What is Creatine?
Creatine is likely the most-researched supplement for the purpose of building muscle. It is one of, if not the only supplement medically proven to aid in muscle gain.
How does creatine work?
Creatine is known to aid in the conversion of ADP (adenosine diphosphate) to ATP (adenosine triphosphate). This means that taking creatine on a regular basis will increase the supply of ATP in your bloodstream.
Why do you need ATP?
ATP is used by our bodies to produce energy. It accomplishes this by breaking ATP down into… you guessed it – ADP! When this conversion happens energy is released, which is how creatine helps you pump out those extra reps in the gym.
How to Take Creatine
An average serving, or dose, of creatine monohydrate typically ranges from 2 to 10 grams per day. Follow the directions on the label and follow instructions of your doctor.
I am 165 pounds and take 5 to 10 grams every day in my morning drink and post-workout shakes.
Take it with your drinks
you can take it by itself, or you can add it to your shakes. I prefer the latter for 2 reasons: 1- it helps me remember to consistently take it, and 2- elevated blood sugar is known to aide in the absorption of creatine.
Most people recommend taking it with fruit juice since the juice contains sugar. If I’m cutting or trying to lose weight, I usually try to shy away from most forms of sugar, including fruit juices which are typically very sugar/calorie dense. So if you are trying to lose fat, I don’t recommend taking it with fruit juice just to add the calories when you don’t need them.
Creatine has almost no taste. Sometimes I literally just dump the scoop of creatine into my mouth and wash it down with some water.
Is it healthy to take creatine?
Creatine is a naturally occurring peptide found in our bodies and in our food. Taking concentrated creatine (supplement) in moderate doses with adequate water consumption is totally healthy.
How long should I take creatine for?
Some people say you should “pre-load” creatine with certain forms, since it takes a while for it to become saturated in your body. I can definitely tell a difference after consistently taking it for about 1 month. I usually do “pre-load” by taking extra in the first week, but I haven’t noticed any big changes to my energy or strength for about 3-4 weeks anyway.
I take creatine every day, even on my “off-days”, when I don’t exercise.
Although some say that creatine should be “cycled off”, I generally take it as long as I am consistently working out. If I stop working out entirely, I stop taking creatine.
What time of the day should I take it?
It honestly doesn’t matter. Creatine absorbs into the body very slowly. Like I said, it takes up to a month for me to notice anything. The only part that matters is consistency. As long as you take it every day, your body will absorb it at a natural, healthy rate.
What about protein?
Protein is a fundamental requirement to build muscle. While protein is the most important macro-nutrient your body needs to build muscle, creatine may give you a slight edge in reaching your goals.
Different Types of Creatine
There are different types of creatine and they all behave a little bit differently in the body.
- Creatine Monohydrate
- Creatine Hydrochloride (HCL)
- Creatine Citrate
- Creatine Ethyl Ester
- And many others!
I’m not going to go into detail on all of the different molecular compounds, but I will give you a brief summary.
Which type of creatine is best?
I’ll get straight to it – creatine monohydrate is the best; let me explain. Creatine monohydrate is the most common, most researched, most proven, and CHEAPEST creatine on the market. It has worked for countless people including myself. I took creatine monohydrate for 6 months and this was my result.
Although I have used other forms of creatine, I like creatine monohydrate the most, for the reasons above.
Negative Sides of Creatine
Creatine Causing Bloating
Although I haven’t experienced any of these issues myself, I want to make sure I mention them. Some people claim that creatine makes you look bloated. I have found this to be a myth. This is what creatine did to me:
As you can see, I looked much more bloated before I started taking it than when I had been on it for 6 months. This is the workout program I followed.
Hair Loss From Creatine
Some studies have shown that subjects exposed to large amounts of creatine had elevated levels of FSH (follicle stimulating hormone). This is the hormone mostly responsible for male-pattern baldness. However, some critics of the study believe the study is misleading and that the elevated FSH levels are due to increased testosterone as a byproduct of exercise.
If male-pattern baldness is a top concern for you, creatine should pose much less of a threat than working out. Since working out encourages testosterone production, and testosterone levels are correlated to FSH, lifting weights is probably the cause for the hair loss in creatine users – not the creatine itself. Unfortunately, if losing your hair is in your genes, not taking creatine isn’t going to stop it.
Genes cause hair loss. Creatine doesn’t cause hair loss. I have taken creatine for over a decade, and have never had any issues with hair loss from it.
So, is it “Cheating”?
It all depends on what you consider cheating. I don’t consider any natural compound “cheating” when taken in ‘natural’ doses. As long as you are okay with taking multivitamins or protein powder, I would say that creatine falls into the same category.
Drink lots of water. Lots, and lots, and lots of water. Creatine draws water into your muscles to feed them, and if you aren’t hydrated enough, you may feel nauseous or experience other symptoms of dehydration.
I also don’t recommend taking creatine right before bed. If I do take it within a few hours of going to sleep, I make sure to chug at least 1 glass of water. Although I will need to wake up to pee in the middle of the night, it’s better than feeling like throwing up because I’m dehydrated.