With creatine being the most popular body building supplement ever, it only makes sense that a lot of people would have questions on how to use it. But honestly, you’ll get different answers from different sources! Let’s go over a few of the different theories that are out there about how to use creatine supplements.
Creatine – The Loading Approach
If you’ve ever used creatine supplements before then you’ve probably gone through a loading phase. The standard loading phase would usually be to take up to 20g of creatine a day for 5 days, then back off to a maintenance dose of 5g a day. The idea here was to saturate your muscles with a bunch of extra creatine and then try to maintain that saturation with the rest of the cycle.
The common question is if it is really necessary. I’m sure supplement companies love the loading phase approach because by the time you’re done with your loading phase you’ve pretty much gone through your first bottle of creatine!
I’ve read articles before that suggest that if you use creatine supplements long term you will get the same benefit as loading. A lot of individual users have also found that it probably isn’t necessary either.
There are a lot of variations out there on how to cycle creatine supplements. I found one interesting twist on the creatine loading cycle idea from MuscleHack.com. He tried a technique that involved loading for 3 days, abstaining for 3 days, and repeating that cycle over and over again. The idea is that if you cycle in this way you will maintain a higher level of creatine concentration in the muscles over time.
In the end, I don’t really know which way is best. This is one area where you should experiment and see which method reacts the best with your body. Try a few things and stick with what works for you.
When to Take It Creatine Supplements
This was my first question when I started using creatine. The standard suggestion has often been to take creatine soon after your workout (unless you are doing a standard loading phase, then you would take it throughout the day).
But there are variations to this standard approach as well. For example, if you’re going with the 3 days on 3 days off approach suggested by MuscleHack Mark McManus, you would take creatine before your workout, after your workout, and then at least 2 other times throughout the day. You really have to load up on a cycle like that.
Once again, it would seem that you will need to experiment and see what works best for you and your body.
How Should You Take Creatine Supplements? Should You Preload?
Whether or not to do a loading phase when starting out on a creatine cycle has been a steamy debate. Basically, in the early days, the thought was that to saturate your muscles, or to have a high creatine concentration within a short period was the best way to start a cycle. One of the recommended ways was to take 5 grams of creatine with grape juice or dextrose 3-4 times a day for about 5-7 days. (The variance being everyone’s body type is different and reacts differently to a loading phase.)
Then with the completion of the loading phase, your muscles are primed with ample concentrations of muscle building creatine. So instead of waiting say 14 days, you’ve reached the concentration level within 5-7 days, cutting the time in half. Really the only way of knowing concentration levels (other than lab tests which most of us do not have ready access to) is to analyse how you feel.
So after some simple testing, a few willing participants, creatine makers could easily recommend a loading phase because test subjects reported strength and muscle “pump” within 1 weeks time. And if you are preparing to take a basic creatine like GNC Pro Performance or something similar, this strategy can still be a good one. Just adjust the dose to how you feel. If you are feeling bloated or lethargic, cut it back slightly.
Having said all that, to load or not to load?
Well, it really rests with you. It’s your body and as you experiment you will begin to become more self-aware. You are the best person to decide if there is any difference between the loading or no loading.
And the bottom line is this; most of the creatine’s on the market today have evolved past the traditional load cycle. They are cocktailed with proprietary blends that do all the work for you. So no need to load. But they are also way more expensive. So try both ways and evaluate how you feel and how your body performs. That’s the true test…performance!
How should you take creatine?
Methods of taking creatine to build lean muscle
How a person takes creatine has undergone a lot of changes since it first arrived on the scene. A loading phase of 15-25 grams per day for 5 days used to be a standard. Cycling, or only staying on for 4-6 weeks, used to be a standard. Taking with juices for insulin spike was suggested. This is no longer recommended due to the conversion to creatinine. We could go on. So how are you supposed to know what is the right way to take creatine? Creatine research has supplied a lot of data. But it has also shown what is useful and what is not.
Creatine Monohydrate, Citrate & Phosphate
The dose should average .05grams per kilogram of body weight. So a 200lb man (90.9kg) would consume on average 5grams per day. A woman would use the same ratio to arrive at her average daily intake. This is an average recommendation. Raise or lower slightly depending on how you feel.
On workout days it is best to take right after you’ve finished your workout (within the hour). Your muscles are most receptive at this time. On non-workout or sporting days, first thing in the morning is best, but anytime throughout the day is fine.
Mix it with what?
Since creatine monohydrate, citrate and phosphate come in powder form, a liquid transporter is in order. You have to avoid an acid based liquid (orange juice) as this reacts with creatine to create creatinine( pronounced cree’at’in’neen ) which is useless to the body and is evacuated. Mix it in water with Dextrose (corn sugar) at a rate of 35grams per 5 grams of creatine. A sport drink such as Powerade or Gatorade will essentially do the same thing. Grape juice is OK because grapes are an alkaline, not an acid.
As long as you want! If you continue to feel good and notice results, by all means stay on it. If for whatever reason, you stop noticing results in your training, go off it for a few weeks and then give it another go. That usually does it to spark gains again.
Creatine Ethyl Ester
This form of creatine more often than not comes in a pre-mix formulation. There are so many on the market today. They are blended with transporters, nitric oxide, caffeine and many other stimulants for performance. Do some research and give it a try following the directions on the container closely. It’s definitely one of the more user-friendly options out there.
My intent in writing this article was not to come out with some kind of ultimate solution as to what is the best way to use creatine supplements. As you can see, there are several different approaches that different people have found to work. The only best solution is whatever works for you. So do some testing and you’ll find out soon enough!