One of the most common questions that I hear from people new to supplements is how and when to take creatine. There are so many different answers and opinions floating around that I wanted to try to bring some clarity to this subject.
What is Creatine
Creatine is a compound formed in protein metabolism and present in the most living tissue. It is involved in the supply of energy for muscle contraction. Creatine works to increase intramuscular storage of Creatine Phosphate (CP), which helps to produce the energy that we use for high-intensity exercise.
An increase in CP leads to the formation of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) by re-phosphorylating adenosine diphosphate (ADP). ATP is the primary energy system that we use when weight training or performing explosive movements.
Creatine is naturally produced in our bodies primarily from the liver at a rate of 1-2g per day. We can also get creatine through diet by consuming meat. However, since they’re only about 2 grams of creatine per pound of meat it is very difficult to get enough for an athletic advantage via diet. That’s where creatine in supplement form comes into play.
Why Use Creatine
Supplementing with creatine helps to restore the depletion of energy that your body goes through while performing explosive movements such as weight training. This supplement will give you the extra boost that you will need to complete more reps and sets, improve sprinting, agility, and performance during competition sports.
In return, you will be able to gain more strength and size and potentially have an upper hand in team sports. The best part about creatine is that is a natural compound that is developed in the body, virtually harmless (some people have noted stomach cramps as a side effect), and is not an illegal performance enhancing substance.
When To Take Creatine
So there are multiple ways to answer this question:
- How much should you take when you start?
- How often should I take and should I cycle Creatine?
- Should I take it pre or post-workout?
There are studies that suggest that creatine loading will help to quickly saturate the muscles with creatine. The loading phases consist of users taking 20-25 grams per day for a week and then continuing on with just 5-10 grams per day thereafter. Honestly, this method could work to help realize the effects of creatine a little faster, but it really isn’t necessary. Just take the normal 5-10 gram per day as prescribed by the bottles instructions and you will see the same benefits. There is no reason to race and you will run out of creatine quicker forcing you to spend more money than needed.
There really isn’t a debate on how much creatine to take during maintenance stage. 5-10 grams per day is pretty much the standard. However, where my opinion differs with the norm is that there really shouldn’t be a maintenance state. Some people tend to cycle on and off creatine for a certain amount of weeks, but there isn’t any real reason to do so.
Your body does not get used to the effects of creatine and eventually become less effective over time. And there are no negative side effects caused by creatine intake other than a few users having issues with stomach cramping due to not consuming enough water while taking the supplement.
As a strength training bodybuilder, I take creatine year round and I am realizing the same benefits that I have been since starting with the supplement. Creatine supplements should be a daily staple in all athletes.
There have been studies to suggest that taking creatine after your workouts is the most optimal time for absorption, but in all honesty, it really doesn’t matter. Just take it. There’s no need to get into a huge debate about the exact timing that someone should consume creatine, or down a protein shake, or eat carbs when in actuality the body doesn’t absorb anything the second your pour it down your throat.
Diet and nutrition aren’t a snapshot of what you do at a certain moment; it’s about what you do over a period of time. In the grand scheme, your body doesn’t know nor care when you consume certain nutrients. Long term you are a product of what your daily habits are so instead of getting into analysis paralysis about when the best time to take creatine just find a brand that you like, take it every day, and develop a habit that fits your lifestyle.