Creatine is one of the most researched and well used sports supplements on the market. It’s benefits to both strength and muscle mass are well established and more recent research shows it can also benefit cognitive performance, help you avoid injury and even prevent you from overtraining.
If you’re an athlete, you should probably be taking it.
The problem is, there are thousands of brands and types out there, and a lot of uncertainty on how to take it.
To help you get the most out of creatine and ensure it helps you achieve your athletic ambition we put this research based guide together on how to take it properly.
1. What type of creatine should you take?
A: Creatine Monohydrate
2. Should you take creatine every day?
Almost all research on creatine showing it works had subjects taking 3-5g/day every day. You need to keep your muscle stores up to get the most from using it.
3. When should you take creatine? Before or after a workout?
A: Daily, and if possible have a dose after training.
There is limited research on this subject but in 2013 a review paper suggested that somewhere around when you train is best and post-training may be a tiny, tiny bit more beneficial. Don’t lose sleep over it.
One thing that is common with creatine supplementation is stomach issues which can range from mild discomfort to diarrhea. If you experience this, shift your creatine dose so it’s after food.
4. Should you do a creatine loading phase?
A: It’s not really necessary, and you could risk stomach issues.
Loading creatine at 20g a day for 3-5/day will get your muscle stores up quickly, but research shows that dosing as low as 3g/day over a few weeks will do the same. The benefit to the latter is that it avoids the risk of your stomach reacting badly to it - which happens, especially on an empty stomach. Our suggestion is to keep it simple and dose at 5g/day without loading.
5. Do you need to cycle creatine?
I’m really not sure where this suggestion originally came from. Perhaps it was a way of reminding people what happens if they stop taking it?
Once you stop taking creatine muscle stores will decrease so you’ll have less phosphocreatine to provide energy for high power movements (theoretically). The only benefit I can see would be to reduce body weight before a competition or similar - but in general the strength gained with creatine outweighs the downside.
6. How much water should you drink when taking creatine?
A: Drink according to thirst.
Creatine carries water molecules into the muscle. If you take more, you increase muscle water volume (probably why you’ll feel more muscular) - which can lead to an increase in body weight of a few lb. This takes from water elsewhere in the body so you may require a top up. Your body will tell you that though. Drink if you get thirsty.
7. What should you take your creatine with?
A: Food or a carbohydrate could be beneficial.
Creatine doesn’t taste great, and a few companies have used additives to make it taste a little better (we’re not into this at Blonyx as we feel it’s better to avoid additives). It tends to mix well though and can easily be added to shakes, juices and foods. Water and even coffee is good for the brave too.
Research does show that taking it with carbohydrates will increase its absorption into the muscle. At 5g/day I don’t think this will make much of a difference, but worth noting.
7. How much liquid should you mix creatine with?
A: 1 cup or 250ml is an ideal amount
8. OK, so now I know how to take it, which brand should I choose?
A: A brand that has you and your athletic ambition’s best interest at heart.
This means they’ll focus on product quality, the right dosage, and purity above else. Find out what we do to ensure our creatine containing products are best in class.