Performance-enhancing supplements are the way for athletes, fitness professionals, weightlifters, and bodybuilders to lift more, jump higher, and improve overall performance. One of the most popular performance-enhancing products is creatine. Creatine is widely available and easy to include in any diet and/or fitness regimen, but which one is the best? This guide will help you find the best creatine supplement.
What is Creatine?
Creatine isn’t just a supplement you can buy online or in the store. Creatine is a natural substance in the body.
Creatine turns into creatine phosphate in the body. The phosphate helps make ATP. If you remember your high school anatomy and chemistry classes, you remember that ATP is essential for energy and muscle contractions. ATP, adenosine triphosphate, is a biochemical that permits your body to store and use energy. ATP is found in every cell in your body. ATP is essential for the biochemical reactions required to move muscle. Athletes, bodybuilders, and physically active people put more demand on their muscles. When the muscles work harder, ATP consumption increases as well. The body needs to replace ATP to keep up. As exercise continues, more ATP is required for endurance.
When cells in the body have excess energy, they form ATP to store it.
Creatine supplements is a way to help the body keep up with the demands.
About 2 percent of creatine that occurs naturally in the body is converted to creatinine. Creatinine is a molecule of chemical waste the occurs during muscle metabolism. The kidneys filter creatinine out of the body and get rid of it through the urine.
Why Do People Take Creatine?
To keep up with the demands for ATP, athletes, bodybuilders, gym-goers, and other active people turn to creatine supplements to enhance physical performance. Creatine is relatively new in the gym and sports circles. People have been taking creatine supplements to enhance physical performance for less than 30 years. It wasn’t until the 90s when people started to catch on and include supplements in daily workout and nutrition regimens.
Who takes creatine?
Look around at the gym. Most of the ripped men, solid women, and powerlifters are taking creatine.
In 2001, about 28% of collegiate athletes admitted to using creatine to improve physical fitness and demands of their sport. Even though creatine is not recommended for youth under the age of 18, the same 2001 study found that high school athletes in 11th and 12th grade reaches similar use levels of college athletes (Metzl at al, 2001).
Types of creatine
There are seven different types of creatine. The types of creatine are buffered creatine, conjugated creatine, ethyl ester, liquid creatine, monohydrate, micronized creatine, and tri-creatine malate.
How to get more creatine in the body
As you read before, your body has creatine readily available to energize the cells in your muscles. But endurance and strength-training demands make it harder for your body to meet the demands. While your body does meet about half of its creatine needs, alternative sources of creatine are necessary to meet the other half.
Ways to get more creatine are:
- Shakes and meal replacement drinks
- Liquid drops
What is the best way to take creatine?
Do not take creatine that is loaded with fillers and dyes. In most cases, powder is the best way to consume creatine. Buy a 100% creatine powder online or at your local store. Keep it simple, keep if wholesome, and don’t make it cheap. In the supplement industry, you get what you pay for. Some creatine supplements are no better than a cartoon gummy with lots of promise and no results. When you go cheap, you may end up spending more money in the long run anyway because you will buy more creatine supplements as you see little results.
When you buy a good creatine supplement, you get better results You may be able to save a few bucks by mixing your creatine with a fruit juice, but don’t thin it out. Plus, you need the fruit juice anyway to maximize your creatine absorption.
For every 5 grams of creatine you ingest, your body requires at least 70 grams of simple sugars to boost insulin levels. When the insulin levels in your body are higher, your muscles can increase their creatine intake.
Most people believe monohydrate creatine powder is the best for results and the wallet.
Research on creatine
Researchers are also interested in using creatine for more than building lean muscle. Research is underway to better understand how creatine may be useful for treating other diseases that cause muscle wasting and cachexia. Cachexia is cancer wasting. Cancer wasting is the rapid loss of weight and muscle.
Researchers hope creatine can treat or address concerns related to:
- Lou Gehrig’s disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Muscular dystrophy
- Parkinson’s disease
In sports research, a 2004 study found that elite soccer players who consumed creative improved their soccer-specific skills compared to non-creatine athletes (Ostojic, 2004). Another study conducted on handball players found that short-term creatine supplement use resulted in improvements to lower body strength, repetitive upper and lower exercise demands, and repetitions to fatigue (Izquierdo et al, 2002).
Researchers found that creatine supplements taken over a period of 5 days in resistance-trained men resulted in increase body weight and fat-free body mass. Peak force and total force also increased while on the supplement (Kilduff et al, 2002).
