Creatine is one of the best bodybuilding supplements on the market. It’s legal, it’s safe, it’s natural, usually with few side-effects (if any), and it works. It helps you to get stronger, add muscle and recover more quickly. Creatine is found naturally in the body (about 90% of it in the muscles), and in certain foods as well, but cooking tends to destroy it. That’s why it exists as a supplement.
Here’s how creatine works and why you need it
When the muscles are being worked, they contract and use energy. That energy comes from the breakdown of your body’s Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP). What’s left behind is a less-usable compound known as Adenosine Diphosphate (ADP). If there’s no good ATP available, your body will use the less-energetic ADP. Creatine replenishes the good ATP by providing a phosphate that attaches to the less-desirable ADP molecules. Thus, ATP is created and made available to your body, which provides energy. In particular, it provides energy in the muscles as well as the specific type of energy for the short bursts needed for bodybuilding. It’s like the “fertilizer” or “fuel” your body needs to get optimal energy and results when you’re striving to build muscle. Another benefit of creatine intake is that it forces water into your muscle cells, creating an anabolic state to increase protein synthesis. The result is an increase in lean mass in your body, as well as improved aerobic and anaerobic performance. Creatine has been around a while, and has continued to evolve. Originally, we had Creatine Monophosphate, a simple monohydrate, available to us. Now we have a number of creatine options, such as:
Effervescent Creatine: this type of creatine may cause less bloating, while providing better absorption, better solubility, and better taste than regular powdered creatine.
Micronized Creatine: this is creatine reduced to micro-particles that are 20 times smaller than those of regular creatine powder. Because of the greater surface area created by so many micro-particles, the creatine digests more quickly and works more rapidly. That means it’s more efficient in terms of getting into your bloodstream. It also mixes better and, because it doesn’t sit in your stomach as long as regular creatine powder, that can mean no stomach upset.
Liquid Creatine: There’s some debate about liquid creatine, with some people believing creatine cannot be stable in liquid form, while others use it and tout it. Because liquid creatine bypasses the digestion phase, it can in theory be absorbed even more quickly into the body. In addition, because creatine powder binds to food (which, therefore, hinders its absorption), with the liquid form you don’t have to worry about your food intake.
Creatine with Glutamine: Since creatine and glutamine are almost always recommended bodybuilding supplements, this just allows you to get them in one product.
Creatine Ethyle Ester (CEE): Because regular creatine is absorbed by the body, its effectiveness is determined by the ability of the cells to absorb it. Because creatine does not absorb well, that means bodybuilders must ingest larger quantities to achieve the desired result. In addition, creatine uses fat in the body as its means of transport. By adding an ester to the creatine, and thus allowing for the “esterification” of fat, the creatine will use fat more efficiently, permeate the cell walls and work more efficiently. By working more efficiently, the amount of creatine ingested can be lowered.
Creatine with Ribose: Ribose has also been shown to increase muscle energy, enhance endurance and promote better recovery. This product simply combines the two into one supplement.
Kre-Alkalyn: This is a “buffered creatine,” packaged in a caplet, which does not allow the contents to convert into creatine until it reaches the desired muscle tissue. As with the other products, the goal is to make absorption more efficient, thereby lowering the amount necessary to achieve the same results.
Okay, that gives you a rundown of the primary creatine supplement options that are available. There are also some “creatine-with-sugars” and “creatine-with-protein” products out there as well, but those are pretty self-explanatory. Now, let’s look at how to properly use creatine.
If you’re already taking creatine, then you’ve probably found something that works for you. If you’re just starting out, try using regular creatine monohydrate just to see how your body responds before moving to another version.
You can ingest creatine supplements both before and after a workout, with about 5g all you’ll need during a day. Just remember to drink plenty of water throughout the day, since creatine floods the muscles by drawing water from other parts of the body. So, stay hydrated, which is even more important during warmer weather. You should also consider taking creatine with a source of carbohydrates, which will help the creatine to absorb more rapidly.
If you plan to do any “creatine loading” — taking larger amounts (up to 20g per day for a week) to saturate the muscles — you may want to spread the amount over 4-5 doses throughout the day. Also, if you haven’t already tried it, some bodybuilders “cycle” creatine, taking it for one month, stopping for one month, then
repeating the cycle.
All things considered, creatine is one of the best and most cost-effective supplements available to use for building muscle and strength, as well as one of the safest supplements, with no known