Creatine is a much-touted sports supplement that many users believe enhances athletic performance while reducing post-workout recovery times. The fine powdery substance is taken orally to bolster creatine stores already in the liver. The length of time the supplement stays in your body is largely determined by dose and activity level.
Generally speaking, the average dose of creatine a person ingests is 1 to 2 tbsp. daily. Most fitness goers using the supplement usually split their doses in half, taking one helping about an hour before a workout or athletic performance and another within an hour afterward. Some individuals, though, take much higher doses. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, tripling or quadrupling doses does not affect performance levels more than a standard serving, but the larger the amount, the longer creatine remains in the person's bloodstream. A standard helping usually stays in the body about an hour; less if the person is highly active.
The type, intensity and duration of a workout or athletic contest greatly affect how long creatine stays in the body. For example, an athlete engaging in a very strenuous workout -- say, a full-contact football practice, for instance -- will have supplemented creatine in his body for slightly less than one hour, provided the person ingested the standard 1-tbsp. serving. A less strenuous activity such as leisure swimming, a few rounds of golf or light cycling would lengthen creatine's time in the body for about an extra half an hour.
Creatine occurs naturally in the livers of human beings and is called upon to increase skeletal muscular contractions without tiring as quickly and to improve cellular oxygen uptake. When the natural reserves are depleted, the body will automatically pull creatine from the bloodstream in order for the body to continue the activity. Should the person ingest a dose of creatine and do nothing physically active that requires stressful amounts of muscle contraction, the body will convert the extra creatine into creatinine, the antithesis of creatine, and excrete it through the urine in under an hour.
Intestinal bloating and cramping are two common side effects associated with creatine ingestion. According to "Creatine: What You Need to Know" author Edmund Burke, some users purport taking the supplement with grape or apple juice lessens the potential for these side effects, claiming the sugar in the juice allows the body to better absorb the extra creatine. While studies are inconclusive, creatine stays in the body the same amount of time, whether the exerciser takes the powder with water or with fruit juices.
- "ACSM's Guidelines for Exercise Testing & Prescription, 7th Ed."; American College of Sports Medicine; 2006
- "Creatine: What You Need to Know"; Edmund R. Burke; 1999
- Absolute Creatine: FAQ on Creatine