Hey guys; good to see this blog post is still being cited. However, it turns out that a few things have changed since this blog post. I will leave everything below intact, but basically the study design I refer to a lot was kinda poopy and I’ve defaulted to a position of apathy in regards to the combination. It probably doesn’t interfere (hell, both compounds give you acute and salient effects; shouldn’t you be able to see for yourself if caffeine negates the benefits of creatine with controlled testing? My non-responding ass can’t). For continual updates on this topic, see Examine’s FAQ page.
Creatine and Caffeine: Context is everything
The two of these supplements have a weird interaction, weird both in the sense that they interact in certain ways depending on dose and condition and also in the sense that excuses come up in all forms from people who love either compound. Its common to see some logic (past studies on creatine dissolved it in tea) followed by a biased conclusion (therefore, caffeine doesn’t inhibit creatine ever). Or, conversely something like ‘a study found that dosing caffeine inhibiting the loading aspect of creatine’ followed by ‘therefore, creatine is completely worthless if you ever drink caffeine’.
Like everything in nutrition, the relationship isn’t so simple. Thankfully though, both these compounds are highly studied and this is a question that, for the most part, we can answer.
When does caffeine inhibit creatine?
Caffeine has an ability to maintaining muscular force output when supplemented in high enough dosages in muscle cells [x] which is opposite creatine’s ability to reduce the resting time, or needed downtime, between contractions. [x] These two seemingly opposite effects do counteract, and caffeine seems to negate this reduction of rest time on a biological basis. [x]
Practically, this only seems to be a concern when caffeine is ingested in moderately large doses (5-6mg/kg bodyweight seems to be what many interventions use) and over time, either throughout the loading phase or continuously, like many self-admitted coffee whores do. [x]
When does caffeine augment creatine?
Essentially, caffeine seems to augment creatine for the first few doses of caffeine after a period of abstinence. [x] Although the just cited source looked at one trial, up to 5 days has also been studied with some promising results. [x]
I haven’t looked into the exact mechanism of caffeine and why it doesn’t inhibit under these conditions, but it seems to be highly correlated with tolerance. If you are caffeine tolerant, said dose may be able to inhibit creatine’s benefits.
Correction on AMPK
I’m making this note because I’m stupid. The Examine page did say that AMPK was possibly causative of this, but that turned out to be a theory by a single researcher perpetuated by my own retardation. Turns out that AMPK doesn’t play much of a role, and the fact that caffeine spikes AMPK is irrelevant and a coincidence.
This revelation came to be when I realized that creatine can reduce blood sugar, via acting AMPK… *derp*.
The Examine page has since been corrected.
Tl;Dr Creatine Caffeine BulletPoints
- Creatine and caffeine negate when both are included in your diet on a regular basis
- Caffeine can augment creatine as long as it is used infrequently; try to maintain intolerance to caffeine
- I’m stupid and AMPK is irrelevant to the above