Creatine is one of the most researched workout supplements, with over 200 different studies done by various universities around the world.
This supplement works – and everyone knows it; from marketers and scientists to weightlifters and athletes.
It is a chemical that is found in your body, most notably in muscles, and it’s essential in providing your muscles with energy.
The scientific explanation is that this chemical stores high amounts of energy in your muscle energy-machines called Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP), in the form of creatine phosphate, and releases that energy to aid cellular function during periods of stress.
In more practical terms, it gives you a strength and performance increase when you are doing physical work.
But having said all that, we do not think that a person should use any type of supplement without first doing their due diligence and figuring out all of its benefits and risks for themselves.
That is why we have prepared this article, to show you as much information about this phenomenal molecule, comprised of several amino acids, and answer all of the questions that you might have about it. Questions such as:
What is creatine? What does creatine do? What are the different types of creatine? What are the Benefits? What are the Side Effects?
Also, is Creatine Safe? How do you use it and when do you take it? How much creatine should you take and does it make you fat?
And most importantly, should you take Creatine or not? We will answer to all of these questions and more.
Also, once you’re done reading it and figuring out if this supplement is right for you, check out our 10 Best Creatine Supplements – Top List and Top 5 Creatine Supplements For Women articles to see the ones that are currently the most effective in the world and pick out the one that suits you best!
Read on to learn more!
Creatine: What is it?
Creatine is a nitrogenous organic acid that occurs naturally in the skeletal muscles of all vertebrates and helps to supply energy to all cells in the body, primarily muscle. It is comprised of three amino acids – L-Arginine, Methionine, and Glycine.
Most of this chemical found in our bodies comes from the foods that we eat, particularly meat, eggs, and fish. It is also naturally made in the kidney and liver.
Also, according to the various studies done on this chemical, there are no vegetarian sources of it. This means that vegetarians are always going to be at a disadvantage when it comes to this chemical and that they have to eat enough of the amino glycine, methionine and arginine, which are used in the production of creatine.
This substance is of particular importance when you’re making powerful and quick movements, such as the ones required for weight lifting, high jumping and sprinting.
That is why these supplements are tremendously popular among athletes in sports that require quick bursts of energy.
If you want to learn more about what it is and the reasons to take it, go to What is Creatine and 6 Main Reasons to Take it article.
What It Does. How Does It Work?
Many people ask: “How does Creatine work?”
It drives burst muscle contractions by fueling adenosine triphosphates (ATP) – the energy machines in your muscles.
ATP are high energy molecules with three bound phosphates, which when broken lose, release a tremendous amount of energy that fuels your muscle contractions. Creatine replenishes those phosphates to keep ATP running, thus providing you with more and longer lasting energy.
Basically, it is used for increasing the available fuel to power these energy machines.
If you use a creatine supplement – you will have more creatine phosphate. This will allow you to work out longer and do more sets of your chosen exercise.
For more in-depth description of what it does and its benefits, check out What Does Creatine Do and The 6 Benefits of Taking It.
Classification – 7 Types of Creatine
There are seven different types of this chemical:
1. Monohydrate – the cheapest and most simple version, it requires sugar to be ingested with it to be properly absorbed
2. Tri-Creatine Malate – made from creatine monohydrate and malic acid. It becomes more water soluble, aids with digestion and has a stronger impact on ATP.
3. Buffered – aka Kre-Alkalyn. It is believed that this type has to be consumed in much smaller doses than the monohydrate variety. However, certain research says that this might not be the case.
4. Ethyl Ester – This version eliminates the monohydrate effects and doesn’t require sugar or a loading stage to be effective. Also, you won’t need to consume as much, which makes this version a superior one, albeit more expensive.
5. Micronized – Just as the name suggests, it is simply made of smaller particles, which effectively aids in digestion and improves absorption.
6. Liquid – Another version to support absorption and help digestion, with a big drawback of not being as stable and needing to be consumed straight after mixing.
7. Conjugated – This is a heavily concentrated version, only requiring about 1.25 grams. It effectively removes any potential side effects of creatine, aids absorption, and digestion, but is the most expensive version of all.
All these versions have their uses, but if you don’t notice any side-effects from the monohydrate variety, we suggest you stick with it and save yourself the money.
Creatine monohydrate is the particular compound that was used in more than 95 percent of all conducted studies, so why take a chance on another variety from a safety and effectiveness perspective?
The Main Benefits List
There are many creatine benefits if you take it as a proper supplement:
- Increases Overall Strength, Muscle Volume and Growth
- Increases Resting Testosterone Levels
- Improves Mental Acuity and Enhances Brain Function
- Provides Greater Productivity and Performance
- Better Explosive Strength
- Faster Recovery
These are just the main benefits. The rest of the benefits include improved glucose tolerance, better anaerobic capacity, improved bone healing and a few others!
It’s safe to say that the sheer number of benefits is staggering. So it’s no wonder why so many gym-goers, bodybuilders, and even professional athletes rely on this product to propel their results to the next level.
There are also some new and promising studies emerging in 2017 that this substance may even have neuroprotective effects on neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease and even ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease).
Creatine Side Effects – Is It Bad For You?
Sadly, as with anything, there are certain side effects that may occur, especially if abused and consumed in large doses.
The main thing you need to know about this supplement is that it has a dehydrating effect, so if you keep yourself well hydrated by drinking lots of water – you will minimize the side effects of this chemical.
