How Long Does Creatine Take To Work?

October 31, 2023

To build muscle, improve your performance, and enhance your recovery, consider adding creatine to your supplement regime. However, to know what to expect, consider how creatine works and how long it may take to see results.

It takes 5 – 7 days to saturate muscle creatine stores when doing a creatine load and 28 days (4 weeks) when doing a maintenance dose of 3 – 5 grams daily. Short-term results can be seen within these timeframes, whereas longer-term results, such as muscle mass gains, can be seen after 6 – 12 weeks.

There are different dosing protocols you can look at when taking creatine, and the one you choose can determine how long it takes to reap the benefits of taking creatine.

How Long Does It Take Creatine To Work?

To discuss the exact timeline for expected results, we first need to define what we mean when we say that the creatine is “working.” There are some key things we need to consider:

The time it takes to “saturate” or fill up muscle creatine stores, and then the time it takes to yield specific results – there will be long-term positive results from taking creatine, as well as short-term results from taking creatine, and each will have their own timeframe from the point of saturation.

In a typical diet with 1–2 grams of creatine per day, muscle creatine stores are usually filled to approximately 60–80% capacity.

Consequently, the addition of creatine through dietary supplementation results in a boost of muscle creatine levels by about 20–40% [1, 2, 3].

The time it takes to boost muscle creatine levels depends on whether or not you do a creatine load, which is 5g of creatine monohydrate (or about 0.3 g/kg body weight) four times a day for 5 – 7 days [1, 3].

Once muscle stores are saturated, creatine levels can be maintained by taking 3 – 5g per day [1, 2, 4]. This will lead to the fastest results in performance and muscle gains.

Alternatively, you can take in 3 – 5 g/day for 28 days [1], which will have similar effects on performance and muscle gains in the long term but have less of an effect on performance and training adaptations until muscle creatine stores are fully saturated [1, 2].

Short term

Short-term results from using creatine include increased intensity of training [5], improved exercise efficiency [6], improved exercise duration [1], and enhanced exercise recovery

You will see optimal results once your muscle creatine stores are saturated, which can be 5 – 7 days when doing a load [1, 3] or 28 days when doing 3 – 5g per day without loading [1].

Long term

Longer-term results when using creatine include body composition changes like muscle mass gains and loss of body fat. Studies looking at these outcomes range between 6 weeks [7, 8], 10 weeks [9] and 12 weeks [10].

This is because it takes time to build muscle, and you must follow a well-planned, periodized training program.

How Long Does It Take Creatine To Wear Off?

How Long Does It Take Creatine To Wear Off

After you stop taking creatine, it typically takes 4 to 6 weeks for creatine stores in the muscles to revert to their initial levels once they have been elevated [2, 11, 12].

If you only took creatine for a short time and your muscle creatine levels were not saturated, this timeframe may be shorter.

Do I Need To Take Creatine Before Or During My Sessions To Work Faster?

Because creatine is a supplement that needs to be taken every day to see results, you won’t see better results by taking creatine in sessions vs before or after sessions or elsewhere in the day [1].

However, it is easier to remember to take creatine by adding it to your pre- or in-workout nutrition regime. Read my creatine before or after a workout article for an in-depth breakdown.

Does Creatine HCl Improve Results Faster Than Creatine Monohydrate?

Studies have not shown that creatine HCl is more effective in improving muscle creatine stores or that creatine HCl leads to faster results [13]. I broke down the creatine HCl vs monohydrate debate here.


Creatine is a fantastic tool in the toolbox to improve performance, strength, muscle mass, and recovery. The dosing protocol you choose – whether it is loading for 5 – 7 days or a dose of 3 – 5 grams for 28 days – does determine how long it will take for creatine to work.

You can expect short-term results like performance and recovery as soon as your muscle creatine stores are saturated, while muscle gains and body composition changes may take a bit longer (a couple of weeks) to achieve.


