The sports science community has been promoting creatine supplements for decades now, but it is still one of those supplements that confuses people the most. In this week’s Q & A, we take a look at one of the most common questions regarding creatine supplementation.
Creatine is a fantastic, naturally occurring compound in the body which is essential in the creation of energy. It works by donating a phosphate (energy) group to ADP (adenosine diphosphate) to create ATP (adenosine triphosphate); the fuel our cells require to work. Creatine helps to replenish ATP extremely quickly, making it an ideal compound to support high intensity work.
Creatine storage is limited with 95% confined to skeletal muscle. As such, the more muscle you have, the more creatine you can store. In addition, natural creatine production by the liver is intrinsically quite a burden and creatine supplementation can be beneficial for overall health, and not just for exercise. The main aim of supplementing with creatine is to reach and maintain maximum or near maximum levels. Generally you can achieve this either the quick way or the slow way:
- Quick Loading Phase – This requires you to take 0.3g/kg of body weight for 5-7 days. Or roughly 20g in multiple doses of 5g.
- Slower Maintenance or Building Phase – This requires you to take 0.3g/kg of body weight for roughly 21 days or 3 weeks. This generally equates to 2-5g once per day.
Both methods will help you reach near maximum levels and in order to maintain, simply continue to take 2-5g every day indefinitely. Some quick tips on creatine use:
- Take creatine closer to workout times. This has been shown to promote more muscle growth than taking creatine further away from resistance training
- Take creatine with carbohydrates and/or protein. This helps to support absorption of creatine.
- Try to take creatine away from sources of caffeine. While not conclusive, some studies have shown negative impacts of caffeine on the effectiveness of creatine
- More than 10g of creatine consumption at a time saturates receptors, and simply leads to excretion
- Athletes and more frequent trainers require a larger dose for maintenance.
- These tips apply to creatine monohydrate, which has the most solid evidence base.
Take Away Point – Load with Creatine First, Then 5g/day Before or After Training
As one of the most validated supplements around, creatine is one of the best supplements you could take along with a protein powder. Most of the research surrounding the benefits of creatine has been with creatine monohydrate. While there are plenty of other creatine types around including creatine HCL, creatine nitrate, creatine phosphate, Kre-Alkalyn (buffered creatine) and creatine ethyl ester just to name a few, the is no conclusive research that these are better than regular creatine monohydrate. The best way to get the most out of your creatine is to load with 20g (4 x 5g doses) for the first 7 days before having 5g/day (heaped teaspoon) around training times. There is no need to cycle.