Should I Take Creatine on Rest Days? What You Need to Know
Should I Take Creatine on Rest Days?
Creatine (monohydrate) is arguably the single most popular sports supplement available with numerous benefits backed by countless studies across a diverse set of populations. Research continues to uncover the numerous benefits of creatine supplementation, notably with respect to physical and athletic performance.
Fitness enthusiasts and athletes often reserve their creatine intake for their heavy lifting days only, but this might be hindering their results.
Naturally, a question that often comes up is whether or not it's necessary to take creatine on rest days.
Yes, creatine should be taken even on rest days. Consistent intake ensures your body has sufficient creatine reserves for your workout days and skipping its consumption on off days could limit its availability for your next workout.
In this article, we continue to explore the benefits (and prudence) of taking creatine on rest days so you can make an informed decision about how to optimize your fitness regimen.
Understanding Creatine and its Impact on the Body
Creatine is a naturally occurring molecule produced by our liver and kidneys from dietary amino acids (arginine, glycine, and methionine) and stored in our muscle cells (1). Creatine is also found in certain animal food sources, including seafood and red meat. However, it is scanty in plant-based foods.
Since we only get a small amount of creatine from dietary sources, creatine supplements are often the ideal choice for athletes looking to reap all the benefits. Creatine supplements offer more convenience, better absorption, may be more cost-effective, and help boost intake in a single scoop.
How Creatine Works
The primary purpose of creatine is to enhance energy production in muscle cells, which effectively translates to improved exercise performance. Intracellular creatine harvests energy in the form adenosine triphosphate (ATP) by binding free phosphate groups and carrying them to adenosine diphosphate (ADP) molecules, thus regenerating ATP for further muscle contraction (2). For this reason, regular creatine supplementation is shown to increase muscle power, strength, endurance, and mass (3).
Benefits of Creatine Supplementation
Taking creatine supplements can offer a range of exercise performance benefits, including:
Improved endurance: creatine supplements provide a quick source of energy to the muscles, improving our endurance for short bursts of intense (anaerobically stimulated) exercise such as sprinting and interval training (6)
Muscle mass gains: when combined with a resistance training program and adequate protein intake, creatine supplements help users build muscle and prevent atrophy during a cutting phase (7)
Faster muscle recovery: Creatine is a key player in recovery by reducing muscle damage and inflammation following an intense workout (8)
Should I Take Creatine on Rest Days?
Scheduling your daily dose of creatine can be tricky. While some people take creatine before an intense workout, others opt to save it for post-workout.
While it is evident that creatine will add value to your overall fitness goals when taken in tandem with exercise, there is a compelling argument for incorporating creatine supplementation on your rest days as well.
To make sense of this, we must first take a look at the significance of rest days.
Why Rest Days Are Important
During exercise, our muscle fibers experience microscopic "tears," which triggers a cascade of molecular events that begin the muscle repair and regeneration processes, notably "muscle protein synthesis." Without adequate rest, the body can fall into a pattern of overtraining, causing intense fatigue and a plateau in muscle growth. This is dangerous territory in the fitness world.
Research suggests that the body requires a period of rest to support muscle protein synthesis, effectively translating to increased muscle growth and better recovery (9). Experts recommend resting anywhere between 48 to 72 hours before training the same muscle group again (10). During this timeframe, the body can repair muscle fibers, control inflammation, and, most importantly, replenish its energy stores.
This is where taking creatine on rest days comes in to play!
How To Optimize Creatine Supplementation During Rest
The best way to optimize creatine supplementation is to stick to your recommended daily dose and avoid cycling on and off of it. Given that creatine is shown to be most effective when used daily to keep your muscle creatine stores saturated, there is no need to start and stop based on your weight training schedule.
The recommended dose of creatine varies depending on several factors, including your body weight (specifically lean body mass), the specific form of creatine you're using, and individual response. One common approach is to take 20-25 g of creatine monohydrate daily for 5-7 days and divided into 4-5 g servings per day – this is known as creatine loading (11, 12).
When resting, our body retains creatine in the muscles, helping replenish our energy stores and leading to greater power output during upcoming training sessions. Adding a daily dose of creatine, even on our rest days, is proven to boost muscle creatine stores by 10-40%, which can offset the energy lost after heavy bouts of exercise (13).
However, it's important to note that creatine supplements should be a part of an all-around training and recovery plan. Prioritizing proper nutrition, rest, hydration, and other recovery modalities is essential to enhancing performance inside and outside the gym (14).
Consider StrengthSeries Creatine HMB
If you're searching for a high-performing creatine supplement that can help you elevate your performance and get you closer to your fitness goals, look no further. The StrengthSeries Creatine HMB is a comprehensive formula that can help boost strength, increase endurance, and decrease fat mass while preventing lean muscle loss.
With its unique blend of creatine monohydrate and beta-hydroxymethylbutyrate (HMB), a metabolite of L-leucine that serves as an anabolic agent, plus vitamin D and BioPerine, the StrengthSeries supplement contains evidence-based ingredients to support your fitness goals (15).
We recommend using this supplement after intense training for maximal absorption and continuing with a maintenance dose during rest days. Regular creatine supplementation is shown to help mitigate muscle tissue breakdown and preserve muscle glycogen to help encourage faster recovery (16).
The Final Verdict
Taking a maintenance dose of creatine on rest days is prudent if you're among the myriad of athletes and fitness enthusiasts that use a creatine supplement. Creatine monohydrate remains one of the most proven ways to naturally enhance strength, power, endurance, muscle mass, and recovery.
Rest days are a great time to replenish energy stores by consuming creatine to enhance power output and lower recovery time in preparation for your next training session.
If you're just starting out on a creatine supplement and want to saturate your muscle creatine stores rapidly, try implementing a creatine loading phase into your routine by taking 10-20 grams of creatine monohydrate every day of the week – including rest days.