Creatine is an amino acid that, along with protein, is one of the overall most common supplements in the bodybuilding and fitness industry.
There are many different claims and beliefs about what creatine is and what it does, but ultimately it is a dietary supplement that is sold and used to increase the amount of the amino acid creatine stored in your muscles.
Creatine is naturally found in foods like fish and steak. Old school bodybuilders were rumored to eat 2-3 steaks a day in order to get the full amount of creatine present in these foods.
As a supplement, creatine is useful for a variety of things but for weightlifters the main benefits are shorter recovery times, fuller muscles, more strength, and improved hypertrophy.
What Does Creatine Do?
Creatine helps improve strength and performance during workouts by decreasing the acidity of muscles during training, converting ADP into creatine phosphate, and helping the body produce higher amounts of ATP.
Creatine is beneficial to athletes and weightlifters because it makes the energy used during anaerobic exercise more efficient and long-lasting. Anaerobic exercise is any short, intense exercise such as sprinting, boxing, lifting weights, and box jumps where the body uses energy primarily from glycogen as opposed to oxygen.
This study reviewed all other major studies that provided evidence on the effects of creatine and concluded that creatine is definitively able to increase the results of resistance training on strength and hypertrophy, improve performance during anaerobic exercise, improve performance during aerobic exercise, increase strength, increase lean mass, and better the overall quality of training.
Creatine also increases the size of the muscles by allowing the cells in muscles to hold higher amounts of water. This study theorized that much of the weight gained from creatine supplementation is due to this effect. This does not mean that the muscles are necessarily stronger from this added water (although creatine does make you stronger), it just means that there is more water in the muscles which will make them fuller and “inflated”.
This water-carrying effect of creatine does not occur in all cells, only the cells in muscles, so it will not cause boating.
How Much Creatine Should You Take?
Since the average diet only provides around 1g of creatine a day, there are benefits from supplementing with creatine. Attempting to get an optimal intake of creatine through your diet would require a high consumption of meat and a significant strain on your wallet. In order to consume 5 grams of creatine, you would need to eat 2-3 pounds of steak every day.
A good dose to begin taking creatine at is 3-5 grams a day. If you weigh over 180 pounds, you can start at 5-10 grams per day. Over 10 grams of creatine per day is not needed and the body will not use the excess.
Are There Side Effects from Taking Creatine?
You can take 5 grams of creatine every day for the rest of your life and be fine. Studies have shown that long term use of creatine does not cause any unwanted side effects.
The common side effects which are claimed to occur from creatine are hair loss and bloating.
Creatine is very unlikely to cause hair loss unless there is pattern male baldness in your family and you already have elevated levels of DHT. Even then, there is no evidence that creatine has the ability to cause hair loss and the only proof of this effect is that creatine may increase the conversion of testosterone to DHT.
As for bloating, since creatine only increases the amount of water retention in the cells of muscles, there will not be bloating in other parts of the body. Your muscles will look fuller but your face and stomach and other areas where bloating may be a concern will not be affected.
When To Take Creatine?
Creatine can be taken at any time in the day. Creatine supplementation works by increasing the creatine stores in your muscles which is not something that happens immediately.
Taking creatine at a specific time of day will not have any positive or negative effects. It is more important to be consistent with taking creatine and make sure you are getting in 3-5 grams per day. There is no need for a loading or cycling off phase since the body does not develop a dependance with creatine.
Best Creatine Supplement
The best kind of creatine to take is creatine HCI because it is the most easily absorbed form of creatine.
Among creatine HCI supplements, the best available source to buy a creatine HCI supplement is at Bulk Supplements. This is because they offer 250g of pure creatine HCI for a price better than most other creatine supplements on the market. It also provides 4-5 times the amount of creatine that most other supplements do without any fillers or additives.
To briefly give the main takeaways, creatine is an amino acid which naturally occurs in food and is present in the diets of most people who eat meat. It has been proven to be able to improve endurance, performance, recovery, gains, and the size of muscles.
It has these effects by decreasing the overall acidity of muscles, helping elevate ATP production, and converting ADP into ATP and creatine phosphate.
There are no major side effects and creatine can be taken for decades without any health concerns. Creatine does not needed to be loaded or cycled off because it is not something the body gains dependance to.