Creatine is one of the most popular - and most well-researched - muscle building supplements for weight lifters. It helps boost the energy available to your muscles during a workout. That leads to bigger pumps and stronger lifts.
Researchers agree that creatine supplements are both safe and effective. But there are many different opinions on how you should take creatine.
If you’re a newbie, this can be overwhelming. Even experienced weight lifters who are new to creatine can be confused by the onslaught of differing information.
What are the research-based facts? What do the experts say about how and when to take your creatine supplement?
Editor's Note: This article will clear up some common misconceptions about creatine. Looking for an overview of creatine? Want to know how to find the best creatine supplement for your fitness goals? Check out The Definitive Guide to Creatine.
One unique feature of using a creatine supplement is the optional loading phase. This is a 5-10 day period when you first start taking creatine.
During this time, you take larger “loading” dosages. The goal is to load your muscles so that they will have the maximum access to the energy boost offered by the supplement.
After this initial loading phase, you can go down to a smaller “maintenance” dosage of your creatine supplement.
Many experts agree with this strategy. Dr. Mike Russell told Men’s Fitness that loading “supersaturates your muscle creatine stores. You could not load but it would take a lot longer to reap the maximum effectiveness of creatine.”
Most people should take 20 grams of creatine for each day of the loading phase. After that, 3-5 grams per day is typical maintenance dosage.
Of course, the loading phase is optional. You can also reach maximum creatine stores by taking the maintenance dosage of 3-5 grams daily. But it will take longer than if you use the initial loading phase.
You do not need to cycle on and off creatine. What you do need, however, is consistency.
Want to maintain the benefits you got during your loading phase? Keep taking the best creatine supplement every day.
Studies have shown that there are no health concerns related to daily creatine use. So no worries that you're overdoing it.
This can get controversial. Some researchers point to the correlation between creatine absorption and insulin. They are seeking to find the perfect moment for taking creatine.
But studies into the ideal time to take a creatine supplement have returned inconclusive results. There is not one magic moment when you should take your creatine.
Do what works best for you. Is it easier for you to remember to take it before you leave for the gym? Great, make that a part of your routine. Post-workout is also a smart time to take the best creatine supplement.
The most important thing is not when you take it but that you take your creatine supplement consistently, day after day.
One of the biggest concerns when people first start taking creatine is digestive problems. You may have heard this too. The reality is that creatine will not harm your digestive system. Reports of dehydration and cramps are not backed up by science.
Still want to be extra cautious with your sensitive stomach? Don’t change up your diet when you first start using a creatine supplement. Stick to foods and drinks that you are comfortable with.
Hydration is an important part of every weight lifters daily routine. Don’t make common hydration mistakes.
Just getting started with the best creatine supplement? Or have you been taking creatine for years?
Regardless, never slump on your hydration. Drink plenty of water each day, avoiding sugary soft drinks.
Worried that creatine will make you look bloated or puffy? If you’ve heard people at the gym complain about this, take a harder look at the facts.
What makes them feel bloated? Creatine? Or is it really from increasing their calories during a bulking cycle?
Don’t blame the bloat on your creatine supplement. And remember, you don’t have to wait for a bulking cycle to take creatine. It won’t have a negative impact on your diet or your weight loss goals.
Creatine can help you lift more weight and feel stronger every time you hit the gym. Start using it - with a loading phase or maintenance doses - to enjoy the benefits of a creatine supplement as soon as possible.