What Is Creatine?
Creatine is a substance that is synthesized by the body in small amounts, and can be obtainable in Diets particularly from meat products such as Red Meat. Wether or not the Creatine found in Meat would be effective for Performance Enhancement in the gym due to Cooking converting the Creatine into the more useless metabolite Creatinine according to one source. Another reason for even meat Eaters to seriously consider Creatine supplementation to help increase performance in the gym! For the more curious minds who are meat eaters, meat can contain approximately 1gram of Creatine per half-pound of product. How much of that would be of Ergogenic benefit after Cooking is again another debate, another subject.
How Does Creatine Work?
To be technical, Creatine may still have more undiscovered methods or pathways that it works with or through that may still not have been discovered by modern science, but from what we do know, Creatine Phosphate which is the stored form of Creatine in our Muscles simply allows our body to create more ATP, which is the fuel source our muscles use to contract. In essence, more Creatine allows us to have more available ATP to use allowing us to have more/better muscle contractions. Next we’ll discuss what benefits Creatine can offer athletes of all types, and I mean ALL.
What Benefits Does Creatine Supplementation Have?
Creatine supplementation can benefit everybody from BodyBuilding enthusiasts who are simply after more muscle mass, or wether your just an athlete, a badminton player, or even an MMA fighter. Creatine offers more Energy during workouts due to increased ATP regeneration, Strength increases by allowing people to simply push out more reps, decreased fatigue, Increased Lean Muscle Mass, It may even lead to increased recovery from workouts particularly after the first few weeks of use. Again, these are what appear to be the main benefits, there are others we wont cover for simplicity sake right now.
What Is Creatine Loading?
Loading Creatine is where people use doses of 5grams four times per day for a period of 4-5 days in order to saturate their muscles Creatine stores. The idea behind this is to kickstart a Creatine cycle and allow a person to see faster gains in size and strength as opposed to regular dosing which is said to result in slower gains. Using a loading period will use up your Creatine product more quicker then more conventional 5grams daily dosing as used by other bodybuilders. Using creatine with a loading phase is usually followed by whats commonly referred to as a Maintenance phase whereby doses of approximately 3-5grams are taken daily in order to maintain elevated creatine levels in muscles.
What Are The Advantages Of Loading Creatine?
For people who may be looking to kickstart gains in size and strength faster or simply be looking to cycle creatine short term, such as a 4 week period, an initial loading phase of 4-5 days may be used to saturate muscle creatine stores. Studies have found that this results in body mass gain between 1.0kg and 2.2kg although this has been said to be the result of increased skeletal muscle water retention. Studies show that this initial increase in water weight inside muscle cells as a result of loading creatine remained in the body after a 6 week supplementation. Substantial increases in Fat Free Mass were noted with the group that loaded creatine particular past 6 weeks of supplementation so you may want to extend any Creatine cycles to 6 weeks or longer. If a loading phase is not used, alternatively you may extend your creatine cycle to 6-12 weeks in order to maximize benefits from Lean Body Mass as well as strength gains before taking a break from it.
Although there may not be statiscally significant increases in Lean Muscle by using a loading phase of 4-5 days in comparison with standard dosing of 5grams daily for 6-12 weeks, the main benefits of using a loading phase appear to be quicker gains for those of you looking to use short quick cycles. Wether the initial 1.0 – 2.2kg of body mass gains from water retention seen in the group that loaded creatine for the 5-6 day period might help increase strength or somehow elicit gains in Lean Muscle directly or indirectly due to increased cellular voluminzation, stands to question in my humble opinion.
Can I Load Creatine In A Different Way?
Sure, why not? You dont have to follow the 4-5 day rule as others are, until concrete evidence comes out that such a loading phase would help translate into lean muscle gains that are statistically significant in comparison to standard dosing on 5grams daily, I would argue that there would be no harm in loading creatine for a shorter time period.
