Creatine is one of the most popular sports supplements used by athletes and bodybuilders to enhance performance and increase muscle mass. It provides energy to muscles and helps with intense workouts. Creatine powder is often mixed with water or juice before consumption. But how long does creatine last once it is dissolved in liquid? Let’s take a look at the factors that affect creatine’s shelf life and how to extend it when mixed.
How long does creatine last in water?
Once creatine monohydrate powder is mixed into water or juice, it begins to break down due to the water content. The creatine will completely dissolve within 1-2 minutes. It is generally recommended to consume the creatine and water mixture within 30 minutes. After that, the creatine starts to degrade and lose its potency. Leaving it for longer than 30 minutes is not advisable.
According to studies, creatine’s stability in water is highly affected by temperature. At room temperature around 68°F (20°C), creatine’s half life is around 2 hours. This means that after 2 hours, only 50% of the original creatine remains in the mixture. After 4-5 hours at room temperature, most of the creatine has degraded.
When refrigerated, creatine lasts longer in water. At temperatures between 35-45°F (2-7°C), creatine’s half life extends to around 5 hours. So refrigeration can help maintain potency for longer.
Factors that affect creatine’s shelf life
There are several factors that determine how long creatine remains stable and effective once mixed with water:
- Temperature – Higher temperatures accelerate creatine breakdown. Storing the mixture in the fridge preserves potency.
- Liquid used – Mixing with pure water leads to faster degradation compared to mixing in juice or milk.
- Acidity – Acidic liquids like fruit juice can accelerate creatine’s breakdown.
- Light exposure – Exposure to UV light from the sun or artificial sources degrades creatine over time.
- Repeated mixing – Repeatedly dissolving creatine in water and reusing leads to faster degradation.
Tips to extend creatine’s shelf life
Here are some tips to help maximize the stability and shelf life of creatine in water or juice:
- Use cool water and refrigerate – Mix creatine with cool water instead of warm water and store in the refrigerator.
- Avoid acidic liquids – Avoid mixing creatine in fruit juices or carbonated drinks which are acidic.
- Use an opaque container – Store mixed creatine in an opaque, non-see-through container.
- Consume soon after mixing – Try to consume the creatine water within 20-30 minutes after mixing for maximum potency.
- Make single servings – Only mix up the amount of creatine you will consume soon rather than a large batch.
Does creatine dissolve better in hot or cold water?
Creatine monohydrate powder actually dissolves faster and more readily in hot water compared to cold water. But mixing creatine with hot water can accelerate the breakdown process.
So while creatine powder blends more effortlessly in hot water, it won’t last as long. The higher temperatures cause the creatine molecules to degrade much quicker. Storing creatine dissolved in hot water also reduces potency rapidly.
For maximum stability and retention of strength, it is better to mix creatine with room temperature or cool water. Though it may take slightly longer for the powder to dissolve fully, the creatine will remain active for longer when refrigerated.
To mix creatine properly with cold water:
- Fill up a glass or shaker cup with 6-8 oz cold water.
- Add the recommended serving of creatine monohydrate powder – around 5 grams.
- Stir vigorously for around 1-2 minutes until fully dissolved.
- Consume the mixture immediately after for maximum effectiveness.
- Discard any leftovers rather than saving for later.
The creatine will take a bit longer to blend with the cold water compared to hot water. But dissolving in cold water optimizes stability and preserves muscle building potency.
Does creatine break down in water over time?
Yes, when creatine monohydrate powder is mixed in water, it starts to slowly degrade and break down over time. The creatine molecules are unstable in aqueous solutions.
Creatine degradation occurs due to the following processes:
- Hydrolysis – Creatine reacts with water molecules, resulting in the replacement of the amide group with a carboxylic acid group.
- Oxidation – Exposure to oxygen leads to a loss of electrons from creatine molecules.
- Photodegradation – UV rays from sunlight can damage the creatine structure.
- Microbial contamination – Bacteria growth during storage can degrade creatine.
The length of time it takes for noticeable degradation depends on the storage conditions – primarily temperature, acidity and light exposure. But creatine break down starts as soon as it is mixed with water.
Rate of creatine degradation
Under average conditions at room temperature, studies have observed the following degradation rates when creatine is dissolved in water:
- After 1 hour – Less than 10% degraded
- After 2 hours – Around 50% degraded
- After 5 hours – Over 90% degraded
Higher temperatures significantly accelerate the breakdown. At 104°F (40°C), over 90% of the creatine degraded within just 1 hour.
Refrigerating the mixture at 35-45°F (2-7°C) can slow degradation. Only about 30% degraded after 5 hours when refrigerated.
Effects of degradation
As creatine degrades when mixed in water, it loses its ergogenic effects for muscle strength and endurance. The degradation products have reduced capacity for increasing muscular phosphocreatine stores.
