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If you’re using creatine to help improve your workout in the gym or build muscle mass, you may want to look a little closer at how creatine and caffeine interact.

Researchers are finding mixed results. Some studies have found that caffeine cancels out any of creatine’s purported benefits. Others are finding that creatine and caffeine don’t interact at all, aside from mild digestive discomfort.

Keep reading to find out what the research says, along with the pros and cons and best practices for using creatine and caffeine together.

No impact on lean body mass

A 2011 study in lab rats found that combined high doses of creatine and caffeine didn’t have any impact on rats’ lean body mass.

They did find that consuming caffeine alone lowered how much percentage of their weight consisted of body fat.

A 2015 review of research on the interactions between creatine and caffeine found similar results.

May cause mild digestive discomfort

Taking creatine and caffeine at the same time may cause side effects on the relaxation processes that your muscles undergo after a workout, and on your gastrointestinal (GI) tract that may cancel each other out.

However, a 2017 exercise study on 54 physically active men found that creatine and caffeine didn’t interact at all, aside from mild digestive discomfort in just 4 of the men.

No improvement in performance

The flip side of the research is that no improvement in performance was found at all for creatine by itself or in combination with caffeine compared to a placebo in the study.

May contribute to dehydration

It’s been suggested that the real culprit for caffeine’s purported effect on creatine may have more to do with your level of hydration than with specific interactions between the two.

Drinking tons of caffeine may cause your body to lose too much water to make creatine effective.

Caffeine is a diuretic. This means that it makes you pee more often and release extra fluids in your body.

If you’re not drinking enough water during a workout, you can quickly lose too much body fluid and become dehydrated.

An influential 1999 study found that even minor dehydration can reduce your workout performance and stamina.

Here are some of the pros and cons you may want to keep in mind for combining creatine and caffeine.

Pros

  • Creatine ensures that you have ample energy when you’re exercising by increasing a substance called phosphocreatine in your muscles. This helps your cells produce more ATP, a molecule that’s key to having energy when you’re exercising.
  • At the same time, caffeine helps you stay alert and energized by stopping a protein called adenosine from binding to receptors in your brain that make you sleepy. This can motivate you to start a workout and keep it going.
  • Creatine has proven ergogenic benefits — this means that it’s a proven (and pretty safe!) performance enhancer. Caffeine has cognitive benefits, as it’s a psychoactive substance that stimulates your nervous system. The combination of the two may make you feel enhanced in both body and mind.

Cons

  • The diuretic effect of too much caffeine can dehydrate you. Being dehydrated can make it harder to keep your workout going and build muscle mass when you’re taking creatine.
  • Both creatine and caffeine can cause digestive discomfort. Caffeine especially can increase bowel movements caused by intestinal muscles that are stimulated with caffeine consumption.
  • Creatine and caffeine combined can interfere with your sleep cycle. While creatine has been suggested to help you sleep more deeply, caffeine is known to disrupt sleep, especially if you consume it less than 6 hours before bedtime.

Here are some best practices for taking creatine and drinking coffee:

  • Stay hydrated. If you’re exercising a lot and drinking a lot of coffee (300 mg or more a day), consider drinking more water. Ask a doctor what a healthy amount of water is for your own health and metabolism.
  • Limit your caffeine intake. The exact amount varies for each person, but you should try not to have more than 400 mg of caffeine a day.
  • Don’t drink caffeine 6 hours or less before bed. The closer you drink coffee to bedtime, the more likely it’ll keep you awake at night. Reduce your caffeine intake (and, if possible, your workouts) to the morning or early afternoon.
  • Switch to decaf. Decaffeinated coffee has about a tenth or less caffeine as a regular cup of coffee. This means it’s less likely to dehydrate you and more than likely won’t keep you up at night if you have it later in the day.

Here are some other beneficial creatine combinations (in grams) you can try:

  • 5 g creatine
  • 50 g protein
  • 47 g carbohydrates

This combination increases your body’s retention of creatine by up to 25 percent.

  • 10 g creatine
  • 75 g dextrose
  • 2 g taurine

This combo, along with other basic vitamins and minerals, can help build muscle mass and improve many processes controlled by your genes, including cell repair.

  • 2 g caffeine, taurine, and glucuronolactone
  • 8 g L-leucine, L-valine, L-arginine, L-glutamine
  • 5 g di-creatine citrate
  • 2.5 g β-alanine

This mighty combination, put together in 500 milliliters (ml) of water, has been found to help people exercise and stay focused longer, as well as feel less fatigued after a workout.

Talk to a doctor before adding creatine or caffeine to your diet, or making a drastic change in dosage. This is especially true if you’re adding both at the same time, or changing your workout or physical activity in general.

When taken in moderate amounts and with some knowledge of how exactly they affect you, creatine and caffeine taken together shouldn’t have any adverse interactions in your body or negative influence on your workouts. In fact, the two can complement each other quite nicely.

But there’s definitely too much of a good thing with both substances. Don’t overload yourself on either creatine or caffeine if you’re planning to work out regularly, build muscle, or maintain a regular sleep schedule.