You could load creatine for a single day, 2 days, or just use creatine in a more conventional manner of 5grams. It depends on your budget too seeing as loading phases will use up your creatine more faster than just using 5grams a day would. Again, a loading phase seems more useful if your planning on running a short 4-6 week cycle and would like to see quicker gains for whatever reasons…
You could load creatine for 1 day 4 x 5grams after a meal, on an empty stomach, after cardio or better still, after a workout with some high G.I. carbs to take advantage of insulins ability to increase creatine uptake. Using high G.I. carbs with your doses of creatine during a loading phase will only help increase its intake because of insulin, fact. You may use 2 days of loading as mentioned, again, it depends upon your budget, diet and training, and also wether there is any increased benefit for you to load up your muscles faster then a non-loading phase. Your choice, you’ll still get great gains from the standard 5grams daily dose of creatine, may take a 1-3 weeks longer for you to notice a difference in the gym, but this doesn’t mean you wont be getting any benefit from the creatine using it this way.Again, we’ll discuss later on how to effectively use creatine and when to enable us to get the best possible results, hence why we may get better results then a study if we do things better then they did.
So Loading Creatine Isn’t Necessary?
In short, no. In terms of fat free body mass it doesn’t seem to make a difference between wether a loading phase is used or wether a conventional maintenance style dosing of 5grams daily is used. However, people may get different results simply because those who load creatine may choose to cycle it for only 4-6 weeks. If you want to maximise your ability to make sure you make enough gains whilst using a conventional maintenance style dosing plan of 5grams daily, I would highly advice keeping the creatine cycle no shorter than 6 weeks, and if possible lengthen it to 12 weeks.
One 2006 study from the Institute of Sports Medicine Copenhagen found that subjects taking creatine for 12 weeks had increased muscle nuclei content. Since one major way that muscle grows is by increasing the number of nuclei in muscle cells, this indicates that creatine can directly signal muscle growth. This may be something you may want to keep in mind to encourage you to run a 12 week cycle. Bottom line is, dont be afraid to experiment a little with your cycle length and dosing strategy.
Can I Load My Creatine More Effectively On A Budget?
Certainly. If you’re interested in Loading simply to saturate your muscle’s Creatine stores quicker and aim to get quicker results, you can either run a loading phase anywhere from 1-5 days at 15-20grams per day split by 5gram Doses, and then simply use a Maintenance dose of 3grams on your non-workout days as opposed to a full 5grams. One study showed successful Creatine supplementation with Maintenance level doses of just 2grams per day after a loading phase! We’ll discuss dosing and how to take your Creatine more effectively on a workout day in just a moment.
Do I Need To Take Any Creatine Pre-Workout?
Its a very logical sounding question, People may take Creatine pre-workout in the hopes to enhance physical performance in the gym, but Creatine can take a while to enter a muscle cell where it can then enhance our performance. From a scientific advantage I dont think it can be argued that there may be more advantages of Creatine supplementation to take Creatine post-workout rather than pre-workout. Dont forget, Creatine is stored in the body, and workouts will deplete muscle Creatine stores. We’ll discuss why using Creatine in during the Post workout “Window Of Opportunity” can be of benefit for us. Some people make the mistake of using their Creatine only pre-workout on their workout days, whilst others may use it both pre and post workout which again, is probably going to lead to waste of product if the bodys Creatine stores in the muscles are already full.
Whats The Most Effective Way To Use Creatine Post Workout?
Well, we spoke earlier that it may be more effective and more efficient if your Creatine is used post workout on a workout day as opposed to using it pre-workout. Dont forget that Muscle creatine stores post workout will be somewhat depleted, making it an excellent time to use Creatine then. Alot of the big Creatine debate seems to be how to get Creatine taken into the Skeletal Muscle as effectively as possible, we’re going to show you how you can do this along with brief reasons why…
Studies confirm that raising insulin levels increases absorption into the Skeletal muscle. Now these studies used Glucose to stimulate an Insulin response. This is where bodybuilders get the idea to mix their Creatine into things like Grape juice in order to create an Insulin spike and help drive more Creatine into the muscles! The problem with this however is that the amount of Glucose used to create such high Insulin levels were approximately 20grams per Gram of Creatine. An immediate put off for those who maybe low carbing or thinking about doing a Creatine loading phase to quicken their results from supplementation.
