As a competitor, my training schedule, diet and supplement regime change to match my goals. At times, I am more focused on increasing strength and building muscle. Weeks before a contest or big shoot, my priority is always fat loss and muscle preservation.
Creatine is a supplement I love and have used for many, many years. I use it almost all year round. It is an amazing amino acid that works! But is it right for you? It’s important to be in charge of your health and always understand what products are being recommended to you before taking them, so here’s some key information about this very popular performance-enhancing supplement.
- To start, there has been a ton of research done on creatine, and it has been proven to be safe over and over again. The myths about damage to the kidney have been disproved. It’s been available commercially since 1993, was used previously by Olympic athletes in ’92, and supportive research goes back to the early twentieth century.
- The supplement is a combination of 3 amino acids: glycine, arginine, and methionine, produced by the liver. Your body naturally produces about 1 gram per day. You can also absorb it by eating meats and fish. If you want to learn more about how creatine affects the body and real sciencey data, dive right into this Bodybuilding.com article.
- The main benefit for athletes? Creatine increases the body’s ability to product rapid energy. You can train harder and more frequently with extra energy, which means you will get better results – bigger, faster, stronger!
- Weight gain and water retention are side effects, however this statement is misleading. These are not bad things, as water is being pushed into your muscle cells, increasing protein synthesis and plumping muscle size. Typically, the weight increase is quick, averaging about 2-5 lbs within the first week of introducing creatine. After this spike, weight gain is only a result of your effort in the gym. If you don’t lift, the gains are just temporary water weight. If you throw your extra energy into exercise, the supplement will work wonders and any additional pounds will be straight up muscle gains!
- Not for kids! It’s important that no one under the age of 18 uses creatine. Children still developing are at risk of torn muscles and other harmful effects, as researchers are unsure of creatine’s effect on muscle and bone in this growing phase.
- Will it work for you? It is a genetic thing. Vegetarians usually see a greater change and may also enjoy improved memory as their diets are lacking in creatine. You can evaluate your results after a few short weeks. If you have been working hard and don’t notice an increase in your strength, endurance or size, you might be a nonresponder and should invest your money in other supplements.
- What type of creatine should you use? I have tried monohydrate, ethyl ester, tri-creatine malate and Kre-Alkalyn and honestly don’t notice a huge difference in result when taken as directed. Test out different versions and decide for yourself. There are quite a few options and the differences are described nicely in this article by Jim Brewster.
- Some suggest powdered creatine is absorbed best by the body, especially when taken with simple sugars, such as juice. You need about 70 grams of simple sugars for every five grams of creatine, says Paul Greenhaff, Ph.D., professor of muscle metabolism at the University of Nottingham in England. He suggests looking for a drink or supplement with 60 grams of carbs per 100 grams of product. (MensHealth.com)
- The recommended consumption for my clients (and that I follow myself) is to take creatine before and after weight training. However, if you are using a pre-workout supplement that contains caffeine, you can spread your dosage out throughout the day and avoid taking creatine with caffeine.
- Finally, how much creatine should you take? There was a blanketed 20 grams per day, however if you want to be more exact (and don’t we like customized advice?), you can follow advice from DH Kiefer, a Physicist turned nutrition and performance scientist, who shared this simple formula for powdered creatine without a loading period:
- POUNDS: Bodyweight * 0.15 = grams of creatine monohydrate to ingest
- KILOGRAMS: Body mass * 0.3 = grams of creatine monohydrate to ingest
- When selecting a creatine supplement, try look for a natural product number (NPN) or a drug identification number (DIN) to ensure that the drug has been approved by Health Canada.
- No, creatine is not a steroid.
I hope this article answered some of your questions about creatine and helped you decide whether you feel comfortable trying it yourself. Either way, please drink plenty of water! It’s amazing what good hydration can do for you! Finally, remember that no supplements are magic – you have to put in the work to see the positive effects! If you have any additional questions, please reach out to me via email firstname.lastname@example.org