The results you get from creatine supplementation are not instantaneous. It takes time for creatine muscle saturation to occur, which is the process of building up creatine stores in the body.
- Peak creatine muscle saturation can take anywhere from 1 to 4 weeks of supplementation, which is when you will experience performance benefits while working out.
- The exact length of how long creatine takes to work depends on whether a loading phase is used and the exact dosages.
- When your creatine supplement begins taking effect, you will notice an increase in muscle size and strength, increased endurance, and decreased risk of injury.
Creatine Results From First-Time Users
Before going through the research, I wanted to reach out to first-time creatine users to see how long it took them to notice results.
(Thank you to Tate Macdonald, Ciara Carlier, and Ashley Enns for sharing your experience)
The main points discussed were:
- Varied Onset of Effects: The time it takes to notice the benefits of creatine can vary. While some, like Ashley, began to see improvements within a week, others, like Ciara, noticed effects within a few months. Tate emphasized that the strength benefits weren’t instantaneous but evolved over time.
- Consistent Supplementation Is Key: Both Tate and Ciara stressed the importance of consistent daily supplementation, even if one consumes natural sources of creatine, like red meat.
- Effects Beyond Muscle Strength: While strength and muscle mass are commonly associated with creatine, Tate, Ciara, and Ashley, all highlighted its potential benefits for cognitive function.
- The Realization Creatine Works Only After Stopping: Ashley’s experience provides a unique perspective, as she only indeed recognized the benefits of creatine when she stopped taking it, emphasizing its impact on workout quality and body composition.
Tate Macdonald – “Creatine Didn’t Make Me Instantly Stronger”
“I’ve used creatine on and off for years, initially holding back from consistent use due to some negative chatter. But, after digging into my own research, I became convinced not only of its muscle and strength benefits but also of studies highlighting its potential advantages for cognitive and heart health. Even though I consume red meat, a natural source of creatine, I find additional supplementation beneficial. Now, I take a consistent 5-7 grams daily. Restarting it about 9 months ago, I noticed a distinct uptick in strength, muscle mass, and energy levels. It’s challenging to define precisely, but I wouldn’t say creatine made me instantly stronger. Instead, it seems to boost my stability and workout explosiveness”
Ciara Carlier – “I noticed the effects within a few months”
“For me personally, I noticed the effects and improvements of creatine within a few months. Creatine monohydrate is the one supplement I take religiously. It is great for improving strength, endurance, and giving your muscles that fuller-looking effect. Creatine is also great for cognitive function. There are a few different ways of supplementing creatine, but I take 5g of creatine every day to keep it consistent in my body.”
Ashley T Enns – “It took me about a week to begin to notice benefits”
“I didn’t really realize how beneficial creatine was until I STOPPED taking it for 3 months. Once I started taking it again, it only took me about a week to begin to notice the benefits. Improved strength, body composition, and just BETTER workouts! A supplement I would recommend to anyone with strength/physique goals.”
Does Creatine Start Working Right Away?
It takes time for the effects of creatine supplementation to be noticed.
While creatine is found naturally in our body, with 95% stored in our muscles and the remaining 5% found in your liver, kidneys, and brain; it isn’t until we increase our creatine stores from supplementation and saturate our muscles that we will experience benefits and see improvements in our training output.
Creatine is stored in your muscles as what’s known clinically as ‘phosphocreatine.’ The easiest way to think of this is as a stored form of energy in your muscles.
When we build on our natural creatine stores through supplementation, we have more energy currency to spend, leading to increased performance and strength gains.
Unsurprisingly, one serving of creatine isn’t going to get us there, though.
Building up creatine stores in the muscle so there is a surplus for you to access can take anywhere from 1 week (or less) to 4 weeks, depending on whether you start your creatine supplementation with a loading phase.
A loading phase includes a dose of up to 20g a day for 5-7 days, moving then to a maintenance dose of between 2-10g daily. You should hit creatine muscle saturation by the end of your loading phase (5-7 days).
However, if you don’t start your creatine use with a loading phase, and instead start with the maintenance amount (2-10g), it can take up to 28 days to hit creatine muscle saturation.
At this point, you might wonder, “Why wouldn’t I just do a loading phase so I can get to muscle saturation quicker?”
As I’ll discuss later, there are some potential consequences of taking large doses of creatine (20g) simultaneously.
- Learn more about creatine in the article Most Common Types of Creatine.
