If you hang out around the weight room enough eventually you will hear someone talking about this workout supplement called creatine. Creatine has been around for a while, but the supplement hasn’t been researched extensively until recently.
Tons of research started coming out that creatine was not only beneficial for people that were looking to gain more muscle mass, but new research has shown that it could help with Parkinson’s disease, fight other neurological diseases, lower blood sugar levels to fight diabetes, improve brain function, reduce fatigue and much more.
Despite what some may say creatine is a very safe supplement to take and has over 500 research studies to support it.
What is Creatine?
Creatine is something that is found naturally in our body, and it helps fuel the energy for your muscles during weight lifting. It is said to be involved in the supply of energy for muscular contraction.
Creatine is the three amino acids glycine, arginine, and methionine combined together. It can be obtained from your diet if you have red meat or fish specifically salmon.
Around 95% of the creatine that is stored in the human body is stored in the skeletal muscle, and 5% in various other parts of your body.
Creatine stores are naturally used every day for use by various organs in your body including the liver, kidneys, and pancreas.
If you add more creatine to your daily diet it could help your body perform better by creating more energy.
This is why there are a lot of athletes that like to take creatine as a supplement.
Athletes use creatine to help them increase their energy output, help with athletic performance and allows them to train harder. Creatine, in theory, allows your body to produce more energy and with the extra energy, athletes can perform their workouts harder.
When is the Best Time to Take Creatine?
So when is the best time to take creatine? If you ask a people you might get multiple different answers, but is there a right time to supplement yourself with creatine? Well, I guess it just depends on who you ask let’s dive in.
- Before Workout – There are a lot of people out there that swear by taking creatine before your workout. The idea behind this is that with creatine in surplus in your system you would be producing more energy in your muscles during your workout. The problem with this though is that if you are taking a pre-workout, your pre-workout should be stimulant-free. There has been research that shows that caffeine doesn’t do well with creatine.
- After Workout – Numerous studies have shown that taking creatine after your workout gives you the most benefit. One study that was done took body builders and split them into two groups. The first group took 5g of creatine monohydrate pre-workout, and the other group took their creatine monohydrate after their workout. Both groups also supplemented with 1.9 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. The group that took creatine monohydrate post workout gained more lean muscle and was able to bench-press more than the group that took creatine pre-workout.
- Both Before & After Workout – The most recent research shows that taking creatine both before and after your workout is the most beneficial if you are looking to gain muscle mass. Australian researchers did a 10-week study in which they had one group taking a protein, carbs and creatine shake immediately pre and post workout and one group taking the same shake once in the morning and once at night. The group that took it right before and after their workout showed an 80% increase in lean muscle mass, and roughly a 30% increase in muscle strength compared to the group that was taking th shake in the morning and at night.
What Kind of Creatine Should I Take?
With so many different creatines being marketed out there, it is important to know what the difference is between all the variations of creatine. Let’s take a look at what you might find if you go into a supplement aisle at the store:
- Creatine Monohydrate – This is the most commonly seen form of creatine. Creatine Monohydrate is roughly 90% creatine by weight, it is only not 100% is because creatine monohydrate has a water molecule attached to it for stability. Most the studies that you have seen to this day is mostly done using creatine monohydrate.
- Creatine Ethyl Ester – One of the many creatine types that were created after creatine monohydrate got popular. Creatine Ethyl Ester was supposed to be the version that was superior to creatine monohydrate as far absorption so that it doesn’t turn into the waste product creatinine as much. A study comparing creatine ethyl ester and creatine monohydrate actually showed that creatine ethyl ester was converting to the inactive creatinine at a much faster rate than creatine monohydrate was, therefore making creatine monohydrate still the better option if you are deciding between the two.
- Creatine Hydrochloride (HCI) – All the crazy that was around Creatine HCI was because it is very soluble in water. The claim is that because of its solubility in water it absorbs better into your system and causes less discomfort for your digestive system. None of these claims have been studied and compared to creatine monohydrate so your best bet still is to stick with creatine monohydrate because the studies back it.
- Buffered Creatine – Buffered creatine was created as a version that in theory would be more potent and cause fewer side effects than creatine monohydrate. The studies that were done comparing buffered creatine to creatine monohydrate showed nearly no difference between the two when comparing how effective the creatine was as well as the side effects. Therefore buffered creatine really is no better than just using creatine monohydrate.
- Liquid Creatine – Creatine is not meant to be in a liquid form. It is not recommended to take creatine in a liquid form due to the fact that the liquid form of the supplement seems to be unstable and breaks down quickly. Studies have shown that creatine in liquid form is much is less effective than when it is in monohydrate powder.
- Creatine Magnesium Chelate – This form of creatine is created by bonding a magnesium with a creatine. This was created with the thought that since magnesium had a big role in creatine metabolism this would be a more effective version of creatine. Studies that have been conducted on creatine magnesium chelate only showed it just as effective as creatine monohydrate but not more effective.
- Creatine Nitrate – This version of creatine is creatine bonded to a nitrogen base. Creatine nitrate is more soluble in water, and the nitrate helps increase the oxygen levels in the bloodstream which helps with your strength during weight lifting. However, studies comparing creatine nitrate and creatine monohydrate have been limited so we can not say for sure if it is better.
- Micronized Creatine – Most of the micronized creatine on the market is still creatine monohydrate. Micronizing creatine just reduces the size of the creatine particle making the powder smaller. This increases the solubility of the powder in water but has no changes as far as effective when compared to creatine monohydrate.
So which one should you take? To be honest, all the variations of creatine cost more than just getting creatine monohydrate, and the benefits are unclear on a majority of them so creatine monohydrate is still the best bet.
It is the version of creatine that has the most science-backed studies behind it. The side effects are pretty minimal for the most part when taken according to the correct dosage. Until more studies come out about the effectiveness of the other varieties of creatine comes out just stick to the original form.
Potential Side Effects of Creatine
Of course, you should consult with your doctor if you are currently under any medical treatment and taking any medications before taking creatine.
Creatine is likely safe when taken in the proper dose. Creatine does increase your need to drink more water to avoid dehydration. Taking too much creatine at one time could put more stress on your kidney and liver function.
If you have any additional questions in regards to side effects or if it might affect the current medication you are taking then consult with your primary doctor.
So it seems ideally you would want to take your creatine monohydrate before and after your workout if you are looking for it to be the most effective.
If you don’t want to take it twice then the studies show taking it after is slightly more effective than taking it before your workout.
Out of all the supplements out there in the market, creatine is cheap and easy to take and add to your daily supplements. There isn’t a need to take any of the other variations of creatine, some of the other variations don’t work and others only work just ask good as the monohydrate, and it’s more expensive.
Do you currently supplement with creatine? What kind of creatine do you use? Let me know below, and as always if you have any questions, comments or concerns leave them below and I will get back to you.