How much creatine do you need? For optimal results

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Creatine is the only supplement that has been convincingly shown to have a positive effect on muscle growth. In addition, its use is safe and not too expensive. Enough advice to go on the creatine. But how much of it do you actually need?

Key points: 

1.   Creatine is an effective and safe supplement that can contribute to muscle growth. Its action is not acute, but occurs by increasing and maintaining the creatine levels in your muscles.

2.   When you start taking creatine, you can do this with a loading phase: you take 20-25 grams of creatine per day, divided into 4-5 equal doses, for 5-7 days (the loading phase). In this way you achieve optimal creatine saturation in your muscles and therefore maximum effect within a week. After that, you continue to use a maintenance dose of 3 to 5 grams per day (the maintenance phase).

3.   A loading phase is not strictly necessary. You can also start with 3-5 grams per day. The creatine levels will then be optimized a little later, so that you will only then experience the positive effect on your strength training. But on balance that makes no difference for muscle growth.

CREATINE IN A NUTSHELL

Creatine is a substance that the body produces itself. It therefore also occurs naturally in the human body, especially in skeletal muscles, but also in the heart and brain. Muscles need creatine for their energy supply and use about 2 grams of it per day.

The use of a creatine supplement promotes strength performance (particularly those involving explosive and/or maximum strength) and possibly also recovery during and after strength training. This makes you (even) better able to achieve overload in your training sessions. Overload is a prerequisite for muscle growth.

The most commonly used and in principle also the best form of creatine as a supplement is creatine monohydrate.

CREATINE AS A SUPPLEMENT

Creatine supplementation is only effective if the levels in the muscles increase. This is also known as ‘saturating’ the muscle with creatine, meaning that creatine only works if you take it daily. If you only take creatine once or occasionally, you won’t notice much of it.

Creatine is therefore incorrectly found in many pre-workout supplements. After all, this gives the impression that creatine has an acute effect on training performance. But even the opposite may be true: some research suggests that you should take creatine better after than before training. Well, it probably doesn’t matter much, as long as you take it daily.

TWO WAYS TO GET STARTED WITH CREATINE

In terms of creatine dosing, there are two ways to begin creation supplementation:

1. FAST WAY (= LOADING PHASE + MAINTENANCE PHASE)

A so-called loading phase is often recommended. This means that you apply a higher dose for the first 5 to 7 days of your creatine course, and then switch to a normal dose (the ‘maintenance phase’). This usually involves 20-25 grams of creatine per day, divided into 4-5 equal doses.

By the end of the week, your muscles are saturated with creatine and most people can expect improvements in their training.

After the muscle cells are saturated with creatine, you do not need to continue taking 20-25 grams per day. You can now take about 3-5 grams per day (also called maintenance phase). That’s enough to maintain your creatine saturation status in your muscles.

2. SLOW WAY (MAINTENANCE LEVEL)

If you are not in a hurry, you can also start ‘normally’ with a dosage according to the maintenance phase. So you start and maintain with 3-5 grams per day. It should be noted that 3 grams is already sufficient for most people to achieve optimal satiety. Taking 5 grams or more probably won’t get you anything extra, but since creatine is relatively cheap, it’s okay to be on the higher end of the margins.

If you take creatine without a loading phase, your muscles will be fully saturated after about a month, after which you can still expect the optimal effect of creatine.

A loading phase causes creatine to work faster, but the gain in strength and muscle growth is ultimately the same as if you did not use a loading phase. 

NO-RESPONDERS

Unfortunately, there are also people for whom taking creatine has no effect, the so-called non-responders. It would be one in four. These people already have maximally saturated creatinine levels. So it makes no sense to take extra creatine.

Your diet also determines how much you benefit from creatine use. For example, vegetarians and vegans generally have less creatine in their muscles than people who eat a lot of meat and poultry.

If you don’t notice any effect from creatine, that doesn’t mean you’re a non-responder.

WHEN TO DOSE HIGHER?

Normally 3-5 g/day is sufficient and you pee the rest of the creatine out. However, there are exceptions.

For example, higher doses (up to 10 g/day) may be beneficial for people with a lot of muscle mass and high activity levels or for people who do not respond to the lower dose of 5 g/day (although it is not certain that they will respond to a higher dose). dose).

According to scientist and creatine researcher Darren Candow, you may also need larger doses as you get older, but that has not yet been sufficiently researched.

SAFETY

Given the popularity of creatine as a sports supplement, it’s not surprising that concerns have been raised about potential adverse effects, especially on the kidneys.

Long-term creatine supplementation is safe in people with healthy kidneys, but there are no long-term creatine studies in people with kidney problems. For these people, it would be wise to use a low dose of creatine.

While creatine is safe, high doses can cause discomfort, such as bloating and stomach upset.

LONG TERM USE

Creatine ‘cures’ or ‘cycling’ does not increase the effect of creatine. It even seems rather disadvantageous, because if you stop the creatine supplementation, it may lead to some loss of strength (not muscle loss). You don’t have to cycle creatine.

Some people use cycling because they are afraid that the body will otherwise no longer be able to produce creatine, or because they are afraid that habituation will occur and the effect of creatine will decrease as a result. However, these fears are unfounded.

So it’s fine to keep taking creatine continuously.

FINALLY

Creatine is an effective and safe supplement that can contribute to muscle growth. Its action is not acute, but occurs by increasing and maintaining the creatine levels in your muscles.

When you start taking creatine, you can do this with a loading phase: you take 20-25 grams of creatine per day, divided into 4-5 equal doses, for 5-7 days (the loading phase). In this way you achieve optimal creatine saturation in your muscles and therefore maximum effect within a week. After that, you continue to use a maintenance dose of 3 to 5 grams per day (the maintenance phase).

A charging phase is not strictly necessary. You can also start with 3-5 grams per day. The creatine levels will then be optimized a little later, so that you will only then experience the positive effect on your strength training. But on balance that makes no difference for muscle growth.

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