Now the latest research shows a more safer yet effective way to increase Creatine uptake, simply by using a mixture of Carbs and Protein! Research shows Protein to greatly potentiate the ability of glucose to release Insulin into the blood stream. The effect of Protein was powerful enough to require around HALF as much carbs but yet elicit the same type of surge in Insulin. In the study released in the year 2000 The group given 50grams Protein + 47grams of Glucose, was just as effective at promoting absorption of Creatine into Skeletal Muscle as the group that was given 96grams of Glucose. In short, the protein taken with carbs halved the requirement for Glucose whilst still being just as effective. This protocol can be used during a loading phase multiple times a day for more effective Creatine loading. We’ll discuss a way to take the Creatine on a non-workout day without taking in quite as much Glucose + Protein as this for your Maintenance dose (which should be approximately 3-5grams).
Now, heres the neat part, we know now that combining Protein with Carbs appears to be the best way to enhance Creatine absorption an uptake into the Skeletal Muscle, but combine this with the Post Workout window of opportunity, and things just get better. Post workout as we discussed will mean your muscle’s creatine stores will already be somewhat depleted making it an ideal time to take advantage. Now, not only is your insulin sensitized post workout, but your muscles need Protein and Glucose/Carbs in order to replenish their Glycogen stores, a perfect time to create an Insulin spike and drive in Amino Acids, Glucose and also your Creatine! Creatine used post workout may also potentiate cell hydration when combined with adequate water increasing muscle fullness as well as other things. Win win!
How Much Carbs + Protein Should I Use Post Workout With Creatine?
An optimal amount for protein and carbohydrate consumption has been said to be approximately 0.4grams of Protein per Kg and 0.8g per Kg for Carbohydrates. Taking in 30-40grams of Fast absorbing protein such as Whey along with 40-50grams of Glucose preferably from Dextrose/Maltodextrin along with 5grams of Creatine should be adequate and effective at enhancing Creatine uptake and absorption into your muscles whilst replenishing muscle Glycogen stores and increasing Protein Synthesis as well as offsetting any Catabolism from your workouts.
Whats The Best Time To Take Creatine On Non-workout Days?
For those of you who are looking for the best way to dose your Creatine on a non-workout day, may want to consider taking 3-5grams right after breakfast. Two reasons why I suggest taking it after breakfast, most people tend to eat more higher amounts of Carbs for breakfast and taper their carbs down during the latter part of the day, thus taking Creatine right after a moderate-high carb breakfast may be more advantageous then taking it with a lower carb meal, due to reasons as explained above that Carbs elevate Insulin which in return increases Absorption of Carbs. As its said that Cortisol levels appear to be higher in the morning and Insulin tends to release slowly after waking, this might be another good reason to have a moderate to higher carb breakfast to help increase Insulin in the morning hours to decrease Cortisol. (Another benefit of raising Insulin levels post workout, decreased Cortisol levels and thereby less Catabolism).
Theres Too Many Creatines Out There, Which One Would You Recommend?