After 4 weeks of strength training while on a creatine supplement, researchers observed muscle strength, body mass changes, and performance improvements (Kilduff et al, 2003).
How to Use Creatine
Creatine alone won’t do the job. You can’t just pop a pill or mix a drink to bulk up. Creatine combined with resistance training and targeted exercise is where the real results occur. But when should you take creatine? Targeting the exact time when your body will best respond to vitamins, nutrients, and supplements is the topic of several studies and blog posts. There are several factors to consider when taking creatine for the best results.
Timing your supplement depends on what you need, what you take, what results you want, your recovery methods, and your dietary needs. The people who study and take creatine usually fall into four camps: before workout, after workout, throughout the day, in cycles.
Remember that your body uses ATP to boost every; therefore, more energy results in more power and increased endurance. The before-workout believers want to prepare the muscles with more widely available ATP.
Then, there are the believers who think creatine should come after the workout when the muscles are tired, energy stores are depleted, and recovery time is needed. The idea is that taking creatine after a workout gives your muscles the extra boost and energy necessary to recover in less time. There’s another side to that suggestion as well: exhausted muscles absorb all the nutrients because it is depleted. This argument is similar to a hungry person at the dinner table: after a long hard day with no food or water, you sit down at the table and eat and eat until you feel satisfied or overindulged.
Then there are those who feel like the body will tell you when it needs creatine – no schedule involved. Creatine is consumed as needed or throughout the day to maintain constant levels of creatine in the body to support an energized life. If your body always has creatine, it will never run out.
Finally, there are those who believe creatine is best when used as part of a cycle.
You will recall that the benefits of creatine include muscle mass gain, healthy weight, and increased recovery. So, which camp is right about when to take creatine? In a way, all of them. Creatine can be taken before a workout to boost energy for the muscles, after a workout to improve recovery, or throughout the day to maintain ATP stores in the muscles.
The goal is to take creatine when your body needs it or when you feel you benefit from it most.
How much creatine should I take? That is the question you are asking yourself now. What you want to be careful of is to not take too much creatine. Earlier, you learned that your body turns about 2% of the creatinine the body to creatinine that is processed through the kidneys. Remember that, because the more creatinine in your kidneys, the more likely you are to experience adverse side effects.
You need to be aware of creatine levels in your body always. You don’t need a lot of creatine to see results. The recommended creatine dosage is between 2 grams and 5 grams per day. Any dosage higher than that may cause concern.
When you consume a creatine powder, make sure the drink or supplement you choose us at least 60 grams of carbs per 100 grams of the drink.
Loading and cycling creatine
You can load creatine just as you would do carb loading. Remember though, not all creatine is the same, so your stacking, cycling, and loading may be different. However, your dosage will not change. Don’t exceed 5 grams of creatine in a day.
If you are taking a buffered creatine, you can take less and still get the benefits of more. Buffered creatine doesn’t require as much powder per serving. You need only a maximum of 2 grams mixed in your drink before you begin your workout.
Loading is best done within the first 5 to 6 days only so the creatine can saturate the cells. Once you move out of the loading phase, there is no need to take large amounts of creatine throughout the day. When loading monohydrate and micronized creatine, mix a scoop with at least 8 ounces of water or juice, and keep to a strict schedule.
When you are loading creatine, mix 1 teaspoon in your drinks about 5 or 6 times per day for a period of 2 to 5 days. On day 6, transition to the maintenance phase. For the muscle maintenance phase, you only need to mix 1 teaspoon of creatine in your drink twice per day. Do this for 2 to 2.5 weeks. When a total of three weeks has passed, stop taking creatine for no more than 3 days. After the break, start your cycle all over again.
When you stack creatine, do so for 6 or 8 weeks. After you stack, give your body a break for another 4 to 6 weeks.
Can I take creatine with other supplements?
You must be smart when taking creatine or other supplements. The two most concerning interactions with creatine occur in people who combine creatine with caffeine or ephedra. An increased risk for stroke is possible. You should also avoid taking creatine if you are currently on medications and/or antibiotics.
Because of kidney concerns in some, never take NSAIDs such as naproxen, indomethacin, piroxicam, or ibuprofen. NSAIDs can cause internal bleeding, kidney and liver toxicity, stomach ulcers, renal failure, increase heart failure risk, and allergic reactions.
