It is one of the most popular supplements used by people looking to build lean muscle mass, maximize performance, and increase strength.
According to survey data, more than 40% of National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) athletes reported using creatine.
Although it is not a true protein, it is very similar to proteins because the creatine monohydrate compound contains nitrogen . It is known as “non-protein” nitrogen in the world of nutritional biochemistry.
It can be obtained endogenously (formed in the body) from the amino acids glycine, arginine, and methionine or in foods that are eaten, such as fish and meat.
How does creatine monohydrate work?
Creatine is a key player in the phosphagen energy system, the main source of ATP (the main energy substrate in the body) during short-term, high-intensity activities.
Creatine exists as free form creatine and as phosphocreatine in the body. Phosphocreatine functions as a “high-energy phosphate store.”
It works to replenish ATP in rapidly contracting muscles by transferring a phosphate group to ADP that was formed from the hydrolysis of ATP for energy in contracted muscle.
When the muscles run out of creatine, the short duration, high intensity energy system shuts down and the muscles are no longer able to produce more force.
Theoretically, increasing creatine in muscle will increase performance in short, high intensity exercise by increasing the capacity of the phosphagen system.
Creatine is one of the most widely researched supplements. In fact, a Google Scholar search of the terms “creatine supplementation” returned 6,740 scholarly articles and a PubMed search returned 562 articles, indicating that there is a large amount of data from which we can draw conclusions.
From decades of research and hundreds of studies, there are several well-founded benefits to creatine monohydrate, including:
- Increased muscle levels of creatine.
- Increased work capacity and improved training.
- Greater increases in lean body mass.
Below is a more complete and detailed explanation of these benefits and the research behind them:
- Increase in muscle creatine levels.
For creatine to be effective, you need to see increasing levels of creatine in skeletal muscle. According to recent research, increases of 10-40% in muscle creatine and PC stores have been observed with the administration of creatine.
These results were observed after a specific ‘loading’ protocol was observed. This protocol involves ingesting approximately 0.3 g / kg / day for 5-7 days (approximately 20 grams per day in 5-gram increments) and 3-5 g / day after the first 5-7 day period.
While other protocols that do not involve any loading and “cycling” phase in creatine supplementation have been suggested, they have not been shown to be as effective in maintaining increasing muscle creatine levels.
- Increased power and performance.
Creatine supplementation appears to be the most effective legal nutritional supplement currently available for improving anaerobic capacity and lean body mass.
Research on the ergogenic effects of creatine supplementation is extensive, with hundreds of published studies looking at exactly those two results.
About 70% of research has reported a significant increase (P <.05 for statistic people) in exercise capacity, while none have reported an ergolytic effect.
In both the short and long term, creatine supplementation appears to improve overall training quality, leading to 5-15% greater gains in strength and performance.
In addition, almost all studies indicate that “adequate” CM supplementation increases body mass by approximately 1–2 kg in the first week of loading.
In the International Society for Sports Nutrition’s position on creatine, the authors state:
“The large body of research with positive results from MC supplementation leads us to conclude that it is the most effective nutritional supplement available today for increasing high intensity exercise capacity and building lean mass.”
How to take creatine monohydrate
As mentioned above, the overall goal of creatine supplementation is to saturate the muscle stores with creatine. This can be accomplished in a number of ways, but it appears that an initial loading protocol followed by sustained dosing is the optimal way to quickly reach and maintain saturation levels.
Such a protocol would be similar to the following: ingest approximately .3 g / kg / day for 5-7 days (approximately 20 grams per day in 5-gram increments) and 3-5 g / day after the first 5-7 day period. .
Regarding the timing of creatine, there has been recent data on how the timing of supplementation affects its efficacy. While creatine has often been marketed as a pre-workout supplement, science does not support this idea.
Before diving into the studies on this, think about the whole concept of creatine supplementation. It works by bioaccumulation, so a small pre-workout dose likely won’t increase muscle stores enough to get a training benefit.
A recent paper title, “The Effects of Creatine Monohydrate Pre- and Post-Workout Supplementation on Body Composition and Strength” analyzed how the timing of creatine supplementation impacted its efficacy.
In this study, 19 subjects were randomly assigned to a group of creatine supplements before or after 5 g of creatine, either before or after their resistance training.
