Creatine is a typically occurring substance produced by your body daily. It is also found in high protein foods like fish and red meat. Unlike some other supplements Creatine is not made in a laboratory, it is natural.
Three amino acids, the building blocks of protein, combine to form Creatine. (Glycine, Arginine, and Methionine) There is nothing magical, secretive or exclusive; the supplement is simply a pure, concentrated form of three amino acids.
How does Creatine work?
To explain how Creatine works I need first to clarify exactly how the body uses energy. You may have been told that the food you eat is broken down, processed by your digestive system and the resulting energy is then used by your muscles and organs to function. I don’t want to get into too much detail, but there is a step after this that you will have to be aware of before you can understand what the supplemented Creatine does.
The food you eat is indirectly used for energy. Your body uses the oxidized food (carbohydrate, protein, and fat) to produce ATP (Adenine Tri-Phosphate). This is the energy source used to fuel almost every process in your body. A phosphate is removed from the ATP creating ADP (Adenine Di-Phosphate), and energy in the form of heat is released. This is the energy that is used to fuel whatever process is being used.
This is where Creatine comes into play. The ADP is now missing a phosphate and is of no use to your body. Creatine breaks down and releases a phosphate which is then used to convert the ADP back into ATP ready to be used again. Increasing the level of ATP in your body or providing additional resources for your body to quickly create additional ATP means you can train with more intensity or for longer periods of time before stopping.
Creatine also helps to create the right environment for your body to encourage protein synthesis and muscle growth. Cells can hold more water and as a result more resources for growth and repair.
Is it necessary to load on Creatine?
The supplement companies all recommend a loading phase on their packaging. Is this necessary or just a trick to sell more of the product? Loading on Creatine has been shown to reduce the amount of time taken to get the full benefits from the supplement. However, it is not a case of the more you take, the better. You will saturate your muscle cells quite quickly, and anything was taken once that happens is going to be passed in your urine wasting your money. Load for 3 – 5 days are taking around 15g – 25g of the product and then reduce the amount down to around 5g daily. This will maintain the Creatine levels in your body while minimizing any waste.
What is the best time to take Creatine?
It is common knowledge that bodybuilders take advantage of the insulin spike immediately following training. I believe you should do the same with Creatine. Also, this is likely to be the time when your body’s own store of Creatine is at its lowest. Your body should be more than happy to take the Creatine during this time, reducing the amount passing through your system and wasting.
As Creatine benefits are more apparent when your muscles are saturated, I believe the above to be the best time but consistently taking the supplement to saturate and maintain the stores in your body is more important.
How should I take Creatine?
During your loading stage, I would personally avoid mixing your Creatine with other drinks as a large amount of powder used here will be difficult to drink and likely spoil whatever you mix it with. Creatine doesn’t dissolve very easily so this higher dose should be mixed with plenty of fruit juice or water.
Mixing Creatine with a post workout drink high in protein and carbohydrates would be the best option. This falls in line with the best time to take Creatine and also further increases the insulin response from your body resulting in better absorption. As I said above Creatine doesn’t dissolve very easily, but 5g isn’t a lot and mixed in with this drink it would be hard to notice.
The supplement industry is definitely one of the worst for exaggerating claims. A lot of products on the market today don’t live up to the claims made on their packaging, but Creatine is one of the few that does. This is reflected by some people using the supplement. However, it worries me that there is a considerable amount of misinformation circulating amongst users and I hope this helps to clarify some of the most common questions.