We think the supplement industry gets a bad rap for two main reasons the first is false marketing the products often don’t actually do what they’re claimed to do and the second is over pricing products are often way too expensive for what they actually offer.
Luckily creatine is a supplement that doesn’t commit either of these shams. It’s the most well researched sports supplement with over 700 human studies investigating its safety and efficacy and while it can be subject to false marketing that’s usually through the promotion of its variants like creatine HCl or creatine ethyl ester which don’t have nearly the same scientific backing as simple creatine monohydrate often jack the price up unnecessarily. and plain old creatine is actually not expensive at all. In fact in order to get the same dose from 1tsp of creatine powder you have to eat a kilogram of raw beef so the price difference practical difference makes supplementation a no-brainer.
What is creatine?
Creatine is a small tripeptide meaning it’s made up of three amino acids linked together our bodies can produce it naturally and it’s found naturally in foods almost exclusively and uncooked meats but even if you’re eating a ton of meat you’re still not getting enough creatine to see its performance and physique enhancing effects because it’s found in pretty low amounts and cooking denatures the creatine.
How it works?
First a quick primer on ATP the body has three main energy systems which work together to produce ATP. The main energy currency used in the body the aerobic system produces ATP slowly using blood glucose and fat as fuel for long duration workouts like distance running. The anaerobic system produces ATP more quickly using blood glucose for intense bouts lasting 30 seconds to two minutes like say 50 meter freestyle swimming and the phosphagen energy system produces ATP extremely quickly by using creatine phosphate stored in muscle. So when you need energy very quickly such as when doing a fast followed Sprint or a heavy set of bench press your body relies on creatine phosphate as the quick source of ATP it needs.
According to an International Society of sports nutrition positions a normal diet containing 1 to 2 grams of creatine per day will have creatine stores only 60 to 80% saturated while supplementation of creatine boosts creatine stores by 20 to 40 percent meaning saturation is best achieved through supplementation. The fastest way to reach saturation is through creatine loading followed by a maintenance phase. So if you take 20 to 25 grams per day for a week then you’ll reach saturation levels within a week and start seeing the benefits right away then after the loading period just 5 grams per day will be enough to maintain saturation from then on.
On the other hand you could just start with the 5 grams maintenance dose without any loading however it may take up to a month to reach saturation and to see the same results so if taking creatine for the first time or after a long break loading up makes most sense to me.
2003 review looking at 300 studies say it’s a five to fifteen percent increase in maximal strength and power with creatine supplementation and a landmark paper from Volek and colleagues found that even in subjects with six years of training experience creatine supplementation resulted in 30 percent more reps achieved across five sets with a moderate weight taken to failure and considering the strong link between training volume and hypertrophy being able to perform more work should translate to more muscle over time.
Creatine does cause water retention
It isn’t anything to be worried about since water is being held inside the muscle where you want it not under the skin or anywhere else and after all intramuscular water does increase muscle fiber diameter which could further increase muscle growth through cellular swelling mechanisms. It’s worth mentioning that some folks don’t appear to respond to creatine supplementation at all with best estimates ranging from about twenty to thirty percent of people falling into this camp folks with high meat consumption and older trainees are more likely to be non-responders but give massive breadth of research showing a positive effect it’s affordability and vanishingly low risk of side effects. It’s probably in your best interest to supplement.
No need to cycle off creatine
Unlike caffeine your body won’t develop a tolerance to its effects and a 2003 study found that 21 consecutive months of supplementation led to no ill health effects. Also don’t think we need to worry about combining creatine and caffeine together although one 1996 paper did speculate the existence of some sort of inhibitory effect the study only had nine subjects meaning it was statistically underpowered and since then three other studies have shown the exact opposite result a synergistic effect of taking creatine and caffeine together.
Does creatine cause baldness?
One 2009 study on rugby players found that taking 5 grams of creatine per day for two weeks increased DHT levels by 40%. However weight training alone has been shown to increase DHT and while DHT does seem to be a player in hair loss this may only apply to men with a genetic predisposition or a family history of hair loss. So if you do happen to be in that camp be more cautious with creatine or consider stacking it with finasteride which has been shown to reduce T to DHT conversion.
Benefits far outweigh the costs when it comes to creatine supplementation and we hope that in a supplement industry rich with over promises under deliveries. Creatine is one that lives up to the hype for you and your gains.
Pre vs Post Workout Creatine:
Creatine and Hair Loss:
Creatine and Caffeine:
Creatine Safety and Efficacy: