One of the most popular supplements on the market, Creatine has been used for years to:
- Aid in the production of ATP
- Support Muscle Gain
- Maximize Strength
- Fight off Muscle Fatigue
- Reduce Lactic Build Up
- Improve Endurance and Anaerobic Performance
Although creatine is naturally occurring in our bodies, athletes saturate their muscles' creatine stores by supplementing with Creatine Monohydrate.
The use of creatine supplements improves physical performance in high-intensity exercises (HIIT) and short bursts such as weight lifting and sprinting.
Creatine supplementation is used to free energy at a cellular level to optimize muscular function and aid in muscle recovery after a workout.
It also assists in the increase of body mass during training.
When is the best time to take creatine? We’ll get to that shortly, but first:
WHAT IS CREATINE?
Creatine is a molecule with three linked up amino acids found in skeletal muscle. The amino acids are responsible for producing energy to fuel muscles when exhausted or stressed. The energy is also used to improve endurance and anaerobic capacity.
Our bodies naturally produce 1-2 grams of creatine daily. However, you need to saturate your muscle through supplementation to increase muscle mass and explosiveness. Supplementing increases daily production to about 5 grams of creatine.
Continuous supplementation also helps the body in the production and regeneration of ATP (adenosine triphosphate)—the main source of energy for muscles.
When creatine is depleted from the body, there is a decline in sports performance. As a result, gym-goers take creatine supplements to restore their muscular mass.
BENEFITS OF CREATINE
One study shows that creatine has health benefits such as cell protection, anti-aging and keeps the brain healthy by supporting memory. There are other benefits like:
PRODUCTION OF MORE ENERGY IN THE MUSCLE CELLS
Creatine supplementation increases the formation of ATP which is the main storage of energy.
Unfortunately, the body can only store enough ATP for 8 to 10 seconds of intense workouts. After this, your body has to produce new ATP to match the training causing quick and severe exhaustion.
Supplementing with creatine increases production and provides you with energy to train harder and longer.
INCREASES MUSCULAR MASS
Creatine’s most popular and effective use is increasing muscle mass.
It enhances the formation of ATP and proteins to build new muscle fibers, provides energy, and increases the amount of lean muscle in the body.
IMPROVES HIGH-INTENSITY INTERVAL TRAINING (HIIT) PERFORMANCE
In a study done on eight male soccer players, it was found that after participants took a creatine monohydrate supplement for seven consistent days, there was a considerable increase in muscle strength and mass during their HIIT training.
Creatine also increases endurance and helps you last longer in the gym.
BEST TIME TO TAKE CREATINE: POST WORKOUT VS PRE WORKOUT
Research done by the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that taking creatine supplements post-workout was more effective than taking creatine pre-workout.
In the study, participants who’d taken creatine immediately after a workout developed more muscle mass and body strength, especially when combined with resistance training.
We recommend keeping your muscles saturated
There are benefits of all three concepts as shown here:
|PRE WORKOUT||POST WORKOUT||ANYTIME|
Mixing the supplement with carbohydrates has been proven to increase glycogen storage in the muscle post-workout. This glycogen is stored as energy which can be used in the future to delay fatigue and improve performance in sports and other activities.
Even when creatine is taken regularly, there are no studies that show adverse effects on an adult's health.
HOW TO TAKE CREATINE
The optimal creatine intake is about 3 to 5 grams per day. Take it by mixing one serving with a cold beverage of your choice.
The first week can be used to load to saturate your muscle storage. However, beyond this duration, continuous intake of large amounts will not be beneficial. At this point, you can save money by ingesting small amounts and still get maximum results.
You can combine creatine supplements with carbohydrates after intense training to help retain your muscle mass— a recovery shake is perfect post-workout.
CREATINE LOADING - WHAT IS IT?
Creatine loading is the consumption of large amounts of creatine over a short period to saturate the muscle stores and maximize its benefits.
Creatine loading is done by people looking to saturate their muscle stores, strength gains, or increase their endurance in a short period.
HOW MUCH CREATINE SHOULD YOU TAKE WHEN LOADING?
When loading, take a daily dose of 20-25 grams for 5-7 days. Once the loading phase is completed, continue taking 5 grams daily to keep the muscle stores saturated.
Taking a lot of this supplement when loading saturates your muscles in 5-7 days. When you decide not to load, your muscles will still saturate but it’ll take 3 or more weeks to maximize the benefits. In either way, benefits derived include:
- Increased muscle mass and strength
- Prevents injuries caused by high intensive training
- Aids in muscle gain
- Improves overall athletic performance
WHAT'S THE BEST TIME TO SUPPLEMENT WHEN LOADING?
When loading, researchers say that you should supplement with creatine either pre-workout or post. In this phase, the daily intake of 20-25g is divided into 5 servings which are spread throughout the day.
- After workout
HOW SAFE IS CREATINE?
There are many misconceptions about the side effects of using creatine supplements.
Studies have shown, however, that creatine is safe for both the young and old—except for individuals with pre-existing renal conditions, or the potential risk for renal dysfunction.
People with these risk factors can still use creatine safely but are advised to keep their intake between 3 and 5g a day.
Generally speaking, the most common side effect of creatine supplementation is weight gain, but this is totally expected as the water content in your muscles increases. The weight gained isn’t body fat and is lost when you stop supplementing.
Misconceptions that creatine causes cramps and balding aren’t supported by enough research and cannot be proven at this time.
Additionally, if you take excess creatine, the body (liver) can break it down and safely excrete it through urine.
CREATINE FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Here are the most frequently asked questions regarding creatine.
SHOULD CREATINE BE TAKEN ON REST DAYS?
The key to creatine is to keep your muscles saturated in order to reap all the benefits.
Continue supplementing with 5g of Creatine, even on your rest days, to keep your muscles saturated and your creatine stores high.
DOES CREATINE CAUSE HEADACHES?
The short answer...no, creatine does not cause headaches.
Dehydration causes headaches.
Dehydration is the main cause of headaches no matter what supplements you’re taking. A lack of water intake will eventually cause dehydration whether you're taking creatine or not.
Creatine supplements do make your body’s need for water increase. So if you’re not drinking enough water, there’s a high chance of being dehydrated and eventually getting headaches.
DO I NEED TO CYCLE CREATINE?
No, creatine cycling is not necessary.
A creatine cycle consists of a loading phase (20-25g/day for 5-7 days) followed by a maintenance phase (5g/day for 4-6 weeks) and finally a time off phase that lasts 2-4 weeks.
Cycling usually occurs when your body develops a tolerance to the supplement being used, however since creatine is produced naturally in the body, your body doesn't build a tolerance or sensitivity to it.
Meaning, there's no need for cycling.
Keep your muscles saturated by supplementing with 5g of Creatine per day.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I STOP TAKING CREATINE?
You will lose all your muscles...KIDDING!
Once you stop supplementing with creatine, your extra creatine stores will slowly deplete, however, your body will continue producing 1-2 grams of creatine daily.
After this period, the extra creatine stores in the muscles will deplete completely in about 4-6 weeks, and the body goes back to producing 1-2 grams of creatine daily.