Creatine Monohydrate is one of the most widely used supplements in the fitness industry. Every supplement company has their own creatine supplement and claims on how theirs is the best on the market. Despite being one of the most researched and studied supplements out there are still plenty of misguided reports regarding creatine and it’s usage. This article is meant to inform you on creatine and give you the information to make a decision as to whether or not this supplement is right for you.
What The Heck Is Creatine?
Creatine Monohydrate is a natural substance that your body converts to creatine phosphate. This converted substance allows for the body to create adenosine triphosphate, or ATP. ATP is used in the body as energy to produce muscle contractions. This means the more ATP you have, the more energy that is available to contract your muscles.
Creatine is a substance that can be obtained from food but in smaller amounts. Red meat and oily fish are high in creatine but some of this substance can be lost in the cooking process. Cranberries are another food that contains creatine but the amount of cranberries you would need to eat in order to yield a significant amount is unrealistic. Creatine supplementation is mainly used in conjunction with foods like these to ensure you are getting enough throughout the day.
How Does It Work?
As stated earlier, creatine is substance that is broken down into ATP. ATP is what provides your muscles with enough energy to perform a contraction. ATP only has enough energy to provide a few twitches and more ATP is then drawn from your ATP stores to be used. If your stores are low your body’s ability to work can be diminished. Therefore it is important to have extra ATP in your reserves so you can do more reps, lift more weight, or put out more power during your workout. Football players, throwers, strongman/woman competitors, and weightlifters are just a few groups of athletes that benefit greatly from the use of creatine. If you compete in something that requires power and explosiveness creatine can help you do more. Creatine Monohydrate has been show to increase muscle mass and strength, available muscle energy, recovery after exercise, and power output.
How Much Is Enough?
The general consensus is that 3-5g a day is more than enough. Just like with other supplements and vitamins, if you take too much for your body to use it just gets wasted. A lot of products have a “loading phase” on the label and this requires taking extra amounts of the product over a week or two so that your body gets use to the product. Let’s think about this one, if you eat red meat or fish on a daily basis do you really think your body needs to get use to creatine? The answer is no and it’s a marketing gimmick to use more of the product so you end up having to buy more sooner. Stick with the recommended dosages and skip the loading phase altogether. There is not a specific time that creatine needs to be taken, it can be done either before or after training, but you should be consistent on when you take it. For better absorption it is recommended to take it with juice. It also needs to be prepared fresh and should never be pre mixed, otherwise you’ve wasted the product and your money. While there are no long term studies to back up cycling creatine it has been recommended that you cycle creatine on a 2:1 ratio, two months on one month off. This is the brand I take currently.
Keep in mind that just like with anything else you put into your body creatine monohydrate can be abused. As stated earlier, taking too much is not a good thing. When your stores are full your body will get rid of the extra in any way possible. There have also been studies showing that an athlete taking creatine needs to be adequately hydrated. You should be drinking plenty of water anyways, but make sure to stay on your hydration when supplementing creatine. In my opinion the best bang for you buck is plain old creatine monohydrate. A lot of products out there have their “Creatine Matrix” or “Proprietary Blend” that have a lot of fillers and other things mixed in with your creatine. These also have a substantial amount of sugar mixed in to make it taste good. Plain old creatine powder is the best way to go and the most cost effective for athletes on a budget.
Whether you are flipping tires, tossing a caber, putting a shot, or hitting the hole of a squat, power is needed and creatine monohydrate is a supplement that can help you with that. Creatine is not a wonder pill or powder that you take and magically get bigger, stronger, and/or faster. You still need to put the time and effort in the gym and use this as a SUPPLEMENT to your training. Before starting any supplement you need to check with a physician and make sure there are no issues with your health that can be complicated.
1. Casey et al. ” Creatine ingestion favorably affects performance and muscle metabolism during maximal exercise in humans.” American Journal of Physiology 271(1996): E31-7.
2. Demant, TW, and EC Rhodes. “Effects of creatine supplementation on exercise performance.” Sports Medicine 28(1999): 49-60.
3.Williams, MH, and JD Branch. ” Creatine supplementation and exercise performance: an update.” Journal of American College of Nutrition 17(1998): 216-34.