Are you always looking for the latest cutting edge breakthrough in supplements?
That “secret” wonder pill that’s going to get you big, lean, and take your performance through the roof?
Well, how about, instead of getting caught up in all the hype of new products, and those potions and powders that are as yet unproven, you go back to basics, and stick with a tried-and-tested supplement that’s been on the bodybuilding block for years?
It may not be sexy.
It may not be cool.
And it certainly isn’t expensive, but there’s a reason why this supplement has been used by trainers for decades. And it’s not going away any time soon.
Creatine is a nitrogenous organic acid that actually occurs naturally in your body.
It is your body’s main source of fuel for explosive, forceful, short-term contractions, and can supply energy for between 2 and 10 seconds.
This may not seem like a lot, but think about it – if you’re lifting a weight with a tempo of one second up, one second down, that’s about enough fuel for 5 reps. Or, to put it another way – one all-out maximal set in the strength training rep range.
The trouble is, once you’ve pushed hard for 10 seconds, your creatine stores are depleted, which is why you start to fatigue, and can’t lift maximally for too long.
Creatine does get replenished, but it takes 30 to 60 seconds for your stores to top back up again. And there is a cumulative drainage effect, so each time you deplete it within a workout, it doesn’t quite build back up to full capacity again until you’ve had an extended rest (i.e. several hours.)
Therefore, in order to increase performance, and your creatine stores, it’s important to have a way to store, and regenerate more creatine.
This is where creatine supplementation comes in.
Starting with Supps
Creatine supplements work by saturating your muscle cells with extra creatine.
While your cells to have a finite capacity, and can’t hold unlimited stores of creatine, it is extremely difficult to get their stores to their maximum through diet alone.
Foods like red meat do contain creatine, but you’d have to eat a hell of a lot to get anywhere close to the amount you get in concentrated form in a supplement. And let’s face it – as awesome as steak is, eating it for breakfast, lunch and dinner every single day might get a little boring. Not to mention rather uncomfortable!
The most basic form of creatine supplement is creatine monohydrate.
It generally comes in powder form, though pills and capsules are also available.
It is this type of creatine that we'd strongly recommend you go with.
There are other types around – including the fancier-named creatine ethyl ester, micronized creatine and kre-alkalyn.
Manufacturers will often tout how these are far superior to plain old monohydrate, but this is yet another example where basic is best.
Monohydrate has far more evidence to back its efficacy, and is still the top choice of most athletes, bodybuilders and coaches. Plus, it’s an awful lot cheaper, and does the job just as well.
So don’t get duped into thinking you need an expensive creatine – you certainly don’t.
The How, When and Where
So how much do you need?
This is one area, again, where you don’t need to do anything complicated.
By far the simplest, most effective way to start is by taking 3-5 grams of monohydrate every single day.
If you're a female, probably best you stick closer to the 3g mark, whereas males can go for 5g.
You’ll probably hear people mention “loading phases” where you take 15 to 20 grams for 5 days to saturated your muscles’ stores, before dropping down to 5 grams daily.
While it’s true that this may top up the stores a little quicker, think about the big picture:
If you’re going to be taking creatine for the rest of your training life, is 5 days of slightly sub-optimal stores now going to make a difference?
All it will do is mean you have to buy more powder sooner!
Additionally, there’s no need to cycle creatine. You may as well keep topped up all the time.
That daily 3-5 grams can be taken at any time, though it’s probably easiest to slip it into your pre- or post-workout shake.
If you miss a day, don’t freak out – once your stores are topped up, it takes a good couple of weeks for them to deplete again, so simply aim to be consistent.
You Can Count on Creatine
Like any supplement, creatine won’t be the secret to wonder gains.
You probably will notice a slight effect when you start taking it, but you’re not going to instantly add 50 pounds to your bench press.
That said, for the fact it’s so cheap, safe and effective in the grand scheme of things, it’s one supplement that’s worth having in your arsenal.