If you’re an old school bodybuilder, athlete or a newbie fitness goer, chances are you have heard of Creatine. Creatine is one of, if not the most proven supplements to show results, with countless studies to back up its effectiveness.
Simply put, it works! The usual effects are, increased strength, more explosiveness and fuller muscle bellies resulting in increased muscle.
What is Creatine?
In scientific terms, Creatine is a specific molecule that is produced inside the body naturally through the liver, pancreas and kidneys (1,2). This is through the amino acids arginine, glycine and methionine, but we just can’t produce enough of it to provide optimal effects for training purposes!
It’s found in foods such as raw meat, some fish and eggs (3) – to put it in perspective, 1kg Steak contains a whopping 4g Creatine per serving! (4,5)
It’s the fuel source for ATP (adrenaline triphosphate) which is our energy system that is used for short bursts of power in conjunction with fast twitch muscle fibers. By supplementing with Creatine you can expect to see phosphocreatine and Creatine stores increase by 10-40%!
Benefits of Creatine
Enhances High Intensity Training
Creatine mainly helps for things like sprints and weight lifting, (9,10,11) so for high intensity work of any kind it’s a must for supplementation.
Studies have also shown that Creatine enhances recovery so if you’re constantly depleting your glycogen stores then top it up with Creatine after every session, if you’re always adding in Creatine then you’re making sure that they’re topped up for your next session.
Increased Muscle Mass
As Creatine is a cell volumizer, it will give you a fuller, more muscular appearance to your physique, especially as it retains the water inside the muscle as opposed to under the skin where most water retention would occur. You can see up to six pounds of added bodyweight in the first couple weeks of taking Creatine. So keep this in mind if you see the scale shooting up and don’t be worried, that’s just the Creatine working its magic.
Long term use can also enhance the benefits of weight training on muscle sizeand strength! (6, 7).
Great Vegetarian Supplement
If you’re a vegetarian or vegan there is even more reason to take Creatine as you’ll more than likely have a very low amount in your body as the compound is a naturally occurring animal product (8).
In addition, Creatine has been found to aid increased power output, decreased fatigue and decreased depression! (9,10,11)
Which Creatine supplement to take?
Just a few of the different types of Creatine include:
The most popular, basic Creatine supplement for both scientific research and retailers. No thrills – simply powdered Creatine with maximum effect!
A Creatine supplement created for quicker absorption rate in comparison to Creatine alternatives – with a goal of improved performance results. Kre-Alkalyn is processed at higher PH levels in attempt to reach this absorption rate. To simplify, this supplement skips the ‘breaking down’ process into creatinine (waste product) that occurs with the likes of Creatine Monohydrate, which slows down the absorption rate.
Creatine Gluconate is a readily form of creatine attached to a sugar (gluconate) molecule to help enhance the absorption and uptake of creatine into the working muscles. This increased uptake allows for a more rapid load of phosphocreatine stores following a workout where the muscles are more receptive to taking on board nutrients.
Creatine Ethyl Ester (or CEE) is a soluble form of Creatine, thought to enter the muscles directly, therefore increasing the effectiveness of the supplement. It is thought that the solubility may have this enhanced effect by speeding up the transport of Creatine over biological membranes in the muscle cells – therefore reaching the muscles quicker than alternative Creatine supplements.
Technically, this is another form of Creatine Monohydrate – just with smaller, ‘micronized‘ molecules. Smaller content – quicker absorption, right? Not only that, but a reduced chance of stomach discomfort.
…So, which is best for you?!
In terms of studies, Creatine Monohydrate comes out top every single time. It’s also the best price wise too so you’re getting more bang for your buck. If you can’t settle for anything but the best then Creapure is going to be your best bet, it’s the purest form of Creatine and it dissolves a lot easier than the other types of Creatine.
You can also get it in powder or pill form, which of these to take is down to personal preference as Creatine doesn’t work acutely so pill digestion delay isn’t an issue. Creatine monohydrate is tasteless as well so you won’t be able to notice it however you want to take it!
How much Creatine to take
The most common protocol is 5g Creatine powder each day, every day. Timing has also been shown to not make too much of a difference, but if you really wanted to however you could take it post-workout, if anything for ease as you can just add it to your post workout recovery shake!
This is called a “loading phase” – where you take 10-15g for the first week (for around 5 days) to get you up to peak saturation but some people experience the only side effect this way. However, it has been established that higher doses of 20-25g per day of oral creatine can rapidly raise the amount of total creatine in muscle (12). This has been found to be a 20% increase in total creatine (13, 14).
This loading phase is then followed by a maintenance phase whereby supplementation is reduced to the normal single daily dose of 5g.
This recommendation is to significantly increase total creatine content of muscle. It is still possible to reap the same benefits from a normal course of creatine for a specific duration.
There is absolutely no need to do this and you can use Creatine continuously without any break. It will benefit you much less taking breaks from it as well.
Side effects of Creatine and Safety
The only real side effect from creatine is stomach bloating or discomfort and as above this is generally only seen with a few people during a loading phase. If you experience this, just drop down to 5g. Also, drinking extra water whilst taking Creatine is highly advised and should also help with the above side effects! Additionally, for safety:
? It would be a good idea to have creatine in your system when it is needed most (muscle recovery/injured tendon/strengthening post injury).
? If you injure yourself mid-loading phase – still finish your course.
? If you’re new to Creatine with an injury present, being with 5-10g per day for around 4 weeks. (prevent stomach discomfort!)