Everyone is creatine crazy! People are so wild about this nutrient that some people have even tried snorting this essential performance nutrient (though we do not suggest following this approach) Creatine is one of the most essential nutrients that one can use as a sports supplements to benefit their gains in the gym. Creatine is an amino acid like product that will help you build muscle in many ways and also help with the entire body for energy, brain health and heart health. There are many forms on the market and we are going to find out which is the best form based on the current research.
Creatine has many health benefits and has been shown in study after study to be safe for the kidneys and even for people who have cancer. You can forget all of the wives tales that are told, that creatine is a steroid or that it ruins your kidneys or that it makes you sick if you take too much. While excessive dosing can cause issues, there is a high limit that can be used each day without issue (15g per day is about the most anyone should be using). Creatine has been shown to be very safe and has been used up to two years straight with no side effects.
Creatine has many health benefits for the experienced or inexperienced lifter:
- Creatine donates phosphorus to ATP (one of the major energy processing molecules in the body). ATP is like the cellular battery and can be a key factor in many of the health benefits simply because the mitochondria in the cells use creatine for their energy cycle.
- Creatine also can load the cell with more water, which gives the muscle more volume. This provides a temporary increase and also stretches the muscle fascia (a membrane that limits growth) thus increasing the total muscle volume.
- Creatine can also block myostatin, which is a key molecule that tells your body to tear down the muscle that you just worked so hard to build.
- Creatine increases brain memory and also muscle memory, brain activity by likely increasing energy in the brain which can then help the neurons process more and retain more signals.
- Creatine may also extend your lifespan which is great for older bodybuilders that are looking to be at their best and give the younger kids a run for their money!
- Creatine can also increase IGF-1 levels in the muscle. IGF-1 is a key mass building hormone that the body uses to store energy and provide growth.
- Creatine can help the body absorb more glucose, which means that it can increase cellular energy and performance.
- Finally, creatine can help with depression and increase positivity and reduce anxiety in some people.
With all of these benefits, it’s no wonder that the first supplement recommended to youth wanting to gain additional size and strength. Creatine does have some side effects though which are:
- Creatine can cause bloating (water retention) in some people.
- Creatine can cause diarrhea in some people, especially in the beginning.
- Creatine can sometimes cause stomach discomfort in people.
There are many forms of creatine on the market and people went through a phase of making new kinds of creatine to supposedly increase absorption.
Creatine monohydrate is the most basic form of creatine. It was the first form brought to market and thus is the most well studied. Creatine monohydrate also happens to be the cheapest and most available form. It is 99.9% absorbable and is what has been studied for most of the health benefits when using creatine.
Creatine Phosphate is the form that the body utilizes for increasing cellular energy. Creatine phosphate has been shown to be no more effective than creatine monohydrate yet it costs more. Looks like the body readily attaches the phosphate group when needed.
Creatine ethyl ester is a form that is supposed to be more fat soluble but it has been shown to not be effective in providing the ergogenic benefits of creatine supplementation.
Creatine malate binds the molecule to malic acid, which then makes it more easily dissolve in water and the malate group contributes to the krebs cycle for energy production. There isn’t much data on creatine malate so it’s best to skip this if you are looking for the benefits of creatine supplements.
Creatine nitrate combines a nitrate group with creatine, which in theory should provide more NO release in the blood, which opens blood vessels, but may also lower testosterone.
Creatine HCL is the newest form on the market. It’s been shown in studies to provide more mass gain and better fat burning than creatine monohydrate at doses above 5g per serving. Most Creatine HCL products are under dosed which can be a problem when you are trying to get to the 5g level.
HOW TO TAKE CREATINE
Creatine is best dissolved in water or juice and taken right before working out but recent data suggests it is best taken after the workout. Typically for creatine monohydrate 5-10g is used while Creatine HCL is used at 5g per day. Some people load creatine at 15g per day for 1 week to “load” the muscles with this valuable nutrient. When taken with juice, the body releases insulin to help shuttle the creatine into the muscle cells. Creatine can be taken with one large dose and should be followed by an additional 32oz of water.
Creatine can be used as a cheap and safe way to increase muscle mass and potentially burn fat. It is the most well studied and safest workout supplement you can use. We suggest taking a 30 break from using creatine every 60 days (this is called cycling) but we recommend that people take creatine for life and never quit taking it. Happy lifting!
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