By now, you have probably heard about creatine. Your bodybuilding buddy and your workout friends are both taking creatine. Anybody can pick up a can of it at the store, but you want to know how to get the max benefit out of the supplement when you need it.
Natural vs. Artificial Power
Creatine is a naturally occurring amino acid responsible for activating the cells that release energy and build muscle. Many men take it as a workout supplement to help them exercise in higher bursts with more power. The usual source of creatine is high protein foods like red meat. But since you can’t eat steak every day, scientists manufacture creatine in the lab. There are three man-made forms of creatine; however, they all perform the same function. Creatine monohydrate, and its refined version called ethyl ester, comes in a powdered form that can be mixed with other supplements into a drink like milk or a protein shake. If you don’t want the mess of powders all over your floor, then you may want to choose creatine pills that can be downed anytime, anywhere with anything you can drink (preferably something healthy). Whichever form of creatine supplement you choose, look for one that lists the manufacturer’s testing results and domestic address. Dishonest foreign manufacturers sometimes try to sneak in counterfeit creatine that is nothing more than powder.
When to Take Creatine
There is no magic time to take creatine. You can use it anywhere and anytime. One or two studies have suggested that taking creatine after a workout may induce more muscle growth and give slightly more energy than when taken at other times; however, that finding still needs to be reproduced in more trials.
How Much Creatine to Take
You’ve probably seen guys scooping heaping cups of creatine out of a jug and into their cup. How much of the stuff is really enough? Research has given some guidelines. The average male body produces 2 mg of creatine naturally. Engaging in high resistance or aerobic activity uses that amount up quickly. In order to add enough to make a difference in exercise, you need to consume at least 5 mg per day. Creatine monohydrate can be taken as a small dose every day or on a loading cycle wherein a higher dose is taken for a short period, followed by a longer period at a lower dose. If you follow a loading period, 20 mg over a week could be followed by a couple weeks at 5 mg.
The other option is taking 5 mg daily consistently. This will suffice for most guys working out, but serious athletes can handle more.
For bodybuilders in training, multiply your weight by .15 to find an approximate amount; however, taking any more than about 30 mg per day would be wasting your money since excess creatine leaves the body when nature calls. It may be beneficial to max your creatine use when you need it for athletic performance peaks and reduce or stop it in down times.
You can stop creatine whenever you want, but it will take a couple weeks to fully flush out of your system. Since creatine binds water to muscles, you will likely lose the water that makes your muscle look large but in reality make them feel soft. However, once the water is gone, the remaining muscle will be firm.
How to Take Creatine
By and large, you can take creatine however you want. Some athletes use it every day at breakfast, while others take it with a snack after a workout. A few studies have suggested that taking creatine with food increases its absorption rate in the blood. So taking creatine with lean protein and healthy carbs may help you get the energy fix faster. In general, try to match the amount of protein to an equal amount of carbs.
Energy drinks and caffeinated sodas are not friends with creatine. The creatine supplement helps muscles store water, but caffeine purges it. Taking creatine with caffeine may put water levels in flux and decrease overall hydration, so you would need to drink almost twice as much water as you would normally use. Plus, the creatine you put in the muscles might not stay there long.
How to Get Even More Creatine
As mentioned above, creatine is produced in the body naturally. Eating lean meats and fish full of creatine is a good way to ramp up the production of it. The more natural the source, the more creatine it will have. Those deer need plenty of energy to run away from cars, so venison will have it more than a farm animal.
As with any supplement, talk to your doctor before taking creatine. Although it seems safe, every man’s body is different, so you’ll want to avoid any potential side effects. Once cleared by your physician, keep up your creatine use as a supplement to a vigorous workout plan to see better results for muscle growth.