1-Week Creatine Results
The performance impacts of creatine could start to be felt at the 1-week mark. It really depends on where creatine levels are in the muscle.
If you have loaded your creatine supplementation, there may be subtle performance benefits noticed in your training following that loading phase, because a loading phase can achieve creatine saturation at a faster rate.
For reference, one study undertaken around high-intensity cycling showed that there was a 3.7% increase in cycling power, following a 4-day creatine loading phase.
In addition to feeling some changes in performance, you may also notice physical changes in your body after 1 week of creatine use.
These could include:
- Muscle fullness as creatine draws in water, so with more creatine in your muscles they will hold more fluid and appear fuller; and
- With more fluid being retained in muscles you may see an increase in your scale weight. This isn’t your body ‘putting on weight’ but rather just holding on to more water than it usually does without creatine use.
If you haven’t had a loading phase and are building creatine levels up through a maintenance amount daily, it may take longer, possibly up to 4 weeks, for you to start experiencing changes in your performance output and any of the physical changes mentioned.
1-Month Creatine Results
If you went through a loading phase and then moved straight into a maintenance phase of creatine use, then after 1 month of creatine use it is likely that muscle saturation has been reached and is being consistently maintained.
This supplementation approach should mean that you are seeing incremental improvements in your training output.
Studies have indicated that consistent users of creatine can see an 8% increase in strength and experience greater power output in high-intensity exercise.
The rate of performance improvement achieved is also connected to how often you expose your body to that type of training. So you need to be training in an activity consistently, while supplementing with creatine, to see results.
From a physical perspective, scale weight may begin to level out because you are taking a consistent amount of creatine daily and allowing your body to adapt to the supplementation regime.
In instances where a loading phase hasn’t been undertaken, it may take a month to start feeling the initial performance impacts and seeing physical changes like muscle fullness.
This is more akin to the results that are common after 1 week of creatine use through a loading phase.
Again though, how quickly results are felt is dependent on what your creatine stores were to begin with and how long it takes to achieve creatine saturation.
This can vary from individual to individual, which is why paying attention to physical changes in the body is helpful, as we can get a sense of how the body is responding to creatine supplementation.
3-Month Creatine Results
After 3-months of supplementing with creatine, regardless of whether or not a loading phase was utilized at the start of supplementation, you should see an upswing in performance and strength compared to where you were before supplementing.
This will vary depending on the training activity you participate in, but will likely feel like you can push harder and manage additional reps or lift heavier weights as well as have greater performance capacity when undertaking high-intensity workouts, like sprints.
Of particular note, research around long-term creatine use and strength showed creatine use combined with resistance training resulted in an increase in max weight lifted.
Test participants taking creatine versus those taking a placebo, with all other parameters the same, resulted in bench press increases of around 43% for a 1RM and 14% average increase in general strength.
Another study tested the results of creatine after 6 weeks of prolonged use, finding increases in sprint capacity and output and sustained increases in fat-free mass following creatine supplementation ceasing.
In terms of what’s next, following 3 months of creatine use, you can continue to use creatine to support ongoing progression and results or stop using it.
- So if you want to use creatine for long periods of time, evidence suggests this is ok; or
- If you want to stop and take a break, any performance gains achieved while using creatine will be maintained, provided your usual training regime continues.
Best Ways To Take Creatine For Fastest Results
Research indicates that a loading phase of 20g a day for 5-7 days must be followed by a maintenance phase for best results. For better absorption, a typical recommendation is for the 20g dose to be split into 5g servings across the day.
Interestingly though, another study found that ingesting creatine as a 1g serve, 20 times a day during a loading phase, resulted in less waste and urinary excretion of creatine.
Meaning, it was absorbed a bit more efficiently into our muscles. This study was directly compared to 5g servings 4 times a day, which resulted in more urinary excretion of creatine.
It seems the best way to supplement creatine is:
- With a loading phase;
- With the loading phase dosage split into multiple serves across the day to allow better absorption into the muscle and less waste by us just peeing it out; and
- With a maintenance period of creatine following any loading phase.
Match that with workout intensity and nutrition and you’ll likely start seeing, feeling, and experiencing the results.
- If you want to know exactly how much creatine to take for your body weight and goals, use our Creatine Calculator
Does The Amount You Take Affect How Fast Creatine Works?
The amount of creatine you take initially will dictate how quickly you saturate your muscles with creatine. The quicker we achieve creatine muscle saturation, the quicker we experience the effects of creatine supplementation.
