Our expert guide to creatine explains in detail the different types of creatine supplements, what they do, and how to use them.
A French scientist first discovered creatine in 1832, but it was not until 1923 that scientists discovered that over 95% of creatine is stored in muscle tissue. The first published report of creatine having bodybuilding effects was The Journal of Biological Chemistry in, get this, 1926! Although we’ve known about creatine for quite some time, the first real use of it to enhance performance was the 1992 Olympic games in Barcelona, Spain.
What Is Creatine?
Creatine is a legal supplement that is readily available at just about all (if not every) supplement store. Some reported minor issues. These side effects are not noticed by everyone, and many people don’t have any of these symptoms at all.
Creatine is also found naturally in our body as well as in certain foods. However, cooking food destroys most of the creatine in it. Therefore, a supplement is needed. The creatine found in our body is primarily found (roughly 90%) in our muscles. Creatine can be produced in smaller amounts by our liver and kidneys from amino acids. Creatine can also help increase protein synthesis which helps muscles grow.
Creatine helps produce energy which is vital in strenuous workouts. Creatine in the body increases the production of ATP (adenosine triphosphate)-which is a source of energy the body uses (particularly in the muscles) during short bursts of energy. Notice how I said “short bursts”.
Creatine will not be an effective supplement for endurance athletes as they use a completely different energy system than when doing quick, rapid movements. Creatine also helps pull water into the muscle, giving them a fuller appearance.
With so many forms out there, I recommend starting off with creatine monohydrate to see how your body reacts to it. Some people react very well with monohydrate while others are non-responders and need to supplement with another form.
Creatine monohydrate is the most cost effective form of creatine if you are a responder. There are also many types of the supplement that you can try – powders, pills, capsules, liquid.
Types Of Creatine?
Creatine With Glutamine
Creatine Ethyl Ester (CEE)
Creatine With Sugars
Creatine With Protein
Over the last two decades, creatine has emerged as the king of all athletic performance supplements. Creatine intake heightens your body’s creatine phosphate energy system. This allows you to push yourself for longer periods of time, with more energy. Creatine also improves your ability to tap into explosive energy when you need it as critical times in your training.
Studies have shown that creatine increases:
Lean body mass
Muscle hypertrophy (growth)
Maximum weight lifted in one repetition (1RM)
Vertical jump distance
Who Can Benefit From Creatine?
Creatine has been used for some time by athletes to help improve there sports performance. If you are involved in a sport that uses repeated, short bursts of energy, such as weight lifting or team sports you are likely to benefit from creatine. There is little evidence to suggest creatine supplementation will improve endurance performance.
Creatine Can Improve Performance In:
Creatine has several proposed mechanisms to help improve performance:
Creatine helps provide the energy our muscles need to move, particularly quick and explosive movements. Muscle contraction is initially fuelled by ATP (adenosine-triphosphate).
There is only enough ATP to provide energy for approximately 10 seconds. For this energy system to continue, more ATP is required. Creatine phosphate gives up its phosphate molecule to ADP (adenosine-diphosphate), thus recreating ATP. Increasing the muscle’s supply of creatine phosphate helps increase the rate in which the body can supply ATP.
Adenosine tri-phosphate (ATP) provides the energy your muscle needs to contract. ATP stores are limited and during high intensity exercise becomes depleted after 10 seconds. Phosphocreatine (PC) rebuilds ATP in the muscle to provide a sustained energy release for movement. Creatine supplementation increases your muscles PC levels increasing the length of time you can maintain high intensity exercise.
The duration of high intensity exercise is limited due to reactions within the muscle causing fatigue. The build up of acid prevents further muscular contractions and exercise intensity is reduced. High PC levels reduce the formation of lactic acid therefore delaying fatigue so you can maintain high intensity exercise for longer.
Creatine and Muscle Building
Creatine supplementation causes muscle cells to swell with water. This swelling leads to better muscle feel – or pumps. In turn, muscle swelling also encourages the cell to increase production of vital structural and enzymatic proteins. Simply put, not only does creatine enlarge a cell, but it also strengthens a cell. This volumization of muscle cells leads to an overall increase in lean muscle mass.
Creatine Supplementation Also Boosts Muscle Growth and Repair By:
Working as an antioxidant, creatine works to remove harmful free radicals, strengthening muscle cell membranes, and allowing muscle cells to repair and grow more efficiently.
Creatine works to buffer muscle acidity. Without proper PH balance, a muscle will fatigue more easily.
Creatine assists in regulating proper calcium levels within muscle tissue, which allows for proper contractions. Low levels of creatine can cause calcium imbalance, and a resulting decrease in performance.
How To Use Creatine?
For best results, on training days, take creatine after your workout. It will not make you nauseous and is best taken at this time in order to replenish lost stores. If you wish to take more on a training day (i.e 10 grams),then take half pre-workout and remaining half post-workout.
How Much Should I Take?