True, there are alot of Creatines as well as alot of hype out there. Different forms of Creatine also carry different costs, some more expensive than others. I’ll discuss from my point of view which form I think to be about the best In terms of scientifically backed efficiency, whilst being cost effective too. Whilst im not discounting the newer or more fancy types of Creatine out there, Id like to discuss Creapure, Creatine Monohydrate, but with a difference. Typically other people just recommend normal Creatine Monohydrate but id like to take things a step further If I may…
Firstly, most studies for Creatine appear to use Creatine Monohydrate. Unless your looking to experiment with newer types of Creatine, I would highly recommend sticking to Creatine Monohydrate since its backed by many many studies. Creapure is simply Creatine Monohydrate, but with a difference like I said. The major difference being that its made to a higher quality standard and is more pure than standard Creatine Monohydrate that may be manufactured in Countries such as China. Worries about standard Creatine Monohydrate are that they may contain higher levels of impurities or toxic substances and may be produced with lower quality raw materials resulting in a more impure product, and my reasoning would be that this may be what could be giving people more side effects such as Bloating as well as decreased efficiency from the product or poorer absorption into the Muscles. Creapure is still Creatine Monohydrate, but made through a patented process which aims to increase the Purity of the product to the highest degree possible. Creapure comes directly from Trostberg in Germany, as opposed to standard CM which may come from lower quality Creatine producers in China or even the United States. Personally, im willing to pay a little extra for a high quality product that will give me more peace of mind with regards to safety from increased Creatine use, as well the best possible chance of Absorption and Efficiency. These are my main reasons why I recommend Creapure over other forms of Creatine. Less people also report bloating and stomach discomfort that they tend to get when using ordinary Creatine Monohydrate as opposed to using Creapure. Another reason you may want to remember when making your purchase folks.
For those of you in the UK who may be interested in choosing Creapure for your Creatine, Reflex Nutrition as well as Prolab both sell Genuine Creapure Creatine Monohydrate. Prolab’s Creapure is sold simply as Creatine Monohydrate while the label states it is Creapure. If unsure about the Creapure your purchasing is legitimate or not, you can find a list of Official Creapure distributors from Germany directly.
Do I Need To Cycle Creatine? And When?
Again, this is down to you as an invidividual, if you feel you want to give your body a break from Creatine use, it may not be a bad idea, and you could stop Creatine supplementation after 4 to 12 weeks and take a 4 week break. However after a few weeks of discontinued use, your muscle creatine stores are going to need to be saturated again which means to get quicker results a loading phase of some sort will be needed. Again the loading phase isn’t necessary, only if you want quicker results otherwise you can stick to the normal 5grams per day routine and you will still get results.
Current Data doesn’t seem to show the need to cycle your Creatine. If your planning on running a long cycle however such as 12 to 24 weeks of Creatine supplementation, it might be good to take a break from it. Another option is, if you are thinking of extending your Creatine use for any longer then the typically used 4-6 week mark, you can just use 5grams post workout on workout days, and non-workout days you may just use 3grams in the morning to maintain your Muscles Creatine stores. This should be plenty to give you results in the gym while its not as high as 5grams daily for a period of 3-6months. So thats something to think about!
Should I Drink More Water Whilst Taking Creatine? And How Much?
Creatine as we covered will cause Super Hydration of the muscle cells by pulling in water from your body into your muscle cells. In order to remain properly hydrated and avoid potential side effects such as cramping, It is highly recommended to drink 2 Litres or more of water per day. If you find your getting any stomach discomfort or cramping, you may want to increase your water intake. Also making sure that your creatine is dissolved in water properly with enough water can help prevent excess water from being pulled from your Gut when taking creatine and help prevent any stomach discomfort or even Bloating.
Id like to bring to your attention another aspect of hydration when it comes to Creatine that hardly anybody seems to raise, and that is drinking water in excess, can lead to whats called Hyponatremia. Getting carried away and drinking excess water may be counterproductive and create side effects in the body equal to or worser then drinking adequate water during Creatine supplementation. The reason being that drinking excess water may cause an Eletrolyte Imbalance by messing with the concentration of Sodium and Potassium in your cells, which in turn may result in cramping or decreased function in the gym. Please be aware of this and calculate your water requirements according to the rest of your daily fluid intake. It may also be wise to supplement with some electrolytes during Creatine supplementation and also ensure you are getting enough Sodium from your diet too.
Is Creatine Safe? What About Rumors Of Kidney Damage?
