Recently a good friend of mine mentioned that he wanted to start using creatine to assist his weight training but did not know what to get or how to implement it. Before I get into detail on specific products and how to use it in training I will first tell you what exactly creatine is and how it works.
What is it?
Creatine is a natural amino acid most commonly found in red meat but is also produced in small amounts by the liver, kidneys, and pancreas. Once in the body creatine becomes a fuel source for short duration high-intensity activities such as weight training, sprinting and jumping where phosphocreatine is converted to ATP. The amount of creatine consumed through the diet and produced naturally in the body are at very low, which brings in supplementation to increase available levels.
Creatine and Performance
Most studies aimed at the usage of creatine have shown that creatine supplementation does in fact increase strength and lean muscle mass while improving high intensity, short-duration exercise, such as weightlifting and sprinting.
To produce energy for high intensity activities the muscles generate readily available energy for all out activity. Stored creatine can provide energy for the first 4-5 seconds of intense activity (Source). With additional creatine available for the body you are able to train harder and longer at a higher intensity. If you are able to squeeze out 1 or 2 additional reps or add 5 pounds to your max you are getting stronger.
Endurance athletes have also experimented with the use of creatine, but for the most part creatine is not useful in endurance sports. Creatine CAN be of benefit during the training process as it will increase strength and power production in the short term, but will not improve endurance.
Creatine and Weight Gain
Once common side effect of creatine supplementation is gaining weight, which can range anywhere from no weight gain to as much as 6 pounds in some in cases. This happens because creatine is osmotic, it pulls water into the cells. By pulling more water into the cells creatine helps increase muscle synthesis, which will lead to further muscle growth and or/recovery.
Creatine and Safety
Contrary to some common thoughts, creatine has gone through extensive research and testing without significant findings of it being harmful. The biggest issues related to creatine relate to dehydration which can lead to muscle injuries such as strains and pulls. Creatine has also been studies vigorously from a clinical stand point. Evidences of benefits from this supplement have been reported in a broad range of diseases, including myopathies, neurodegenerative disorders, cancer, rheumatic diseases, and type 2 diabetes.
How to Use Creatine
The amount of creatine that can be stored in the muscles is limited, which is why I don’t recommend or use a loading phase. Begin using creatine monohydrate with doses of 5-10 grams per day. I prefer to take my creatine in the morning with green tea or around my workouts. Taking creatine with a protein or carbohydrate source can increase the absorption of creatine, as the increased insulin response will pull more creatine into the muscle tissue.
Other Types of Creatine
There has been an influx of new creatine products hitting the market over the past few years, but none of them are as effective as creatine monohydrate. In this study , creatine ethyl ester was found to not be as effective as creatine monohydrate at increasing serum and muscle creatine levels or in improving body composition, muscle mass, strength, and power.
Creatine has been a vital part of my training arsenal for the last 5 years. I prefer to cycle on and off every 12 weeks or so as I can use it more effectively. Creatine is an awesome supplement that can provide a huge advantage in your training with minimal side effects. As with any product some people are non-responders, if you are creatine is not for you, but to get the full benefit of creatine supplementation us a respected brand such as Universal Nutrition or Biotest.
-Use Creatine Monohydrate
-Take 5-10 Grams if looking to add mass, if looking for strength/performance benefits only stick with 3-5 grams.
-Mix creatine with a beverage such as green tea or around peri-workout nutrition
-Cycle on and off creatine every 12 weeks or so
– Based on current research and data creatine is safe both in the short, and long term
– Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate! Most issues related to creatine supplementation are because the user is under-consuming water. Drink additional water with creatine supplementation.
Please leave comments and questions below!
Baechle TR & Earle RW. Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning. National Strength Training Association, 2nd ed. Human Kinetics. Champaign, IL. 2000.
Green AL, et al. Carbohydrate ingestion augments skeletal muscle creation accumulation during creatine supplementation in humans. Am J Physiol 1996;271:E821-E826.
Gualano, B., H. Roschel, A. H. Lancha Jr, C. E. Brightbill, and E. S. Rawson. “National Center for Biotechnology Information.” In Sickness and in Health: The Widespread Application of Creatine Supplementation. (2011). National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Web. 28 May 2012. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22101980.
Spillane, Mike, et al. The effects of creatine ethyl ester supplementation combined with heavy resistance training on body composition, muscle performance, and serum and muscle creatine levels. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2009, 6:6doi:10.1186/1550-2783-6-6.
Copyright 2012 by Eric R Bach. All rights reserved. This material may not be duplicated or distributed without written consent from the author.