Learn how creatine monohydrate can help with muscle gain, the different forms of creatine, and how to properly supplement with creatine. Discover how much creatine can be obtained from the diet and how long it takes to start working. Gain insight into the benefits and potential side effects of a creatine loading phase, and the most cost-efficient way to use creatine for muscle growth.


  • A creatine loading phase will load creatine stores faster, which is unnecessary.

  • The creatine effect depends on various factors, such as diet. Those will lower creatine stores will see faster increases in muscle creatine.

  • A creatine maintenance phase of 5 grams per day is the most effective and cheapest way of taking creatine.

When a person new to lifting starts a bulking program, one of the first questions they ask is, “What are the best supplements for bulking?” Creatine monohydrate ranks as one of the best workout supplements for beginners. Ensuring you are eating enough calories is your number one priority for muscle growth. Some mass gainers conveniently contain creatine and other ingredients such as whey protein, casein protein, and essential amino acids to increase muscle mass.

Creatine is a naturally occurring amino acid found primarily in muscle and is the most abundant in foods such as beef, steak, and fish. (Kreider et al., 2022) Although there are many forms of creatine  (e.g., creatine salts, creatine complexed with other nutrients, creatine dipeptides, etc.) on the market, studies show that creatine monohydrate is the only form that has consistently been found to improve strength, as well as build muscle. (Antonio et al., 2021)

Creatine works by increasing muscle cells’ stores of creatine phosphate, which produces ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the primary energy source for muscle contractions. Increasing muscle ATP production can increase performance during resistance training and other high-intensity activities.

The timing of creatine (i.e., pre or post-workout) does not matter for muscle gain. There is often confusion regarding how to take creatine and how long it takes to start working.

How long does creatine take to work Creatine effects Creatine loading How many grams of creatine How long does it take for creatine to work Evidence based muscle


Since creatine is found in foods, you may wonder if you can eat a lot of red meat to obtain benefits. You must consume 1 kg or 2.2 pounds of meat daily to equal 5 grams of creatine monohydrate. (Greenhaff et al., 1994) However, it should be noted that cooking meat can result in a loss of creatine in meat by 40%, and the creatine content of foods varies considerably. (Mora et al., 2008; Persky & Brazeau, 2001)

Vegetarians have been found to have lower amounts of creatine in their muscles but taking creatine monohydrate can result in similar muscle creatine stores as meat-eating athletes. (Mora et al., 2008)  Studies have found that vegetarian athletes who supplement with creatine for five days were able to increase their muscle creatine content by an average of 22% to 33%.(Kaviani et al., 2020)

How long does creatine take to work Creatine effects Creatine loading How many grams of creatine How long does it take for creatine to work Evidence based muscle

Since creatine is found in foods, you may wonder if you can eat a lot of red meat to obtain benefits. You must consume 1 kg or 2.2 pounds of meat daily to equal 5 grams of creatine monohydrate. (Greenhaff et al., 1994)



When athletes start taking creatine, one of the most common questions regarding creatine supplementation is, “How long does it take to work?”. The answer is not straightforward, as creatine effects depend on several factors, such as the individual’s diet (i.e., how much creatine-containing foods they consume), type of strength training program, and overall health status.

Creatine monohydrate is unlike caffeine or beta-alanine, where you immediately feel the effect. Creatine can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks to start working, depending on the dose you take per day.


A creatine loading phase involves taking a higher dose (i.e., usually 20-25 grams per day), spaced out several times over the day for the first week, followed by a maintenance dose (usually 5 grams per day) after.

During a creatine loading phase of 20-25 grams per day, studies have shown that weight gain can range from 0.9 to 2.2 kg (2-5 pounds) during a creatine loading phase. (Kreider et al., 1998) Studies have shown that a loading phase can increase muscle creatine levels by up to 20%. (Casey et al., 1996)

Remember that this is not muscle; the weight increases are related to changes in water in the muscles. As creatine is pushed into muscle cells, water is also pushed into muscle cells to maintain homeostasis.

Creatine supplementation can increase cell hydration which is associated with anabolic processes in muscle. Studies have shown increased cell hydration may improve muscle function and reduce muscle breakdown.(Buford et al., 2007)

Creatine loading phases are not without side effects for some people. The most common side effects of creatine loading phases are gastrointestinal side effects such as stomach ache and diarrhea.(Ostojic & Ahmetovic, 2008)

A loading phase results in faster saturation of creatine stores in muscle, but this is completely unnecessary, as you will read below. Furthermore, loading creatine is more expensive than using a maintenance phase.