Recommended dosages are as follows:
– Less than or equal to 140lbs = 5-6grams per day is maintenance
– 141lbs to 168lbs = 6-7.5 grams per day is maintenance
– 169lbs to 199lbs = 8 grams per day is maintenance
– 200lbs to 242lbs = 8-10 grams per day is maintenance
– 242lb+ = 10-12 grams per day
Do I Need To Initially Go Through The Loading Phase?
No, this is not necessary. A mere 3 grams of creatine per day for 28 days results in the same muscle content of creatine as that of a six day load program. Thus, if you wanted to get off creatine, it would take about a month to reach normal muscle stores.
Taking even large amounts of creatine as in the load phase doesn’t appear to inhibit the body’s creatine synthesis after you cease using it
Types Of Creatine
Creatine supplements fall into 3 categories:
What is it? Creatine monohydrate is creatine in its simplest form and is the cheapest widely available form.
Cheapest form of creatine.
The majority of research is on creatine monohydrate so you don’t rely on manufacturer’s word for results.
Versatile, easily mixed with a beverage for post workout meals to improve absorption.
The disadvantage is poor uptake into the muscle leading to high recommended doses of 20g/day.
People often report the feeling of being bloated know as the ‘creatine bloat’.
Different levels of quality can affect results.
What is it? Research shows taking creatine monohydrate with 35g-100g carbohydrate increases uptake into the muscle. Carbohydrates raise insulin levels which transports creatine into the muscle, so more insulin means greater creatine uptake. Manufacturers commonly put this on the label as their ‘proprietary creatine transport system’.
Supported by research
Use of simple sugars in the transport system that can add unwanted calories to your diet. Some products overcome this by using alternative methods to transport creatine.
Can be difficult to find out what is in the ‘proprietary creatine transport system’.
Creatine Ethyl Ester
What is it? Creatine ethyl esters are the latest development in creatine. Made from creatine monohydrate with an ester (inorganic compound) attached. Semi-lipopholic creatine enters the muscle through lipids in the membrane so 100% absorption is difficult. Esters use lipids more effectively to cross into the muscle for maximum absorption.
No loading phases
Lower doses can be used due to higher absorption
Advanced formulas so more costly
Lack of research backing claims as they are new products
Potential and Adverse Effects
Creatine is so efficient at shuttling water into the intramuscular compartment, that an emergent side effect associated with it is that of muscle cramping. This most often occurs when too little fluid is consumed whilst supplementing with creatine.
Muscle cramping, strains and tears are all anecdotal evidence that are not supported by scientific fact. Creatine draws water away from the internal working organs and therefore if you take a lot with no water then a mild stomach cramp will occur.
How to avoid this? Simple: drink 1 pint of water with every dose! Water makes sense for an athlete and most of us are guilty of consuming way too little. In an ideal world we should drink 4-5 pints of water a day. It will benefit us and also benefit the CM we are taking. The extra water will help maximise the effects of the CM.
Is Creatine A Steroid?
No. Creatine is not a hormonal product. It is not a testosterone pre-cursor, nor is it a prohormone. Creatine is a naturally occurring organic acid that helps in providing energy to muscles.
Is Creatine Safe?
Yes, Creatine is a natural amino acid present in the body of humans and animals. The human body has 100-115 grams of creatine in the form of creatine phosphate. No negative side effects have been noted in the research with the recommended levels of supplementation.
Does Creatine Supplementation Cause Side Effects?
No serious side effects have ever been documented in the clinical researching of creatine. After cycling off of creatine, you may feel like you have less energy. Proper water intake is necessary while supplementing with creatine.
Does Creatine Make You Retain Water?
No. Creatine draws water from the body to do its work. There is a difference between cell volumization and water retention. Cell volumization leads to more water inside the cells, making the muscle bigger and firmer. Water retention, the process that makes the muscles look smooth, happens outside the muscle cells.
Does Creatine Make You Fat?
No. Creatine pulls water into skeletal muscle, giving you more lean muscle mass. It does not make you fat.
Should Pregnant Women Take Creating?
This is a question that should be answered by a physician. During pregnancy, a woman should consult with her doctor before taking any new supplement.
Can Women Take Creatine?
Of course! Creatine will help them tone up and lose fat. Creatine is a perfect supplement for active, athletic women.
Should Teenagers Take Creatine?
There is no supporting evidence that reasonable creatine use by teenagers has any negative side effects. Creatine is a proven, and safe supplement. With that said, creatine hasn’t been on the market long enough to rule out the possibility that its use by teenagers might cause side effects.
Can Vegetarians Use Creatine?
Absolutely. Because vegetarians derive very little creatine from the foods that they eat. Creatine supplementation is not so much an option as it is a necessity for vegetarians.
I Just Started Training. Can I Use Creatine?
Yes. Creatine enhances energy and strength, and can heighten the efforts and muscle gains of a beginning trainee. Creatine is safe and effective for athletes of all skill levels. Creatine can’t replace a good training approach, but it can improve all training efforts.