When you look at the data in the paper, it appears that all the subjects in the post group showed improvements, which was not the case in the pre group, suggesting that taking creatine after training might be a better idea than taking it before training. training.
However, the differences were small and it is really the accumulation of creatine that matters, not so much the timing.
To summarize the dosing and timing of creatine: follow a loading protocol and then maintain your creatine levels by consuming 3-5 grams per day. Timing is not really a “do-or-go” factor with creatine supplements.
Creatine monohydrate side effects
For years creatine has been portrayed by the media as a dangerous and poorly understood supplement, and its long-term use can result in poor health. Unfortunately for the mass media, they reached their conclusions from a small sample size, namely the ever famous “n = 1” experiment.
Most popular claims suggest that creatine can cause dehydration, injury, gastrointestinal upset, and even kidney or liver damage.
However, to this day, there have been no controlled trials that have shown creatine supplementation to cause some of the symptoms or discomforts mentioned above (out of the more than 500 that have been done).
The only clinically reported side effect of creatine supplements is weight gain (due to increases in intracellular water concentration), which is typically a goal of creatine users.
Research on creatine actually began more than 40 years ago when it was used experimentally to treat heart disorders and improve heart function during heart attacks.
There seems to be some anecdotal evidence that creatine supplementation can cause gastrointestinal upset when excessively large doses (more than 20 grams) are taken. Drinking it with plenty of water or switching to a higher quality brand will generally remedy this side effect.
Different forms of creatine
There are mainly two different forms of creatine, creatine monohydrate and creatine ethyl ester. In general, creatine monohydrate is substantially cheaper than creatine ethyl ester.
Creatine ethyl ester is often marketed as a more effective form of creatine due to its increased bioavailability; However, these claims are not supported by scientific research.
In a study comparing creatine monohydrate and creatine ethyl ester to placebo, both creatine monohydrate and creatine ethyl ester increased muscle levels of creatine with some evidence in the paper suggesting that creatine monohydrate might have been more beneficial.
So it is reasonable to think that both creatine monohydrate and ethyl ester will work and have very similar effects with creatine monohydrate which has very little advantage in terms of efficacy and cost per serving.
Frequently asked questions about creatine monohydrate
How fast does creatine monohydrate affect performance?
This will vary from person to person and how creatine is taken. People who follow a charging protocol can often see improvements within 24-72 hours. People taking the longest and slowest approach (just a normal ~ 5 gram dose per day) will generally start to see results within 4-7 days.
Will Creatine Help You Lift Heavier Weights?
Creatine can help you lift heavier weights, albeit indirectly. There are no known mechanisms or data to suggest that creatine alone may increase your 1RM due to supplementation.
However, creatine may allow you to increase your training volume in lower rep ranges with higher weight, which in theory should allow for greater adaptation to training and increase your strength.
Is creatine also beneficial for women?
Yes, creatine is just as beneficial for women as it is for men. There is no special function of the Y chromosome that gives creatine special powers in the male body. However, dosing with creatine may be slightly different for women.
Women generally weigh slightly less than men and often need lower “maintenance doses,” often 3 grams per day instead of 5 grams per day.
Will the ability to retain fat remain after stopping creatine?
Yes. A slight decrease in weight and muscle volume may be noticed due to lower levels of water retention in muscle tissue, but the actual muscle mass, in terms of muscle fiber, will remain after you stop taking creatine. .
Is Creatine Monohydrate Loading Required?
Loading protocols like the ones mentioned above are not necessary for creatine to be effective. You can achieve creatine “saturation” by taking lower daily doses (~ 5 grams / day).
However, this will take much longer and loading protocols increase the rate at which creatine reaches its maximum level of effectiveness.
Should creatine monohydrate be consumed on days off?
To get the most out of creatine supplementation, you should take creatine every day, even on days off. Consider it a daily supplement that you take regardless of whether you have trained or not. This will ensure that you maintain consistently high levels of creatine in your muscle tissue.
Is it better to take creatine before or after training?
As mentioned above, creatine timing is not a critically important aspect to supplement with. Consistent use over time is the most important aspect.
Studies that have examined creatine timing seem to indicate that post-workout might be a bit more bitter than pre-workout.
Does it matter what creatine monohydrate is drunk with?
