If you’re thirsty you drink water, if you want to get stronger you take creatine for muscle growth, it really is that simple.
Creatine supplements have been tested more than any other product on the market and have excelled over the years at proving its effectiveness and safety.
There isn’t another supplement on the market that has scientific backing showing the increase in strength output and muscle gains.
The important thing is knowing how to perform a creatine loading cycle to get the fastest results, how much to take afterward each day, the best type of creatine to buy, and if there are any side effects.
I’ll answer all of these questions throughout this article.
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What Is Creatine
Creatine is a compound that is found naturally in your body 95% of it is stored in your muscle cells. It’s used for a host of different reasons by your body but the one of significance for bodybuilders is how it increases energy output during physical activity like strength training, and intense cardio workouts.
How Does Creatine Work
When you are exercising your body needs to use energy to allow it to do what you’re asking of it, the currency in which this energy comes from is called adenosine 5-triphosphate (ATP for short)
The problem with ATP is that there isn’t a lot of it stored in your body at any one time. Your body only has enough ATP for about 10 seconds of intense activity before it has to start producing more.
That’s not a lot of energy for what you’ll need to complete an hour or so long, this is where creatine comes into play. It will help produce more ATP at a faster rate so that you can do more reps and longer workouts.
This will allow you to do more reps which will break your muscle fibers down quicker allowing your body to rebuild them making you stronger.
Creatine Effects On Muscle Gain
Besides energy production taking creatine also fills the cells in your muscles with water to help with lactic acid build-up and with vascularity.
This is called muscle swelling or volumization (this is a fancy word for saying your muscles will look bigger), plus it enhances the production of a hormone called IGF-1 which is key to muscle growth.
These benefits help activate an increase in your body’s creation of amino acids that are the building blocks of new muscle mass, cells, and tissue.
The added water in your muscles also helps with post-workout soreness and quicker recovery times which is always nice since no one likes working out when they’re still sore from the previous day’s workout.
Creatine Effects On Strength And exercise Performance
I always talk about how there isn’t a magic pill or wonder drug that will help you become bigger or lose weight, but if there was one close to this it would be creatine monohydrate.
It is the only supplement that has been scientifically proven to make you stronger by increasing your strength and power.
It is effective at helping you build muscle and lose weight so whether your workouts are geared to a bulking or cutting phase creatine can be used to enhance your results.
Since it increases phosphocreatine levels and ATP production it greatly enhances the amount of energy you can utilize to bring the type of intensity you need to lift heavy that would otherwise be hard to do on a regular basis without it.
Creatine And Running
As an example of creatine raising performance levels I’m going to use runners as an example to show you that even using it in an exercise where you’re not stimulating muscle growth through strength training it still gives positive effects.
In one study creatine was proven to reduce the time it took for professional athletes to run a 40- meter sprint.
Another study showed a 3.7% improvement in sprints by professional runners.
Studies have shown that creatine supplementation decreased lactate build-up by 7% which will allow runners to go much longer before experiencing fatigue. It also works along with the carbs in your blood to raise levels of glycogen in your muscle cells to make them work at a higher intensity for a longer period of time.
What Is The Best creatine For Muscle Growth
Normally when you ask a question this broad there will be an endless amount of opinions, but when it comes to the best type of creatine there really isn’t a debate.
Creatine monohydrate is hands down the best type of creatine to gain strength, muscle mass, and power.
It is the most studied creatine, the safest, and easiest to use with the fastest results coming from the week-long loading phase at the beginning that is very easy to do.
I can’t be clearer about how creatine monohydrate has proven itself over the years.
There are a lot of bullshit supplements out there, in fact I would guess to say that 95% of the products out there are completely useless, a waste of your money, and unsafe.
This isn’t the case with creatine.
Responders vs Non-Responders
There is a very small amount of people that due to their genetic makeup for someone reason doesn’t respond to creatine supplementation.
The only way to know if you fall into this category is to do the loading phase and wait two weeks to see if you experience a decrease in muscle fatigue and an increase in strength.
If you don’t do the loading phase you’ll have to wait a month to see if you notice these benefits.
How Fast can you Gain Muscle On Creatine
There are too many variables to answer this question definitively since everyone’s genetic makeup has a part to play in muscle growth, how intense and how often you work out, and your diet will all play into your how fast you see results.
I can tell you some tips to maximize your results though:
- If you work out 5 days a week with the highest amount of intensity as you can
- Track the number of reps and sets along with the weight you used to make sure that you’re progressing
- Eat a diet consisting of whole foods and a macronutrient count adding up to a calorie surplus
- Limit the amount of cardio so that you don’t put yourself into a caloric deficit
- Do the week-long load then take the recommended 5 grams per day afterward.
- Take creatine monohydrate and don’t even concern yourself with the other types.
If you do all of these things you’ll see the fastest results while you supplement with creatine.
What Should You take creatine With
What you take it with is totally up to you and a lot of times ends up being whatever is most convenient like putting it in your protein shake.
Here are some of the most popular methods just for some ideas.
The thought behind this is that the natural sugars in fruit juices will regulate the absorption of creatine if you spike your insulin count your body will absorb it quicker.
The only problem with this is that in order to spike your sugar levels you’ll have to drink enough juice to equal a 100g of sugar.
This is going to make the calories add up quickly, personally I don’t think this makes enough of a difference to garner the calories but a lot of people swear by it.
