Creatine: My experience using it and all of the myths I believed about it

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For the past month or so I have been taking 5g of creatine every morning mixed in with my post workout protein shake.

I wasn’t always convinced that creatine was a good choice and in fact believed all the lies about it, and told others the same. Now I’m eating my own feedback.

I have only had positive results using it that I will share with you at the end, and exactly what I use every single day.

I wanted to write this for people who, like me, are on the fence about creatine, and I want to cover as much as I can about it:

  • What is Creatine?

  • Should I use Creatine?

  • How Does Creatine Work?

  • What are the side effects of creatine?

  • If I was to take creatine, how much should I use?

  • What time of day is best for taking creatine?

  • What are some of the best creatine supplements on the market?

  • All of the common questions about Creatine Answered.

Let’s get into it, so forgive me if it is long winded.

What is Creatine?

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Creatine is actually something that is found naturally in your muscle cells. It helps your muscles produce energy during heavy lifts or high intensity training.

It is produced in our liver, pancreas, and kidneys. We also obtain it from other foods. Animals have creatine in their bodies as well. When we consume meat, we get more of it. Red meat, of course, has the highest creatine levels (Beef, Bison, Lamb).

There are several factors that can contribute to your body’s creatine reserve, including meat intake, exercise, amount of muscle and testosterone levels. 95% of creatine is stored in muscles (phosphocreatine) and the other 5% is stored in the brain, kidneys and liver.

Should I use Creatine as a Supplement?

Most athletes take creatine to gain muscle, strength and to improve performance (Source).

If you use creatine as a supplement, basically it increases the amount of phosphocreatine that is stored. (Remember, 95% is in muscle).

This is a form of stored energy, and your body then creates something called ATP. (Adenosine Triphosphate). This is the energy currency of life, and it helps us to pretty much do anything.

  • Run Faster

  • Jump Higher

  • Lift more

  • Drive Like Ryan Gosling

Now that you have this massive energy currency, when you work out, it helps you do it better.

It’s like having a reserve tank of energy in your system. When you do a workout, your naturally produced Creatine is consumed, the Creatine reserve will replenish the consumed ATP that your body is looking for.

It can convert Creatine to ATP(Adenosine Triphosphate) very fast as long as there is a reserve there.

Let’s talk more about that….

How does Creatine Work?

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I am going to assume that you want to know how it works for muscle gain and performance so I will explain those. Mainly, because that is what I was interested in knowing.

Creatine helps you gain muscle:

  • By allowing you to increase volume during workouts. This helps muscle growth over time (Source)

  • By allowing you to sprint for maybe 11 or 12 seconds at 100% instead of 10 seconds

  • Through increased reps or weights on compound lifts

  • By allowing you to do more than last time

What are the side effects of creatine?

There are mostly only positive side effects with Creatine, however, there are a lot of claims that Creatine causes:

  • Dehydration

  • Muscle Cramps

  • Unwanted Weight Gain

However, Science and research has since debunked most of these myths. Usually, that is what happens. We get blinded by science.

For the next few minutes, let’s uncover some of the myths that are associated with creatine by using Science and research to debunk them. Put your thinking bras on.

Myth 1: Creatine causes Dehydration and Muscle Cramps

There were claims made by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) in the year 2000 recommending that people managing weight loss should cease using Creatine in hot environments. Recent reports now suggest that creatine may enhance performance in hot and/or humid conditions by maintaining haematocrit, (What did you call me?) aiding thermoregulation and reducing exercising heart rate and sweat rate. (Source)

Myth 2: Creatine isn’t natural

Well, Mountain man Jeremiah Johnson would disagree. He’s a meat eater, and he gets his creatine from animals, just like we do. In fact bison, lamb, and beef all have creatine. Yay! Meat for the win.

Taking creatine does not destroy your bodies ability to create creatine on it’s own which is what most people are afraid of. It is not a steroid, so once you stop using it, your body goes back to it’s normal operation just like clockwork.

Myth 3: Creatine Destroys your kidneys

This is one of those myths that you hear your friends at work talking about, because you know, they read it somewhere on the internet.

The truth is, if you have bad kidneys already, creatine might not be right for you. If you have healthy kidneys, then there aren’t any issues, and no studies to confirm that kidney issues are related to creatine use.

