Creatine is one of the most popular and well-researched supplements on the market. (Learn about the benefits of creatine.) Yet despite the vast array of studies, when you should take creatine to maximize its effects on your performance is still a bit murky.
Most supplement labels have specific instructions on when to consume it. For example, consuming whey protein is recommended after a workout because the muscles are primed to absorb amino acids, which are critical for repair and growth. (See Post-Workout Meal Guidelines.) This is not necessarily true of creatine supplement labels.
You might be thinking that you can take creatine whenever you want. This is true to an extent, but there's more to the story. Here's what the research says:
- A study involving resistance-trained elderly individuals found that creatine ingestion before or after training allows it to more easily transport to working muscles due to increased blood flow from exercise. 
- Creatine consumed along with protein and carbohydrate prior to and following a workout may improve body composition, increase muscle size and elevate muscle energy stores. 
- Creatine consumed during a workout may increase total body mass and lean body mass, and may increase maximum strength and weightlifting performance. [3,4]
Based on this information, you can reasonably conclude that it may be best to take your five-gram daily dose before, during or following a workout. Also, it may be helpful to take creatine with a protein and carbohydrate solution.
This information is by no means conclusive, and the research on this specific topic is still skimpy. However, you can use this data to attempt to maximize creatine's effect on your body and performance. If one of the above recommendations works for you, then go with it.
 Candow DG, Chilibeck PD. "Timing of creatine or protein supplementation and resistance training in the elderly." Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2008.
 Cribb PJ, Hayes A. "Effects of supplement timing and resistance exercise on skeletal muscle hypertrophy." Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2006.
 Tarnopolsky MA, Parise G, Yardley NJ, et al. "Creatine-dextrose and protein-dextrose induce similar strength gains during training." Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2001.
 Rawson ES, Volek JS. "Effects of creatine supplementation and resistance training on muscle strength and weightlifting performance." J Strength Cond Res. 2003.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock