David is an army-trained biomedical scientific officer, writer, and lifelong health and fitness enthusiast.
The Benefits Of Creatine
Creatine monohydrate is the most well researched, proven and effective sports nutritional supplement available today. And if you work out regularly, and want to get the best possible results from your training, it may well be the most important supplement you could take.
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, such as 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 a large number of benefits you can experience from taking creatine regularly, but the five main ones are as follows:
1. Creatine Increases Strength and Power
Creatine works by increasing the production of ATP in the mitochondria of your muscle cells during intense physical activity. And this results in more powerful muscle contractions; so you'll be able to use more weight for the same number of reps, or do a rep or two more with the same weight.
Because of this you get a more powerful stimulus to the muscles, which produces 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, as many people believe, so it will not cause a bloated or puffy appearance. Just the opposite in fact. And again, the stronger muscle stimulus you are able to get whilst training will result in increased muscle growth.
3. Creatine Increases Speed
Creatine allows your muscle fibers to contract more rapidly too; so you'll be able to sprint faster. This means you'll get more of a fat burning and fitness enhancing benefit from your high intensity cardio sessions.
4. Creatine Helps You Retain Muscle Whilst Losing Fat
If you are eating at a calorie deficit in order to shed unwanted 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 means you'll be able to get more work done in less time, which will further enhance muscle growth, as well as allowing you to get your workouts finished quicker.
You’ll also recover faster between training sessions too. But you won’t get the full benefit from this if you are only working each body part once per week, as seems to be popular nowadays. But if you train each muscle group two or three times per week, using full body workouts or an upper/lower split routine, you’ll really notice the difference and get much better results.
Ok, So What Type Of Creatine Should I Take?
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. They are more expensive though, so they will certainly make your wallet lighter.
It is important to choose the right form of creatine monohydrate though, in order to ensure the maximum in purity and effectiveness. And the best type is creapure, which is made in Germany to the highest standards, and is guaranteed to be 99.99% pure creatine.
You should also choose micronised creatine, as this is much better absorbed, due to the fact that it has been broken down to give a surface area about 20 times greater than normal creatine.
So creapure micronised creatine monohydrate is the product of choice. And although there are many good brands available, the one I use and can particularly recommend is Optimum Nutrition Creatine, as this dissolves easily and has never caused me any stomach upset. Also Optimum Nutrition are well known as suppliers of good quality, effective products.
What About Creatine Loading and Creatine Cycling?
A common practice is 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 that 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 5 days.
A typical loading phase will entail taking 5g of creatine four times per day for 5 days. And after this you can maintain saturation by taking just 4 – 5g per day.
It's also common to take a break from creatine occasionally. And again this ‘creatine cycling’ is not necessary. You can take it continuously 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.
And Is There Anything I Can Take With Creatine To Give Even Better Results?
Yes, a substance called beta alanine produces results very similar to creatine, but by a completely different pathway. Beta alanine is a precursor to carnosine which counteracts the effects of hydrogen ion (acid) buildup in the muscles during training. So if you have more carnosine in your muscles you will be able to continue your sets for longer before fatigue sets in.
In studies beta alanine has been shown to improve performance and lead to increased strength, speed and muscle growth over time. And this is all backed by real world evidence too.
Taken individually either of these supplements will give great results, but when combined their effectiveness is increased 3 – 4 fold. Again take 4 – 5g of beta alanine per day.
But whereas creatine is best taken post workout, together with some protein and glucose in order to maximize uptake and storage, beta alanine is generally regarded as a pre-workout supplement.
So now you know all about the benefits of creatine monohydrate, as well as what type to take, how to use it and what to take with it. Just follow the guidelines given here and I’m sure you’ll be able to take your training results to the next level. Best of luck.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on December 20, 2018:
It can cause stomach cramps in some people. And although there are those that claim it can also cause liver and kidney problems, this is not supported by the research, and creatine is regarded as a very safe supplement.
Ilaz on December 19, 2018:
So, what about side effects of taking creatine? Is there an study saying that creatine has no side effects? This is my concern! Thank you!
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on September 26, 2017:
Yes; thanks for that SagaSphere. I was mostly concerned with the benefits for athletes/bodybuilders in this article. But you are right, it does have other benefits as well.
SagaSphere on September 26, 2017:
I find that creatine also aids mental function. There is a growing trend where creatine is recommended for longevity and healthy brain function/aging.
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on January 12, 2014:
Thanks nutritionhub. Yes it certainly does help to enhance strength and endurance. Glad you found it helpful in your training.
nutritionhub on January 12, 2014:
Great Hub! I used to use creatine and definitely noticed a boost in endurance. I stopped when I had to reduce my training schedule though. I'd certainly recommend it to aid serious training.
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on December 31, 2013:
Thanks Alphadogg. Glad you are having success with this. And thanks for your observations about the citrate. As for monohydrate; I would only ever use creapure.
Kevin W from Texas on December 31, 2013:
Great hub dwelburn, the monohydrate is a definite must in my diet, however I have also tried the creatine citrate which works well too. It doesn't have as much creatine in it per serving as the monohydrate, but it's more water soluble and dissolves better. Im going to have to test this creapure out.
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on December 31, 2013:
Yes I've heard that too TotalHealth. This article was really concerned with performance, but it does have other benefits too. I'm sure you'll get a good post out of that, and I'll take a look at it if you do write it.
TotalHealth from Hermosa Beach, CA on December 30, 2013:
I agree that creatine is a proven performance enhancer for athletes. Recently I've seen some studies that creatine may boost brain function as well. I'm going to be researching it and will post if the studies prove useful.