When you’re looking to maximize your athletic potential, supplements can really help you push the limits of your performance. But like anything else, the devil is in the details. It may seem simple enough, but nutrient timing, dosage, and how your products are administered, is important to your overall success and performance outcomes. When you’re looking to increase muscle mass, power, and strength, creatine, and protein powder, are two of the best, if not the best supplements to help you stack size and strength. But can you mix your creatine and protein powder together? Let’s dig in and talk about if you can take creatine and protein together.
What Is Creatine
Creatine is a non-essential dietary protein-like compound, made primarily by the kidneys and the liver. Creatine is composed of three amino acids, l-glycine, l-arginine, and l-methionine.
About half of your body’s creatine stores come are obtained through your diet and synthesized within your body. Creatine is found in protein, specifically lean proteins like chicken, beef, and tuna. The remainder is made in the liver and kidneys from amino acids. On average, eating a well-rounded diet consisting of lean protein, quality carbohydrates, and healthy fats, will provide 1-2g of creatine per day.
Around 95% of your body’s creatine is stored within your muscle cells, in the form of phosphocreatine. Supplementation, increases phosphocreatine stores, inducing greater changes to energy production for greater gains in muscle power and strength. Phosphocreatine helps create adenosine triphosphate (ATP).
During anaerobic exercise, (without oxygen), creatine phosphate is used to generate ATP – a source of energy that your cells use when you exercise. This is what’s known as the phosphagen system, a form of anaerobic metabolism.
Creatine can significantly increase phosphorylcreatine intramuscular stores. It has been shown to improve the energy supply from the phosphagen systems, thereby increasing the maximum capacity to resynthesize adenosine triphosphate (ATP) by non-oxidative pathways, leading to improved performance, strength, and power [R].
What Is Protein Powder
Protein is one of three macronutrients and comprised of 20 amino acids, at its simplest molecular form. Protein induces greater changes in muscle growth, size, and volume, by inhibiting muscle mass breakdown and increasing muscle protein synthesis.
Protein is derived from animal or plant based sources, such as lean meats, and plant based foods, like beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Animal protein is often preferred as a faster absorbing and more anabolic form of protein compared to plant protein.
Whatever source you choose, getting ample amounts of protein in your diet, is important to help in the muscle building and recovery process. Most people are not eating enough protein, to build muscle or support their athletic goals. Supplementing with a protein, such as Whey Protein Isolate can be extremely helpful and beneficial to support greater muscle growth and recovery.
Can You Mix Creatine And Protein
Now to the question, you’ve all been waiting for. Can you mix your creatine with your protein powder? Yes, you can, and you should. Here’s why.
Most creatine is unflavored and easily soluble, making it an easy addition to your protein powder. So you won’t even taste it. When the body gets amino acids from whey protein supplements, methionine pairs with arginine and glycine to produce creatine. Thus, in addition to you mixing your creatine with protein, your protein powder will also additionally synthesize some levels of creatine.
How creatine works is different than most supplements. It does not omit acute effects, meaning, that it is not immediately effective upon ingestion or when supplemented. What matters is the dosage over time to effectively increase creatine stores within the skeletal muscle cells. Therefore, consistency in supplementation will help induce greater changes in performance outcomes and body composition.
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Protein, is much the same. You can’t simply eat or supplement protein and obtain acute benefits. Protein must be included as a staple macronutrient in your diet consistently to elicit anabolic and compositional change. Therefore, pairing both creatine and protein, will help produce better results and become a powerful combination.
Now, let’s talk about why combining your creatine and protein is a great idea, even further.
When To Take Creatine And Protein
To be clear, the research is somewhat conflicting regarding exactly when to take creatine.
Some research shows that creatine should be taken before your workout while other studies, suggest it should be taken immediately post workout. Considering that the direct etiology of creatine is the production of adenosine triphosphate, presumably it should be supplemented before your workout. Other theories suggest creatine is most effective post workout based on the hypothesis and notion that your muscles are in a nutrient depleted state and will uptake and synthesize creatine at a faster rate.
A study published in the Journal Of International Society Of Sports Nutrition investigated The effects of pre versus post workout supplementation of creatine monohydrate on body composition and strength. 19 study participants were randomly assigned to a post or pre workout supplementation of 5g of creatine for four weeks.
The study found that consuming creatine immediately post-workout is superior to pre-workout vis a vis body composition and strength [R]. The major limitations of this study include the small sample size as well as the brief treatment duration.
Another study conducted with 32 older male participant for 32 weeks also found that compared with resistance training alone, creatine supplementation improves muscle strength, with greater gains in lean tissue mass resulting from post-exercise creatine supplementation [R].
Other studies have shown no difference at all between pre and post workout supplementation of creatine [R]. However, based on the results, research does suggest that taking creatine closer to the pre or post exercise windows rather than another time of day yields greater and more effective results.
The same principle applies to protein. It’s important to flood your muscle tissue with the fuel it needs to maximize performance. Drinking a protein shake before your workout will help elevate amino acids in your bloodstream at a much faster rate, than food alone. The short rush of amino acids is known as hyperaminoacidemia and stimulates greater amounts of muscle protein synthesis. Having a flood of amino acids post-workout is just as important, as it will help with the muscle-rebuilding process and optimize your post-workout recovery.
Can You Mix Creatine And Protein: Takeaway
Taking your protein before, after, or both, mixed with your creatine will yield the greatest results. If athletic performance, and stacking on gains is the game, then go for a whey protein isolate and advanced form of creatine, like Kre-Alkalyn. You’ll improve your athletic performance and get more power and strength out of your workouts.