Creatine is one of the few strength sports supplements whose effect has been convincingly demonstrated. Yet there is still unnecessary confusion about the correct use of creatine. Don’t be fooled by all kinds of gurus and simply follow the next five steps to optimal effects of creatine.
Creatine comes in many varieties. The most researched is creatine monohydrate. With other species it is questionable whether they work just as convincingly as monohydrate. But even if it is, there is another reason to choose monohydrate: the price. Monohydrate is one of the cheapest creatine types and is therefore cheaper than other creatine types that may not work as well.
In short, every reason to always opt for creatine monohydrate.
Creatine supplementation is only effective if levels in the muscles increase. This is also known as ‘saturating’ the muscle with creatine, which means that creatine only works if you take it daily. If you only take creatine once or occasionally, you will hardly notice it.
To achieve and maintain that satiety, it is generally recommended to take 5 grams of creatine per day. Your body then needs three to four weeks to saturate your muscle cells and therefore for the creatine to work optimally. After that you continue to maintain your creatine level with 5 grams per day.
Can it also be faster, that saturate? Yes, through a charging phase. That means that you take 20 grams of creatine per day for the first seven days. After that week your muscle cells are already saturated and you can switch to 5 grams per day. For some people, however, such a loading phase leads to stomach and intestinal complaints, which is why it is better to build up more slowly, so with 5 grams per day.
Once your muscles are saturated, 5 grams per day is certainly enough. Most people get the maximum effect already at 3 grams per day.
Since creatine does not work acutely, timing of intake is not important. You can take creatine both before and after training, or at a completely different time.
Many people think they should take creatine right before training. However, there is no scientific evidence for this. In fact, there’s a limited amount of studies that suggest taking creatine right after training. This may have to do with the ‘pump’ that is created in your muscles, which improves blood flow. However, the study size is too small for firm conclusions.
If timing matters at all, it’s only in the early stages, when you build creatine to its saturation level. Once your muscles are saturated, timing doesn’t matter at all.
In any case, creatine does not seem like a typical supplement to take before training. It therefore does not really belong in pre-workout supplements.
4. CYCLING OR CURES?
You can safely use creatine continuously. Creatine supplementation offers several scientifically proven benefits for the strength athlete, has no or hardly any side effects and is relatively cheap. Every reason to stick to creatine. This is in contrast to most other strength sports supplements, which have no or only a minor effect and on which you can therefore save better.
If you use creatine supplements for some time, with the recommended dose of 5 grams per day, it is possible that your body produces less creatine itself. However, this is not a disaster: when you stop taking creatine, your natural creatine production will be restored to its old level within a short time.
Anyway, there are no arguments why you should use creatine in cycles.
5. WEIGHT GAIN
Because your muscles start to retain more creatine, your weight will probably increase somewhat, possibly up to 3% of your body weight. This is purely due to the creatine supplement and not due to an increase in fat mass.
Weight gain or no weight gain, many see after taking creatine that their muscles look a bit fuller. That is a nice side effect, but it also disappears over time.
The fact is that creatine supplementation by itself does not change your body composition. You become more muscular over time, because you can achieve more training volume and a higher training intensity thanks to creatine.