If you work out on a regular basis, chances are you have probably heard of the popular gym supplement known as creatine. Whether you've done a little research on it, have never heard about it, or have been taking it for years, this excerpt is going to teach you some things that you should know about creatine.
According to the Mayo Clinic, creatine is a naturally occurring amino acid found in the muscles and the brain. Your kidneys, pancreas, and liver all produce creatine and it is available in certain meats. Essentially, your body turns creatine into muscle energy by converting it to phosphocreatine.
Regarding the use of creatine in the gym, there are a lot of benefits. When creatine is taken orally in proper doses, it can be beneficial for strength gain, added muscle mass, and increased stamina. When creatine is converted to phosphocreatine, a large percentage of it is stored in the muscles.
The more phosphocreatine that you have in your muscles, the more ATP (an energy producing molecule) that they can produce. Long story short, creatine makes your muscles have more energy and theoretically it helps you lift more weight for longer periods of time.
While this is one of the main benefits of creatine, there are a few other important and beneficial things that should be spoken about. In my personal experience, my favorite part about taking creatine is that it added lots of size to my muscles.
Wondering why this happened, I did a little research. According to Healthline, creatine increases the amount of water in your muscles which is responsible for the increased muscle size. On top of those benefits, creatine also does things like reduce protein breakdown (muscle loss) and lower myostatin (something that prevents muscle growth) levels.
Personally, this was something I was unsure about when I first started taking creatine. On the container of creatine that I purchased, there was no indication of whether I should supplement before or after my workout.
Wanting to get the most out of my creatine, I went to the internet to look for the answer. After all of the research, I put together a routine that I think is the best for taking creatine.
For the first five days, a loading phase is used to increase creatine levels at a quicker rate. Although I didn't do this because I was unaware of it, you should take anywhere from 15-20 grams of creatine throughout the day for about five days. You are going to want to take a dose with each large meal that you eat, so you will probably end up taking it before and after the gym while you are in the loading phase.
In regards to the scientific data backing up the benefits of the loading phase, MyProtein states that "...it helps to increase intramuscular stores of creatine the fastest way possible." It isn't necessary but it will certainly help you get faster gains.
After the loading phase is complete, you will begin taking creatine only once a day with a serving of 3-5 grams. Jeff Nippard explains a bit more of the science behind the loading phase, and creatine in general, in this great educational video:
There is a great debate on whether you should take creatine before or after you work out. Before I tell you what I think, let's explore some of the things that people on either side of the debate have to say.
Those who support taking creatine before you work out say that it would theoretically increase ATP levels and therefore increase the intensity of the workout. Increased levels of energy while working out is one of the main reasons that people take creatine, so there is a lot of support on this side.
Those who support the argument of taking creatine after you exercise say that your muscles will be in greater need of the creatine after you are finished. To elaborate on that, the idea suggests that taking creatine before you work out is wasting some of it because your muscles are already 'healed' or essentially just not broken down.
Another study was discussed on PubMed.gov which argued that taking creatine post-workout was the way to go. To support this claim, the study observed the effects of a group of individuals who took creatine before exercising and another group who took it after working out. After measuring things like fat-free mass index overall strength gain, the data showed that those who took creatine immediately after their workout had slightly more significant results.
Built With Science also generally promotes the idea of taking creatine post-workout, based on some of those studies:
The article on bodybuilding.com also discussed people who supported another side: taking it whenever you want. The supporters of taking creatine whenever you want noted that the levels of creatine in your body stay up for a long period of time as long as you are supplementing every day.
Therefore, it does not matter when you take it, as the levels are going to be up regardless. You will receive the benefits of the creatine at any time as long as it is in your system.
I believe, from my personal experience along with what I have found in my research, that you will benefit from creatine no matter when you take it throughout the day. With that being said, I often take my creatine right before I work out.
There are a few reasons that I do so. The first reason is that I used to support the side of taking it before working out in order to have more energy. Because of this, the placebo effect kicked in and I felt stronger after my first gulp of the shake. Although I've learned that it doesn't really matter, I still drink it beforehand just to get it out of the way.
Former bodybuilder Lee Hayward has some great advice about taking creatine at anytime. He digs a bit deeper into the science behind it:
Hopefully, you have learned a thing or two about creatine and what it does for you. Assuming that you are considering or planning to take creatine in the near future, I am going to give you a summary of advice.
If you want quick gains, do the loading phase. If you don't really care, skip the loading phase and begin taking a serving of creatine once a day with a meal. After about a week or so of working out along with supplementing, you should begin to notice significant gains.
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