If you're anything like me ... you probably take a range of different supplements. Personally, I take quite a few ... from protein powders & vitamins, to pre-workouts and everything in between.
Between all the powders and drinks I have to make every day ... it can be pretty inconvenient. I mean ... wouldn't it be nice if you could just take one big supplement cocktail every day?
Well, in a lot of cases, there is a good reason why these different supplements don't come mixed together. Take pre-workout and post-workout recovery drinks for example. Does it really make sense to take your pre-workout and post-workout in one drink?
Of course not! They are supposed to be taken at different times to accomplish different things. In some cases though, mixing supplements is okay, and sometimes even encouraged.
A great example of this would be mixing creatine with protein powder. So ... can you mix creatine with protein powder? You absolutely can, but there's something else you need to consider before doing so.
Keep reading, and I'll tell you everything you need to know about mixing creatine with protein powder, and important things to consider to get the best results.
What Is Creatine?
First, it will help if you understand how creatine works.
To put it simply, creatine helps to provide energy for high-intensity exercise. This aids in more strength and power production, but let me elaborate on that a little bit.
Creatine is a molecule made primarily by the liver and kidneys. It comes from 3 amino acids: L-arginine, glycine, and L-methionine. While our bodies make creatine, we also get some from our food, such as red meat, milk, and some fish.
In the body, 95% of creatine is stored in muscle tissue where it is bound to another high energy molecule called phosphate. This makes phosphocreatine.
The simplest form of energy in every cell in the body is called ATP, or adenosine triphosphate. I want you to imagine an apple (adenosine) with a toothpick stuck in it that has 3 grapes (phosphates) on it.
When the body needs energy, it pulls one of the phosphates off to release energy (take a grape off). This creates a molecule called ADP, or adenosine diphosphate (2 phosphates).
This is where creatine comes in.
Remember the phosphocreatine I talked about a minute ago? Picture a kiwi with a toothpick and one grape on it.
Creatine donates that phosphate to the ADP molecule to create more ATP very quickly. This allows you to recycle energy rapidly to produce more energy in a shorter amount of time.
So the kiwi kicks off the grape and adds it to the apple, giving it a third grape, like it had to begin with. This makes it possible to pull that third grape off again to release more energy.
This happens quite rapidly. For the first 8-10 seconds of exercise, circulating ATP and phosphocreatine provides maximal muscle power .
So, if you can produce a maximal amount of force in a shorter amount of time ... this can help you make significant gains in strength and muscle over time.
Creatine is the most researched supplement by a long shot ... and for good reason. Research has proven time and time again that creatine can increase strength and power.
Now, there are many forms of creatine out there. In my opinion, the most tried and true form of creatine is creatine monohydrate. Research agrees with this as well. In fact, creatine monohydrate is the safest, most effective, and most researched form as well.
It's also the cheapest ... so don't fall for the marketing behind other "better" forms of creatine!
Now that we understand what creatine is ... let's answer our question: Can you mix creatine with protein powder?
Why Can You Mix Creatine With Protein Powder?
When we talk about mixing creatine with protein powder ... I always recommend using an isolate. I’ll get to this in a second.
You see, there are generally two different types of protein powders: isolate proteins and blended proteins.
Isolate proteins, like whey protein isolate, have fat and lactose removed from them, allowing them to digest quickly. They are designed to be taken after your workouts to jump-start the recovery process.
Blended proteins normally contain multiple protein sources with different digestion rates. There's also more fat and lactose in these blends to slow the digestion speed. That's because protein blends are designed to supplement meals and snacks throughout the day.
So ... why isolates instead of blends? Well, the answer comes from understanding proper post-workout nutrition. During high-intensity workouts, there are 2 main things that happen.
1. You deplete muscle glycogen (stored carbohydrates in the muscle).
2. You create micro-tears in your muscle fibers.
For optimal recovery, you need to address both of these issues as quickly as possible. The faster you get the right nutrients into the muscle, the faster you start the recovery process.
That's why you don't only need a rapidly-digesting protein after your workout ... you also need a rapidly-digesting carbohydrate.
This ties back to the answer you're looking for. When you pair your protein isolate and creatine with a high glycemic carb ... the carbohydrate helps create an insulin spike.
Muscle creatine uptake is enhanced when insulin levels are high . The most beneficial time to spike your insulin levels is after a workout . So that would also make it a great time to take creatine.
So really, you can and should mix your creatine with your post-workout protein powder and carbohydrate. The insulin will help drive more of the creatine, protein, and other nutrients to the muscle to work their magic.
What Else Can You Mix Creatine With?
Not only can you mix creatine with protein powder, you can also mix your creatine with other liquids such as sport drinks, fruit juices, and more. The important point to remember here is that insulin can help improve the rate of transport and uptake of creatine .
I mentioned the liquids above because they typically contain carbohydrates which can help your body produce insulin.
So whether you opt for a traditional protein shake or a more creative approach, it’s important to find the right mixture that helps you get the most out of your supplement.
Have Any Questions?
If you have any more questions about creatine, protein, or anything else ... reach out to us! Our team of Certified Personal Trainers (NASM-CPT) and Certified Nutrition Coaches (NASM-CNC) is always happy to help.
After all, we want you to be fully confident and equipped to reach your health and fitness goals.
 Haugland RB, Chang DT. Insulin Effect on Creatine Transport in Skeletal Muscle. Proceedings of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine. 1975;148(1):1-4. doi:10.3181/00379727-148-38464ABOUT THE AUTHOR