Creatine supplementation is easy: add creatine powder to water, insert into mouth, and benefit from results. But how can we get the most out of it? This article will look into exactly what you need to do to produce optimal results.
Before jumping in, though, there is one thing we need to get out of the way. What is the best creatine product to buy? Honestly? The cheapest form of Creapure available. Yes really.
Creapure Creatine Monohydrate is the ultimate form of creatine, there is nothing needed to improve it besides say HMB or protein, and you would be best buying the most unaltered, cheapest version in bulk.
Some companies sell flavored creatine monohydrate which tastes nice, this is a nice alternative as drinking unflavoured powder can be unappetising but there are no additional benefits to it. For further insights, check out our top 10 creatine supplements.
How to Best Take Your Creatine Powder
1. Take Creatine with Whey Protein
There are many benefits to adding whey (or casein) protein to your diet; it can aid with fat loss [view] (when combined with exercise). It can aid post-exercise recovery [view], and improve protein muscle synthesis [view] which leads to bigger, stronger muscles. A study by Cribb et al (2007) found that whey protein and creatine, when taken together, produced even better results than whey protein alone [view].
Protein and creatine led to increased Hypertrophy (muscle size increase) and greater strength gains. Another study found that mixing both ingredients together improved fat-free mass (more muscles) [view]. So, if you want the best results, supplement your diet with whey protein and creatine
2. Take Creatine whenever you like, it doesn’t matter
This is a controversial topic, some studies have found improvements when taken post-workout [view] but as you will see in this very article most studies say that there is no difference in the results and that taking creatine can be affected by many different factors.
A good bit of advice to follow would be to take creatine before a workout. Yes we’re ignoring the post-workout supporting study mentioned above, but there are two good reasons for this;
- It is good to get into the habit of taking creatine, it needs to be taken daily for at least a few weeks for enough creatine to be stored in the body. You should be taking it whether you train that day or not. So taking it one hour before a workout will ensure that you have taken your daily dose (even if the workout gets canceled).
- Because there are 2 strategies you can use that will improve your results, these will be covered in the next two points.
3. Do not take Creatine with caffeine as it may counteract the effects, take it before…
Caffeine and creatine are two of the most popular pre-workout ingredients, this is because they both have huge benefits to performance (and they’re both very cheap). But a review of the science behind it tells us that mixing caffeine and creatine together actually lessens their impact [view].
But if you take caffeine after creatine it can actually improve performance. In practical terms, this means that about 90 minutes before your workout you could take your creatine, then with just 30 minutes to go you could take your caffeine [view].
4. Take Creatine with a simple carbohydrate to increase uptake
For a long time, there was a belief among gym goers that Creatine needed to be taken with fruit juice to increase its effectiveness, and that only fruit juice would do. Technically this is a half-truth. Taking Creatine with fruit juice will deliver it to the muscles faster, but this does not happen exclusively with fruit juice.
Any form of simple carbohydrate will speed up the absorption of Creatine by the muscles. This is because the body releases insulin as a response to simple carbs and insulin enhances muscle creatine transport [view]. A more recent study found that the amount of carbs required was over 100g and that anything less would not produce the same results [view].
5. Don’t Follow a loading protocol
Creatine loading used to be performed all the time, and some studies have shown that doing so will speed up your initial results from using it. However what you need to understand about creatine supplementation is that there is only so much you can add until you reach saturation.
Loading will reach saturation faster but taking regular low doses of creatine will eventually catch up. So two months into your creatine supplementation the results will be the same. There are negative side effects to creatine loading including bloating, nausea, and stomach cramps. These side effects are less likely with non-loading.
6. Get the dosage right
5 grams per day seems to be the universally accepted safe dose, but you could take up to 10g per day. Make sure you are drinking enough water though as it can prevent the nasty side effects mentioned earlier!
7. Don’t cycle it
There is no reason to cycle creatine, and doing so could actually hinder progress. The only benefit to ceasing creatine supplementation would be to assess whether you are responding to it. If after 12 weeks (for example) your performance has stayed the same as when you were taking creatine then you might not have been getting any benefits from taking it. Some people just do not respond to creatine at all.
8. Be consistent
If you are going to start taking creatine then you need to take it every day, you can’t take it 3 days in a row, then skip taking it for a week and expect to start seeing any results. Take it every day whether you are training or not, and constantly assess how your performance has changed. Drink lots of water and push yourself hard in the gym.
So there you have it, 8 steps to creatine domination. This supplement is not only one of the safest and most effective supplements out there, it is also one of the most cost-effective. Other than performance and body composition, creatine has also been shown to improve brain performance. Truly this is the supplement that just keeps giving!