Home Fitness & Health Supplement Guide: Part V – Creatine

Supplement Guide: Part V – Creatine

by nick

If your main aim is to build muscle, increase strength or improve your overall performance, then you’ve probably heard of a supplement called creatine.

Unlike the other supplements that I use and recommend such as protein powder, fish oil, and multivitamin; creatine is the only supplement that isn’t really for overall health or general use. What I mean by this is if your main aim isn’t to build muscle, increase strength or improve your overall performance, you most likely wouldn’t benefit from it.

But if one of those goals is your main aim, then creatine is certainly a supplement that you could benefit from.

If so, there are a few important questions that we’ll need to answer:

  • What is creatine?
  • What are the benefits?
  • Is it safe? Are there any side effects?
  • When and how should I take it?
  • How much creatine should I take per day?
  • Which type of creatine supplement is best?
  • Which type and form of creatine is best?
  • What is the best creatine supplement?

What is Creatine?

Creatine is produced naturally by your body, mainly in the kidneys and liver, from the amino acids methionine, arginine and glycine.

Creatine is also obtained through your diet (in small amounts) from foods like red meat and specific types of fish.

A Spoonful of creatine supplement contains considerably more creatine than most people are able to obtain from their normal diet and is why people take it.

What Does Creatine Do And What Are The Benefits?

As I mentioned above, creatine supplements are used by people that want to build muscle, increase strength or improve their overall performance. However, does creatine itself actually build muscle?

No and here’s why.

When undertaking short bursts of exercise (such as weight training, HIIT, etc.), the primary source of energy is Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP).

There is a limited supply of ATP and it’s used up pretty quickly. And this is where creatine comes in, as it’s used to top up the amount of ATP available.

So, in simple terms, creatine increases the energy your muscles have.

In turn this increases the amount of work your muscles are capable of doing, which then increases what you’re capable of doing in your workouts – lift heavier weights, perform more reps, etc.

Gradually increasing the weight you’re lifting and/or the number of reps you lift it for is known as progressive overload, which is the number one requirement for building muscle.

For those of you that are more interested in increasing strength and performance than building muscle, those benefits should now be obvious too.

Also, creatine will normally cause some water retention in your muscle cells which then causes two things to happen; minor weight gain, and a slight increase in the size of your muscles.

So, if you’re looking to build muscle (or improve strength/performance) then the benefits are clear. But if you’re not then you probably don’t need it.

Does Creatine Work?

To put it simply, yes it does. Creatine has probably been the most studied and tested supplement and research does show that it works. In fact, creatine is probably the only real muscle building supplement available on the market that has been scientifically proven to legitimately work.

So, for most of the people that take it, it definitely works. However there are a small minority of people who take it and notice no difference at all. These people are referred to as non-responders. Probably the best explanation that I’ve heard regarding non-responders is that these people’s bodies naturally produce an above average amount of creatine.

Therefore if you take creatine and after some time you’re not noticing any of the above benefits, then it’s safe to say that you’re a non-responder. In the unusual case that this happens, you should stop taking it and save your money. It won’t just suddenly start working one day if it hasn’t already, so there’s no need to keep trying.

However, for the majority of people who take it, creatine will work as expected.

Is Creatine Safe And Are There Any Side Effects?

As said before, very few supplements have been studied and tested as much as creatine over the years.

The results in terms of safety are pretty much all the same. Creatine supplements have not been shown to have any significant side effects and appear to be safe for the average healthy adult.

Obviously if you have any underlying health/ medical issues, taking any form of medication, or have anything else going on with you that takes you out of the average healthy adult zone, then you should always check with your doctor first.

But as for the average healthy adult, creatine has shown to be perfectly safe when used properly.

The only real side effects that I’ve heard of before are an upset stomach and muscle cramps. However, both those issues are usually related to improper creatine use and can be easily avoided. The three most common causes are; not drinking enough water, taking too much creatine, or using a poor quality product.

