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What Does Creatine Do, And How Does It Work?

Creatine is one of the most researched sports supplements on the market. It gives you the majority of energy for short-term, maximum exercise such as sprinting a 100m or lifting weights. But, creatine is also one of the most misunderstood sports supplements. Some claim creatine supplementation is dangerous and unsafe, despite its widespread use.

What Is Creatine?

Creatine is naturally produced in your body from amino acids – the building blocks of protein. It’s also found in protein-rich foods, mainly meat and fish. But, you would need to eat a lot of meat and fish to obtain an appreciable amount of creatine. This makes supplementing with creatine an inexpensive and efficient way to increase creatine intake.


How Does Creatine Work?

Creatine helps to regenerate a molecule called adenosine triphosphate (ATP), your body’s main source of energy. When creatine stores in your muscles are depleted, the production of ATP comes to a screeching halt and your energy is dramatically decreased. Supplementing with creatine increases the available fuel to power ATP, which can increase muscle strength, size and power output.

Who Can Benefit?

Supplementing with creatine is not just for bodybuilders; several types of athletes can benefit like sprinters, swimmers, and soccer players. Creatine supplementation also can help increase your strength, power, and muscle size making it useful for sports like football and hockey. But, creatine supplementation isn’t effective for exercise and events lasting more than 90 seconds, for example, long-distance running.


How To Take Creatine

Creatine is supplemented through one of two ways. The first way is called ‘loading.’ The loading phase requires taking 20 g of creatine in split doses for 5-7 days. Following the loading phase, 3-5 g of creatine is supplemented daily. This is called the maintenance phase. The idea of loading creatine is to saturate the muscle cells with creatine resulting in faster results. Supplementing with 3-5 g, without the loading phase, is the other method. Choosing this route will get you the same results as loading, but it will take you longer to experience the full benefits of creatine.

Regardless of the method you choose, cycling creatine is not needed. Cycling creatine means going “on” and “off” creatine every couple of weeks. People who recommend creatine cycling claim that it will maximize the effects of creatine and is needed to give your body a break. But the truth is, creatine cycling will not give you any added benefit over not cycling creatine.

man squatting with barbell

When To Take Creatine

There are two general recommendations when it comes to supplementing with creatine. The first is to take creatine before your workout because it increases your strength. The second is to take creatine after your workout because it absorbs better.

According to one study, taking creatine after your workout is best. For the study, 19 male recreational bodybuilders were randomly divided into two groups. One group took 5 g of creatine before their workout while the other group took 5 g after their workout. For 4 weeks, the men trained 5 days a week and kept their protein intake similar.

At the end of the 4 weeks, researchers found that those who took creatine after their workout gained more muscle mass than those taking creatine before their workout. However, the benefit was insignificant. Meaning, the advantage of taking creatine after exercise could have occurred by chance.

The timing of creatine doesn’t seem to matter. This is because creatine has no immediate effects on strength or muscle size. Only when your body is fully saturated with creatine will you benefit from it. Therefore, take creatine when it’s convenient for you, whether it’s in the morning, before your workout, after your workout, or at night.

Creatine Safety

Creatine is one of the safest sports supplements there is, yet many myths about creatine linger. The main concern is that creatine damages your kidneys. But there is zero data to support this notion. In fact, there are several studies showing that creatine has absolutely no effect on kidney function in healthy people. One study found no changes in kidney function between collegiate football players who supplemented with creatine and those who didn’t for nearly two years. What’s more is that another study showed no changes in kidney function for individuals consuming 10 g – twice the recommended daily dose – of creatine for 12 weeks.

Others claim that creatine supplementation can cause dehydration, injury and stomach cramps, however, to date there have been no studies showing that creatine supplementation causes any of these issues.

The Best Creatine Supplements

If you’re wondering what creatine supplements to take then why not try one of the following:

Creatine Monohydrate – this is the most popularly used creatine supplement, and it should definitely be part of your supplement stack.

Creapure® – this is an extremely pure form of Creatine Monohydrate

✓ Creatine Ethyl Ester HCL – this is a highly available form of creatine, which has been attached to an ester salt to increase the uptake of creatine into the muscle and reduces water retention in comparison to creatine monohydrate.

Take Home Message

Creatine Monohydrate is perhaps the most inexpensive, safest, and beneficial dietary supplement there is. It simply works!

Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you’re concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.

References: Lugaresi, R., Leme, M., de Salles Painelli, V., Hisashi Murai, I., Roschel, H., Sapienza, M. T., Herbert Lancha Junior, A., Gualana, B. . (2013). Does long-term creatine supplementation impair kidney function in resistance-trained individuals consuming a high-protein diet? . J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 10 (26) Kreider RB, Melton C, Rasmussen CJ, Greenwood M, Lancaster S, Cantler EC, Milnor P, Almada AL.. (2003). Long-term creatine supplementation does not significantly affect clinical markers of health in athletes.. Mol Cell Biochem. 244 (1-2) Gualano B, Ugrinowitsch C, Novaes RB, Artioli GG, Shimizu MH, Seguro AC, Harris RC, Lancha AH Jr.. (2008). Effects of creatine supplementation on renal function: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Eur J Appl Physiol. 103 (1) Darren G. Candow, Emelie Vogt, Sarah Johannsmeyer, Scott C. Forbes, and Jonathan P. Farthing. (2015). Strategic creatine supplementation and resistance training in healthy older adults. Appl Physiol Nutri Metab. 40 Antonio, J. & Ciccone, V. (2013). The effects of pre versus post workout supplementation of creatine monohydrate on body composition and strength. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 6 Thomas W Buford, Richard B Kreider, Jeffrey R Stout, Mike Greenwood, Bill Campbell, Marie Spano, Tim Ziegenfuss, Hector Lopez, Jamie Landis and Jose Antonio . (2007). International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: creatine supplementation and exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 4 (6) Astorino TA, Marrocco AC, Gross SM, Johnson DL, Brazil CM, Icenhower ME, Kneessi RJ.. (2005). Is running performance enhanced with creatine serum ingestion?. J Strength Cond Res. 19 (4) Rawson, E. S. & Volek, J. S.. (2003). Effects of creatine supplementation and resistance training on muscle strength and weightlifting performance. J Strength Cond Res. 17 (4) Ostojic, S. M.. (2004). Creatine supplementation in young soccer players. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 14 (1)

Gareth Gray

Gareth Gray

Experienced Sports Nutrition Technologist

Gareth Gray is an experienced sports nutrition new product development technologist. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Health and a Master of Science in Sports and Exercise Nutrition. Gareth’s scientific research expertise involves the investigation into the effects of recovery drinks upon sports performance and recovery. He has several years’ experience in designing, formulating and developing sports nutrition products using evidence-based research, from laboratory testing to full-scale production and manufacturing. He regularly attends continuing professional development events and sports nutrition conferences to ensure his practise remains at the highest level. Find out more about Gareth’s experience here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/garethgray1/ In his spare time, Gareth enjoys working on his own physique in the gym, as well as cooking nutritious meals – where he believes balance is key and advocates the odd cheat meal now and again.

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