Taking creatine with plenty of water will help alleviate any possible stomach problems you may have with creatine. Additionally, taking it with a meal can also help increase the absorption and partition of nutrients in creatine in the appropriate tissues.
Does Creatine Monohydrate Help You Lose Fat?
Creatine is not known to decrease body fat by itself, but it can increase your fat loss as it can help you increase the intensity and volume of your training sessions.
One of the biggest dictators of fat loss during training periods is the amount of work done and creatine can help increase your training volume.
Is Creatine Monohydrate Safe For Teens?
Yes, creatine monohydrate is safe for teens. There is no research indicating that creatine has adverse effects in adolescents.
Is Creatine Monohydrate Safe For Older People?
Yes, creatine is safe for older people. In fact, it may be helpful as there is preliminary evidence indicating that creatine may protect against neurocognitive decline and improve brain function in older individuals.
There are currently research studies further investigating the extent to which creatine supplementation may be beneficial for older people.
Does creatine monohydrate harm the liver?
Of the more than 500 studies done on creatine, there is no evidence that creatine monohydrate damages the liver. Also, there are no real known mechanisms by which normal doses of creatine monohydrate can damage the liver.
What is Creapure® Creatine Monohydrate?
Creapure is a form of creatine made in Germany. Compared to creatine made in China, Creapure is much purer; contains less impurities like dioxins and urea. Furthermore, it is the most widely studied type of creatine.
Can you mix creatine with whey protein?
It definitely can. There have been several studies looking at this question and suggesting that you can take creatine and whey protein without any real inconvenience.
Can you take creatine monohydrate with milk?
If possible. It would be analogous to taking it with whey protein and some carbohydrates. If you enjoy milk and want to mix your creatine in it, go ahead.
Is creatine carcinogenic?
There is no evidence to suggest that creatine is carcinogenic. For years there was much debate about whether creatine could become carcinogenic compounds in the body (mainly heterocyclic amines).
This was actually proven in a study where they gave low doses and high doses of creatine. The study did not show an increase in these carcinogens from creatine supplementation.
What is micronized creatine monohydrate?
Micronized Creatine is just Creatine Monohydrate that has been processed into a finer powder. This makes the supplement easier to dissolve in water and can often make the process and absorption easier from people’s stomachs.
Does caffeine affect creatine monohydrate?
The idea that caffeine can affect creatine came from a study published in the mid-1990s (1996, specifically). However, this study looked at a very small aspect of performance and no study has shown any negative effect of caffeine on creatine supplementation on any important outcome.
Is Creatine Monohydrate Vegan?
Creatine monohydrate is often synthesized in a laboratory from a reaction between sarcosine and cyanamide and, in most cases, it is not a direct derivative of animal products.
It is safe for most people to assume that their creatine is actually vegan. For those interested, you can check the manufacturing process of each supplier and determine if it is vegan.
Does creatine have a long-term side effect?
Other than increases in body weight, there are no documented long-term side effects that result from creatine supplementation.
How long does it take to observe the effects of creatine?
The time to notice an effect is usually measured on the scale of days, but sometimes weeks. This will vary from person to person and how you will take your creatine.
People who follow a charging protocol can often see improvements within 24-72 hours. People taking the longest and slowest approach (just a normal ~ 5 gram dose per day) will generally start to see results within 4-7 days.
Can creatine monohydrate cause kidney stones?
There is no evidence to date that creatine causes kidney stones, therefore there is no good reason to believe it causes them.
Does creatine monohydrate increase blood pressure?
Creatine “sequesters” more fluid in the intracellular space, which means that, if anything, there will be more volume in the cells than in the circulation, which should not affect blood pressure.
If you have hypertension and use angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers, it is advisable to consult a doctor before taking creatine as a supplement.
Can creatine monohydrate cause heart problems?
Based on the current available data, creatine monohydrate does not appear to induce heart problems. In fact, it has been used experimentally to treat heart disorders and improve heart function during heart attacks.
Is creatine monohydrate safe for people with diabetes?
Yes, creatine is definitely safe for people with diabetes.
Interestingly, creatine can help with glucose control in people with diabetes, as one study showed that creatine supplementation increased the translocation of GLUT4 (a glucose transporter protein) in skeletal muscle in people with diabetes.