Here is a great article by Michael Matthews, author of “Bigger, Leaner, Stronger”, called Creatine and Kidney damage: What 13 studies show.



How much Creatine should I use?

There have been multiple studies done to determine how much Creatine a person should take.

Research has shown that the most rapid way to increase muscle creatine stores is to follow the loading method, by taking 0.3 grams/kg/day of creatine monohydrate for 5 to 7 days (e.g., 5 grams taken four times per day).

Studies show that this rate can increase muscle creatine. Once muscle creatine stores are saturated, studies indicate that you only need to take 3 to 5 grams of creatine monohydrate per day in order to maintain elevated creatine stores.

My suggestion is to not load at all, mainly because you don’t need to. Just take 3-5 grams of creatine a day, and that is enough.

The MuslePharm Creatine Monohydrate comes with a 5 gram scooper, this is plenty for you everyday, and you will see results, it’s the same one I take. I do not load. Like I said, it’s unnecessary.

So, the answer is, use 3-5 grams a day. No more, no less.

This leads us into our next topic…

What is the best time to use Creatine?

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The biggest question surrounding creatine is should i take it post workout, or pre-workout?

The best answer is, it doesn’t matter.

The Pre-Workout Camp says:

  • Load your muscle cells before working out.

  • More creatine means more ATP

  • More ATP means more power to the muscles

  • More power to the muscles = more weightlifting power

The Post-workout Camp says:

  • Post exercise recovery

  • Boosts growth and recovery process

  • Protein + Creatine = Feed starving muscles

The Whenever Camp: (This is where I Stand)

  • As long as you are getting it, it doesn’t matter when

  • You can’t over produce on ATP, so taking more doesn’t matter

  • 3-5 grams/day is all you need

The answer is, it’s your choice when you want to take it, whether it’s before or after, or you can take half before and half after. As long as you are taking 3-5 grams/day, you will be fine.

What are the best creatine monohydrate products?

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I don’t like to reinvent the wheel, and there are tons of articles posted about what creatine supplements are the best. I can only give you my advice, because I havn’t taken a whole bunch to know which ones are the best.

Out of the few that I have used, here are the top 3:

Bulk Products Creatine Monohydrate

BulkSupplements promises that its creatine will boost muscle size and strength and improve athletic performance. This creatine is ideal for high-intensity workouts, which makes it a great choice for bodybuilders or powerlifters.

MusclePharm Creatine Monohydrate

MusclePharm is a rapidly absorbed creatine complex, that doesn’t require or recommend “loading”. It promotes strength, power and endurance, while restoring muscular energy levels that become depleted during exercise

Optimum Nutrition Micronized Creatine Monohydrate

Optimum Nutrition’s supplement only contains Creatine Monohydrate, so you won't be getting any extra, unnecessary fillers or added sugar. The unflavored supplement is also said to help with workout recovery so you'll be ready for your next workout, no problem.


Most Common Creatine Questions Answered:

1. Do You Need to Cycle Creatine Monohydrate?

No.

When you supplement with creatine, it’s true that your body reduces its natural production.

That may sound ominous but don’t mistake creatine for steroids, which can shut down (and even permanently damage) your natural testosterone production.

Ironically, producing creatine is a demanding process and reducing this burden may even be healthful. And if you cease supplementation with creatine, your body resumes its normal production.

2. Do I need to take Creatine everyday?

Nope.

You really don’t have to take it every day, in fact you can go probably two weeks without taking it before your body starts going back to it’s normal production.

It’s best if you take 3-5 grams everyday while you are training, or in strength mode. Most people cycle on creatine during the winter and spring, and during the summer months they cycle off of it.

Your choice.

My personal protein, bcaa and creatine use:

I only take 3 supplements, mainly because I believe that is all you need.

I don’t take pre-workout…ever.

I don’t really have a need for it, I’m a pretty energetic guy anyway. Once I’m up, I’m up. I don’t drink coffee anymore, but I do like to have just a little cap. That’s where the BCAA’s come in.


 
 

That’s it. I hope this article has helped you to be better informed when taking creatine, and also on when to use, and what type to buy.

If you have something you want to share please do so in the comments section below.

Also, if you have any other questions regarding creatine use, let me know.

###Stephen


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Stephen loves CrossFit and Helping men become the men they were made to be.


photo credit: banana.mufu un-creatine-mono-1280px via photopin (license)