Creatine is one of the most talked about supplements in the fitness industry. Everyone has their take on it. Which type do you take? Do you have to load it? Do you have to cycle off of it? I will answer everything you need to know in this article.
Creatine is a natural compound. It is made up of amino acids L-arginine, glycine, and methionine. Our bodies can produce it naturally, but you can also get creatine from meat, eggs, and fish.
The biggest reason everyone takes creatine is for increased performance in the gym. It can help everything from increasing the number of reps to overall power output. It lets you push heavier weight, which allows for the body to receive a stronger stimulus to grow.
Creatine allows the water content of a muscle cell to saturate more. The more creatine you have in there, the more water that can be pulled. This leads people to believe that they “put on size”. What is really happening is that your muscles are just filling out with more water. On the contrary, when people say it makes them look soft or bloated that simply isn’t true. As mentioned before, creatine pulls water WITHIN the cell not outside of it.
Studies have shown regularly taking creatine can increase the size of the muscle fibers by 35%, whereas the placebo only showed a 10% increase. They also found people who took creatine monohydrate were able to lift 20% more weight when doing 1, 3, or 10 repetitions, whereas the placebo group only improved their strength by 12%.
It can also help athletes with power output in sprinting type sports such as swimmers, wrestlers, and sprinters.
How to Take
The standard dose is 3 to 5 grams a day. The only time you would see side effects is taking 20+ grams which isn’t necessary unless you are loading creatine. A loading protocol is one option for those wanting to load their cells with creatine quickly. In this case You can split the dose up throughout the day and drink lots of water. Keep in mind you don’t HAVE to load it. You can just take 3-5 grams every day, it’ll just take a little longer to maximize the benefits.
Vegans may see even more noticeable benefits from taking creatine, because they tend to be very low on their creatine stores to begin with.
Which Creatine to Take?
Companies like to jack up their price on their special form of creatine and it’s all BS. Creatine is THE most researched supplement on the market, and it is hands down, the cheapest supplement you can get. Anyone trying to push these other varieties is not offering anything more other than a high price point to make a sale. You may see forms like Creatine HCL, ethyl ester, etc. They promise to cause less water retention, or less cramping, but as mentioned before, you WANT water retention as it is within the muscle cell allowing you to have a higher output. None of the newer forms have proven to be more digestible, or more easily dissolvable. If you find creatine monohydrate to be too clumpy, you can try micronized creatine which will dissolve easier with less clumps.
Overall, creatine monohydrate is a very safe, and beneficial supplement to take. It can help improve your performance in the gym, and provide that extra boost you may need to bust through a plateau. I do like to clarify as with all supplements though that they are just that. You don’t HAVE to take them, and they will always be tools to assist performance.