Getting your body in shape can be a tough job, and it’s not uncommon to hit a plateau or for bulking or weight loss efforts to slow down. And that’s where people often turn to either creatine or pre-workout supplements. But which one should you choose for your goals?
If there are anything folks into fitness like more than working out, it’s talking about supplements. When it comes to building muscle, pre-workout creatine and supplements can do a similar job. In order to build muscle, you need to expend energy while exercising.
Creatine and pre-workouts are among the most popular nutritional supplements for increasing performance. Both have been with us for a long time. Both have advantages that you will enjoy, but disadvantages as well.
If you don’t know what they are, what they do, or the difference between them – check out this article on their difference and how they can help your gym performance.
Table of Contents
What is Pre Workout?
As mentioned earlier, pre-workout supplements are among the most widely used exercise supplements. They are specific formulas designed to improve your performance and maximize results.
Pre-workout supplements usually combine several ingredients to provide a wicked energy boost and drive your athletic performance through the roof.
They are taken before training, hence Pre Workout, and usually contain ingredients that can increase acute performance and improve long-term training adaptation.
What Is Creatine?
Creatine is a molecule that’s naturally produced in the body, in the liver and kidneys specifically, from the amino acids glycine, arginine, and methionine, and also formed when you eat foods containing these amino acids (i.e. meat).
It’s one of the most popular ergogenic aids used by gym-goers because of its ability to increase intramuscular creatine concentrations and enhance work capacity.
2 Main Differences Between Creatine And Pre-Workouts
It can be a bit confusing at a supplement store when you see creatine and a pre-workout supplement right beside each other. But it’s important to understand that they both serve quite different purposes.
1. Mass And Strength Building
Creatine has been shown to improve the muscles’ ability to build more strength when taken regularly to achieve what is known as creatine load. Many people consider it a supplement that will give you more strength during exercise and improve your performance.
While it may help with your workout performance, it’s more down to what creatine does when your workout is finished and your muscles start to develop new and stronger fibers through more effective protein synthesis.
2. Energy And Endurance
This is where pre-workouts come into play, which gives you a small, natural boost in strength and endurance. The main goal is to increase exercise performance by making more ATP available in your muscles.
The effect is that you can lift a bit more and push fatigue and muscle failure out just a bit further. Over the weeks and months, those small gains add up to a considerable amount.
Pros & Cons Of Creatine
- Taking a creatine supplement provides your muscles with extra fuel, allowing you to exercise harder for longer. It may also reduce muscle fatigue and enhance recovery.
- Creatine may help slow sarcopenia, the progressive loss of muscle strength and function that often occurs naturally with aging.
- Taking a creatine supplement has been shown to increase levels of creatine in the brain by 5–15%, which may improve brain functioning. This is thought to occur through increased oxygen delivery and energy supply to the brain.
- creatine is helpful in maintaining healthy blood-sugar levels, which prevents diabetes.
- Creatine is also thought to help the brain endure trauma associated with the production of reactive oxygen species.
- Creatine has been shown to help resist the effects of fatigue from exercise or other athletic activities.
- Creatine increases the body’s production of phosphocreatine, which is an essential element in the production of energy.
- creatine is helpful in repairing damaged muscle due to athletic activities.
- The most common complaint associated with taking a creatine supplement is stomach discomfort due to bloating.
- The supplement has also been linked to other stomach complaints, such as diarrhea and general upset.
- Creatine can worsen kidney disease if one already has it or can result in kidney disease in people with diabetes.
- Creatine promotes weight gain by retaining water in the muscles. Although weight gain is ideal in bodybuilding, athletes of other sports (such as martial arts) might not welcome this side effect.
- Lightheadedness is one side effect of creatine. There are accounts of creatine users who felt dizzy or were lightheaded during workouts.
Pros & Cons Of Pre Workout
- Pre-exercise consumption of pre-workout may positively influence muscular endurance and subjective mood.
- Pre-workout supplements are clearly helpful, particularly for people who are tired or less motivated to exercise.
- Pre-workout supplements can increase blood flow in the muscles but only during high-intensity workouts (greater than 80% exercise load).
- When moderately trained males consumed a pre-workout supplement 20 minutes prior to exercise, it led to “significant improvements in anaerobic peak power” compared to the placebo group.
- Consuming a pre-workout supplement significantly improved agility choice reaction performance while increasing perceived energy and reducing subjective fatigue.
- Pre-workout may help reduce feelings of fatigue and muscle soreness following your workout, and the beta-alanine helps delay muscle fatigue so you can extend your high-level training and build more endurance.
- Pre-workout supplements can sometimes cause tachycardia —a racing heart — if you take too much. High doses can also cause anxiety. Both of these side effects are mainly due to caffeine.