Consuming degraded creatine can lead to the following effects:
- Reduced strength and power output
- Decrease in lean muscle mass gains
- Diminished endurance and slower muscle recovery
- Loss of effectiveness as workout supplement
To avoid these effects, creatine and water mixtures should be consumed within 20-30 minutes after mixing for maximum benefits.
How to properly store creatine water
To maintain potency and slow degradation, here are some tips on properly storing creatine dissolved in water:
Use an airtight container
Store the creatine water solution in an airtight, sealed container. An airtight container prevents oxygen exposure and reduces oxidation of creatine during storage.
Use an opaque bottle or one colored to block light. Clear glass or plastic bottles allow UV light through which can accelerate photodegradation of creatine.
Refrigerate after mixing
Keep the pre-mixed creatine water in the refrigerator at 35-45°F (2-7°C). The cool temperature helps slow down hydrolysis and oxidation degradation reactions.
Consume within 30 minutes
Drink the dissolved creatine within 20-30 minutes after mixing it for maximum effectiveness. Don’t store for longer than 30 minutes even in the fridge.
Avoid reusing creatine water. The creatine degrades with each mixing. Discard any leftover solution instead of resealing and storing.
Avoid temperature fluctuations
Try to avoid fluctuating temperatures that can accelerate degradation. Don’t move the creatine water between a hot car and the refrigerator frequently.
Does creatine expire once mixed with water?
Creatine doesn’t exactly expire once dissolved in water. But it starts to degrade progressively based on storage conditions like temperature, acidity, light exposure etc.
Over time, the active creatine content reduces in concentration as the molecules break down into derivatives such as creatinine. But there is no specific expiration point.
General guidelines for maximum effectiveness are:
- Consume within 30 minutes if left at room temperature.
- Drink within 1-2 hours if refrigerated after mixing.
- Discard any unused mixed creatine after these times.
The dissolved creatine doesn’t suddenly become harmful if consumed after these durations. But it starts losing efficacy the longer it sits in water. Heating or repeated mixing also accelerates degradation.
Does creatine need to be refrigerated?
Creatine monohydrate powder on its own is quite stable at normal room temperatures. The dry powder does not require refrigeration for storage.
But once creatine is dissolved in water, refrigeration helps extend its shelf life and slow degradation in solution. Cooler temperatures of 35-45°F (2-7°C) can preserve potency for longer.
Shelf life of dry creatine powder
When stored properly, dry creatine powder can last for over 2 years before degrading significantly. Optimal storage guidelines are:
- Store in airtight container
- Keep container sealed and moisture-free
- Avoid direct sunlight or heat exposure
With proper storage, creatine powder can retain over 90% of its potency even after 2 years. Refrigeration is not required for the dry powder form.
Refrigerating mixed creatine
Once creatine is dissolved in water, it should be refrigerated for best stability. At room temperature, the creatine degrades within several hours. But refrigerating the pre-mixed solution at 35–45°F (2-7°C) helps slow the breakdown.
However, even refrigerated creatine water should be consumed soon and not stored for more than a day. The cool temperature only extends shelf life by several hours.
How long does creatine stay in your system?
When supplemented, creatine reaches peak concentrations in your blood within 1-2 hours. But creatine can remain stored in muscle tissue for much longer durations before gradually clearing out of your system.
Here is a look at the timelines for creatine absorption, muscle storage and elimination:
Peak plasma levels
After oral ingestion, creatine is absorbed from the intestines into the bloodstream within 1-2 hours. Plasma concentrations reach their peak at this point before dropping over the next several hours.
Around 60% of the ingested creatine is taken up by skeletal muscle tissue within 6 hours. With consistent dosing over 5-7 days, muscle creatine levels can increase by over 20%.
Once inside muscle cells, creatine is fairly stable with an elimination half-life of around 30 days. This means it takes about 30 days for the muscles to eliminate half of their stored creatine with cessation of supplementation.
Time to clear from system
It can take nearly 6 weeks for creatine stores to return to baseline levels after stopping supplementation. But small amounts remain detectable in the blood and urine for up to 3 months.
Factors like hydration status, activity levels and muscle mass affect these timelines. Athletes clear creatine quicker than sedentary individuals.
In summary, creatine begins degrading within an hour after mixing in water and should be consumed within 30 minutes for maximum benefits. Refrigeration can help slow the breakdown process somewhat by a few hours. But pre-mixed creatine water should not be stored for more than 1-2 days even in the fridge before losing efficacy.
For best results, creatine powder is ideally mixed with cool water just before consumption. Leftover mixed solution should be discarded. With proper storage, dry creatine powders can retain potency for over 2 years without refrigeration.
Once ingested, creatine takes 1-2 hours to reach peak plasma concentrations. It can then remain stored in the muscles for over a month before being cleared from the system. Supplemental dosing for 5-7 days can increase muscle creatine content by over 20%.
By understanding the stability and absorption kinetics of creatine, athletes can optimize mixing practices and dosing schedules to achieve maximum benefits.