However, our bodies can only ingest so much creatine before it becomes waste and we just process it out of our bodies, passing it through our urine.
So, if we can, we want to build creatine stores in the muscles quickly to achieve muscle saturation, moving to a maintenance amount to replenish our muscles and keep creatine muscle saturation regularly.
The purpose of a maintenance level of creatine is to find the optimal amount of creatine necessary to maintain creatine stores in the muscle without generating too much wastage and avoiding other possible side effects like gastrointestinal distress.
To determine the best maintenance amount of creatine to take there are a couple of approaches to consider:
- Studies have shown a regular daily dose of 3-5g is sufficient to build and maintain creatine stores in the body. This is also largely the dose that will be suggested on many creatine supplements you’ll see on the market. More sedentary users will be at the lower end of this range, with 5g being the more prudent amount for higher-level athletes.
- Another tested approach is to determine your maintenance dose based on your body weight which is suggested at around 0.03g to 0.1g of creatine per body weight. This approach may benefit athletes or those higher in lean muscle mass because it gives some flexibility around what the optimal creatine maintenance amount is to keep creatine stores.
- It has been suggested that more than 10g of creatine is not necessary for maintenance.
Do You Adapt To Creatine Over Time?
While there are certain supplements that your body will adapt to over a long period of use (caffeine for example), you don’t have to worry about that with creatine.
Creatine has been shown to be safe for long-term use, and continued use will allow you to reap the strength, energy, and recovery benefits over an extended period.
Your body does not build up a tolerance to creatine or lose the ability to make its creatine (creatine is produced in your body but also acquired through common food sources such as meat and fish).
Does Creatine Timing Make It Work Better?
When it comes to creatine supplementation, you don’t have to worry about taking it at the same time every day for it to be most effective.
According to this study, creatine can be taken at any time of the day and still maintain its effectiveness, and it does not have to be at the same time every day.
The most important thing with creatine supplementation is to remain consistent with taking it daily to achieve peak saturation in muscle creatine stores.
For this reason, you might want to take your creatine at the same time daily to create a habit, so you are less likely to forget.
With that said, some research supports taking your creatine closer to exercise, which can help increase performance.
However, the science isn’t definitive. What we know is that taking it every day, regardless of timing, is better than not taking it.
Does The Creatine Brand Affect How Fast Creatine Works?
The brand of creatine is not a key indicator of achieving fast results.
What appears to be more important is ensuring the purity and quality of the creatine supplement.
The best way to check this is by reviewing the ingredients panel of your creatine supplement and ensuring the listed ingredient is ‘creatine monohydrate.’
As a guide, creatine monohydrate is the most common and primary creatine supplement used in the majority of studies undertaken on creatine showing its effectiveness – so this is a good place to start.
Does The Type of Workouts Affect How Fast Creatine Works?
The research suggests that creatine benefits are felt more around anaerobic intermittent exercise like sprints, high-intensity interval training, and strength or weight training.
So if that is your preferred training style you’ll be more likely to experience faster results using creatine.
It is widely accepted through the majority of research that creatine improves weightlifting performance and training volume because the greater energy stores in muscles help users push to overload the muscle, forcing muscle and strength changes.
My key takeaway for you to consider is, that working out of any kind will mean we are tapping into the creatine energy surplus stored in our muscles.
So when introducing creatine and maintaining a high training output, whatever your desired activity type may be, it is preferable to be consistent with your creatine supplementation to ensure you are:
- Creating that initial saturation of creatine in your muscles; and
- Maintaining creatine saturation in your muscles.
How Do You Know If Creatine Is Working (4 Signs)
It’s important to be able to recognize whether or not our creatine supplementation is working.
Here are 4 signs that will give you a good indication of whether your creatine use is working:
1. Increase in Muscle
Studies show your muscles will actually grow.
Another study showed a 12-week resistance program resulted in increased thigh volume, fat-free mass, and muscle strength.
2. Increase in Strength
Research has shown gains in muscle mass will drive an increase in training volume and muscle adaptations.
3. Increase in Performance Output
4. Decrease Risk of Injury
Studies have indicated creatine use minimizes cramping and prevents injury, with users experiencing fewer incidences of dehydration, cramping, muscle tightness, and muscle strains compared with counterparts not supplementing with creatine.
The Bottom Line
Creatine supplementation is only as good as the training and nutritional regime you have in place.
