Caffeine and creatine are two of the most well-known pre-workout supplements, yet many people aren’t aware of exactly what they do to your body and mind. The two supplements have wildly different effects that can both benefit exercise, but how do they work? Let’s find out exactly what creatine and caffeine do to you, and other relevant info.
Overview of Creatine
One of the most popular bodybuilding and exercise supplements is creatine, which is made up of amino acids. Creatine binds to your muscles and increases energy regeneration, which allows your muscles to work harder, faster, and longer. They block the buildup of lactic acid, which is why your muscles burn after intense exercise.
Creatine itself has no acute effects, despite being present in formulas with caffeine. It doesn’t give you any kind of immediate effect. However, one rather subtle effect of creatine is in enhancing short-term cognitive performance, which can improve skills like memory and problem-solving.
Can I Take Creatine With Caffeine?
Yes, it’s perfectly safe to take creatine and caffeine together. Because creatine has no stimulant properties, it doesn’t strain your heart like taking caffeine with another stimulant. Finally, there’s a popular but incorrect myth that caffeine cancels out creatine absorption. However, research has shown that this is unsubstantiated, and in fact, many pre-workout supplements contain both compounds.
How Long Does Creatine Take to Work?
To experience the effects of creatine, you must first take enough to saturate your muscles. During this loading phase you take creatine daily for a week or so, and only after that will you notice the benefits of creatine. For some people, it can feel like you waste a lot of creatine before you even reap the benefits.
Does Creatine Give You Energy?
No, creatine doesn’t give you a mental or physical energy boost. Rather, you’ll be able to work your muscles for longer and harder than without creatine. You may also experience improved cognitive skills like better memory or problem-solving abilities.
- Enhances muscle energy performance
- Improves cognitive abilities
- Buffers lactic acid buildup, letting you work out for longer
- Helps build muscle and strength faster
- Causes bloating in high doses
- Stomach discomfort
- Doesn’t increase muscle until after the ‘loading’ phase
- Stops working if not taken for more than 4 weeks
Overview of Caffeine
Nearly everyone has either consumed or at least heard of caffeine, with 62% of Americans using it daily to wake up and stay alert throughout the day. Caffeine can be consumed in coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks, and in pill form. It provides a short-term boost of mental and physical energy, and if not re-dosed, causes a “crash” effect that makes you feel sluggish and tired.
As a psychoactive drug, caffeine has a safe upper limit of 400 milligrams per person per day. If you take more than that, you risk adverse side effects like agitation, jitteriness, and racing heart rate. In very high doses, it can even cause a heart attack or stroke. For exercise, caffeine can be an invaluable way to get a short-term boost to mental and physical energy, and it wears off in a few hours.
Pre-workout supplements often include caffeine as a way to give you a burst of energy to get through your workout, but it can pose serious health risks if taken in excess. To be sure you’re not exceeding the recommended daily limit of caffeine, check out how much caffeine is in a dose of your pre-workout supplement. Subtract this number from 400 milligrams and avoid consuming caffeine that totals more than this amount in a single day.
How Long Does It Take for Caffeine to Kick In?
Unlike creatine, caffeine’s effects are immediately noticeable once it’s processed by your digestive system. For most people, the effects of caffeine wear off within 5 hours, which makes it perfect as a short-term boost in exercise or bodybuilding.
- Boosts mental and physical energy levels
- Improves mood
- Helps burn calories
- Improves muscle performance
- Reduces fatigue
- Can cause insomnia, agitation, and racing heart rate if too much is consumed
- Can agitate gastrointestinal conditions like GERD and IBS
- Not good for late workouts when you want to sleep afterward
What’s the Difference Between Creatine & Caffeine?
The main difference is that creatine doesn’t provide a short-term energy boost, while caffeine doesn’t enhance muscle endurance or provide long-lasting benefits. The two have a few other differences, which we detail below in a handy list. Other differences include:
- Caffeine works immediately, while creatine takes time to build up before benefits occur
- Caffeine helps burn fat by increasing body temperature, while creatine doesn’t affect fat loss
- The effects of caffeine are more dramatic than the effects of creatine, which are typically more subtle and only noticeable with exercise
- Creatine builds up in your muscles, while caffeine wears off as soon as a few hours later
Is It Safe to Take Creatine With Caffeine?
Yes! As we mentioned above, many pre-workout supplements contain both compounds to enjoy their benefits simultaneously. Using the two together can help give you a short burst of energy while taking advantage of creatine’s long-term benefits and has minimal side effects.
If you’re trying to work out to burn fat, caffeine is especially useful with creatine. You can simultaneously build muscle and work out harder, which helps to torch calories and lose weight. The effects of creatine will continue to cumulatively build, while the caffeine will wear off after a few hours and let you go to sleep, if desired.
If you like to work out before sleep, we’d recommend avoiding caffeine, whether you’re taking creatine or not. Caffeine is well-known to cause restlessness and insomnia if taken too close to bedtime. Generally, you want to avoid caffeine within 5 hours of your bedtime.
Creatine and caffeine are both great for exercise, the former helping to build muscle and increase endurance for longer workouts, while the latter provides an invaluable and safe energy boost. Carefully combining the two while being mindful of caffeine’s risks is key to safely exercising.
Featured Image Credit: Left – Creatine (ogichobanov, Shutterstock) | Right – Caffeine (Marie C Fields, Shutterstock)
Table of Contents