Can you do weights using only creatine?
Yes and no, creatine is simply a tool to aid in the loading phases. You can use it alone and see the benefits during your bulking phase or you can stack it with other effective supplements and increase your gains. The most successful people use creatine in conjunction with other effective products.
Does creatine monohydrate expire?
Any product can expire, especially when it is free of preservatives. However, the shelf life of creatine is 36 months, so most people don’t have to worry about the expiration date.
Can you take creatine and not gain weight?
Yes, theoretically you can take creatine and not gain weight by losing body fat while taking it. Regarding not getting the “water weight” that comes with it, you should be glad to see an increase in scale as that means it is working.
Does it make sense to take creatine occasionally?
If occasionally it means once a week, then no, it doesn’t make any sense as the body needs to accumulate creatine for it to be effective.
If you are going through a period in your training cycle where you are doing more low intensity resistance training, it may be fine if you take a few weeks to a few months of creatine supplementation.
Does creatine reduce appetite?
There is no evidence to suggest that creatine reduces appetite.
Is it dangerous to take creatine in hot weather?
Taking creatine in hot weather is not directly dangerous, but it can increase the body’s water requirement. When training in hot weather, it is imperative to ensure that you are properly addressing hydration status.
Can you use creatine with anabolic gainers?
Yes, creatine can be taken in conjunction with almost any form of anabolic gainer. Creatine works regardless of how most anabolic gainers work, so it is likely that they work synergistically and are an excellent ‘stack’.
For example, beta-alanine and creatine can be a great “energy system” stack as they work through two very different mechanisms to increase “endurance” through high intensity style training.
Could creatine reduce the size of your member?
There is no data to suggest that creatine could reduce the size of your member. Furthermore, there are no good molecular mechanisms by which it can work. However, there is evidence to suggest that creatine might help your sperm function and increase fertility.
Does creatine monohydrate cause cramps?
Creatine is not known to cause cramps directly. However, since creatine can increase intracellular water, it can lower the concentration of certain electrolytes, so your need for things like sodium and magnesium may be a bit higher when taking creatine.
However, this is strictly conjecture, more research is needed to determine the exact role of creatine in cramps.
Is creatine useful for runners?
Contrary to popular belief, the body uses all energy systems (phosphagen, glycolytic, and oxidative system) at all times, with varying degrees of dependence depending on the intensity and duration of the type of training.
Endurance athletes, which include runners, primarily use the oxidative system but also take advantage of glycolysis and the phosphagen system.
So yes, creatine can be helpful for runners; however, the magnitude of the benefit is likely to be less in runners than in individuals who train primarily on the phosphagen system.
Is creatine safe when breastfeeding?
There is no data to indicate that it is harmful to women who are breastfeeding. However, consult your obstetrician if you are currently breastfeeding and considering taking creatine.
What to do if creatine upsets the stomach?
Creatine-induced gastrointestinal problems can usually be corrected by increasing the amount of water you drink creatine with or switching to a higher quality brand. Unfortunately, not all creatine supplements are created equal.
Does creatine help overcome injuries?
While creatine appears to be one of the most beneficial supplements on the market when it comes to performance, there is no good evidence to date to suggest that creatine can help with the injury healing process.
Does creatine monohydrate interfere with any medications?
Creatine is essentially a small peptide (3 amino acids) that is naturally produced by your own body and should theoretically not interfere with any medications. However, if you take prescription medications, clarify them with your doctor before taking creatine monohydrate as a supplement.
Can creatine target a unique muscle group?
No, creatine will be absorbed in practically all tissues. There is no commercial method available to increase the specific uptake of creatine in tissues. Although it is theoretically possible to achieve the use of current nanotechnology that pharmaceutical companies use for the delivery of tissue specific drugs.
Should I cycle different creatine products?
There is no evidence to suggest that cycling different creatine products will provide better results or are safer in the long term.
In fact, if you find that a product that works for you and is well tolerated by your body, it may be beneficial to stick with that specific product until it becomes ineffective or causes some kind of discomfort or other side effect (this is highly unlikely).
What happens if you consume creatine and don’t exercise?
The muscles and other tissues will absorb the creatine, store some extra water, and continue to function normally. You will see a small increase in the scale, but you will not notice any noticeable difference in strength or physical appearance.