Creatine: You should probably be using it!

Creatine is the most studied supplement in history. We know more about how it works, why it works, the risks, and how to use it than any other supplement in the fitness world. Creatine has all sorts of interesting properties that are important for people who are trying to get into shape, burn fat, and build muscle.

Muscle is the single most important factor in healthy weight-loss. Our goal is to PRESERVE and BUILD muscle-mass while simultaneously burning fat. Muscle is what drives our metabolism. The more muscle you have, the more calories you can eat, and the better you look, overall. Furthermore, people who build muscle while losing weight are far more successful at keeping the weight off once they reach their goals.  (In fact, muscle might be the single biggest factor in the ability of a person to maintain weight loss after their goals are achieved).

Proper protein intake combined with a good lifting routine is the best way to preserve and build muscle.  However, there’s one more thing you can and should be doing…. Take a creatine supplement!!!!!!

Creatine has zillions of scientifically proven benefits:

  1. Enhances your ability to perform high-intensity work
  2. Improves your maximum strength
  3. Improves your maximum sprint-speed
  4. Enhances your speed and quality of recovery
  5. Increases your anaerobic capacity (lets you operate at a higher heart-rate, for longer)
  6. Increases the volume and strength of your muscles
  7. Enhances methylation (takes load off your kidneys and liver)
  8. Enhances brain function
  9. Improves bone healing and regeneration
  10. Improves glucose tolerance
  11. Improves performance & muscle-mass in vegetarians
  12. Some studies even indicate it can slow down age-related muscle loss

And yes, as mentioned above, the science behind creatine is extremely well documented. It’s probably beyond the scope of this blog to get into the details — but you can read more about it here, if you’d like. (The article linked has links to many highly credible scientific studies and goes into a lot more detail about how and why creatine is so effective). Also, there’s a great video, here that goes deep into the science behind it. (Put your nerd glasses on before you watch it… it’s pretty technical).

Will it make me bloated? Contrary to popular belief, pure creatine (the good stuff) will not make you bloated.

Won’t it make my muscles gigantic and gross-looking? No. (Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just take a supplement and make that happen???) While it will increase the volume of your muscles SLIGHTLY, it will not give you gigantic muscles.  It WILL, however, help you preserve your existing lean muscle mass and help you build new muscle more efficiently.

Will I gain weight? No. If you use a high-quality creatine brand that is micronized, you will not gain weight. Not even water weight.

How much should I take? 5g of protein has been shown to be the optimal intake for almost all body-weights.

What happens it I take too much? Similar to most vitamins, taking too much creatine will have no adverse effects (your body will simply expel whatever it can’t use).

What kind of creatine should I buy? I recommend Micronized Creatine or Creatine Monohydrate.  Some of the newer and more exotic versions of creatine are less studied and less understood.   You can take creatine in pill form, or in powder form (it works equally as well either way).

Does it work right away? It takes about 2 weeks to build up enough creatine in your body before it has any effect.

Do I need to “load”?  No. In fact, studies have shown that loading has no real positive benefits in the long-term.  (Loading means you take a whole bunch for several days up-front, to try to get it into your system faster).

Does it matter when I take it?  No, studies have proven that timing makes no difference.

What’s the difference between the cheap stuff and the expensive stuff? The cheap stuff comes from china, and you will likely find that it doesn’t absorb very well in your body. (60% absorption rate is not uncommon with the low-end products) and causes water-weight gain or bloating.  The expensive stuff is mostly made in Germany and is pure enough that it should all dissolve at a 99%+ rate and has no adverse effects.

What brand should I get?  Almost all of the high-end (expensive) stuff is great, but my favorite balance between price and quality is the stuff from Optimum Nutrition. It comes in both a pill form and a powder form from Amazon.  (I am unaffiliated with Optimum Nutrition, FYI.)

Note that I am not a doctor. Consult with your doctor before adding any supplements to your diet!  Also note, women who are breast-feeding should probably not be taking creatine. But again, consult with your doctor.