Creatine and pre-workout are two of the most popular supplements in sports nutrition. Both are used to support increased performance, but they have a few critical differences. We’re going to go over the differences between the two, highlight their unique benefits, and discuss their ideal timing.
Creatine is a single ingredient supplement, while pre-workout is a multiple ingredient supplement. Creatine is non-stimulant while pre-workouts commonly have multiple stimulants with caffeine being the most common stimulant used. Typically, creatine is a popular supplement for people looking to increase strength, size, or performance in high-intensity sports. In contrast, pre-workouts are a popular supplement for a wider range of goals including increasing energy, focus, pumps, and muscular endurance.
Creatine plays an important role in the ATP-PC (Adenosine Triphosphate – Phosphocreatine) System. Creatine combines with the electrolyte phosphate in our bodies to form phosphocreatine (PC). Phosphocreatine functions as an energy savings account that can donate phosphate groups to Adenosine Diphosphate (ADP) to help form Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP), the cellular energy currency of cells.
Creatine's benefits are observed most in activities that rely on the ATP-PC energy system. This is the energy system that fuels our movement during explosive movements like power cleans and sprints.
Some of the benefits of creatine include
The main function of pre-workout is to help people prime their bodies for performance before they hit the gym. Because pre-workouts feature different performance ingredients, they combine to deliver a wide range of benefits that can help deliver an explosive workout experience.
Some of the benefits of pre-workout include:
Pre-workouts feature various ingredients that have specific benefits. Some of the most common ingredients found in pre-workouts include:
Beta-Alanine a clinically studied amino acid found in pre-workouts. Beta-Alanine supports increased muscular endurance. It also contributes to the harmless tingling sensation that some people get from taking pre-workouts.
Caffeine a nervous system stimulant that is probably the most common ingredient found in pre-workouts. Caffeine supports elevated energy and alertness.
Creatine an organic compound that is commonly found in pre-workouts. Creatine is added to pre-workouts for strength and performance benefits.
Nitric Oxide Boosters increase plasma nitric oxide levels. Nitric oxide supports healthy blood flow. Nitric oxide boosters are a popular feature in pre-workout because they can help support increased muscle pumps during workouts. Some common nitric oxide booster ingredients found in pre-workouts include L-Arginine, L-Citrulline, and Nitrates.
Nootropics are popular ingredients in pre-workouts for increasing focus for a better mind-muscle connection. Some common nootropic ingredients include Alpha-GPC and Huperzine-A, these ingredients support increased levels of acetylcholine. Acetylcholine helps send signals to nerve cells for common bodily functions like muscle contraction.
Pre-workouts are formulated for use before a workout. Check the label on your bottle to see the specific instructions on when you should take it and how much water it’s recommended to be mixed with.
There’s currently limited data on the effects of timing creatine supplementation and its impact on body composition and performance. A study on the effects of creatine supplementation pre- vs post-exercise in young bodybuilders saw greater benefits in the group that supplemented with creatine after a workout. While a study on older resistance training adults supplementing with creatine saw no difference in benefits between the pre or post exercise supplementation groups.
In a narrative review on creatine timing, the authors concluded that based off the existing data, there isn’t solid evidence to support adapting creatine timing to specific time periods when training is performed. They concluded that for now, creatine timing should not be a concern. What does this mean? If you like taking your creatine before your workout, you can keep at it. If you prefer to take it after your workout, that works too. The most important factor is to make sure you’re supplementing with a daily dosage of about 3-5 g.
Having creatine in your pre-workout can help contribute towards its recommended daily dosage intake of 3-5 g.  If you forget to take supplements after your workouts, having creatine in your pre-workout can help you stay consistent since pre-workouts are often a staple in many people’s routines.
C4 Sport: With ingredients that support elevated energy, muscular endurance and cellular hydration.*
C4 Dynasty: Combining a decade of art, science, and obsession, C4 Dynasty is a pre-workout that only we could make. We are the pioneers of pre-workout performance, and this is the culmination of all our work, care, and craftsmanship.*
Want a Stimulant-Free Pre-Workout Stack?
COR-Performance Creatine: Featuring the premium micronized version of Creatine Monohydrate, COR Performance Creatine delivers superior mixibility and absorption, allowing you to reap the benefits of increased performance, lean muscle, and strength.*
NO3 Chrome Booster: For nearly a decade, NO3 Chrome has been raising the bar in nitric oxide support. Whether you're looking to take your performance to the next level, or amplify results with a caffeine-free nitric oxide igniter, NO3 Chrome is engineered to make sure that you get the most out of each and every rep.*
Alpha Amino Performance BCAAs: Alpha Amino is the ultimate performance, hydration, and recovery sports drink powder. Whether you’re just starting out, or ready to reach that next level, Alpha Amino will support you throughout your entire journey. Be ready and recovered for whatever tomorrow brings.*