Two primary areas you need to ensure are on point to create an ideal environment for creatine supplementation to influence body, muscle, and performance adaptations are:
- Ensuring your workouts are fueled with appropriate levels of carbohydrates so you have the energy to maintain workout intensity and push your body to tap into and maximize use of your creatine stores; and,
- Getting in enough protein to support muscle growth and recovery of damaged tissue, because creatine alone won’t do this.
Neglecting the above could mean you are slowing down progression and missing out on maximizing the benefits of creatine supplementation.
Other Creatine Resources
- Does Creatine Make You Look Bigger?
- Does Creatine Make You More Vascular?
- Does Creatine Help You Lose Weight?
- Does Creatine Break a Fast?
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Creatine Work In 3 Days?
It is unlikely that you will notice any improvements in strength, endurance, or muscle fullness from taking creatine for only 3 days, since it takes roughly 2-4 weeks to see and feel results from taking a maintenance dose.
Even if you decide to do a loading phase, this usually takes up to 5 days to see results.
Is Creatine Weight Gain Permanent?
Any weight gain noticed when just starting a creatine supplement is most often caused by water retention, not fat. Creatine draws water into your muscles, making them appear more full. This could also result in you feeling “puffy”.
Generally, this will subside as supplementation continues and your body adapts.
How Fast Can Creatine Build Muscle?
After about 2-4 weeks of consistent creatine supplementation, you should feel a noticeable difference in strength and endurance while also seeing a visible difference in muscle size.
This is likely a combination of an increase in muscle size and additional water stored in the muscle.
How Long Does It Take Creatine To Kick In Before Exercise?
There is some research to support the notion that taking your creatine shortly before exercise could provide some benefits since it takes about 60 minutes for creatine to reach the bloodstream.
Therefore, taking your creatine before you workout could restore creatine levels and increase strength and endurance.
Kreider, R.B., Kalman, D.S., Antonio, J. et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 14, 18 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-017-0173-z
Hultman E, Söderlund K, Timmons JA, Cederblad G, Greenhaff PL. Muscle creatine loading in men. J Appl Physiol (1985). 1996 Jul;81(1):232-7. doi: 10.1152/jappl.19188.8.131.52. PMID: 8828669.
Hickner RC, Dyck DJ, Sklar J, Hatley H, Byrd P. Effect of 28 days of creatine ingestion on muscle metabolism and performance of a simulated cycling road race. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2010 Jul 7;7:26. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-7-26. PMID: 20609257; PMCID: PMC2909923.
Nissen SL, Sharp RL. Effect of dietary supplements on lean mass and strength gains with resistance exercise: a meta-analysis. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2003 Feb;94(2):651-9. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00755.2002. Epub 2002 Oct 25. PMID: 12433852.
Engelhardt M, Neumann G, Berbalk A, Reuter I. Creatine supplementation in endurance sports. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1998 Jul;30(7):1123-9. doi: 10.1097/00005768-199807000-00016. PMID: 9662683.
Antonio J, Candow DG, Forbes SC, Gualano B, Jagim AR, Kreider RB, Rawson ES, Smith-Ryan AE, VanDusseldorp TA, Willoughby DS, Ziegenfuss TN. Common questions and misconceptions about creatine supplementation: what does the scientific evidence really show? J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2021 Feb 8;18(1):13. doi: 10.1186/s12970-021-00412-w. PMID: 33557850; PMCID: PMC7871530.
Persky AM, Brazeau GA. Clinical pharmacology of the dietary supplement creatine monohydrate. Pharmacol Rev. 2001 Jun;53(2):161-76. PMID: 11356982.
Tarnopolsky MA, MacLennan DP. Creatine monohydrate supplementation enhances high-intensity exercise performance in males and females. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2000 Dec;10(4):452-63. doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.10.4.452. PMID: 11099372.
Rawson ES, Volek JS. Effects of creatine supplementation and resistance training on muscle strength and weightlifting performance. J Strength Cond Res. 2003 Nov;17(4):822-31. doi: 10.1519/1533-4287(2003)017<0822:eocsar>2.0.co;2. PMID: 14636102.
Dempsey RL, Mazzone MF, Meurer LN. Does oral creatine supplementation improve strength? A meta-analysis. J Fam Pract. 2002 Nov;51(11):945-51. PMID: 12485548.