Currently, its been proven that Creatine in moderate doses for long periods of time, have been shown to be safe with no toxic side effects. The University in Munich has just done the most current, longest running study on Creatine use and safety EVER. The researchers gave 60 year old patients who were parkinson sufferers, 4grams of Creatine Monohydrate for TWO YEARS. The aim of the study was to see if Creatine supplementation can have Neuroprotective effects. Studies already showed that Mice live longer if Creatine is added to their food, inspiring right?
Just because Creatine can be converted into the metabolite Creatinine (we talked about earlier), and since Creatinine is a marker used to check Kidney function, Doctors often use this as the basis to scare their Patients that use Creatine, sad times! Research doesn’t appear to currently show wether this marker is good or not. Brazilian researchers recently were using another marker called Cystatin C as opposed to Creatinine reported that Creatine supplementation seemed to IMPROVE Kidney function! If there happens to be a Creatine user who may have Kidney Damage, Doctors may be quick to blame it all on Creatine when Studies dont show this currently, instead of facoring in other drugs or supplements that the person may be using or has recently used that could be responsible for Kidney damage rather than the Creatine. In short, particularly if you’re Cycling your Creatine every few months to take a break, There doesn’t appear to be any Toxic side effects, and if anything seems to delay the ageing process in the body according to researchers.
Can I Use Caffeine While Taking Creatine?
Good question, I’ll try to keep things brief here, Yes and No. According to a Human study by Belgium Scientists published 15 years ago and a recent Japanese test tube study, It was suggested not to use Creatine and Caffeine together as it may cancel out Creatines Ergogenic benefits. According to reasoning from the Belgium study they advise not to take high doses of Caffeine (450mg+) on a regular basis. According to the Japanese study, the Caffeine appeared to mess up the muscles Creatine metabolism.
In short, its being suggested here that taking Caffeine in high doses regularly it will cancel out Creatines positive effects. It may not be a bad idea to use small amounts of Caffeine under 200mg Pre workout as a training booster, but not to use anything more than this, or to avoid using it on non workout days. If you want to play it safe, you could just drop Caffeine use altogether. Again, the choice is yours and depends on how high and frequent your Caffeine dosage is. What I would suggest is to keep Caffeine and Creatine intake far apart by using the Caffeine 1 hour prior to your workout, and taking your Creatine post-workout immediately as we advised rather than using Creatine Pre-workout. This may decrease chances of the Caffeine effecting Creatines positive effects on your performance.
Whats The BEST Tip You Can Share To Enhance My Creatine Cycle?!
Okay, you got me, if you’re going to be using the Creatine post workout on your workout days as we suggest according to the studies, you may be interested in knowing theres something else you can take post workout along with your Carbs, Protein and Creatine to further enhance the effectiveness of your Post Workout Window Of Opportunity, that is…Sodium!
We spoke about how drinking too much water when taking Creatine can cause lower concentrations of Sodium in the Cells which is vital, this in turn may lead to side effects such as Nausea, Cramping etc. Not only is it likely that after an intense workout you will have lost some sodium from your body, Post Workout is a great time to top up with some Sodium. The reasons being, it can reduce Urine output (constant loo trips) and may further increase hydration, Helps prevent hyponamtremia by keeping your Sodium levels stable. Now by taking in proper amounts of Sodium post workout you will increase its ability to bind to Co transport proteins, which will help increase Glucose absorption.
Sodium and Glucose post workout can help form a transport system, not only will the Sodium allow you to stay properly hydrated which may in turn lead to increased Anabolism (dont forget your muscles are mostly water, not protein), but by increasing yout bodys ability to Absorb Glucose efficiently particularly when taken with Creatine may further enhance Creatines absorption and effectiveness.
In short, by taking 500-600mg of Sodium per Litre of water post workout along with your Carbs, Protein + 5grams Creatine, may greatly enhance the Absorption and Effectiveness of Creatine and even Glucose. Maybe this could lead to improved recovery too!
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