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Q&A: Caffeine and Creatine

ballistikcoffeeboy / flickr

Q: I heard recently that caffeine negates the effect of taking creatine. Is this true? 

A: Caffeine supplementation is often associate with endurance or aerobic exercise, while creatine supplementation for anaerobic or resistance exercise is more often associated with the small world of sports nutrition. There's strong support in the research for the ergogenic effects of both caffeine and creatine when used independently, but there have been several studies that show coffee can negate the ergogenic effects of creatine.

In these studies, which showed no performance differences between placebo groups and groups that took creatine and coffee in combination, the coffee and creatine cocktail didn't hinder muscle absorption of creatine. So in theory it should have improved performance.

Problem is, the same subjects were used for all trials, which would be fine as long as there's adequate time between trials to eliminate the ergogenic effects of creatine (about four weeks). Unfortunately, neither study provided an adequate time period between trials using the same groups. This means that the ergogenic effects of creatine could have influenced both trials, which could explain the conflicting findings of both studies.

Some would also argue that caffeine containing beverages such as coffee cause dehydration, leading to decreased performance that could negate the positive effects of creatine. However, there is evidence in the research that caffeine containing beverages, when combined with water and used in moderation, do not impair hydration status.

Research You Can Trust

The best way to address this potential problem is to go by how you respond to caffeine and to closely monitor your hydration status. If your urine resembles lemonade, then there is good chance that you are hydrated. If your urine resembles apple juice, then chances are you are not hydrated.

Follow a hydration plan that includes:

  • 1/2 to one ounce of fluid per pound per day
  • 16 ounces of fluid two hours prior to training or competition
  • 8 ounces of fluid every 10-15 minutes during training or competition
  • A minimum of 16 ounces of fluid for every pound lost during training
  • Caffeine if desired, but don't use coffee in place of food.
  • Continue with creatine supplementation (three to five grams per day prior to training) if you have found it helps your training.

Final note: There's a lack of peer-reviewed, scientific research on creatine for athletes under the age of 18, so we don't recommend it to anyone in this age group.

Originally published August 21, 2007. Updated August 13, 2015.

About The Author

Amanda Carlson-Phillips – Amanda Carlson-Phillips is the vice president of nutrition and research at EXOS. As a registered dietitian, she has provided educational seminars and individual counseling to a variety of professional and elite sports organizations.

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Tags: Caffeine, Q&A, Hydration, Supplements