Creatine is one of the most popular supplements among professional athletes, with statistics showing up to 40% usage rates, and it is at least as popular among everyday gym-goers. While this might indicate that it is a great supplement to use, it is still important to properly understand all its characteristics and how exactly it affects your body when you take it.
What Exactly Is Creatine Monohydrate?
Creatine is often referred to as a physiological sports ergogenic, which is basically in reference to its effects of enhancing a person’s physical capabilities. It is a nutritional compound that is similar to protein in composition.
Most creatine is usually created naturally by the liver using amino acids and then deposited in the muscles to stimulate their functionality, but some can also be gotten from animal foods (mostly meat and fish). However, most of the creatine in those sources is destroyed in the cooking process.
While it improves performance in a wide range of activities, several studies have shown that it is most effective in short bursts of activity such as sprinting or lifting weights. This makes it perfect for HIIT cardio and resistance training.
How Creatine Monohydrate Boosts Lean Muscle Building
When ingested, creatine monohydrate is converted into creatine phosphate, which is important for the regeneration of Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP), a molecule which serves as the main source of energy for the human body.
Think about it as the fuel on which your muscles run. When your body exhausts the creatine in your muscles, the production of ATP is stopped and much of your energy goes with it. By topping up some creatine monohydrate, you increase the amount of the ATP in your body, enabling your muscles to do much more work and increase in strength and size.
Benefits of Using Creatine Monohydrate
According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, creatine is the most effective nutritional supplement when it comes to improving anaerobic capacity and building lean body mass.
The increase in muscle mass is due to the increased water content that is absorbed into the muscles as a result of the spike in creatine when you first begin to take supplements. The muscles would have to compensate for their increased size by growing real muscle fiber.
The new muscle fiber will remain even after the water content returns to normal, especially if you use the increase in your energy levels for more rigorous exercise.
Another major feature that has made it so popular is its quick action time. Users will typically begin to see the effects in a few days, especially if they choose to use the ‘loading’ method, which is the most effective.
Creatine can also be used as an indirect supplement for weight loss. Since it increases your ability to exercise, you will be able to work out more and thus, burn more calories.
How to Take Creatine for Optimal Gains
Many creatine intake schedules have been suggested and tried out over time. The one that is generally agreed to be the most effective involves ‘loading’ with a high dosage for a period of five to seven days, followed by normal dosages, referred to as the maintenance phase.
For the loading phase, the dosage should be consumed in 4-5 equal dosages totaling roughly 20 grams at preset times during each day.
The normal dosages of 3-5 grams can be taken at any time, but are generally most effective when taken either just before or after your workouts sessions. Taking it before provides you with more energy to train with, while taking it after will allow the creatine to be absorbed better into the microtears in your muscles.
The best option is simply to try different combinations and see what works best for you over time.
Unlike some other supplements, there is no need for you to cycle creatine. There have been various claims regarding this, but recent studies have shown that cycling gives no added utility over continuous usage.
Side Effects of Creatine Usage
Generally speaking, creatine is one of the safest supplements available. However, some people have reported symptoms like nausea, dehydration and stomach cramps.
These are only reported in very rare cases, and usually during the loading phase. There has been no study showing a direct connection, and that indicates that it’s a matter of individual tolerance levels.