If you’re like most gym goers and weight lifters, you’ll probably take creatine as either a pre or post workout supplement.
But what about taking creatine on rest days?
Should you keep taking creatine on days when you’re not training or should you have a break to keep it effective?
The short answer is yes, you should keep taking creatine on rest days.
Evidence suggests that it’s beneficial to your gym performance when creatine levels are kept topped up. This is what I aim to do too. However, if you do happen to miss a day here or there, don’t worry about it. You can maintain good levels of creatine over time.
- Should I take creatine on rest days?
- Importance of taking creatine every day
- What time to take creatine on rest days?
- Can I load creatine on rest days?
- Should you take creatine on a rest week?
- Is creatine cycling necessary?
- Wrap up on should you take creatine on rest days
Should I take creatine on rest days?
As you already know, creatine is one of the most tried and tested (and effective) supplements you can take as a strength trainer or general weightlifter to improve your performance.
Creatine helps with energy (ATP) re-synthesis within your muscles during your workout. This is key to busting out an extra rep or two, or adding 5kg onto the bar as it allows you to maintain intensity for longer. Over the long term this will benefit your muscle performance and is why creatine can help you gain good weight.
For this reason you’re likely to take creatine on your training day, but should you take creatine on rest days too when not working out?
The overwhelming answer is yes you can and should take creatine on rest days if you want to improve strength and build muscle.
I’m certainly a believer in this and I take my 5g of creatine every day.
Although you won’t be lifting heavy weights or doing an intense workout, there are benefits to taking creatine on non-training days.
Importance of taking creatine every day
Some people believe that taking creatine on a rest day is counterproductive. They think that their body may become tolerant to creatine in the same way your body can adapt to caffeine.
However, creatine doesn’t work like this. It is not a stimulant or a drug and it’s not triggering a central nervous system response that alters metabolism, which your body can acclimatise too. You will not become tolerant to creatine, which is why it’s well worth taking for strength gains.
Creatine is a supplement that works primarily within your muscles, where 95% of it is stored. The remaining 5% is found in your brain and testes.
It’s true that your body produces creatine of its own accord. Around 1-1.5g of creatine is synthesised each day, and a further 1-1.5g may be ingested if you eat red meat or fish.
So, why is it important to take creatine every day?
The main reason for taking creatine daily is to keep intra-muscular levels topped up to their maximum.
Creatine is a fairly short-lived compound that gets used up and broken down on a regular basis. This is why you need a steady, continuous supply of it.
Taking creatine regularly means you’ll be maintaining your reservoir stores. When the time is right your muscles will be primed to go on training day – from an explosive energy perspective at least. Creatine is a particularly useful supplement for big movements, such as heavy deadlifts, and those where you want to smash out a couple of extra reps.
If your creatine levels are at their peak, the worst that will happen is that the extra creatine you take in gets excreted.
Creatine has a phenomenal safety record and side effects over the last few decades have been close to non-existent. As it’s also a relatively cheap product to buy, I personally think it’s well worth the recommended supplementation of 5g a day.
What time to take creatine on rest days?
I supplement with creatine every day, including on my non-training days.
In terms of timing, it’s largely irrelevant. This is because creatine is a supplement and used to fill nutritional dietary gaps. A bit like the timing of food during rest days, it’s not too important as long as you get your macros in across the day.
With creatine, the most important thing is to take 5g (or your usual dose) at some point in the day.
The time when I take creatine on rest days often changes, but I always make sure I have it.
Here are the most popular times for my creatine when I’m not training:
- First thing in the morning
- With my protein shakes – mid-morning or mid-afternoon
I sometimes take creatine before bed, which is more than fine to do and should not impact your sleep.
On my training days, I like to lift weights in the morning so I will supplement with creatine before and after.
Can I load creatine on rest days?
Creatine loading involves taking a high dose of creatine over a number of days.
For example, over the course of a week when creatine loading, you may increase your supplementation to 20g a day.
Doing this floods your skeletal muscles with this magical organic compound to get those creatine stores fully topped up.
Once your stores are full, it’s then a case of maintaining these high creatine levels through 5g of daily supplementation.
Theoretically, you can load creatine on rest days but it won’t necessarily do you any good if you’ve been taking creatine regularly for some time.
For example, taking 20g of creatine as a one-off on your rest day won’t help you recover any quicker, gain strength or build muscle.
Should you take creatine on a rest week?
For a rest day or a rest week, the same advice applies – just carry on taking your usual dose of creatine.
The best outcome is that your creatine levels in your muscles stay saturated. All primed up ready for when you start lifting weights again.
The worse case scenario is that your muscular levels of creatine stay topped up without being fully utilised. You may lose the extra creatine you have in your body through your urine. And your creatine tub or bag supply will be 35g lighter.
Even so, creatine is an incredibly useful supplement for everyday exercise, even simple tasks such as walking. The transport of other nutrients, such as sodium, magnesium and calcium, are all aided by the update of creatine to your skeletal muscles. Generally speaking, creatine is a healthy supplement that can help you in other areas of your life and functioning away from the gym.
For me, it’s a no brainer really to keep on supplementing with creatine. If you miss the odd day here or there, it’s no big deal. No need to worry about it. A bit like strength training or building muscle, consistency over time is more important. I think this is a metaphor for life.
If you want to just take half the normal dose, then that’s a good idea too. Don’t forget, your body produces small amounts of creatine everyday anyway, so you’d be adding to this.
Also if you do want to stop taking creatine for the whole week and see what happens, go ahead! It’s always worth trying these things for yourself and seeing how you feel. For example, when I go on holiday, I don’t take my creatine monohydrate with me.
When it comes to creatine there’s no safety issues or negative side effects waiting to happen should you carry on taking it during a rest period or not.
Is creatine cycling necessary?
Over the years, it has been suggested to cycle your creatine loads.
This involved having a period of time, for example a week, where you wouldn’t take any creatine at all. It has been suggested that this would make creatine more effective. However, there is no evidence to suggest this is needed.
The truth is that you do not need to cycle creatine.
Just like you don’t need to cycle protein intake or water as your body needs a constant supply – creatine is the same.
Cycling a product is only necessary to re-sensitise your body to something.
For example, you can become tolerant to certain drugs e.g. steroids, and stimulants, e.g. caffeine. This is because they change your metabolism and your body creates a tolerance.
You won’t become de-sensitised or tolerant to creatine though. As mentioned, your body goes through this compound at a fairly quick rate, which is why you do not need to cycle creatine.
Wrap up on should you take creatine on rest days
From the science, it seems clear that it’s advantageous to take creatine on rest days.
Doing this will stock up your skeletal muscle creatine stores, which will benefit your gym performance and strength training.
Following a steady, continual maintenance dose across the week, including on non-training days, is the best plan to keep your creatine levels at their most effective.
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