So, avoiding these mild side effects is pretty simple. Drink plenty of water each day, don’t take ridiculous amounts of creatine, and use a high quality product.

When And How Should Creatine Be Taken?

On the days you workout, there’s a debate as to whether you should take creatine before or after your workout.

It’s the opinion of most experts that it’s probably best to take it after your workout as part of your post workout meal. So, if you’re having a protein powder shake, then just throw in some creatine with it. If you’re having a solid food meal instead, just mix it with some water and drink it with your meal.

On non-workout days it doesn’t really matter when you take it. So take it whenever it’s convenient for you on those days.

How Much Creatine Should I Take Per Day?

The recommended amount of creatine that you should take is 3-5 grams per day.

You may have heard the term loading creatine, whereby you saturate your muscles with creatine in the first week or so. In fact, most creatine supplements come with instructions on how to do so. However, the truth is that you don’t, and you probably shouldn’t.

The usual recommended loading phase for creatine is to take about 20 grams per day for the first 5 to7 days and then anywhere from 5 – 10 grams per day after that.

This is all unnecessary and won’t achieve anything apart from saturating your muscles faster and causing you to run out of creatine sooner – which is great for the supplement company.

Not to mention, the high amounts of creatine taken during the loading phase is probably the main cause for stomach and muscle cramp that I mentioned before.

Therefore, I do not recommend loading creatine. Instead, just skip the loading phase completely.

Of course, the main benefit and the overall purpose of the loading phase in the first place is to fully saturate your muscles with creatine as fast as possible. However, your creatine stores can become fully saturated just the same without the high dose loading phase.

Meaning if 20 grams per day will fully saturate your muscles in 5 days, taking 5 grams per day will do just the same but in more like 20 – 30 days, without the side effects of taking high doses of creatine.

So, what I recommend instead is the following:

Take 5 grams of creatine per day for the first month, and then take 3-5 grams per day after that. This way, your muscles reach the same level of saturation while avoiding the minor side effects, and research shows that 3-5 grams of creatine per day is all that’s required to maintain creatine levels once your muscles are fully saturated. Your body is unable to use any more than that, so any extra you take is just a waste.

What Type And Form Of Creatine Is Best?

Let’s get straight to the point….

  • The only type of creatine you are looking to take is Creatine Monohydrate.
  • The only form you want is powder.
  • The only other quality you want to see is that the creatine powder is micronized (meaning it will mix and absorb easier).

That’s all you need to know.

Ignore all the gimmicks that supplement companies invoke to charge more money. You don’t want flavoured products, you don’t want it to come in capsule, pill or chewable form, and you definitely don’t want a product that is creatine mixed with loads of other supplements that just make it more expensive. All you want is micronized creatine monohydrate; nothing more, nothing less.

Creatine monohydrate is the only form of creatine that’s fully supported by research. Everything else is overpriced rubbish that doesn’t do anything special or better in any way.

What Is The Best Creatine Supplement?

As for the best creatine supplement, in addition to meeting all of the above requirements for type and form, it also comes down to quality and price.

Therefore the product I personally use and highly recommend is:

Creatine: Optimum Nutrition’s Micronized Creatine Powder

Each serving supplies a full 5 grams of 99.9% pure Micronized Creatine Monohydrate. It’s made with creapure, which is a type of creatine widely regarded in the supplement industry as the highest quality creatine monohydrate powder available. The production method used to produce this creatine yields a tasteless, odourless powder that mixes easily into water or juice and doesn’t readily settle to the bottom.

Where Can You Buy It?

As for where you can buy them, each link above will take you to Amazon’s website, which is where I’ve always ordered all of my supplements from for years. There prices and services are the best I’ve found and I highly recommend getting your stuff there too.

The Supplement Guide Series – Conclusion

We hope you’ve enjoyed the supplement guide series – We’ve covered all the basics and pretty much everything you need to know about supplements. If you follow our guides, we guarantee that you’ll build muscle, improve your fitness, look more attractive, feel more confident, and attract more women.

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