How to buy creatine
If you are trying to buy creatine, take your pick. Creatine is all around you. You can buy creatine at the grocery store, a big box club, online, and at the gym. You can buy it as a powder, a pill, a liquid, and even in protein bars. When you are buying creatine, remember these 5 tips:
- Monohydrate is the best bang for your buck, and it goes further
- Read the label. Avoid fillers and get highest percentage of creatine. 100 percent is all you should be looking for.
- Buy the creatine from a reputable company. Read reviews online.
- Don’t assume cheap is always the best option.
- Make sure the creatine you are purchasing is not being shipped from overseas.
Common Questions and Concerns About Creatine
Is creatine safe for my kidneys?
Those who don’t take or understand creatine are often the ones who give the supplement a bad name. Creatine Is often used synonymously with steroids. That connection is simply untrue, plain and simple. Creatine is not a steroid. your body doesn’t suffer the same damaging side effects of steroids when consuming creatine. When you take the right dose, from a reputable company, and with a good product, your kidneys will be fine. Plus, you won’t have to experience the embarrassing side effects of anabolic steroids.
Can women take creatine?
Women can absolutely benefit from taking creatine. Women don’t have to worry about the nasty side effect of steroids, water weight, or increased body fat. Creatine for women is a way to help women feel stronger, get stronger, and promote muscle building in the first place. In women, creatine boosts blood flow to the muscles for performance and to improve recovery. Often, women struggle to build muscle mass alone. Creatine helps build muscle without adding unnecessary fat.
Are there side effects of taking creatine?
Always, always, always stay hydrated when taking creatine. Drink at least 8 to 10 glasses of water per day. Creatine may be associated with unpleasant side effects such as diarrhea, cramping, nausea and overall stomach discomfort. All appear to be more common in those who experience frequent gastrointestinal distress in the first place. If you experience significant side effects, contact your doctor right away.
When can I see results from taking creatine?
The old saying “results aren’t typical” is true for creatine. There is no way to tell how much you will gain and what specific results you will experience. What you can bet on is taking creatine without changing your diet or improving physical activity is essentially useless. You must maintain a healthy diet rich in vitamins and nutrients to support healthy muscle gain and endurance. When you choose proteins, keep them lean. When you choose carbs, make sure they are healthy carbs. Ditch unnecessary fats and sugars.
If you don’t see results with creatine, you need to make a change. If you are doing everything possible to support a healthy lifestyle and weight-training regimen, perhaps DNA is to blame. Sometimes genetics work against you.
Is this muscle mass or water weight?
As you take creatine, you will notice an increase in muscle mass. The rapid increase of muscle may cause the body to retain more water, resulting in a common frustration – belly bloat. At first, sure you may see some water weight, but you must remember that you are gaining mass quickly and boosting your water intake. Of course, you are going to see more of it at first. However, research does not show water gain as a side effect of taking creatine. Long-term use of creatine results in increase muscle mass.
Can vegans/vegetarians take creatine?
Plant-based athletes often have concerns about animal-produce-free ingredients, lactose intolerance, and ethical supplements. It can be difficult for vegans and vegetarians to find vegan-friendly meal replacement shakes and supplements. Creatine is a suitable supplement for vegans and vegetarians because it does not contain lactose or animal proteins.
Supplementing creatine is essential for vegans and vegetarians because they don’t consume alternative forms of creatine in their diets. Why? Alternative sources of creatine are found in animal proteins.
Vegans and vegetarians stand to be the most responsive groups to creatine and creatine supplements because they don’t get enough protein from animal proteins in their diets. For that reason, their bodies may crave the creatine and consume it rapidly. So, the answer to your question “can vegans take creatine” is a simple one: yes. Vegans and vegetarians can take creatine supplements because they cannot get creatine through animal proteins. I do caution vegan and vegetarian athletes, however, to contact the company make sure absolutely no animal products are present in their supplements. You would be surprised to learn how many people have no idea that something as common as gelatin is in fact an animal product.
Is creatine legal?
Yes, creatine is legal, so you don’t have to resort to buying creatine online from shady sources.
Unfortunately, creatine loading is banned in certain athletic organizations such as the NCAA. The NCAA prohibits institutions from providing creatine and other lean mass muscle supplements to bulk up.
When you need a workout boost that support a stronger gym day and better recovery after, creatine is a safe and legal option. No workout routine is complete without it. Vaxxen has muscle builders, supplements, fat burners, and stacks to make sure you fit creatine right in exactly where you need it to see real results.