Creatine is one of the most popular supplements for muscle building. It supports energy production in your cells, primarily in your muscles.
However, there are many myths that taking creatine can hurt you more than help.
Some people even believe that they should never take creatine if they want to be lean or have a low body fat percentage.
The truth is, creatine will not make you gain weight unless you eat too much food (calories) overall.
Supplementing with this natural substance can increase your metabolism. It helps you build up lean body mass faster so that you burn more calories throughout the day without any extra effort.
Today, we’ll cover everything from the basics of what creatine is all about. We’ll also talk about tips on how and when to take it so that your experience with this supplement is a positive one.
How Should You Take Creatine to Gain Muscle Mass?
Creatine causes your body to absorb more water, so taking it on an empty stomach can cause stomach cramps and diarrhea. The best way to take creatine is with food or just after exercise.
If you're taking creatine without food, drink plenty of fluids throughout the day. Fluids prevent kidneys from overloading with waste products from the breakdown of creatine in your muscles.
Here's What the Research Says About When to Take Creatine
There are two options of creatine supplementation:
Creatine Supplementation on Days You Workout
Recent research suggests that you should supplement shortly before or after an activity. It’s better than taking creatine long beforehand and waiting until afterward.
This study examined the effects of supplement timing by grouping participants into two groups.
One camp took the supplement shortly before and after an exercise. The other camp took the supplement in a different pattern not close to their workout sessions.
The study showed that:
- Those who took the supplement shortly before and after their workouts got more muscle and strength.
- The other group who took the supplement at different times of the day, not so close to a workout, had less fat free mass.
Based on the results of this research, the best time of day to take creatine is shortly before and post workout.
It may be better to take the full dose after an activity or split it into two parts:
Creatine Supplementation During Exercise-Free Days
Supplementing creatine on rest days is important to keep your muscles fueled with creatine.
If you don’t take your creatine supplement, you may not see much muscle growth in the long run and will be more prone to injury as shown in this research.
However, the goal of supplementing during this time should be to keep the creatine content in your muscles elevated. High muscle creatine content will help you get back into the swing of activities quickly after a day off from working out.
The creatine timing loading phase is recommended. This phase involves:
- Taking a relatively high amount (typically around 20 grams) for about five days to increase the creatine content of your muscles
- Following up with lower daily doses (around 3-5 gram intake).
When you take creatine during rest days, make sure to have it with food so that your muscles can get the strength they need.
What are the Benefits of Taking Creatine?
Creatine supplementation is great for muscle growth and making workouts more impactful. It can also have other possible benefits, including the following:
- Creatine helps to reduce fatigue during physical activity and resistance exercise. It restores your body's energy reserves quicker after an intense workout or competition.
- Intramuscular creatine is beneficial in therapies that attempt to reverse sarcopenia (muscle wasting) due to aging or illness.
- Improved endurance during intense aerobic exercises such as running or cycling for long distances
- Increased energy levels needed during high-intensity exercise, which could help you train harder without getting tired.
- Creatine immediately improves water retention allowing faster recovery from heavy weight lifting sessions. It provides hydration after sweating out all the water while working out (less chance of cramping)
- Oral creatine increases amino acids and lean protein synthesis leading to less fat storage when dieting.
Creatine Side Effects
The International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand indicates that creatine is a safe and beneficial supplement for athletes looking to build muscles. However, like any other workout supplements, research has shown that it has some side effects.
Thankfully, the most common side effects are temporary and usually go away after a short while. If side effects persist you should discuss it with a health care provider.
Below are some of these side effects:
|Side Effect||Cause/Possible Solution|
|Dehydration||Consuming electrolyte drinks and a lot of water before, during, and after exercise can help reduce dehydration.|
|Skeletal muscle cramps and pain in arms, shoulders, or legs||
|Joint pain and inflammation||
FAQs About Using Creatine Supplements
Should I Take Creatine Daily?
Muscles store creatine; you don't make new creatine or replenish what you lose every day.
You can take creatine as long as you need it, on the days you need it.
Creatine monohydrate increases muscle mass by increasing the rate at which phosphate (energy) is converted into energy.
Many people have trouble excreting creatine, so we recommend taking a break for two weeks out of every eight weeks or after every five cycles.
However, some individuals doing intense athletic activities may need continual use of creatine to stop lactic acid build-up and cramping.
How Long Should I Take Creatine Before Taking a Break?
The American Diabetes Association recommends taking a 2-week break from creatine every six months. The break gives your muscles time to repair themselves while also giving you some time off and ensuring that the positive effects of creatine don't fade away.
What Effect Does Creatine Monohydrate Have on Skeletal Muscle Hypertrophy?
Creatine Monohydrate is a natural compound that has been used for years by athletes and bodybuilders to improve their performance in training.
This is because it helps supply energy to your muscles, resulting in faster gains when working out.
It does this by increasing the amount of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) available to cells within your muscles, helping them contract more efficiently.
The increase in ATP also means you can perform at a higher intensity for longer periods without tiring as quickly.