Everything you need to know about Creatine
A complete guide with all the information about supplementing with Creatine.
In this guide you will get to know not only what Creatine is, but also what it does, how it does it, what are the different types (and the best), how to take it and much more.
We also answered some common questions about this supplement and at the end you still have the comments area in case you have any specific questions.
Let's start then.
Note. If you simply want to know which are the best Creatine supplements on the market, see the article The Best Creatine Supplements (And The Worst Too).
What is Creatine?
When you hear this name, you probably immediately associate it with its supplement, however, creatine is present in the meat and fish you consume, and your own body is able to produce it through some amino acids.
As you may have noticed, it is not a poison produced in the laboratory, but a natural compound that occurs naturally in the human body.
It is a non-essential organic compound - because the body is capable of producing it - with a very important role in providing energy.
It started to gain a lot of popularity in the 90s, when more and more studies to prove its effectiveness started to come out, and more and more athletes started to use it.
What are you doing?
Creatine after ingestion is stored in the muscles as creatine (Cr) and phosphocreatine (CP).
And what is phosphocreatine?
Phosphocreatine is creatine with a phosphate group, which can supply energy by participating in the ADP-ATP cycle.
First of all, ATP is our immediate energy source, and once used, it becomes ADP.
What is phosphocreatine going to do?
Phosphocreatine is going to donate a phosphate group to ADP, and so we get ATP back quickly to do more repetitions.
ATP-CP depends on creatine phosphate reserves, which are very low, hence the short duration of this energy system.
By supplementing with creatine, you will increase your reserves of creatine phosphate, so you can produce ATP for longer.
This is the great benefit of supplementation.
More creatine = More ATP = More repetitions = More results
Another benefit is the increase in water within the muscles.
This will not only give your muscles greater volume, but it will also help with muscle growth. (ref)
So but… does it really work?
Let's see what the studies tell us.
Maximum strength, and total strength during a maximal bench press isometric test were also significantly higher in responders compared to the placebo group
Likewise, the average increase in weightlifting performance (maximum repetitions at a given percentage of maximum strength) after Cr supplementation, more resistance training was 14% greater than the average increase in weightlifting performance after ingesting placebo during resistance training (26 vs. 12%).
The increase in the 1RM bench press varied from 3 to 45%, and for the improvement in bench press weight lifting performance it varied from 16 to 43%.
Well, it seems so.
Different types of creatine
This is the most common form of creatine, and also one that all others are compared to.
Most studies on the benefits of this supplement use the monohydrate form.
CM is made up of 88% creatine (12% is monohydrate), and can also be micronized, thus reducing particle size and increasing water solubility.
There is also the Creapure form, which although it is only CM, is a patented form with rigorous quality standards, and is often chosen in scientific studies.
Creatine Ethyl Ester
CEE was an attempt to develop a superior alternative to creatine monohydrate, and is probably the biggest disillusionment of all creatines.
This type is not only superior to CM, but the different studies that ended up being published in relation to this formula, show that it is even lower.ref)
EEC is easily converted to creatinine, not creatine, and is therefore a formula to avoid. (ref)
This is yet another form of creatine supplementation, and fortunately, it is not very popular.
The liquid version suffers from the same illness as the EEC, that is, it is easily converted into creatinine, but in a different way.
Creatine, when in liquid for several days, is converted to creatinine and thus loses the benefits that would be expected with this supplement.
Kre-Alkalyn is a patented form of CM, where the difference is the pH, which in this case is higher.
This formula has been promoted (and still is) for some time due to its supposed greater absorption, greater increase in muscle creatine and fewer side effects, in addition to which a lower dose would be necessary to obtain these results.
Unfortunately this is not true and is study shows that there is no advantage in using the Kre-Alkalyn form over normal CM.
Creatine citrate is more soluble in water than monohydrate, however, this has little impact on the effectiveness of creatine, and is study shows that there is no significant difference between supplementation with creatine citrate and creatine monohydrate.
It is practically equivalent in results to the CM.
Like the citrate form, the malate version is more soluble in water than CM, however, there are no studies showing that this formula is superior to creatine monohydrate and is probably similar, as is the citrate variant.
This is a form that has been promoted recently, as supposedly superior (as always) in relation to CM, due to its supposed higher bioavailability.
Theoretically, the only advantage that this form could have would be the need for a lower dose compared to CM, however, there are no studies to prove this supposed advantage.
So, after all, what creatine should you buy?
Not only is it the most studied, with its more than proven effectiveness, it is also extremely cheap. You can find it easily here.
Although this article is about creatine in general, from here on we will focus on the monohydrate form, as it is the most studied, and probably the best choice.
Often the so-called loading phase is used in creatine supplementation.
What is this loading phase?
This loading phase consists of using a high dose of this supplement during the first 5 days, to “fill” the reserves in the muscle more quickly, and thus start to obtain results more quickly.
