What is Creatine?
Creatine is an organic molecule with the IUPAC name 2-[Carbamimidoyl(methyl)amino]acetic acid that is naturally produced in the human body through the combination of two essential amino acids, glycine and arginine.
Creatine is popular among the body building community due to its tendencies to increase the maximum power output and endurance in intense anaerobic exercises. It works by converting the body’s naturally created ADP molecules into the more useful ATP molecules. As ATP is considered one of the body’s main energy sources, an increase in its concentration in the body helps your muscles perform at a higher level. Another good side effect of Creatine supplementation is the muscle mass that is gained due to the extra water retention that is taken on by muscles while on Creatine.
How can I get Creatine?
Although it is naturally created by the body and its levels within the body can be naturally increased by eating various red meats, the most efficient way to increase your body’s Creatine levels is by adding it to your daily supplementation program. The easiest way to ingest the daily recommended 5 grams of Creatine is to either add it to a protein shake, or eat the powder with a spoon and wash it down with a glass of water. You can also add the powder to a non caffeinated juice, mix it in till it is dissolved, and drink the juice, but I personally lose a lot of the Creatine at the bottom of the cup due to it having issues dissolving into my cool juice. There are also flavored Creatine powders that can be dissolved into water to create a juice like substances; I personally enjoy its unflavored counterparts better.
How do I use Creatine effectively?
The optimal dose of Creatine Monohydrate is 5 grams dissolved in a non-caffeinated drink daily. This dosage adequately replenishes your muscle’s Creatine storage while not wasting it by over-saturating your muscles. Although taking too much Creatine daily is not dangerous by any means, the excess will be expelled in in your urine and wasted. While choosing your supplement brand, a good indicator on the quality of your powder is how well it dissolves into your chosen liquid. If your powder falls out of solution easily and forms a white, powdery residue on the bottom of your glass you know that your powder is probably low quality. You want as much Creatine in your body as you can get, wasting it on the bottom of your cups does not let your body take full advantage of your supplementation.
Various types of Creatine.
I highly suggest sticking to 100 percent pure Creatine powder when looking for a good supplement. Scientific studies show that liquid and ethyl ester Creatine are unstable and break down in your blood system, making them useless. Creatine in pill format is easy to consume, but contains low levels of the supplement causing you to take a lot of pills daily to meet your daily dosage. Creatine with other fillers like electrolytes don’t increase the effectiveness of the supplement by very much, but they do increase the price by a lot so stay away if you don’t want to break the bank.
Creatine Monohydrate is the most well known variant of Creatine due to the extensive scientific research that has been performed on the compound. It is considered to be the most researched supplement on the market and is almost universally known to be safe to consume and free of long lasting side effects.
Creatine hydrochloric acid is essentially the same as its monohydrate counterpart but it has a much higher solubility. This allows Creatine HCl to be much more easily absorbed into the bloodstream, thus requiring a lower daily dose of only 3 grams per day. This lower dose helps negate some of the negative side effects that are possible from long term Creatine use.
What is loading Creatine?
The loading phase is a popular among athletes who want to take advantage of the positive effects of Creatine shortly after adding it to their supplementation program. Loading is very simple, all you need to do is take your regular dose of 5 grams 4 times a day. This allows your body to get to its optimal Creatine saturation in the shortest period possible, giving you the effects soon after starting supplementation. The loading phase typically lasts for 5-7 days and is only recommended for hardcore athletes. Regular gym users will benefit from taking the normal dosage every day, slowly building a storage of excess Creatine in their muscles.
Be sure to read our guide on how to properly load Creatine Monohydrate here.
So… is Creatine worth it?
After being an avid user of the supplement myself, and seeing first hand how it played a role in transforming my body into a more athletic and aesthetic version of itself I can 100 percent vouch for its effectiveness. Although great results are possible, consistency is very important when it comes to Creatine. If you take your daily dose, drink plenty of water, meet your macros and work out daily you WILL look and feel stronger after just a few months. If you start to miss days, skip workouts, or take a lot of cheat meals, no supplement can negate the adverse effects of a poor work ethic and inconsistency. Overall the best way to find out if Creatine is the right supplement for you is to try it out for a few months and decide if it made a difference for you.
You can also take a look at Bodybuilding.com’s great guide for more information if you need it.