When you're working out hard, you want to see results fast. While supplements such as whey protein and creatine have been proven to help improve strength, muscle growth and recovery, the amount of time it takes to work depends on a number of factors, including your workout routine, age and fitness level. Talk to your doctor before making changes to your exercise routine or adding supplements, such as whey and creatine, to your diet regimen.
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Whey and Creatine
Whey protein comes from milk and is a high-quality source of protein, which means it contains a large percentage of essential amino acids. According to the National Strength and Conditioning Association, the body quickly absorbs and utilizes whey protein, making it an ideal protein supplement for people trying to add muscle.
Creatine is a chemical naturally found in the muscles. Taking creatine as a supplement increases the amount in your muscles, which helps increase energy reserves, promoting muscle power and strength.
A 2001 study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism studied the effects of whey protein and creatine supplementation on men engaging in resistance exercise over a six-week time period on muscle building and strength compared to no supplement or supplementation with only whey protein. This study found that the men who supplemented with whey and creatine gained more muscle than those who supplemented with only whey or a placebo during the six-week study period. Based on these results, you may be able to see results as quickly as six weeks. However, it's not known if everyone will see results this quickly, or whether whey and creatine work faster in some people than others.
When to Supplement
No matter what your goal, it's recommended that you eat a carbohydrate and protein snack within 30 minutes of completing your workout. Muscle building is greatest during this window and makes a good time for you to take a whey supplement. You can mix protein powder into a fruit smoothie so you get the carbs and protein.
MedlinePlus advises that to benefit from creatine supplementation, you should preload 20 grams a day for five days, then maintain levels by taking 2 grams a day.
Supplements and Liver
Supplementation with whey protein and creatine may not be for everyone. A case report published in the May 2008 issue of Seminars in Liver Disease noted that these two supplements led to liver damage in a 27-year old weightlifter. While the weightlifter's liver health improved once the supplements were stopped, the authors of the article recommend that people with liver disease avoid whey or creatine before consulting their doctor.