Most healthy people can take this substance with no problems. However, creatine can in rare cases have adverse effects, particularly when used in excess and without sufficient water.
Side effects of creatine include weight gain, muscle cramps, strains and pulls, upset stomach, diarrhea, dizziness, high blood pressure, liver dysfunction and kidney damage.
Due to its slight dehydrating effect, you should avoid loading up on it if your workouts consist mainly of Cardio.
So is Creatine Safe? The answer is a resounding yes.
If used correctly and with sufficient water – it will benefit you and never harm you.
Here are a couple of the hundreds of studies conducted that attest to its safety:
- Groeneveld GJ – Few adverse effects of long-term creatine supplementation in a placebo-controlled trial. Int J Sports Med. (2005)
- Shao A, Hathcock JN – Risk assessment for creatine monohydrate . Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. (2006)
There are many more studies like the ones we present here, and the main point that they all agree on is that creatine is a very safe substance that can easily be recommended to any weightlifter or athlete.
How to Take and Use It
If you’re wondering how to use creatine, the answer is simple.
You can mix it with milk, water or juice, according to your taste preference. However, the most common one is water, as you need to stay very well hydrated to avoid any potential side effects.
You can take it by itself or in conjunction with various other supplements.
Most gym-goers mix up the creatine powder along with their protein, making an effective pre-workout shake.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to use it, kindly follow us to How and When to Take Creatine Powder Supplements.
Incidentally, if you want to learn more about what pre-workouts are and what they do, we suggest you read our full guide at: Pre-Workout Supplements Guide: Facts, Benefits and Side Effects.
When to Take Creatine for Maximum Efficiency
There is no best time to take creatine because it is naturally produced and stored in the body.
But is it better to take it before or after a workout?
Certain trainers recommend taking it before a workout if you want to increase muscle mass and get better explosive strength. Other trainers recommend taking this supplement after a workout if you want to speed up the recovery process.
But most knowledgeable authorities in the field suggest that you should replenish your body’s supply of creatine by taking it after a workout since your supplies will be depleted.
Scientist Advice: Take It After Workout
Some Research suggests that it is not recommended to take it before a workout, because it’s hygroscopic, which means that it acts like a sponge and draws water into your gastrointestinal tract and bloodstream from surrounding tissues or muscles.
This can cause cramps and make you feel very bloated. So either take it after a workout or drink lots of water to compensate!
Does Creatine Expire?
Yes, it does in fact expire, and you can check the expiration date on the product to see if it is expired.
However, if it has passed that date, as long as it has been stored well and no moisture has seeped into the product, it can be safely used for a few more months.
Dosage – How Much To Take
You might wonder: “How much creatine should I take for a good workout session?”
Well, there is a standard formula that works for the vast majority of people, but don’t forget that Creatine monohydrate needs to be started off with a loading period.
The standard formula is as follows:
To start loading, take 0.3 gram per kilogram of bodyweight per day for 5 to 7 days, then follow with at least 0.03 gram per kilogram per day indefinitely, if without additional loading phases – or for three weeks, if cycling.
Does Creatine Make You Fat? – The Answer
The answer is a big, fat NO. It can help make bodybuilders gain weight, but not fat.
In fact, it will help you lose fat, instead.
However, creatine causes you to retain more water, giving you that bigger and more muscular look. Many beginners mistake that water weight for fat.
For Women: Should You Take This Substance?
There is a huge misconception that if women take creatine – they will become huge, feel bloated and look bulky. This is simply not true, and many women gym-goers will attest to that fact.
Sometimes women will retain water in the first few weeks of using creatine, but this effect seems to diminish over time and disappear completely when you stop taking the supplement. Men are more prone to water retention when using this substance.
Finally, women should take a lower dose, about 0.01-0.02 gram per kilogram per day, instead of men’s 0.03. This is because women tend to incorporate more Cardio into their workouts than men do.
Bonus: Improve Your Muscles and Strength by Changing Your Workout
Creatine for men is designed to help you increase muscle and strength. However, for maximum effect, you also have to have a proper workout schedule and plan.
According to scientists, if you want to gain weight in lean muscles and get the best muscle hypertrophy effect, you need to stay within the range of 3 to 6 sets and 6 to 12 reps when you are working out.
That way you will stimulate your muscles, increase protein turn-over and the secretion of growth hormones the most.
However, if you want to significantly increase your strength without increasing your muscle mass, you need to do 2-3 sets of 1-4 reps.
This is because when you lift weights, your muscles learn to work better through neural adaptation, and you become stronger. However, since you don’t trigger as much growth hormone and protein turnover with this range of sets and reps and your body recruits less muscle fibre the more it adapts – you grow less in mass.
Conclusion: Our Thoughts
So if you’re still wondering “Should I take Creatine?” – We hope that we’ve answered your question and encouraged you to say yes. It is truly a remarkable substance with applications that go beyond just bodybuilding and increasing your explosive strength.
The benefits are numerous, and the side effects are avoidable if used in proper recommended doses while staying hydrated.
We heartily recommend this product to anyone who wants to reap its benefits and give themselves that extra edge during their training session.
It is also the best supplement in the world for increasing performance during high-intensity interval training!
What do you personally think about this substance? Have you ever used or are planning to use it? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below and let’s discuss!
Good luck and stay strong!