Creatine monohydrate is probably the most well researched, proven and effective performance enhancing nutritional supplement available today. So if you want to get the best results possible from your training it’s got to be worth giving it a try.
Creatine is an organic compound that is produced naturally in the body – in the liver, kidneys and pancreas. And it’s also found in certain foods, particularly red meat and fish.
But if you want to fully experience the benefits of creatine you need to reach full tissue saturation, and this can only be achieved by supplementing with it.
There are a number of benefits you can experience from taking creatine regularly, but the 5 main ones are as follows…
1. Creatine Increases Strength And Power
Virtually all of your body’s creatine is stored in your muscle tissue, mostly as creatine phosphate, and here it helps to increase the production of ATP during intense physical activity. This results in more powerful muscle contractions, so you can lift a bit more weight for the same number of reps – or get a rep or two more out with the same weight.
Because of this you get a more powerful stimulus to the muscles, which results in additional gains in strength and power over time.
2. Creatine Increases Muscle Size And Definition
Creatine requires water in order to be stored in the body, so it draws additional water into the muscle cells. This gives your muscles a fuller, harder appearance.
It does not however increase subcutaneous water storage, so it will not cause any puffiness or bloating – just the opposite in fact.
And again, the stronger muscle stimulus you are able to get whilst training will result in increased muscle growth over time.
3. Creatine Increases Speed
Because you get faster and more powerful muscle contractions when taking creatine you’ll be able to sprint faster too. So you’ll get more of a metabolic benefit from your high intensity cardio sessions. And this will lead to improved fat burning as well as heightened fitness.
4. Creatine Helps You Retain Muscle Whilst Losing Fat
If you are eating at a calorie deficit in order to shed unwanted body fat it can be difficult to maintain your muscle mass. But creatine has a muscle sparing effect, so it makes this much easier.
5. Creatine Helps With Recovery Between Sets And Workouts
When you are taking creatine you’ll notice you’ll recover faster between sets. So you’ll be able to take shorter rest periods. This will further enhance muscle growth, as well as allowing you to get your workouts finished in a shorter period of time.
You’ll also recover faster between training sessions too. But you won’t get the benefit of this if you are only working each body part once per week (which as I’ve said before is not optimal anyway). So make sure you are using an effective training program where each muscle group is being trained about every 3 to 5 days, such as an upper/lower split or a sensible three way split like the push/pull legs split.
OK, So What Type Of Creatine Should I Use?
All of the studies have been done on creatine monohydrate, and there is no evidence to suggest that any of the newer forms of creatine are any better. But they are more expensive, so they will certainly make your wallet lighter.
It is important to choose the right type of creatine monohydrate though, in order to ensure the maximum in purity and effectiveness. And the best type is creapure creatine, which is made in Germany to the highest standards and is guaranteed to be 99.99% pure creatine.
You should also choose micronized creatine, as this has been broken down to give a surface area some 20 times greater than normal creatine. And this allows for much better absorption.
So creapure micronized creatine monohydrate, like this one from Optimum Nutrition, is the product of choice.
What About Creatine Loading And Creatine Cycling?
It’s common practice to load up with creatine by taking at least four times the usual amount for the first 5 – 7 days. And although this is not absolutely necessary, it does allow it to start working much quicker.
If you do not load up in this way your tissues will reach full saturation in about three weeks; whereas if you do load it will normally take just 5 days to reach this point.
A typical loading phase entails taking 5g of creatine four times per day for 5 days. After this you can maintain saturation by taking just 3 – 5g per day. Take it after training, or at any time of day on your off days.
It’s a good idea to dissolve it in a pint of warm water before taking it, as this will give the best possible absorption, and it will also reduce any risk of stomach upsets, which some people get when taking creatine.
It’s also common to take a break from creatine occasionally. And again this ‘creatine cycling’ is not necessary. You can take it continually for as long as you want. But some people do say they respond better to it after a short break, so taking a couple of weeks off every 3 – 4 months might be a good idea.
So now you know about the benefits of creatine, as well as what type to take and how and when to take it. It is true however that some people do not respond to creatine, although sometimes these “non-responders” can become responders if they take it with whey protein and glucose. But most people will find that by using creatine monohydrate regularly they will be able to take their training results to a whole new level.