Everything you need to know about Creatine
A complete guide with all the information about creatine supplementation.
In this guide you will know not only what Creatine is, but also what it is that does, how it does it, what different types (and the best), how to take and more.
We also answer some common questions about this supplement and in the end you still have the comments area in case you have any specific questions.
Let's get started.
Note. If you simply want to know what are the best Creatine supplements on the market, see the article The best Creatine supplements (and the worst as well).
What is Creatine?
When you hear this name, you probably immediately associate it with your 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 no 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 able to produce it – with a very important role in the supply of energy.
It began to gain a lot of popularity in the 1990s, when more and more studies began to emerge to prove its effectiveness, and more and more athletes began to use it.
What are you doing?
Creatine after ingested is stored in muscles such as creatine(Cr) and phosphocreatine (CP).
And what is phosphocreatine?
Phosphocreatine is creatine with a phosphate group, and this yes, can provide energy by participating in the ADP-ATP cycle.
First of all, ATP is our immediate power source, and once used, it turns into ADP.
What's phosphocreatine going to do?
Phosphocreatine will donate a phosphate group to ADP, so we get BACK TOP quickly to do more repetitions.
ATP-CP depends on creatine phosphate reserves, which are greatly reduced, so the short duration of this energy system.
By supplementing creatine, you'll increase your creatine phosphate reserves, 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 of water inside the muscles.
This will not only give a greater volume to the muscles, but will also help in muscle growth. (ref)
So but… does it really work?
Let's see what the studies tell us.
Maximum strength, and total strength during an isometric maximum repetition supine test were also significantly higher in responders compared to the placebo group
Similarly, the average increase in weight lifting performance (maximal repetitions at a certain percentage of maximum strength) after Cr supplementation, plus resistance training was 14% higher than the average increase in weight lifting performance after taking placebo during resistance training (26 vs. 12%).
The increase in the 1RM supine ranged from 3 to 45%, and for the improvement in weightlifting performance in the supine ranged from 16 to 43%.
Well, it seems so.
Different types of creatine
This is the most common form of creatine, and also the one to which all others are compared.
Most studies in relation to the benefits of this supplement use the monohydrate form.
CM is composed of 88% creatine (12% is monohydrate), and can also be micronized, thus reducing the size of particles, and increasing solubility in water.
There is also the Creapure form, which although it is only CM, is a patented form with strict quality standards, and is often chosen in scientific studies.
Creatine Ester Ethyl
EEC was an attempt to develop a superior alternative to creatine monohydrate, and is probably the biggest disappointment of all creatines.
This type is not only not superior to CM, but the different studies that were eventually disseminated in relation to this formula, show that it is much lower. (ref)
EEC is easily converted into creatinine, not creatine, and is therefore a formula to avoid. (ref)
This is more of a form of creatine supplementation, and that fortunately, is not very popular.
The liquid version suffers from the same evil of the EEC, that is, it is easily converted into creatinine, but differently.
Creatine when in liquid state for several days, is converted into creatinine and thus loses the benefits that would be expected with this supplementation.
Kre-Alkalyn is a patented form of CM, in which the difference is pH, which in this case is higher.
This formula has been promoted (and still is) for some time due to its supposed higher absorption, greater increase in creatine in muscle and fewer side effects, in addition to which a lower dose would be required to obtain these results.
Unfortunately this is not true and this study shows that there is no advantage in using the Kre-Alkalyn form over normal CM.
Creatine citrate is more soluvel in water than monohydrate, however, this does not have much impact on creatine efficacy, and this study shows that there is no significant difference between creatine citrate and creatine monohydrate supplementation.
It is practically equivalent in results to CM.
Like the citrate form, the malate version is more soluvel in water than CM, however, there are no studies showing that this formula is superior to creatine monohydrate, probably being similar, such as the citrate variant.
This is a form that has been promoted recently, as being supposedly superior (as always) in relation to CM, due to its supposedly higher bioavailability.
Theoretically the only advantage that this form could have, would be the need for a lower dose in relation 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 easily find it here.
Although this article is about creatine in general, from here we will focus on the monohydrate form, since it is the most studied, and probably the best choice.
The so-called loading phase is often used in creatine supplementation.
What is this loading phase?
This loading phase consists of using during the first 5 days a high dose of this supplement, to "fill" the reserves in the muscle more quickly, and thus start to get results faster.
The loading phase is not mandatory, it just leads you to start noticing effects faster.
To do the loading phase, you should use a 20g dose of 20g, separated into 4 tomas, for the first 5 days of supplementation. 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 5 days of the loading phase, where you use 20 grams per day, the dose goes to 3-6g once a day.
If you do not wish to do loading phase, start with this dose.
The most common number is usually 5g, however, if you are too thin it takes 3g to 4g to get good results, while if you are heavier, you can use 6g.
It is important to highlight, supplementation is done every day, i.e. no taking only on training days.
When should I take creatine?
The best time is after training, preferably with a whey protein shake and simple carbohydrates like dextrose or maltodextrin, this is the time you will get the best results due to the action of insulin. (ref)
A good post-workout would be a whey protein shake, maltodextrin/dextrose and creatine.
On days without training, you can take 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, it is not mandatory to stop creatine supplementation after 8 weeks, being possible to continue for longer, since 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 this study, even after 21 months of taking this substance continuously, no problem arose.
Side effects that may arise usually occur when the dose is too high or water consumption is too low.
These side effects usually experience nausea and diarrhoea.
Oh, but I'm told it's bad for the kidneys, is it?
No, according to this study, after 12 weeks of supplementation, there was no problem at the level of kidneys.
And the liver, are you going to kick my ass?
Nor, according to this 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 osmopathically active substance, and when it is stored inside the muscles, it "drags" water with it.
This means two things:
- It is important to have high water consumption when doing this type of supplementation, in order to achieve better results.
- This is where the creatine volumization effect is born, dragging more water into the cells than would normally be normal, and thus the muscle increases.
It is normal that you gain 1-2kg at first due to water retention inside the muscle. (ref)
Consumes at least 2 liters of water per day.
What to expect from creatine?
If you've never used this supplement, you're probably curious about what it can do for you in practice.
What you should expect:
- Increased strength
It'll 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 strength increases, you will also gain weight in muscle mass if you follow up with a good diet.
Important: Creatine is no anabolic steroid, so don't expect similar results.
And when you stop taking it?
First of all, when you stop taking you continue with 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 bookings return to normal is:
- You're probably going to lose 1 or 2kg, this is the weight you gained at first, it's not muscle, it's water. Remember that this supplement increases the amount of water inside the muscle.
- You're probably going to lose some strength, but nothing substantial.
By returning creatine levels to normal, you will end up losing 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 is higher than what you had at the beginning.
And finally, the muscle mass gains you make during supplementation will not disappear when you're done, you lose only some muscle volume from the increase in water in the muscle, caused by increased creatine reserves.
Creatine before training?
There is no problem in 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 this effect in the workout of the day, creatine works cumulatively.
It's like you're filling a pool with water, you're slowly filling it with water, and when it's full you can dive and swim, i.e. take advantage of the pool.
In the case of creatine, you fill your creatine and phosphocreatine reserves slowly, and when they're full, then yes, you take all the benefits.
Don't expect to fill your reserves in a day or two.
How long before you notice effects?
Benefits begin to appear after 1 to 2 weeks.
It is also important to note that there are people who do not react 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 cheap 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 Best Creatine Supplements (and the worst as well).
If you have any questions, use the comments area below.