Luc J.C. van LOON, Audrey M. OOSTERLAAR, Fred HARTGENS, Matthijs K.C. HESSELINK, Rodney J. SNOW, Anton J.M. WAGENMAKERS; Effects of creatine loading and prolonged creatine supplementation on body composition, fuel selection, sprint and endurance performance in humans. Clin Sci (Lond) 1 February 2003; 104 (2): 153–162. doi: https://doi.org/10.1042/cs1040153
Antonio, J., Candow, D.G., Forbes, S.C. et al. Common questions and misconceptions about creatine supplementation: what does the scientific evidence really show?. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 18, 13 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-021-00412-w
Cooper R, Naclerio F, Allgrove J, Jimenez A. Creatine supplementation with specific view to exercise/sports performance: an update. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2012 Jul 20;9(1):33. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-9-33. PMID: 22817979; PMCID: PMC3407788.
Sale C, Harris RC, Florance J, Kumps A, Sanvura R, Poortmans JR. Urinary creatine and methylamine excretion following 4 x 5 g x day(-1) or 20 x 1 g x day(-1) of creatine monohydrate for 5 days. J Sports Sci. 2009 May;27(7):759-66. doi: 10.1080/02640410902838237. PMID: 19437189.
Kreider RB, Melton C, Rasmussen CJ, Greenwood M, Lancaster S, Cantler EC, Milnor P, Almada AL. Long-term creatine supplementation does not significantly affect clinical markers of health in athletes. Mol Cell Biochem. 2003 Feb;244(1-2):95-104. PMID: 12701816.
Ribeiro F, Longobardi I, Perim P, Duarte B, Ferreira P, Gualano B, Roschel H, Saunders B. Timing of Creatine Supplementation around Exercise: A Real Concern? Nutrients. 2021 Aug 19;13(8):2844. doi: 10.3390/nu13082844. PMID: 34445003; PMCID: PMC8401986.
Cribb PJ, Hayes A. Effects of supplement timing and resistance exercise on skeletal muscle hypertrophy. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2006 Nov;38(11):1918-25. doi: 10.1249/01.mss.0000233790.08788.3e. PMID: 17095924.
Dash AK, Mo Y, Pyne A. Solid-state properties of creatine monohydrate. J Pharm Sci. 2002 Mar;91(3):708-18. doi: 10.1002/jps.10073. PMID: 11920756.
Skare OC, Skadberg, Wisnes AR. Creatine supplementation improves sprint performance in male sprinters. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2001 Apr;11(2):96-102. doi: 10.1034/j.1600-0838.2001.011002096.x. PMID: 11252467.
Volek, J. S., & Rawson, E. S. (2004). Scientific basis and practical aspects of creatine supplementation for athletes. Nutrition, 20(7–8), 609-614. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nut.2004.04.014.
EARNEST, C.P., SNELL, P.G., RODRIGUEZ, R., ALMADA, A.L. and MITCHELL, T.L. (1995), The effect of creatine monohydrate ingestion on anaerobic power indices, muscular strength and body composition. Acta Physiologica Scandinavica, 153: 207-209. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1748-1716.1995.tb09854.x
Willoughby DS, Rosene J. Effects of oral creatine and resistance training on myosin heavy chain expression. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2001 Oct;33(10):1674-81. doi: 10.1097/00005768-200110000-00010. PMID: 11581551.
Kreider RB, Kalman DS, Antonio J, Ziegenfuss TN, Wildman R, Collins R, Candow DG, Kleiner SM, Almada AL, Lopez HL. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2017 Jun 13;14:18. doi: 10.1186/s12970-017-0173-z. PMID: 28615996; PMCID: PMC5469049.
About The Author
Steph Catalucci is an online nutrition coach from Australia, working with clients all over the world. Her passion for nutrition was born through wanting to treat her body better, for health and performance. She is a strong advocate for understanding nutrition to develop informed nutritional habits that go beyond just food. Steph leverages a decade of her own nutritional experience to help people make sense of the noise and carve a path forward with their nutrition, supporting clients with whatever body composition goal they have. When not coaching or writing, you’ll find her training for her next powerlifting competition.
Why Trust Our Content
On Staff at FeastGood.com, we have Registered Dietitians, coaches with PhDs in Human Nutrition, and internationally ranked athletes who contribute to our editorial process. This includes research, writing, editing, fact-checking, and product testing/reviews. At a bare minimum, all authors must be certified nutrition coaches by either the National Academy of Sports Medicine, International Sport Sciences Association, or Precision Nutrition. Learn more about our team here.
Have a Question?
If you have any questions or feedback about what you’ve read, you can reach out to us at email@example.com. We respond to every email within 1 business day.