Saturday, December 14, 2013

Supplement Guide: Creatine

So not only do I have some knowledge in weight training and nutrition, but I also know a thing or two about supplements. So I’ll cover some supplements and give an extensive review about what the supplement is, what it does, dosages, and if it’ll help you achieve your goals. The first supplement I’m going to tackle is creatine. Creatine is one of the more tested supplements out there, and I’ll give you the scoop on whether you should add it to your arsenal of supplements or not.

What is creatine? What does it do?

Creatine is a molecule in an energy system that is found naturally in low levels of the body. The molecule, Creatine Phosphate, can help rapidly produce ATP to support cellular function. The body will store creatine in cells as phosphocreatine. When the body is stressed (Weight training as an example), it will release the stored creatine to aid in function of the muscle cell. So when your pushing out those last one or two reps, and you’re tired, your body will release stored creatine and help aid in the movement, allowing you to push yourself a little bit more. This helps enhance strength, which then leads to muscle hypertrophy. Do note that creatine also positively affects the brain, the liver and bones.

Creatine also helps pull water into the muscle cell, which can cause the user to gain “water weight.” This will give the muscles a more full look as well. There are different forms of creatine that “claim” to do all sorts of different things, but creatine monohydrate has the most research and is the cheapest form. Therefore it’s the form I recommend taking.

Creatine has been proven by studies to increase the following: Power output, lean mass, weight, hydration (water in the muscle cell), muscular endurance, and Anaerobic-running capacity.

Creatine IS NOT a steroid.

Your laughing, but I've heard some claim creatine is a steroid

Why should I take creatine?

If you want to gain muscle, increase strength, preserve lean body mass when dieting, and improve overall performance in the gym, you should take creatine.

Is creatine safe?

Supplemented at normal doses, creatine is extremely safe and is one of the most tested and studied supplements. For proof, you can check out this study done on Type-2 Diabetics checking kidney function regarding creatine supplementation and this study ruling out negatively affected liver function. There are 100’s of studies regarding creatine’s safety; these are just two I’ve read previously.

I wouldn’t recommend taking creatine if you have some form of kidney disease, liver disease, or any other organ disease. Ask your doctor if you are unsure.

How should I take creatine?

Well you have three choices, liquid, capsules or powder. I prefer powder since it’s cheapest and you can get it in bulk. I buy’s brand of Micronized Creatine where you can get 200 servings for $15. Can’t beat that. Micronized creatine is the just the process of reducing the particle size without affecting the structure of the molecule. This helps increase the rate at which the powder dissolves. You can mix it in anything, water, protein shakes, milk, juice etc.

How much should I take?

As far as dosages, 3-5g of creatine is all you need to reap the benefits. 2g is the minimum to maintain average stores of creatine in cells. Taking too much creatine has been shown to cause gastrointestinal distress. Larger individuals may want to take larger doses.

Some will say you should “load” creatine, which is the idea of taking higher doses (0.3g/kg bodyweight) for 5-7 days to fully “saturate” the muscles. After loading you continue to just take 5g per day to maintain creatine stores. I don’t see this as necessary, as taking 3-5g will eventually get you to the saturation point, without the possible gastrointestinal distress.

When should I take creatine?

You can take creatine at any point during the day to see an increase in stored creatine. I personally take it post-workout in almond milk with leucine. I usually eat a 1,300-1,400 calorie meal, and I’ll add a cup of almond milk with 5g creatine and 5g leucine.

Creatine can be taken pre workout, post workout, first thing in the morning, before bed, ANY TIME. The supposed benefit of taking it post workout is that your muscle cells are more receptive to taking in nutrients. Many will mix their 5g of creatine in their post workout whey shake. But again, IT DOES NOT MATTER WHEN YOU TAKE IT, as long as you take it.

Are there negative side effects?

Creatine doesn’t have many side effects, if any at all. Some noted negative side effects I’ve seen people complain about are: Muscle cramps, bloating from water weight, and gastrointestinal distress.

How do I combat these potential side effects?

Muscle Cramps
Drinking more water can solve muscle cramps. Because creatine helps draw water into the cell, it can sometimes cause dehydration. Staying properly hydrated can make this a non-issue. Personally, I’ve never had an increase of cramps.

Water Weight Bloat
Some say creatine makes them bloat, and this would be because of the water that gets pulled into the cell where creatine is stored. This is a largely overstated complaint on creatine. There are many who will cut on creatine, as it helps increase strength, which can help keep lean body mass, and have no issues with water weight. It pulls water INTO the cell. Those who are bloated from creatine usually are taking too much. Again stick to 3-5g a day, and bloating shouldn’t be an issue.

Gastrointestinal Distress
This is one where some people just can’t stomach creatine. Pun!

Seriously, creatine can cause upset stomachs for some and that might be the case. Lowering the dose or stopping supplementation should cease stomach discomfort.

What are the other forms of creatine?

Again, I personally recommend taking just creatine monohydrate, as it’s the form that’s cheapest, and most studied.

Other popular forms and their supposed benefits are:

Creatine Ethyl Ester: Scientists attach an ester to the creatine molecule, allowing it to pass cell membranes easier. This is supposed to allow for better absorption to the muscle cell, but Creatine Ethyl Ester has actually been shown to degrade into creatinine in the intestines. Creatinine is a waste produced from the intestines.

Creatine Malate: Creatine bonded to malic acid. Malic acid is similar to citric acid, which helps aid aerobic energy production. There’s little research on this form.

Buffered Creatine / Creatine Hydrochloride: Both of these forms are negated by stomach acid, and then turn into the normal creatine molecule. They may be more water soluble, but at same dosage, they are not better or worse.

Creatine Magnesium Chelate: Has been shown to prevent water weight gain at lower doses, but there’s very little research regarding performance.

Can women take creatine?

Of course women can take creatine. Creatine will give women the same benefits it gives men: Increased lean mass and overall better performance in the gym.

Will creatine make me lose fat?

Indirectly, Yes.

What I mean by this is creatine helps increase lean mass and improve performance. Obviously the improvement in performance can help burn more calories, which can help aid fat loss. Lean body mass burns more calories than fat mass, so by having more muscle on your body, you burn more calories remaining still. So by adding more mass, you’re adding your ability to burn more calories, which when you’re in a caloric deficit, can aid in losing more fat.

Does creatine need to be cycled?

No. Creatine can be taken continuously for many months at a time. Some bodybuilders and fitness athletes have taken creatine for years straight. If you’re worried about taking it for too long, it takes about 4 weeks of discontinued use for creatine to return to normal, pre-supplemented levels.

Hopefully this guide will help clear up your views on creatine. It’s a very effective supplement, maybe the most effective, legal supplement proven by science. And it’s dirt-cheap. Because of these reasons, I see no reason why it shouldn’t be added to anyone’s supplement stack. If you guys want me to review any other supplements, or have any questions, feel free to email me: or ask on Twitter: @SM_StrongBody.

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