A 5 grams per day maintenance phase is the standard way to increase creatine stores and is also the most cost-efficient. Previous studies suggested that it could take up to 4 weeks for a maintenance level (i.e., 5 grams) of creatine to reach muscle saturation and for performance effects to be seen. This depends heavily on the person’s diet; those with lower creatine levels will see a greater effect than those with higher levels.


A recent study has challenged the concept that it takes 4 weeks to saturate the muscle with a maintenance dose of 5 grams. The study found that 5 grams of creatine monohydrate per day saturated creatine muscle stores similar to creatine loading for a week with 20 grams daily. Taking creatine monohydrate at 5 grams per day for 14 days resulted in a 24% increase in muscle creatine. (Askow et al., 2022)

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Loading creatine with dosages of 20 grams per day for 6 days resulted in a 20% increase in muscle creatine levels. From a cost standpoint, it makes sense to use 5 grams a day, given that you will reach the same creatine saturation stores with a longer duration. You don’t need to use a loading phase of 5-7 days.


The time it takes for creatine to start working can vary depending on several factors, including diet, the dose of creatine taken, etc. A creatine-loading phase can help speed up the saturating muscle creatine stores in the body, but it is unnecessary.


Antonio, J., Candow, D. G., Forbes, S. C., Gualano, B., Jagim, A. R., Kreider, R. B., Rawson, E. S., Smith-Ryan, A. E., VanDusseldorp, T. A., Willoughby, D. S., & Ziegenfuss, T. N. (2021). Common questions and misconceptions about creatine supplementation: what does the scientific evidence really show? Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 18(1), 13. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-021-00412-w

Askow, A. T., Paulussen, K. J. M., McKenna, C. F., Salvador, A. F., Scaroni, S. E., Hamann, J. S., Ulanov, A. V., Li, Z., Paluska, S. A., Beaudry, K. M., De Lisio, M., & Burd, N. A. (2022). Creatine Monohydrate Supplementation, but not Creatyl-L-Leucine, Increased Muscle Creatine Content in Healthy Young Adults: A Double-Blind Randomized Controlled Trial. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab, 32(6), 446-452. https://doi.org/10.1123/ijsnem.2022-0074

Buford, T. W., Kreider, R. B., Stout, J. R., Greenwood, M., Campbell, B., Spano, M., Ziegenfuss, T., Lopez, H., Landis, J., & Antonio, J. (2007). International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: creatine supplementation and exercise. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 4(1), 6. https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-4-6

Casey, A., Constantin-Teodosiu, D., Howell, S., Hultman, E., & Greenhaff, P. L. (1996). Creatine ingestion favorably affects performance and muscle metabolism during maximal exercise in humans. Am J Physiol, 271(1 Pt 1), E31-37. https://doi.org/10.1152/ajpendo.1996.271.1.E31

Greenhaff, P. L., Bodin, K., Soderlund, K., & Hultman, E. (1994). Effect of oral creatine supplementation on skeletal muscle phosphocreatine resynthesis. Am J Physiol, 266(5 Pt 1), E725-730. https://doi.org/10.1152/ajpendo.1994.266.5.E725


Kaviani, M., Shaw, K., & Chilibeck, P. D. (2020). Benefits of Creatine Supplementation for Vegetarians Compared to Omnivorous Athletes: A Systematic Review. Int J Environ Res Public Health, 17(9). https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17093041

Kreider, R. B., Ferreira, M., Wilson, M., Grindstaff, P., Plisk, S., Reinardy, J., Cantler, E., & Almada, A. L. (1998). Effects of creatine supplementation on body composition, strength, and sprint performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 30(1), 73-82. https://doi.org/10.1097/00005768-199801000-00011

Kreider, R. B., Jäger, R., & Purpura, M. (2022). Bioavailability, Efficacy, Safety, and Regulatory Status of Creatine and Related Compounds: A Critical Review. Nutrients, 14(5). https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14051035

Mora, L., Sentandreu, M. A., & Toldrá, F. (2008). Effect of cooking conditions on creatinine formation in cooked ham. J Agric Food Chem, 56(23), 11279-11284. https://doi.org/10.1021/jf801953t

Ostojic, S. M., & Ahmetovic, Z. (2008). Gastrointestinal distress after creatine supplementation in athletes: are side effects dose dependent? Res Sports Med, 16(1), 15-22. https://doi.org/10.1080/15438620701693280

Persky, A. M., & Brazeau, G. A. (2001). Clinical pharmacology of the dietary supplement creatine monohydrate. Pharmacol Rev, 53(2), 161-176.

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