For anybody out there that is even remotely interested in, bodybuilding, or health and fitness in general for that matter, health and sports supplements are absolutely essential and are insanely popular for a number of reasons.
The sports supplement market is currently one of the most lucrative and highly competitive markets in the entire world, and for very good reason too.
Although no supplement will work miracles, if used correctly, alongside a healthy and balanced diet, lifestyle, and training regime, you can certainly see and feel some very real and very impressive results when you select the right supplements for the right task.
In terms of popularity, particularly in the bodybuilding community, whey protein powder is king of the hill, and has been for a number of decades now.
Coming in at second place, however, is another insanely popular product, which generates hundreds of millions in profit every single year – creatine.
Creatine supplements are incredibly popular, they have been proven to be highly effective, for both, athletic purposes, and bodybuilding purposes, and what’s more, they’re very easy to get a hold of.
One slight issue with creatine supplements, however, is the fact that users are not always quite sure what the best way is to take them, and when.
Here we’ll be taking a more in-depth look at creatine, and hopefully providing a much clearer idea of how and when these supplements should be used.
What Are Creatine Supplements?
Creatine is a naturally occurring amino acid that is found not only within the human body, but also in seafood and red meat.
It is found within the brain, and the muscles and it basically works by helping to increase the amounts of natural ATP which are available in the body.
ATP, or Adenosine Tri-Phosphate, is a primary source of energy used by the muscles, which basically helps them to contract and function.
This in turn can help individuals to build muscle, not in the same way as protein can assist with muscle growth and repair, but rather from a training and exercising standpoint instead.
If your muscles have more energy, they will work harder and more efficiently before they fatigue.
This in turn means that you will be far more productive in the gym, and can therefore place the muscles under increased amounts of stress, which will then stimulate new growth.
The more ATP that is available for the muscles, the more efficient they will become.
Studies have also found that creatine could actually help to treat and prevent a number of health and medical conditions, including muscular dystrophy, and Parkinson’s disease.
What Are The Main Benefits Of Creatine Supplements?
There are a number of benefits associated with creatine supplements, including the following:
- Increased athletic performance
- Increased muscle mass
- Increased strength
- Faster rates of recovery
- Improved circulation
- Enhanced energy levels
- Improved mental focus
- And more…
How Should Creatine Supplements Be Taken?
There is a great deal of uncertainty regarding how creatine supplements should be taken, as some experts will swear by following what is known as an initial ‘loading phase’, whilst others will say that the loading phase is pointless and is a waste of time.
The evidence, however, does suggest that in SOME cases, a loading phase can be beneficial, so here’s a more detailed look.
The idea behind a loading phase is to saturate your muscles with creatine as soon as possible, to increase cell volumization so that they can absorb more creatine, which will then be converted into ATP which they will then use as fuel.
To follow a standard creatine loading phase, users will consume around 20g of creatine per day, spaced out at 4 x 5g intervals.
Creatine, is often found in powdered form, so you will basically add one 5g scoop to your chosen liquid, give it a good mix, and drink it right down.
Experts recommend consuming it with a simple sugar such as fruit, or fruit juice, as this will assist with absorption rates, meaning more will be absorbed, and much quicker. You should ideally follow the loading phase for 5 – 7 days.
After you complete the loading phase, consuming your creatine supplements couldn’t be easier.
Basically, you will consume 5g of creatine per day for the next 4 weeks.
Experts recommend consuming around 60 -80 Oz of fresh water a day, which will again assist with absorption.
It is also important because your muscles will be retained more water when you take creatine, which will lead to bigger muscle pumps, but will also mean you require more water.
When Should Creatine supplements Be Taken?
Generally speaking, there is no optimum time to take creatine supplements, because you are consuming them every day, even on non-training days.
Most people, however, opt to take creatine immediately after they train, with a simple carb, as it can assist with post-workout recovery.
Common creatine confusion
Now, when it comes to creatine supplements, there is a great deal of confusion associated with them, that we feel we should clear up sooner rather than later.
Creatine supplements are incredibly popular as previously mentioned, but it is safe to say that some people are not fully aware on how to use them correctly, and indeed, how they work at all.
Here’s a look at a few examples.
The loading phase conundrum
Now, if you read back a few hundred words, you’ll see that, when it comes to the best time to take creatine supplements, it all depends on the initial loading phase, at least, it does if you are new to the supplement.
However, whilst there are some experts that are convinced that the creatine loading phase is essential, there are others who say that it is a waste of time.
They believe that the loading phase is a clever way for the supplement companies to get more money out of you, because obviously, if you’re using more creatine, you will use up your supplies much quicker, and as a result, you will need to re-stock much quicker.
The best advice here is to listen to your body and do what works best for you.
If you read some articles and even some labels for that matter, you will see that various individuals will recommend cycling creatine usage, taking a short two week break from creatine supplements after six weeks of usage.
However, there is no evidence whatsoever, that suggests that creatine supplements need to be cycled.
Again, this is clever marketing as it fools the consumer into thinking the supplements are more powerful and potent as they are.
When we hear the word ‘cycle’ we automatically think steroids, which, of course, yield very impressive muscle growth.
Whilst creatine is very powerful, it certainly isn’t anywhere near as powerful as anabolic steroids.
Some people swear by creatine and will make it a staple part of their bodybuilding supplement stack.
Other people, however, can’t really see what all of the fuss is about and don’t really notice any real improvements when using the supplement at all.
If you are one of those people, you could be what is known as a “creatine non-responder”.
As the name implies, basically, creatine non-responders don’t seem to see or feel any benefits or improvements when using creatine supplements in the slightest.