  1. Kreider, R. B., Kalman, D. S., Antonio, J., Ziegenfuss, T. N., Wildman, R., Collins, R., Candow, D. G., Kleiner, S. M., Almada, A. L., & Lopez, H. L. (2017). International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition14, 18.
  2. Hultman, E., Söderlund, K., Timmons, J. A., Cederblad, G., & Greenhaff, P. L. (1996). Muscle creatine loading in men. Journal of applied physiology (Bethesda, Md. : 1985)81(1), 232–237.
  3. Harris, R. C., Söderlund, K., & Hultman, E. (1992). Elevation of creatine in resting and exercised muscle of normal subjects by creatine supplementation. Clinical science (London, England : 1979)83(3), 367–374.
  4. Kreider R. B. (2003). Effects of creatine supplementation on performance and training adaptations. Molecular and cellular biochemistry244(1-2), 89–94.
  5. Smith, J. C., Stephens, D. P., Hall, E. L., Jackson, A. W., & Earnest, C. P. (1998). Effect of oral creatine ingestion on parameters of the work rate-time relationship and time to exhaustion in high-intensity cycling. European journal of applied physiology and occupational physiology77(4), 360–365.
  6. Nelson, A. G., Day, R., Glickman-Weiss, E. L., Hegsted, M., Kokkonen, J., & Sampson, B. (2000). Creatine supplementation alters the response to a graded cycle ergometer test. European journal of applied physiology83(1), 89–94.
  7. Peeters, B. M., Lantz, C. D., & Mayhew, J. L. (1999). Effect of Oral Creatine Monohydrate and Creatine Phosphate Supplementation on Maximal Strength Indices, Body Composition, and Blood Pressure. *Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 13*(1), 3. DOI: 10.1519/1533-4287(1999)013<0003:EOOCMA>2.0.CO;2
  8. Kirksey, B., Stone, M., Warren, B.J., Johnson, R.L., Stone, M., Haff, G.G., Williams, F., & Proulx, C. (1999). The Effects of 6 Weeks of Creatine Monohydrate Supplementation on Performance Measures and Body Composition in Collegiate Track and Field Athletes. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 13, 148-156.
  9. Pearson, D.R., Hamby, D.G., Russel, W., & Harris, T. (1999). Long-Term Effects of Creatine Monohydrate on Strength and Power. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 13, 187-192.
  10. Volek, J. S., Duncan, N. D., Mazzetti, S. A., Staron, R. S., Putukian, M., Gómez, A. L., Pearson, D. R., Fink, W. J., & Kraemer, W. J. (1999). Performance and muscle fiber adaptations to creatine supplementation and heavy resistance training. Medicine and science in sports and exercise31(8), 1147–1156.
  11. Greenhaff, P. L., Casey, A., Short, A. H., Harris, R., Soderlund, K., & Hultman, E. (1993). Influence of oral creatine supplementation of muscle torque during repeated bouts of maximal voluntary exercise in man. Clinical science (London, England : 1979)84(5), 565–571.
  12. Vandenberghe, K., Goris, M., Van Hecke, P., Van Leemputte, M., Vangerven, L., & Hespel, P. (1997). Long-term creatine intake is beneficial to muscle performance during resistance training. Journal of applied physiology (Bethesda, Md. : 1985)83(6), 2055–2063.
  13. Antonio, J., Candow, D. G., Forbes, S. C., Gualano, B., Jagim, A. R., Kreider, R. B., Rawson, E. S., Smith-Ryan, A. E., VanDusseldorp, T. A., Willoughby, D. S., & Ziegenfuss, T. N. (2021). Common questions and misconceptions about creatine supplementation: what does the scientific evidence really show?. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition18(1), 13.
About the Author

Hanli is a Registered Dietitian with a special interest in sports nutrition. She has a Master's degree and is currently a PhD candidate focusing on adolescent athlete nutrition. She has published research in the Obesity Reviews journal and is a research coordinator at the Sport Science Institute of South Africa.

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