Creatine is the most popular strength sports supplement and that is not surprising: its effect has been irrefutably proven. One disadvantage: creatine does not work for everyone (equally well). Approximately one in four people already have such high creatine levels that supplementation has little or no effect. If you doubt whether creatine does something for you, go through the following three points.
1. WORKOUT PERFORMANCE
If creatine works for you, you will notice it first and foremost in your training performance. Research shows that creatine supplementation produces 8% more muscle strength as a result of strength training. In addition, creatine users record 14% more repetitions.
Mind you, it can take a while for creatine to do its maximum work. Creatine works faster if you do a so-called loading phase. This means that you use a higher dose for the first 5 to 7 days of your creatine treatment, and then switch to a normal dose (the ‘maintenance phase’). For the loading phase, a daily dose of 0.3 g per kg body weight applies.
The loading phase only has the advantage that you will notice the effects of creatine faster, usually within a week. Without a loading phase (you take 3-5 grams per day), you will reach the maximum creatine level after 21 to 28 days. The effects are then the same as after a charging phase. In the long term, it therefore does not matter much whether or not you use a charging phase.
2. FULLER MUSCLES
Creatine supplementation leads to water retention (fluid retention) within the muscle cells (intracellular) and possibly also outside (extracellular), although the latter is disputed. As a result, the muscle fiber size increases, making your muscles look fuller. We also experience this, although that effect seems to have diminished or disappeared after about a week.
You may see another consequence of fluid retention on the scale: you are ‘suddenly’ a bit heavier. Don’t panic, because from the foregoing you can conclude that this sudden weight gain has nothing to do with an increase in fat, but only with an increase in fluid.
3. FASTER RECOVERY
In addition to performance improvement, creatine also appears to provide a faster recovery. A survey of 52 NCAA athletes shows that 81% of them reported faster recovery from training as one of the benefits they noticed after taking creatine. For example, creatine can help you replenish glycogen stores faster and ensure less muscle damage after training. This can be especially useful if you have a high training frequency.
Mind you, recovery also depends on many other factors such as exercise selection, training volume, programming and rest.
Creatine is perhaps the only strength sports supplement that is worth the money. But realize that this supplement is nothing more than a little boost. Even if creatine supplements don’t work for you, you can build up maximum muscle growth. Creatine and other supplements are therefore not necessarily necessary.