One of the first supplements that you will hear about when starting to get into fitness is creatine. It is now becoming one of the ‘must’ supplements for making gains, along with protein shakes and pre-workouts.
But honestly, I don’t think half of us actually have any clue as to what it is, the function it provides, how essential it is, if it has any side-effects etc.. So I’ve done my research and tried to simplify it down for you guys.
What is Creatine?
“Creatine is a compound formed in protein metabolism and present in much living tissue. It is involved in the supply of energy for muscular contraction”
Essentially, creatine helps supply energy to your muscles for lifting, therefore taking additional creatine will increase these supplies further – this should help you increase the work done in the gym.
How does creatine affect my performance in the gym?
Studies tend to suggest that a 20g/day dose of creatine for 5-7 days increases:
– your maximal power/strength (1 Rep-Max) by 5 to 15%
– work performed for maximal effort contractions (reps till failure) by 5 to 15%
– single-effort sprint performances by 1 to 5%
– work done during repetitive sprint performances by 5 to 15%
So as you can see creatine does increase your athletic performance in the gym, which may be a useful tool to burst through plateaus and hit new 1 Rep Maxes.
So will creatine help me build muscle more quickly?
Well, potentially, as you are able to apply greater stress on your muscles.
Think about it this way: if you are able to perform more work in the gym, you will be able to push your body further than normal, and therefore you can put your muscles under more stress which may trigger a greater response for them to grow.
Now no one knows for sure the amount of muscle that creatine will help add, and you will not just gain muscle by taking in creatine.
Assuming you are already training and eating appropriately, creatine may help to push yourself that little bit further which could help with building muscle.
What type of creatine should I be taking?
Creatine is sold in many different ways (candy bars, liquid creatine, creatine gum etc.), however no data suggests that it provides better creatine uptake to the muscle better than creatine monohydrate. Mixing it in water, juice, protein shakes etc. is fine, but don’t mix it with a citrus drink! (breaks it down making it useless.)
How much creatine should I be taking?
Typical doses range from 2-25g a day and that only about 5g of creatine should be taken at once – otherwise it just gets peed out.
A dose of creatine is usually taken before and/or after a workout in 5g doses (whilst your body is in a primed state for muscle building); this tends to be up to personal preference, and depending on what phase you’re in. The remaining amount can be taken at regular spaced intervals throughout the day.
Generally, there tends to be a loading phase, maintenance phase, and a wash-out phase:
-The loading phase is where you fill up your muscular creatine stores over a few days to maximise the stores in the muscles – here you should take 0.3g/kg of bodyweight, and do not consume this amount for more than five days (the excess amount is not needed anymore)
-The maintenance phase is when your creatine capacity has been maximised, and you only need to maintain this amount – here you only need to take 0.03g/kg of bodyweight, and stay in this phase for no longer than a month.
-The washout phase is when you stop taking creatine for a while to let your body recover, and just to be on the safe side if there are side-effects – a washout period of 1 month is advised.
Are there any side effects?
According to WebMD, creatine is likely safe when taken by mouth appropriate for up to 5 years.
It is possibly unsafe if it is taken in high dosages, and that it could harm the kidney, liver, or heart function – however a connection between high does and these negative effects has not been proven.
However creatine may also cause stomach pain, nausea, diarrhoea, and muscle cramping.
Also, creatine draws water from the rest of the body, so make sure you are drinking enough water to account for this.
You will gain weight fairly quickly at the start, and this is due to increased water weight in your muscles, giving your muscles a more ‘puffier’ look – hey it makes you look bigger! Good right? But this is likely not muscle mass… just water.
Is it worth the money?
According to bodybuilding.com, a typical 400g tub of creatine monohydrate will set you back about £10 pounds. So that is about 80 5g servings. This is about 13p a serving.
So yeah, I have no complaints about the price of it, but if I were you I wouldn’t go buy it just yet…
If you’re starting out, I wouldn’t bother, and for good reason:
Basically you will build muscle and get stronger doing basically anything when you start off in the gym. Personally I will save creatine for a time when I am really struggling to make gains, or have hit a seriously big plateau.
This is my take on most supplements really; I don’t like to rely on them, because when I really hit a brick wall, there is nothing to help me overcome it.
At the moment I’m getting bigger and stronger, and I have haven’t reached a stage where I am mentally and physically struggling to progress in the gym, and I’m deadlifting 200kg – don’t blame the lack of creatine as an excuse if you’re just starting out.
Always look at the fundamentals first if you are not making progress – your diet and exercise. Experiment with that first, and if that really doesn’t work, then yeah hop on some creatine and see how it goes!
NOW LET’S MAKE SOME UNIGAINS!
If you have any questions, ask me @unigains or [email protected]!