What is creatine?
What it does and if you should be taking it
If I had to suggest one supplement I think everyone should be taking, it’s creatine. Creatine is one of the most studied forms of supplements in terms of sports performance. Still, there are a lot of misconceptions about creatine out there.
What is creatine?
Creatine is not an acute supplement, like pre-workout, meaning that you don’t take it and feel it. When you take creatine and you saturate your muscle cells, it is stored as creatine phosphate in the muscles. Therefore, you should take 5 grams(more about the dosage later) of creatine every single day, on training days and on non-training days.
Why is that important?
The energy source that your muscles use is ATP(Adenosine triphosphate) and as you’re working out, your muscles are using that ATP and they are degrading it. It is breaking down. The creatine phosphate that’s stored in the muscles can donate a phosphate molecule to regenerate the ATP. So it’s regenerating the energy source within the muscle, which provides you better performance and more power output in short-duration, high-intensity resistance exercises (like strength training, cycling, sprints, etc.).
Do you need to take creatine?
Some food sources, like red meat and fish, contain creatine. Roughly 1 gram of creatine in 100 grams of meat/fish (that number is just indicative).
A “normal” sized person that doesn’t do any high-intensity or resistance training, needs 1–3 grams of creatine a day.
A bigger person, or someone who’s doing a lot of high-intensity or resistance training, needs at least 5 grams of creatine (5–10 grams).
Based on the things mentioned above, you need to decide if you get enough from the food you consume, or if you should take creatine.
When you start using creatine supplements, it’s recommended to start with a “loading phase” to rapidly maximize your muscle stores. During this phase, you consume a relatively large amount of creatine in a short period of time to rapidly saturate your muscles.
Each brand/manufacturer might have different instructions, but a common approach is to take 20 grams of creatine daily for 5–7 days. This dose is typically divided into four 5-gram servings throughout the day. Research shows that this can effectively boost creatine stores by 10–40%.
After the loading phase, you can maintain your creatine stores by taking a lower dose of creatine, which ranges from 2–10 grams daily (again, depending e.g. on your size, the food you consume, and the training you do.).