I have been taking creatine for six years and here is my evaluation of it: It works! When I first started thinking about taking creatine about six years ago a few people (my parents included) told me that I was crazy and that creatine is very bad for you. I believed them at first but then quickly realized something. None of them had any idea about what they were talking about. After some research and self-experimentation I can confidently tell you that creatine works when taken properly by healthy adults. However for safety purposes I do not recommend taking creatine if you are or have any of the following:
-Women who are pregnant or nursing
-Taking medication that affects your blood sugar
Taking creatine in any of the above situations will cause complications so it is just better to stay away from it. But if you are a healthy adult here is the low down on what you need to know about creatine:
How it Works
Creatine is natural amino acid that is produced by your liver, kidney, and pancreas. It is also found in foods such as steak, chicken, and fish. The myth that creatine is a steroid is absolutely not true as steroids are synthetic hormones that are meant to emulate testosterone. How creatine works is as such: Your body has energy storing molecules called adenosine triphosphate (ATP). This molecule is comprised of three phosphate particles. Energy is released when one of these phosphate molecules breaks. ATP molecules are able to release more energy when the phosphate is replenished in the ATP molecule. Creatine provides the ATP molecules with the additional phosphate that it needs in order to produce more energy. Your body’s production of creatine during exercise is vital as without it you would not be able to exert high amounts of energy. With supplemental creatine you will have more phosphate to provide to your ATP molecules thus allowing you to exert higher amounts of energy in your workout.
Benefits of Creatine
Additional ATP energy that your body will be able to produce because of the supplemented creatine benefits weight lifters and athletes tremendously. The Journal of Sports Science and Medicine has found that the supplementation of creatine allows the body to pump out an additional 15% of maximum power. This additional power is a key factor in pushing yourself to the next level in your lifting and athletic ability. If you have been plateauing as of late I highly recommend using creatine as it may be just the thing you have been looking for.
When to Take Creatine
1) Creatine can be taken before or after your workout. If you are going to take it both before and after make sure to divide your serving in two. The argument for taking it before your workout is that you will then have the creatine in you to provide more energy to your muscles during your workout. Taking it after your workout will help to aid your body in its recovery process. As long as you are consuming the proper amount of creatine it really does not matter when you take it.
2) Creatine is especially helpful when you are bulking. The added water retention in your muscles is not a big deal as you are trying to gain weight. When you are cutting this water retention will be an unwelcoming sight. For me taking creatine at the beginning of a cut and then stop using it midway through. This way the creatine will help to maintain muscle mass in your body but by the end the water in your muscles will leave and the definition in your body can be more vividly seen.
How to Take Creatine
Taking 3-5 grams of creatine per day (including off days) is all that you need. Using less may cause the creatine to not take full effect. Taking more than the recommended dose of creatine may cause cramping and other unwelcome side effects as your body can only use so much creatine at one time. All labels should say how much creatine there is per scoop so be sure to measure out the right amount per serving. When taking creatine your body is going to need more water than you usually drink because of the additional water that is being stored in your muscles. Not drinking enough water will result in cramps and will not allow the creatine to take full effect. Creatine should also be cycled out meaning that there are periods where you should not be using it. I do a cycle of 4 weeks using it then the next 4 weeks I am not using it at all. Longer cycles such as 3 months on and 1 month off are permitted however I do not like to carry around the excess water weight for too long. I also like to cycle creatine for financial reasons as it is not free and can get pricy.
So to recap: 3-5 grams per day with plenty of water for creatine to do its job. When trying something new it is important to get the facts about it first. Do some research and talk to people that have had experience with it before. Creatine when taken properly can be very beneficial. The labels on the package have directions on how to take the product. Where you will run into trouble or not see the results that you want is where you do differently from what the label says. If you are looking to increase muscle mass and perform at a higher level then creatine is for you.