Take a quick browse of the supplement market today and you will come across vast amounts of thinly-researched, under-studied, and unproven legal performance-boosting supplements.
Creatine, however, is a true exception. It has been available as a supplement for decades and has a wealth of scientific literature to back its performance-enhancing claims and its safety.
There are very few supplements that have been as heavily researched as creatine. This is great news if you’re looking for a supplement to give your training that extra edge without risking your health or wasting money. It is astonishingly cheap for a supplement, and is available both as creatine pills and capsules.
In this article we’ll cover some important questions about creatine — including what it is, what it’s supposed to do, and when to take creatine.
What Is Creatine?
Creatine is actually found naturally in the body. It can be found in your muscles and in the brain. It is an amino acid derivative made from arginine, glycine and methionine.
Your body is capable of producing around 1-2g per day. However, it is excreted in the urine at a similar rate so the body never has a very big reserve of its own.
Creatine can be ingested through the diet. Common dietary sources of creatine include fish and red meat, but they only contain small amounts. It would be difficult to enough in order to gain a sufficient amount of creatine from dietary sources.
Individuals that want to boost their intake, would be best served by looking towards supplementing with creatine in the form of a powder, pills or liquid. The most common type of creatine supplement is creatine monohydrate, which usually comes in powder form.
Creatine monohydrate has been to shown to fully saturate your muscles. This means there can be no real long-term benefit to taking any other types.
Another type of creatine you may want to consider taking is “creapure” monohydrate. This is a type of creatine monohydrate that has gone through a much purer manufacturing process.
What Does Creatine Do?
Creatine is widely believed to enhance athletic performance and aid in improving training.
Without getting too far into the science of energy conversion in the muscles, creatine helps in the conversion process of the energy molecules that your muscles use during high-intensity activities, such as lifting weights.
The primary source of energy for such fast, explosive movements is adenosine triphosphate (ATP). During intense exercise, ATP can only be converted quickly enough to be used efficiently for a small period of time.
Supplementing extra creatine can help with that energy conversion and allow you to train that extra bit harder. A study review has shown that creatine supplementation could increase one rep max strength by up to 5% and strength endurance up to 14%.
How Much Creatine Should You Take?
The research mainly shows that a dosing between 2g and 5g of creatine each day is a safe amount and enough to achieve the benefits.
Taking this amount each day will be effective once the muscle cells have been saturated with the creatine. This should take a few weeks to happen.
If you wish to achieve muscle cell saturation quicker, creatine can be “loaded” for the first week. Loading means that you are to take a much higher dose each day for the first week to speed up the saturation. You would then drop back down to around 5g each day to maintain the levels of creatine in the muscles.
There hasn’t been any literature to show a significant benefit to the loading phase. For most people, sticking to the regular 5g each day is much easier to stick to and the results probably won’t be any different.
When Should You Take Creatine?
Last but not least, the issue of creatine timing. This point is one of the most hotly debated when it comes to creatine supplementation.
There are three different schools of thought for when the best time to take your creatine is, and they are: before a workout, after a workout or anytime you like.
There is an argument for each and on their own, and each manages to make convincing points:
Argument #1: Taking Creatine Before Your Workout
The pre-workout argument plays on the fact that creatine increases the turnover of ATP in the muscles. More ATP means more energy inside the muscle for your workout. Therefore, it would make sense to take creatine before a workout if you want to see those benefits.
Argument #2: Taking Creatine After Your Workout
The post workout camp plays on the fact that creatine is known to draw extra water and nutrients into the muscles. After a workout, the muscles are depleted and primed to “soak up” all of the nutrients you feed them. So, ingesting some creatine along with protein and carbs means that your muscles take in more of the nutrients from the protein and carbs, as well as the creatine itself.
Argument #3: Taking Creatine Whenever
Lastly, people arguing that creatine can be taken whenever you like suggest that creatine won’t actually have any benefits until it has saturated your muscles, which takes time. So, it doesn’t matter when it is taken because once saturation is reached, you will see the same benefits anyway.
So, which argument is correct?
If you’re looking for scientific evidence to give you a definitive answer about when to take creatine, you will be disappointed. There really isn’t any research that can be used to claim true superiority of taking the supplement at one time versus another.
There was one fairly well-known study that did seem to provide a win for the post-workout argument. This study showed that 5g of creatine take post workout, as opposed to pre-workout, may have been more effective.
However, the actual benefits really weren’t significant enough to suggest that post-workout consumption is indeed the way to go. More studies need to be performed in order to confirm the results.
Since no clear cut winner exists, the general recommendation, therefore, is that you should take creatine at the time that suits you best as an individual: before, after, both, whenever.
We know that creatine does indeed take some time to saturate the muscles before its full effects can be seen. You need to make sure you give it a chance to actually saturate your muscles before worrying about anything else.
Therefore, the best advice would be to take your creatine at a time which suits your schedule. That way you will remember to take it on a consistent enough basis to promote that saturation within the muscles.
Final Key Points
It’s clear that creatine can have positive effects on resistance training and sports performance. It is a relatively inexpensive product and is considered to be safe to take, so it is worth trying out at the very least to see if it can benefit you.
Here is a quick run-down of the key take-away points:
- Look to buy Creapure creatine monohydrate.
- You can take around 5g per day, every day.
- Take it at a time of day that fits your schedule and gives you the best chance of being consistent.
Creatine is a popular and well-researched nutritional supplement. It has many benefits and few, if any, negative side effects. While supplementation with creating isn’t a requirement by any means, it can certainly enhance your athletic performance and fitness efforts.
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