Without doubt one of the most exciting supplements ever to come on the sports nutrition scene is creatine. It’s not been without its controversies, but creatine has progressed and shown the experts AND consumers that IF taken properly, it can be one of the most effective muscle building supplements out there! Creatines mechanisms of action i.e. how it works, is not straight forward by any means, its application into your supplement regime however is a little more straight forward IF you do it right…
So when taking creatine to enhance muscle size, strength, power and power endurance, consider the following 5 things:
1.) Use Creatine Monohydrate… Yes, the ethyl esters and creatine nitrates out there are more expensive, and more expensive must mean they’re better right? Wrong. Don’t fall into that trap. Creatine monohydrate is deemed to be the best and most readily absorbed form of creatine on the market, and that’s supported by science and research.
2.) Cycle it… Creatine is completely safe, all evidence supports this statement. However its chemical structure means that if consumed for prolonged periods of time, the fluid shifts, or osmotic load can place strain on your kidneys. Don’t take that the wrong way, many drinks can do this if consumed in excess, but it shouldn’t happen at all if you are sensible and cycle it. Cycling creatine means you take it for a period of 4 weeks and then stop taking it for another 4 weeks. This is known as a 4 week cycle.
3.) Do not exceed the recommended dose… The recommended dose is going to be body weight dependent, in other words a larger person with more muscle mass would need more creatine than a smaller person. A rule of thumb for creatine dosages can be found on this infographic. Be sure not to exceed the dosage for the same reasons as mentioned for number 2, it’ll place a strain on your kidneys.
4.) Consume it alongside protein… Creatine will not build muscle by itself, you need to consume it with adequate protein and of course an effective training regime. Creatine is your muscles own unique energy source, it will improve your capacity to train, move a load and maximise power endurance. Creatine will also draw fluid and nutrients into your muscles promoting growth, but despite this, it’s protein (amino acids) that ultimately enable muscle protein synthesis and GROWTH.
5.) ALWAYS meet your fluid requirements… The importance of adequate hydration should never be overlooked, particularly when taking creatine. The osmotic shift of fluid from the body into the kidneys can increase urine output, consequently you need to replace it above and beyond your usual requirements. It is good practice to at least meet your regular fluid requirements, a good gauge of what yours are is to take your weight in kg, and multiply it by 35 (if you’re under 65 years of age). For those over 65 years of age, multiply your weight in kg by 30 instead. As a general rule, you should try to consume a minimum of 8-10 glasses of fluid a day, preferably water for maximal uptake and minimal diuretic effect (making you go to the toilet).
Llewellyn, W. (2009). Sport Supplement Reference Guide. Creatine. FL: Molecular Nutrition.