There’s no arguing the statement that creatine monohydrate is the undisputed king of muscle building and performance enhancing sports supplements. While studies show it works for 80% of the people who take it, there are ways to get more bang for your muscle building buck. This article shows you how.
Below are 5 tips to help get the most benefit from creatine supplements. Whether you are a man or women, fitness buff, Crossfitter, professional athlete or anything in between I guarantee you’ll find that they help you experience all the benefits this supplement offers.
1. Avoid Supplements That Don’t Contain Creatine Monohydrate
Despite what some supplement companies may say, research proves, unequivocally, that creatine monohydrate produces better results than another other product. Whether you’re comparing it to buffered creatine (Kre Alkalyn), creatine ethyl ester (CEE), or liquid creatine it always wins. When I say wins I mean that none are better for getting more creatine into your muscles where it does its job.
Creatine monohydrate powder is also shown to be superior to other forms in terms of less being converted to useless by-products like creatinine (4). Studies also show that creatine monohydrate doesn’t cause you to feel bloated either, regardless of what some companies claim (7).
I do have one recommendation to make when you buy a creatine supplement. It’s that you buy micronized creatine monohydrate powder. That’s because it’s ground into a very fine powder which dissolves better than the regular stuff. It stays dissolved longer too. This means that you don’t have to continuously mix your drink to keep it dissolved and from getting stuck to your glass.
I personally use Prolab Micronized Creatine Monohydrate. It comes as an unflavored powder, produces great results, and only costs $.11 per serving. Each can has 200 servings and lasts several months.
2. There Is A Best Time To Take Creatine
While you will still get results by taking it any time of the day, it’s likely that you’ll see better results by take your creatine immediately post-workout. A recently published study shows that taking 5 grams of creatine monohydrate immediately after lifting weights enabled the subjects to build more muscle and experience greater increases in their strength than the guys taking it before they trained (1).
Both groups supplemented with creatine for a month and lifted weights an average of 5 times a week. Neither group followed a different diet or training program which indicates the results are due to when they took their creatine.
A probable explanation as to why taking creatine post-workout is more effective is that this is time when you muscles are able to best absorb nutrients like creatine, proteins, and carbohydrates. Several studies support this claim which is why so many experts recommend eating or drinking a carbohydrate and protein dense meal immediately post-workout.
Give it a try yourself by adding a scoop of creatine to your post-workout shakes for the next month. I’ve been taking creatine this way even before reading the results of this study and find it always helps me build muscle and get stronger faster.
3. The Best Way To Load Your Muscles With Creatine
I’ve taken creatine with and without the recommended loading phase and always find that the former produces better results. While it’s true that you will get as much creatine into your muscles after about a month if you skip the loading phase and just take a scoop (5 grams) a day, there’s something about filling them up over a short period of time that seems to work better.
Studies support this too. According to Dr. Richard Kreider, a sports scientist who has performed many studies on creatine monohydrate, skipping the loading phase is not as likely to produce results, especially in terms of increases in strength, muscle, and the ability to recover faster between sets in the gym (2).
Another reason you should do the loading phase is that you’ll see results quickly. Often after just 3-5 days. Whenever I go off creatine for a few months and then load again my muscles are fuller and I feel stronger after the 3rd day. By day 7 I’ve always put on a few pounds of muscle and I’m able to train harder and use heavier weights than I was earlier that week.
There’s nothing fancy to the loading phase. Simple take 20 grams of creatine monohydrate (4 scoops) every day for a week. Take them in divided doses of 5-10 grams per drink. There’s no need to take more than 20 grams a day. All it does it waste your money.
Once you’ve loaded for a week, all you need to do to maintain the creatine in your muscles is take 5 grams (1 scoop) a day.
4. Take Your Creatine With Some Carbohydrates
Studies show that taking creatine monohydrate with carbohydrates helps get about 25% more into your muscles then if you drink it in water(3). Just don’t think that you need to gorge on pasta or drink a gallon of orange juice benefit. Simply adding a scoop of creatine to your post-workout drink with a about 25-30 grams of carbohydrates and you’re good.
Another way to experience this benefit is to take your creatine with meals. Since it’s the insulin increasing action of carbohydrates that helps get more creatine into your muscles, taking it with a meal, even if it isn’t super high in carbohydrates is more than likely enough to experience the benefit you desire.
I also like taking my creatine with meals since it eliminates any chance of getting the upset stomach I sometimes experience when I take it on an empty stomach.
5. Lift Heavy Weights And Workout Hard
This tip should go without saying but I feel it bears mentioning. Like many things in life, the harder you work – as long as your plan is smart – the better your results. This is definitely true for creatine supplementation. If you want to see results you need to lift heavy weights (5-10) reps for 3-5 sets per exercise at least 3 days a week. A study comparing the physiology of those who respond to those who don’t respond to creatine monohydrate shows that those that do have more muscle than non-responders(8). They also have more type II muscle fibers which is the type that you responds best to strength training and doing exercises like burpees, kettlebell swings, farmer’s walks, and squats.
Therefore, it goes to say that the more muscle you have or work to build while taking creatine increases the odds you will get the most from supplementation. If your workouts amount to little more than walking on a treadmill while watching TV you shouldn’t expect to experience much benefit, if any at all.
Now you know 5 easy to follow tips to get the most from your creatine supplements. Use them all and you’ll get more from every scoop that you mix up and drink.
1. Antonio J, Ciccone V. The effects of pre versus post workout supplementation of creatine monohydrate on body composition and strength. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2013, 10:36.
2. Bellavance, Jamie. The Facts About Creatine. MensHealth.com.
3. Green AL, Hultman E, Macdonald IA, Sewell DA, Greenhaff PL. Carbohydrate ingestion augments skeletal muscle creatine accumulation during creatine supplementation in humans. Am J Physiol. 1996 Nov;271(5 Pt 1):E821-6.
4. Jäger R, Harris RC, Purpura M, Francaux M.Comparison of new forms of creatine in raising plasma creatine levels. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2007 Nov 12;4:17.
5. Jagim AR, Oliver JM, Sanchez A, Galvan E, Fluckey J, Riechman S, Greenwood M, Kelly K, Meininger C, Rasmussen C, Kreider RB. A buffered form of creatine does not promote greater changes in muscle creatine content, body composition, or training adaptations than creatine monohydrate. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2012 Sep 13;9(1):43. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-9-43.
6. Preen D, Dawson B, Goodman C, Beilby J, Ching S. Creatine supplementation: a comparison of loading and maintenance protocols on creatine uptake by human skeletal muscle. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2003 Mar;13(1):97-111.
7. Spillane M, Schoch R, Cooke M, Harvey T, Greenwood M, Kreider R, Willoughby DS. The effects of creatine ethyl ester supplementation combined with heavy resistance training on body composition, muscle performance, and serum and muscle creatine levels. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2009 Feb 19;6:6. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-6-6.
8. Syrotuik DG, Bell GJ. Acute creatine monohydrate supplementation: a descriptive physiological profile of responders vs. nonresponders. J Strength Cond Res. 2004 Aug;18(3):610-7.
9. Velema MS, de Ronde W. Elevated plasma creatinine due to creatine ethyl ester use. Neth J Med. 2011 Feb;69(2):79-81.