The charging phase is not mandatory, it just makes you start to notice effects more quickly.
To do the loading phase, during the first 5 days of supplementation, use a 20g dose, separated into 4 doses. That is, you will take 4 times 5g of creatine throughout the day, for 5 days.
After that, you move on to the maintenance phase.
What dose should I take?
After the 5 days of the loading phase, in which you use 20 grams per day, the dose changes to 3-6g, once a day.
If you do not want to do the loading phase, start with this dose.
The most common number is usually 5g, however, if you are very thin, just 3g to 4g will give you good results, while if you are heavier, you can use 6g.
It is important to highlight, supplementation is done every day, that is, nothing to take only on training days.
When should I take creatine?
The best time is after training, preferably with a whey protein and simple carbohydrates like dextrose or maltodextrin, this is the time that you will achieve the best results, due to the action of insulin. (ref)
A good post-workout would be a protein shake whey, maltodextrin / dextrose and creatine.
On a non-training day, you can have it at any meal, preferably with carbohydrates and proteins.
How long do I take?
There are several protocols for so-called creatine cycles, however, there is no ideal protocol, and no perfect duration.
The most common is to see cycles of 4 to 8 weeks, however, stopping creatine supplementation after 8 weeks is not mandatory, being possible to continue for a longer time, as long as respecting the recommended doses.
That is, if you are enjoying the results, you can continue supplementation for more than 8 weeks.
Creatine is considered a safe supplement in healthy people, and according to is study, even after 21 months of taking this substance continuously, there was no problem.
The side effects that can usually occur when the dose is too high or the water consumption is too low.
These side effects usually go through nausea and diarrhea.
Ah, but I was told it does kidney damage, is it true?
No, according to is study, after 12 weeks of supplementation, there was no kidney problem.
And to the liver, are you going to end the liver?
Nor, according to is study, there was no problem with either the kidneys or the liver in the long run.
Important: This applies to healthy people, people with existing problems should consult their doctor before trying this supplement.
Water, fluid retention
Creatine is an osmotically active substance, and when it is stored inside the muscles, it “drags” water with it.
This means two things:
- High water consumption is important when doing this type of supplementation, to achieve better results.
- This is where the volumizing effect of creatine is born, dragging more water into the cells than would be normal, and so the muscle grows.
It is normal for you to gain 1-2kg at the beginning due to water retention within the muscle. (ref)
Consume at least 2 liters of water per day.
What to expect from creatine?
If you have never used this supplement, you are probably curious as to what it can do for you in practice.
What to expect:
- Strength increase
It will make you lift more weight and do more repetitions.
- Weight gain in the short and medium term
Get ready to gain 1 to 2kg at the beginning of supplementation, it's normal, it's not muscle, it's water.
After that, thanks to increases in strength, you will also gain weight in muscle mass, if you go with a good diet.
Important: Creatine is not an anabolic steroid, so don't expect similar results.
And when to stop taking?
First of all, when you stop taking high reserves for 30 days or more, that is, during that period you continue to benefit from this supplementation.ref)
What will happen eventually when the reserves return to normal is:
- You will probably lose 1 or 2 kg, this is the weight you gained in the beginning, it is not muscle, it is water. Remember that this supplement increases the amount of water within the muscle.
- You will probably lose some strength, but nothing substantial.
When you get your creatine levels back to normal, you will end up missing out on the great benefit of this supplement in the ADP-ATP cycle.
However, it is likely that the strength you have at the end of the cycle of this supplement, will be greater than you had at the beginning.
And finally, the muscle mass gains you make during supplementation will not go away when you are finished, you only lose some muscle volume from the increase in water in the muscle, caused by the increase in creatine reserves.
Creatine before training?
There is no problem taking this supplement before training, just don't expect immediate action, because it doesn't work that way.
Unlike caffeine, which has an immediate effect and takes advantage of that effect in the workout of the day, creatine works cumulatively.
It is as if you are filling a pool with water, you will slowly fill it with water, and when it is full you can dive and swim, that is, take advantage of the pool.
In the case of creatine, fill your reserves of creatine and phosphocreatine slowly, and when they are full, yes, you get all the benefits.
Don't expect to fill your reserves in a day or two.
How long before you notice effects?
The benefits begin to appear after 1 to 2 weeks.
It is also important to note that there are people who do not respond to creatine supplementation.
Creatine is probably the most effective supplement on the market for those looking to increase muscle mass.
In addition to being the most effective, it is also inexpensive and combines well with other supplements, such as Whey for example.
If your goal is to increase muscle mass, creatine supplementation is undoubtedly a good bet.
If you want to know the best Creatine supplements on the market, check out the article The Best Creatine Supplements (And The Worst Too).
If you have any questions, use the comments area below.