If you’re one of the people that think it’s worth it just make sure to account for the calories in your daily count.
This is done out of convenience to be able to take 2 supplements at the same time plus most people drink a protein shake every day so it’ll keep you from forgetting.
There are also people that like to take their supplements within a 30-minute window right after their workout believing that their body is starved for nutrients and will absorb a higher percentage of them quicker.
Can You Take Creatine With Milk
There is absolutely no problem with taking creatine with milk, you obviously just need to make sure that you’re not lactose intolerant. You need to also decide if you feel there is a benefit to taking creatine with a fruit juice that is high in sugar to spike your insulin levels in order to absorb it quicker.
When Should You Take Creatine
I have seen this question start many arguments at the gym over the years, and the funny thing is I don’t feel there is a definitive advantage to any of them.
The most important thing is to take it every day and stay consistent with your diet and training, but I’ll go over the different methods so that you can decide what you think is best.
When you first wake up
The thought behind this is that when you first wake up in the morning you haven’t eaten in about 8 hours and you’re in a catatonic state where your body is going to want to absorb nutrients. I always take it in the morning on my rest days.
Before You Workout
People tend to believe that if you take it before your workout it’ll give you even more energy and power for your upcoming workout.
The problem with this thinking is that if you take it every day than your muscles are already saturated and the dose you take 30 minutes before your workout isn’t going to make any difference.
This is when I take it due to the fact that I do believe in the 30-minute anabolic window after your workout when your body is striving for nutrients due to the intense workout you just performed and this is when it is most beneficial to take your protein and creatine.
I’ve heard a lot of people talk about taking creatine before bed to help them sleep better, other than this I can’t find any studies concluding that taking it before bed helps in any way.
Your muscles at any given time are naturally filled by creatine up to around 50%.
The loading phase will make sure that within a 7 day period you will fill your creatine stores up so that you will receive the muscle growth benefits quicker.
During the first week of using creatine, you’ll take 20 grams per day broken up into four 5 gram servings throughout the day.
For example, you’ll take 5 grams when you wake up, another 5-gram dose when you eat lunch, one more dose at dinner, and the last dose of the day at bedtime.
After your initial loading week, you’ll take 5 grams per day once a day whenever you feel it is best to take it.
Creatine On Rest Days
Rest days are like any other day, you’ll still take 5 grams and you’ll take it when it is the most convenient or when you think it’s most beneficial.
Does Creatine Have caffeine
If you buy creatine powder it will not have caffeine in it, creatine is not a stimulant.
The only time you’ll find a creatine product to have caffeine in it is when you buy a pre-workout that has creatine in it.
This is due to the fact that pre-workout supplements use caffeine to give you the energy you’re looking for and use creatine as a marketing ploy to get you to buy.
I say this because most of them use a proprietary blend that can’t tell you how much creatine is in each dose so you can’t even know if you’re getting enough and you also can’t load with these products.
Let me start by saying that creatine does not make you fat, this is a myth.
In the first week, you’ll gain 2 to 4 pounds of water weight, but this is a positive thing. Creatine pulls water into your muscles to allow them to repair faster and it also adds to their size making them look bigger.
This is why you should also use creatine while cutting to preserve muscle mass while you’re on a diet to burn fat away and create more muscle definition.
Why Creatine Can Be Bad For You
Taking creatine at its recommended dose of 5 grams [er day has been proven to be safe for healthy individuals that don’t have pre-existing kidney or liver problems.
The negative side effects start to occur when people take too much on a daily basis and this can cause some short and long term effects.
Short Term Side Effects
- Muscle cramps
- Digestive problems
Long term effects
- Kidney damage
- Liver damage
- Kidney stones
- Compartment syndrome
Another thing I feel that I need to address is that creatine is not an anabolic steroid and will not make you huge, women can take it to help them tone up and not have to worry about becoming manly looking.
Creatine is deemed to be very safe and has proven its safety record throughout the years.
Is Creatine Bad for Your Kidneys
There have been hundreds of tests done on the usage of creatine to see whether or not long term use will create negative side effects on the kidneys.
Not a single test has shown that a person who has supplemented with creatine who didn’t have previous kidney or liver issues has developed these problems.
If you have any type of kidney or liver issues you shouldn’t use creatine or any supplement until you speak with your Dr.
Does Creatine Affect You Sexually
There have been thousands of people tested while taking creatine to learn the side effects and effectiveness of it.
During these tests, any side effect positive or negative is recorded, and there have been some individuals who have experienced a drop in their libido.
It’s hard to know whether or not this was directly caused by taking creatine.
It has also been found to increase sperm count which normally leads to a healthier libido.
The answer is difficult and may just lend itself to everyone’s body reacts to products differently.
Foods High In Creatine
If you’re using creatine every day then you don’t have to worry about including foods into your diet, but some people like to do things naturally without supplements so here is a list of foods that will naturally increase your creatine levels in your body.
How To Boost Creatine Naturally
- Eat foods high in creatine
- Workout on a regular basis
- Stay hydrated
- Stay away from alcohol
Low creatine levels could be a sign of hidden health issues so you may want to see a Dr evaluate you and find out if you have any liver problems.
A lot of other supplements can leave you questioning whether or not they’re worth spending your money on or if they’re safe to use.
Creatine isn’t one of them, the question you have to ask yourself is if you’re being honest about the work you’ll have to put in in order to achieve the goals you desire.
If you’re serious then creatine will only help you get there faster.