- Some people experience indigestion from pre-workout supplements. This tends to be caused by the combination of caffeine, citrulline malate, and creatine.
- The main disadvantage of pre-workout is sleep impairment due to caffeine. The equivalent of a single double espresso in the morning can measurably impair sleep that night, even if you don’t consciously notice it.
- The beta-alanine in pre-workout may cause a harmless tingling sensation; however, it does not always cause the jitters. Typically, any shakes or jitters will come from high doses of caffeine.
What Do Creatine Supplements Do?
Creatine phosphate is one of the more common types of supplements, and it’s an amino acid that supports your body’s muscle mass.
When you supplement with creatine can help your body creates more ATP – your body’s primary fuel source. Studies have shown that creatine can improve athletic performance, leading to greater gains in strength, speed, and muscle growth. That’s why it’s one of the most popular sports supplements of all time.
When you supplement your body’s natural creatine production with more than an incidental amount then you’ll get a small boost to your anaerobic muscular performance. It’s only about 10%, but that’s enough to push a little bit further each set and, as I said before, that results in faster muscle growth.
Successful creatine supplementation usually involves a loading phase where you take a larger dose for a week to 10 days to build up creatine stores in your body. What happens then is that the creatine boosts muscle protein synthesis for faster recovery times.
For athletes on a daily training schedule, that may make a significant difference, but it’s important to remember that creatine shouldn’t replace your post-workout protein shake.
What Do Pre-Workout Supplements Do?
Pre-workout supplements aim to use natural ingredients to trigger improved energy levels for better gym performance.
They generally work by making your body more effective at delivering ATP. This is the type of energy that your muscle fibers need, especially for high-intensity workout performance.
Pre-workout can be a very beneficial supplement to improve performance and give you the extra bit of motivation you need, to smash out more reps.
A common problem found within most pre-workout supplements, however, is that they don’t contain high enough doses to be truly effective. Oftentimes, pre-workouts contain what’s called a proprietary blend.
Proprietary blends only list the combined amount of all the ingredients used in the blend; they don’t disclose how much of each ingredient the product contains.
Sometimes Pre Workouts Contain Creatine
Some pre-workouts contain creatine; however, adding creatine monohydrate to a pre-workout formula isn’t a very effective way to get the performance benefits. Studies show that creatine monohydrate needs a loading phase before it is really effective.
Your muscle tissue needs to be saturated with creatine phosphate before it can be used as a viable source of fuel. So you need a dose of 1015 g per day for 10 days before it works. All pre-workout food supplements contain a maximum of 35 g of creatine monohydrate.
If you want to improve strength, speed, and power, then your best bet, is to add Kre-Alkalyn, to your pre-workout supplement regimen, not creatine monohydrate. Unlike creatine monohydrate, Kre-Alklayn is absorbed immediately, which means there is no loading phase.
Creatine monohydrate has terrible absorption and converts to a toxic by-product called creatinine, that’s why you need to take so much of it. With Kre-Alkalyn, one 3g serving is the equivalent to a 10g serving of creatine monohydrate.
Not to mention, there are no associated negative side effects that some people experience with monohydrate, such as bloating, cramping, and or water retention.
Quick Pre Workouts vs Creatine Summary Points
- Pre-workouts are supplements that are taken before training and contain ingredients that benefit performance.
- Creatine is a supplement that can improve performance as well but needs to be taken over a longer period of time.
- Both supplements can be taken together and should be to help maximize benefits.
Choosing The Right Supplement For Your Needs?
If you’re a high-performance athlete and train more than four days a week, then I would suggest stacking both creatine and pre-workout supplements.
A well-timed and high-quality pre-workout could allow bodybuilders to train 5% harder, based on data we’ve gathered from clients.
And the creatine will help you transform that hard work into bigger muscle bulk. However, if you just train at the gym casually, then I would recommend that you focus on creatine first.
A more effective recovery time from creatine may improve your form at the gym the next time more than a pre-workout might do.
Both creatine and pre-workout supplements are advantageous additions to a bodybuilder’s playbook. Of course, there are very different types of both these supplements out there on the market. Due to this, you can either get a winner or a loser.
But if you absolutely had to choose between one or the other, we would recommend opting for creatine. Creatine has countless studies backing its efficacy, and it is extremely cheap. A year’s supply of top-quality creatine (eg Elemental Nutrition Creapure) can cost as little as $70 as opposed to a year’s worth of pre-workout, which would be around a few hundred bucks (much more if you use the maximum dose).
Finally, creatine can be used for extended periods without side effects, while it is strongly recommended to cycle pre-workouts to maintain their effectiveness and safety. For this reason, between the two, creatine has more benefits with fewer negatives.
If you want to optimize your training and exercise performance, then supplementing with both can help you crush your goals. I hope this article helps you to choose between creatine and pre-workout which is best for you.