Creatine supplements have been available for a long time, and it’s ability to boost muscle growth and enhance performance is good enough to ensure it’s continued popularity. Creatine monohydrate is the simplest and cheapest form on the market and, although various attempts have been made to modify it and enhance its capabilities, creatine monohydrate has never been trumped.
However, as with any other supplement, there is a right way and a wrong way to use and maximum benefits can only be obtained by using it in the correct way.
The Best Way to Use Creatine Monohydrate
The abilities of Creatine Monohydrate have been the subject of numerous clinical trials. It’s possibly the most researched supplement in the world, and an evaluation of the data provided by a number of studies suggests the optimum dose of creatine monohydrate is 5g per day.
However, unlike a lot of supplements, it’s not possible to jump straight in. It has to be used in a certain way, and higher doses are required during the initial stages of supplementation.
For the first five to seven days, new users need to take a dose of 20g per day, which has to be split into four smaller (5g) doses.
This is known as the loading phase and, although creatine can still provide benefits if this important stage is skipped, the level of benefit provided will be greatly reduced for a number of weeks.
The second stage and longest stage of supplementation is known as the maintenance phase because the muscles should already be primed for maximum creatine storage and existing levels only need to be maintained.
Why Loading Is Important
The body manufactures its own creatine and may obtain a negligible amount from certain foods, such as red meat and tuna, so the compound is always present in the body. Unfortunately, the muscles don’t normally store as much as they are capable of doing. So it’s not just a case of providing the body with more creatine.
The muscles have to be encouraged to begin storing greater amounts. This is achieved by saturating the muscles with so much extra creatine they begin to absorb additional amounts and store it within the cells.
Using small doses, such as those used during the maintenance phase would eventually be effective, but it would take up to 30 days for the muscles to become fully saturated with creatine and begin storing it to their maximum capacity.
The larger doses provided during the loading phase allow the muscle cells to become saturated at a faster rate, thereby ensuring users obtain the full benefits of the supplement in a matter of days instead of having to wait for a month.
Creatine Monohydrate Safety Concerns
There is a certain amount of scaremongering about creatine and the most common allegations are that its use can damage the liver and kidneys and interfere with heart function. None of these claims can be backed up. Creatine supplements have been in use for a long time and the compound has been subjected to countless clinical trials.
All the data shows it is safe. Even during the loading phase, when higher doses are required, creatine supplements have been shown to be safe and it’s also worth noting many important sporting organizations including the International Olympic Committee and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), allow athletes to use.
Do you think such important organizations would permit or encourage the use of any compound that is dangerous or unsafe?
Creatine and Caffeine: A Forbidden Combination?
The wisdom of using creatine alongside caffeine has also become a subject of hot dispute among the scientific and athletic communities. Questions arose due to the results of a single scientific study. The scientists conducting the study concluded, “caffeine counteracts the effects of a creatine loaded muscle”.
This was a shocking conclusion because the study was originally intended to see if the performance-boosting abilities of the two substances would be increased when they were combined.
It has to be remembered, the scientists did not claim the combination was dangerous. They only alleged combining caffeine with creatine could be counterproductive. This is the only study that suggests this, questions have been raised about the study design, and many experts say the data is misleading.
As it stands, the value of combining creatine and caffeine continues to be somewhat of a grey area and, although there could be some wisdom in avoiding the combination, there is nothing to stop anyone from using the two together, monitoring their own personal results, and deciding if it works for them.
Although research supports it’s as a sports supplement, there are some additional considerations Creatine Monohydrate users may want to keep in mind.
Creatine causes the muscles to take in extra water. This is not a bad thing because it helps keep the muscles hydrated during training and also improves their size. However, it is important to drink plenty of fluids while using supplements. Failure to do so could result in dehydration, especially when working up a sweat in the gym or pursuing other intense physical pursuits.
The fact that the body is retaining extra water within the muscle tissue can also lead to weight gain and it’s important to be aware this does not indicate a build-up of additional stores of body fat.