Creatine would have to be the number one supplement that I recommend. There is no doubt that creatine works, it has been proven to deliver in countless studies. I doubt that you would find a supplement store, health food shop or chemist that doesn’t stock creatine. But what is the best creatine?
Creatine is a compound that our body naturally makes to use in the process of supplying energy to muscles. Creatine is also found, in small amounts, naturally in red meat. The problem is our body makes very little of it and you would have to eat a huge amount of red meat to derive any performance enhancing benefits.
How does creatine work?
Creatine has been used safely by athletes since the mid-nineties without any negative side affects. Creatine works by shuttling water in the muscle cells, therefore holding water within the muscle (intramuscular). This is the primary reason why people report weight gain when they use creatine as their body is storing fluids intracellular.
Whilst this gives the appearance of muscle gain it actually isn’t, but it isn’t water retention either. Contrary to the myths about creatine, it does not bloat you as the water is not stored directly under the skin. Fluid retention through creatine use is intracellular. Considering muscle is over 70% water, this is a good thing.
Studies have shown that stores of intracellular creatine can increase by as much as 50% after only five days of creatine supplementation. It is through this intracellular activity that the muscle surface area increases and subsequently help you to lift heavier weights. Studies into creatine use have reported as much as a 5% to 15% increase in maximal strength and power.
I have not personally experienced it, but many people have reported greater pumps during weight training, whilst using creatine. Another significant benefit of creatine use is the lactic-acid buffering effect, which means without the burn or onset of fatigue through lactic acid build up, you should be able to crank out a few more reps per set. Further studies have demonstrated that with creatine use, your strength does not drop off during a workout as early as it does without creatine use.
How do you use Creatine?
Traditionally a loading phase has been recommended for creatine use. This loading phase usually consisted of consuming 15-25 grams per day for a week. The loading phase is then followed by the maintenance phase of 3-5 grams per day.
Recent studies have shown that the loading phase isn’t necessary in the long term. You can just start on the maintenance phase. It will take longer for your creatine stores to be completely full, but you will still experience the same results, it just might take a week or two longer.
I personally have tried both methods and have found that by using the loading phase I noticed the benefits quicker. However I find the loading phase uncomfortable, I tend to get an upset stomach after consuming the extra creatine during the loading phase. Whether to load or go straight to the maintenance phase is a personal choice. Give both a try and see what works for you.
When researching creatine you will find that some recommend to cycle off creatine for a period of time. I believe this advice started circling when creatine use was in its infancy and the effects of long term usage where not known. Over the years so much research has been conducted on creatine that we now know that there are no advantages to cycling off creatine and no known negative effects of long term usage.
What type of creatine to use?
Creatine Ethyl Ester?
Magnesium Creatine Chelate?
With the success of creatine came the ability to make money, lots of it. So how do you separate your creatine product from your competitor’s? Give it a fancy new name and market the shit out of it. So where does it leave us the consumer? Confused? You bet.
My advice is the best kind of creatine is good old fashioned creatine monohydrate. 99% of the research which proves that creatine works has been conducted using creatine monohydrate. I’m not suggesting that the new forms of creatine don’t work, but what I am saying is most of them haven’t been researched. Creatine monohydrate has been researched and has been proven to work.
My advice to use creatine monohydrate also comes down to dollars. I buy creatine monohydrate on its own and add it to my protein shakes. I do this for two reasons, firstly I know exactly how much creatine I am taking, secondly it is much, much cheaper. Have a look at this comparison:
Note: The prices that I have quoted are in Australian Dollars. I chose to compare Muscletech Cell-Tech with Evolve, as Cell-Tec is one of the most recognized creatine products in the world. The reason that I chose to compare it to Evolve Creatine Monohydrate is its the product that I am using at the moment.
I like most swear by the use of creatine, but don’t think that it is a magic powder. It is a supplement, and like I have said before supplements are exactly that, they supplement good nutrition and training. Remember supplements are the tip of the iceberg, nutrition is the iceberg.
In summing up, creatine works. It is a safe, effective and inexpensive supplement that has been heavily researched and stood the test of time. I regularly use creatine as part of my quest to stay fit, lean and strong.
Let me know what creatine product you are using at the moment and why?