Creatine is one of the most popular performance-enhancing supplements available to athletes looking to go the extra mile and weightlifters trying to lift greater volumes for bigger gains. But how much does the way you take your dose of creatine affect the results? And with so many different forms of the supplement available on the market, which one is the best and which one is for you?
What Is Creatine?
Creatine is a molecule found naturally in the body, and may also be ingested from food sources including seafood, eggs and meat.
Creatine is composed of three amino acids: glycine, arginine, and methionine. It can be considered a backup source of energy, as opposed to a super-drug that will give you instant gains. Creatine speeds up the natural process of how our bodies produce Adenosine Tri-Phosphate (ATP). ATP is used up and quickly depletes during high-intensity exercise. By supplementing creatine you can increase the ability to store more, meaning that more ATP can be produced during exercise.
Your muscle tissue stores creatine as phosphocreatine. Phosphocreatine synthesizes during high-intensity exercises, such as lifting weights, to provide your muscles with extra energy. Creatine pulls water into your muscle cells, increasing protein synthesis. It is not a provider of extra energy in the same way as boosters like caffeine and glucose, but increases your reserves, thus allowing you to work harder for longer – therein lies the gains.
So you have done your research on this wonder supplement, but now you are uncertain whether the powder or pill form is the best. Opinions are widespread, with many suggesting there is little difference between the two. However, certain minor advantages and disadvantages may be taken into account before you begin your loading phase.
Creatine Powder and Pills: Advantages and Disadvantages
First, the pros and cons of creatine powder. It doesn’t transport easily. Anyone that has kept some in a shaker in their gym bag for when the time comes to train will know that the amount you measured doesn’t always end up being swallowed. What doesn’t go up in a puff when you lift the lid can cling to the sides and corners, and can sometimes congeal in the shaker. It doesn’t always blend with ease and can add a bitter chemical taste to your whey or whatever you mix it with when drinking.
These are all minor points, of course, in the bigger picture of creatine’s many health advantages. In this respect, pills are the better option as you can better measure your intake with none of the mess. So what are the positives to powder?
Powder is more affordable, and we know that month on month the supplement shopping list can add up. During the loading phase, you will be taking sometimes three to five times the recommended 3 – 5 mg dose. In pill form that means three times the pills, meaning you will see your supplies quickly diminish at the start of each cycle.
In pill form, creatine must first be digested before it can be used by your body. As a powder, it can be more readily absorbed. This is a major plus in favor of powder for anyone taking several supplements on a regular basis. Why create another obstacle for your digestive system if an alternative is available? Add creatine pills to the vitamin tablets and any others that you take and, if shaken, you’ll rattle.
But how does the speed with which you digest creatine matter? There is much debate around the effectiveness of when to take creatine, but there is no conclusive evidence to suggest it is best when taken before or after exercise. The unanimous opinion suggests a loading phase should be implemented, wherein you take three times the normal daily amount of creatine every day for two weeks to saturate your cells. How quickly creatine is then absorbed into your system, subject to future studies, does not necessarily alter the results of your workout (as long as it is loaded constantly in your system).
Variety is key, and by choosing powder you will be able to create health cocktails of your own creation. More and more as you progress as an athlete and learn your body’s capabilities and your goals it is advisable to identify what you want to get out of your supplements. In doing so you can cut out blends and make your own, based on what you want. By mixing creatine powder with other workout beverages that are sugar-loaded you can also increase your insulin levels.