Creatine monohydrate is the most well-researched, proven and effective performance enhancing nutritional supplement available today. So if you want to get the best possible results from your training, you’ll probably want to be using it on a regular basis.
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 experience the full benefits that creatine has to offer, your tissues need to be fully saturated with it. And the only way you can achieve that is by supplementation.
There are actually a considerable number of benefits you can experience from taking creatine regularly, but the five 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, which enables you to 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 greater 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 while 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 enhanced fitness.
4. Creatine Helps You Retain Muscle Whilst Losing Fat
If you are eating at a calorie deficit in order to shed excess 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 won’t need to rest as long. This will allow you to get more work done in less time, which 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 full 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 approximately twice per week (or every 3–5 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?
Virtually 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 about four times the usual amount for the first 5–7 days. And although this is not strictly necessary, it does allow it to start working much quicker.
If you do not load up in this way, it will take about three weeks for your tissues to reach full saturation, whereas if you do load, it will only take about five days to reach that point.
A typical loading phase entails taking 5g of creatine four times per day for five days. After this, you can maintain saturation by taking just 4–6g per day. It can be taken at any time of day, but on training days it is usual to take it post-workout.
It’s a good idea to dissolve it in warm water before taking it, as this will allow it to be absorbed better, and it will also reduce any risk of stomach upsets, which some people experience 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 something about the benefits of creatine monohydrate, as well as what type to take and how and when to take it. Some people, however, do not respond to creatine, although often these “non-responders” can become responders if they take it with whey protein and glucose. But most people will find that by supplementing with creatine they’ll be able to take their training results to a whole new level.