Natural dietary sources of creatine are skeletal muscles like beef and pork. One pound of beef contains 2 grams of creatine. But it's tough to get the quantity you need by loading up on red meat. So most athletes opt to get it in supplement form. It's an odorless, virtually tasteless, white powder that looks like sugar.
Loading Phase (first week of use)
The accumulated data from studies and anecdotal reports suggest a loading phase of creatine
which will saturate your muscles with creatine. Most manufacturers recommend about 15 to 25 grams per day for 1 week. Some users will skip the loading phase. Studies have shown just taking the maintenance dose of about 5 grams a day will accomplish the same result as loading except that it will take 3-4 weeks for your system to reach saturation levels as opposed to only 1 week when you load. So the benefit to loading is quicker results, not greater results. A small percentage of people will not do the loading phase if they notice some gastric distress at the higher 15-25 gram a day loading dose. Maintenance Phase (after first week of use)
The second or maintenance phase keeps your muscles saturated with a much smaller daily dose. A maintenance dose is about 5-10 grams a day. Q. When Should I Take Creatine?
A. Typically, you take only 5 grams at a time. If you're in a loading phase, space your 5 gram servings evenly throughout the day. Competitive bodybuilders vary dramatically in the timing of their creatine consumption. Ideal times are before and after a workout! The reason for the varied timing of taking creatine is that it works almost any time of day. Just as it takes a week to load up in your system, one study showed it remained effective even for several weeks after stopping creatine. So take it when it's most convenient for you. If there is a preference among users, it would be right after a workout along with your high carb post workout shake. Q. How Long Should I Take Creatine For?
A. Most people take creatine for 1 1/2 to 3 months, then go off of it for a month before resuming again. However, there are no conclusive studies that say you should cycle it or go off of it. Q. How Much Should I Buy?
A. Figure you need about 175 grams for the first week and about 70 grams a week thereafter. At this consumption rate, 500 grams will last about 1 1/2 months and 1000 grams will last about 3 months.
The Creatine Dose Table below shows how much you might need depending on your weight and how hard you train.
| Maintenance |
|Below 155 lbs.
|156 to 175 lbs.
|176 to 199 lbs.
|200 to 225 lbs.
|Above 225 lbs.
* The low side of the range represents 1 hour training, two to three times per week at a low level of intensity. Mid range is 1-1/2 hours training three to four times per week at a medium level of intensity. High range is 2 hours training five to six times per week at a high level of intensity.
Reference adapted from: Creatine: Nature's Muscle Builder by Ray Sahelian, MD, p. 49, 53. Q. What should I mix it with?
A. Studies during the loading phase have shown creatine to be up to 36% more effective when taken with high glycemic index carbohydrates. That means you should take it with a carbohydrate rich meal. It's theorized that raising insulin levels by consuming simple sugars helps to better transport creatine and protein into muscle. After interviewing the author of one of the premier creatine books on the market, he concluded from his research that taking it with a baked potato (which is about 100 grams of high glycemic sugar) works great for him. Another national champion we interviewed takes it with the carbs in his meals.
Probably the most popular method has been to mix it with grape juice. However, half the sugar in grape juice is very low glycemic and won't spike insulin levels. If you're watching your carb intake, your wasting precious carbs from the grape juice with no benefit to raising insulin levels.
Our CreaFit Creatine Transport formula provides creatine plus dextrose. Dextrose rates about the same on a glycemic index scale as glucose used in the study referred to earlier. Dextrose rates 100 on a scale of 1 to 100, the higher the number, the more it can trigger an insulin response. For reference purposes, fructose-some of the sugar found in grape juice rates a 20, table sugar rates a 59, honey is 87, a baked potato is about 97 and dextrose and glucose are 100. But if you are hypoglycemic (get low blood sugar) or your energy levels crash about a half hour after eating sugary foods, then just take the straight creatine and avoid the carbs. It still works fantastic and is the way athletes took creatine for years until the new study showed ways to make it even more effective. Q. I've hit a plateau on my bench press. Can creatine help me punch through it?
A. This is the one exercise that studies show creatine really works. After one month of taking creatine, the average bench press for one rep max went up 18 pounds from 278 pound to 296 pounds. The placebo group went down 6 pounds on their bench press.
Creatine works by extending the ATP energy production cycle. You typically can go all out on a sprint or weight lifting set for about 5 seconds before your effort or strength drops off. That's because your body's ATP stores are depleted. It takes several minutes to recycle from spent energy (ADP) back to useable energy (ATP). Creatine helps extend the ATP energy cycle by several seconds (some say up to 5 seconds). This means you can put more effort into a few more reps in a set. More stress on your muscles means you can get stronger, faster. That's why creatine works well for athletes requiring short bursts of energy. It's ideal for weight training. However, if you do not train hard, then creatine will do little for you. Q. I don't seem to notice any results from creatine?
A. Provided you're taking our German Creatine
brand so that we know you're getting the real thing, then you may be one of the small percentage of people who are termed, non-responders. A creatine study revealed that many of the non-responders already had higher circulating levels of creatine compared to the others in the study who got better results. Q. I'm in a dieting down stage and want to get that real shredded vascular look. Should I be taking creatine during this stage?
A. When you take creatine, there is a certain amount of water weight gain that goes along with it. That water gain can help smooth over those abs you've been working so hard to bring out. That's why most bodybuilder's heading into the final weeks of contest preparation drop creatine from their regimen. You don't want to retain water if you want that washboard ab look. In a bodybuilding contest, strength is not important. It's the look that counts. Most of those guys on stage are probably the weakest they've been in months.
Copyright 2001-12, Fitness Labs
Reprinted with Permission.