonly-asked question, “Can I Take Creatine on an Empty Stomach?”
You’re probably taking creatine to help improve strength, lean muscle mass, and recovery.
Plus, you’re no doubt utterly confused as to the best time of day to take it (I’ll get to this in a moment).
However, for now you’ve settled on taking creatine pre-workout, and you usually train fasted.
So, this begs the question as to whether you should take creatine on an empty stomach.
Allow me to explain the ins-and-outs of creatine consumption.
Can I Take Creatine on an Empty Stomach?
You can take creatine on an empty stomach, although some people may experience nausea or stomach cramping. However, this is more likely because you’ve taken on insufficient water or you generally have a weak stomach. Creatine can actually be taken at any time of the day. With that being said, creatine increases the amount of energy available in both the muscles and the brain. Therefore, taking creatine before bed could affect sleep in some individuals.
1. You Can Take Creatine at Any Time of the Day
In truth, there are no real “rules” when it comes to taking creatine.
In fact, I’d go as far to say that if you read all the studies about creatine supplementation, and the best time to take it, you’d be left utterly confused.
You could probably read 10 different articles and receive 10 different answers about the best time to consume creatine.
Sorry, I know that could make THIS article just as confusing.
However, I will discuss the study that seemingly had all the answers in a moment.
But, for now, back to the point.
I see no harm in taking creatine on an empty stomach.
Once again, there are studies that state that this is the best way for optimal creatine absorption.
For me, as long as you’re taking creatine regularly, irrespective on when, it will have the desired effect.
The only thing to be wary of when taking creatine on an empty stomach is the potential for nausea or stomach cramping.
But, in reality, this actually has nothing to do with the creatine itself.
This is more likely to be because you haven’t taken on enough water or simply because you have a weak stomach.
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However, the higher likelihood is a lack of water.
You must remember it is essential to take on more water than usual when supplementing with creatine.
It is also said that creatine increases energy in both the muscles and the brain.
So, increased brain energy may not be conducive to sleep.
That being said, this depends on you as an individual, as many people take creatine before bed and sleep perfectly well.
Therefore, find what suits you and stick with it.
2. Don’t Believe the Coffee Hype
If you’re thinking about taking creatine on an empty stomach then I guess you’re taking it pre-workout.
I see no issues with this.
However, the reason for the complete “empty stomach” is because of what we’ve been led to believe about the effects of taking creatine and coffee together.
In fact, you’ll find countless articles online stating that caffeine affects the efficiency of creatine.
And practically everyone stating this “fact” bases their evidence on one study.
The study in question was conducted by The Journal of Applied Physiology in 1996.
They took nine healthy male volunteers, yes that’s right, a massive 9 volunteers.
So, hardly a huge cross-section of the public.
The volunteers then consumed half a gram of creatine per kilogram of bodyweight over a period of 6 days.
Now, in reality this constitutes approximately 40g of creatine on a daily basis, which is far more than the recommended 3-5g a day.
Well, actually some people can probably get away with up to 10g of creatine a day.
With that being said, creatine is typically loaded for the first 5-7 days in order to saturate the muscles.
But, even then the recommended dose is around 20g a day.
Anyway, back to the study.
The nine men were tested on extremely high rep knee extensions, 50, 80 and 90 reps.
It was found that dynamic torque production increased by 10-23% on creatine alone.
However, there was no increase when creatine was combined with coffee.
You can make of that what you will.
I think it’s best to take this study with a pinch of salt.
This is mainly due to the amount of creatine being taken and the minuscule number of participants.
Plus, there have been various studies which show that there is absolutely no impact on creatine effectiveness when combined with caffeine.
Basically, if you want to enjoy a cup of coffee and take creatine pre-workout, then go ahead.
3. Elevated Insulin Levels Can Make Creatine More Effective
It appears that having slightly elevated insulin levels can make creatine uptake more effective.
Once again, there is “evidence” based on yet another study.
The study was once more conducted in 1996 by the American Journal of Physiology.
This study involved 24 male participants.
They were split into 2 groups and ingested 5g of creatine, 4 times a day, for 5 days.
However, the second group consumed a small amount of carbohydrates within 30 minutes of taking creatine.
By eating carbohydrates the second group of participants had significantly elevated insulin levels.
Group two also had a 60% higher creatine accumulation in the muscles.
Plus, they excreted less creatine during urination.
So, even though it’s absolutely fine to take creatine on an empty stomach, it appears that there are benefits to consuming it alongside food.
In truth, this doesn’t simply have to be a carbohydrate-based meal or snack, although it’s better to have some form of carbs.
If you’re taking creatine pre-workout, this could be as simple as a banana or a spoonful of peanut butter and a handful of nuts.
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4. Is Post-Workout Better?
You’ll read and hear a lot about how creatine consumption is best post-workout.
And in truth, this is once more based on just one study.
However, the results of the study have been taken out of all proportion, and are now quoted as pure fact.
A paper published by the Journal of the International Society of Nutrition in 2013 is what the creatine post-workout opinion seems to be formulated against.
The study had 2 groups of recreational bodybuilders consume 5g of creatine monohydrate for a 4-week period.
One group consumed creatine pre-workout, and the other group post-workout.
Following the 4 weeks it was found that there wasn’t any notable difference in strength, muscle mass, and fat loss between either group.
The difference is what is known as a weak correlation in statistical terms.
This would generally mean a 0.25 to 0.5 variable between the two groups.
And it was found that this tiny variable was in favour of those who took creatine post-workout.
However, the difference was literally insignificant.
But, this has not stopped huge numbers of people stating that creatine is much better when taken post-workout.
In reality, the whole point in taking creatine is to saturate the muscles and keep them that way.
This is typically why there is also a loading phase.
In essence, once the muscles are saturated with creatine you simply have to keep them saturated to enjoy the benefits.
So, as I’ve already mentioned, if you’re taking creatine, regardless of when, you should reap the rewards.
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It is perfectly fine to take creatine on an empty stomach.
Just ensure that you consume plenty of water at the same time and also throughout the day.
If you don’t you may be prone to stomach cramping or nausea.
There is a suggestion that increased insulin levels will make creatine consumption more effective.
So, by that token it may be better to eat something when taking creatine.
However, in reality, once your muscles are saturated with creatine, as long as you continue your uptake, you should enjoy the full benefits.
Hi, I’m Partha, the founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I’m someone who’s been passionate about exercise and nutrition for more years than I care to remember. I’ve studied, researched, and honed my skills for a number of decades now. So, I’ve created this website to hopefully share my knowledge with you. Whether your goal is to lose weight, burn fat, get fitter, or build muscle and strength, I’ve got you covered.