Physical Health

I Tried Creatine as a Pre-Workout for 30 Days–and It Actually Worked

written by SYDNEY COX
Graphics by: Aryana Johnson
Graphics by: Aryana Johnson

Everywhere I look—at the gym, on social media—people are talking about creatine, a supplement used to help enhance workouts and recovery. From before-and-after videos from fitness influencers to TikTok creators touting creatine’s ability to “transform your body,” I was intrigued. As a novice in strength training, I used to be skeptical of taking a pre-workout supplement, but after talking with friends and consulting multiple health experts who claimed creatine would help me feel energized, increase my stamina, and build muscle, I decided to give it a go. I tried creatine as a pre-workout for 30 days to test out if it’s really worth it.

What is Creatine, What Does It Do? 

Creatine is one of the most-researched fitness supplements available on the market—and most of the research has yielded positive results. According to a 2017 study, the International Society of Sports Nutrition called creatine the most effective nutritional supplement available to increase high-intensity exercise capacity and lean body mass during training. The supplement is said to improve muscle growth and overall performance by boosting your workload, improving cell signaling, increasing cell hydration, raising anabolic hormone levels, and reducing protein breakdown. While there are a few different types of creatine such as monohydrate, hydrochloride (HCl), and ethyl ester, monohydrate is the most studied form.

Creatine doesn’t only benefit those who hit the gym. Women can benefit from creatine in other ways: According to PharmEasy, creatine can help alleviate PMS, pregnancy, postpartum, and menopausal symptoms. Some studies show that the female reproductive cycle is directly linked to the body’s creatine levels.

My Experience Taking Creatine Every Day

Day 1

Creatine has no flavor or taste (this was a relief, as speaking from experience, some protein shakes and powders can have a chalky texture and unpleasant taste). Even some supplements that bill themselves as “tasteless” leave an icky film in my mouth, but creatine doesn’t at all. I tried adding creatine monohydrate by the brand Mrm to both my coffee and water, and I didn’t really notice a difference in either drink. The powder mixed more easily into the hot coffee than the cold water, though I didn’t notice any added flavor in either. After researching the best ways to consume creatine, I learned that pairing it with carbohydrates like fruits or protein may help your body absorb it more effectively, and make sure to take creatine at least 30 minutes before your workout to reap the fitness-related benefits.

As an avid gym goer, I didn’t make any changes to my typical workout routine in order to establish a baseline for the effectiveness of the creatine supplement. I started taking creatine on a Monday, which is a lifting day for me. I mixed the powder into my afternoon coffee about half an hour before I headed off to my 45-minute functional strength training class. I chose my usual 20 and 25-pound weights and got to work. I noticed my energy levels seemed a little higher. The workout felt just as difficult as ever, but I felt excited as I worked through each exercise—almost as if I was embarking on a secret journey or challenge that only I knew about. Placebo effect? Likely. 

Day 10

After sticking to adding creatine to coffee for a few days, I ultimately landed on mixing it with orange juice as my favorite way to take it. Since day one, I had already done two other walking sessions consisting of two 5-mile walks down my city’s lakefront trail, but doing the 12-3-30 come day 10 felt different. I typically get to the last five minutes of any treadmill workout and hope the time will go faster, but this time, I felt slightly disappointed that the workout was almost over. For the first time, I completely lost myself in the podcast I was listening to, even though the workout was challenging. I felt energy and stamina like I’d never experienced before, and it was the first day I saw a noticeable change in my endurance

Day 20 

By day 20, I was using the heaviest weights I’ve ever lifted. My jaw was on the floor as I did four bicep curls with two 30-pound weights. My reps were low, and I did one arm at a time, but I was actually lifting them. At the start of my workout journey, about six months ago, I could barely squat with 20-pound weights. I never dreamed that I’d be lifting more with my upper body less than a month into this creatine experiment. I don’t use the 30-pound weights for every workout, but I’ve been incorporating them here and there ever since.

Day 30

I travel pretty frequently for work, which can make working out consistently hard. There were a few days within the month that I didn’t make it to the gym, but I read that taking creatine on rest days is still suggested. Why? Taking creatine even on days you don’t work out helps you maintain the progress made in your workouts. I mixed creatine into my morning coffee a few times this week and tried to fit in movement as much as possible while on the go. I was nervous heading back to the gym on day 30 after a few days off, but the gains I had made were apparent. Usually, resuming my workouts after a few days off would send me back to square one, but my stamina, endurance, and strength hadn’t faltered much, if at all. And I did notice a little more muscle definition in my biceps. 

The Results I Experienced Taking Creatine

I have more energy 

Overall, adding creatine to my pre-workout regimen has raised my energy levels and motivation to work out. This goes for during my workouts, too. I’ve noticed a significant increase in my stamina, and it takes me much longer to reach my point of muscle exhaustion than before I started taking creatine. 

I’m not as sore, even though I’m lifting heavier

I used to struggle with recovery post-workout, and no amount of stretching or time in the sauna helped my aching muscles. Since taking creatine, I’ve noticed a significant reduction in pain throughout my body. I’m still sore when I add weight or reps, but now it feels manageable.  

As someone who struggles with irregular menstrual cycles, I was even more excited to try out the supplement after learning it may have a positive effect on hormones. Although I didn’t notice any significant change in my cycle (I have an IUD, which has made my monthly period almost non-existent), I haven’t experienced as much bloating or cramping as usual.

I’m building muscle 

While I know that a large part of experiencing fitness progress is consistency, I’m amazed by the definition I’m starting to see throughout my body. When I flex my arms, there is a clear muscle definition on my bicep that wasn’t there before I started taking creatine. My clothes (particularly my pants) are fitting a little looser, though the number on the scale has stayed relatively the same. After adding creatine to my wellness routine for 30 days and taking control of my health in a safe, healthy, and consistent way, I’m actually seeing results.

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