Supplement series: Creatine
In this series I am going to share with you the supplements that I take in my daily regimen. I take some specifically to support building muscle, and others are for overall health.
I have already had an article on Protein Powder which you should read. This article will focus on Creatine.
Back when I was in university I recall several of my friends who worked out taking creatine supplements. I was curious about it, but whenever I asked they would just say, "Oh, it is good for building muscles," but no one could give me a straight answer explaining how it worked. They also said it was important to drink gallons of water because if you do not, the supplement could have negative consequences for your kidneys. Without a clear understanding of the benefits and with that warning attached I always looked at creatine as some secret form of steroids so I avoided it like the plague!
Now, having read up on it more in my old age… I have found out that creatine is in fact not a secret type of steroid, but a very common substance found naturally in the body and consumed primarily through meat. I have also learned that it has certain properties that make it well worth taking and as a result I have recently started a regular creatine supplement.
So - like me - you probably want to know: what exactly is creatine, and how does it work?
These are great questions. According to https://www.healthline.com, creatine is an amino acid that supplies your body with energy and supports building muscle mass. This is the main reason that people take it, as well as helping to improve muscular endurance.
Now thinking back to when I was a young person with no serious plans to compete as a bodybuilder I still would not have taken creatine, but as an older person in midlife I do. Why? When I was younger my natural testosterone level was much higher and so was my ability to eat! Meat obviously included… That meant that through diet alone I was getting ample creatine and I had testosterone readily available to help with strength and muscle growth.
Twenty years later I expect my testosterone level to be decreasing by about 1-5% each year, and though I still consume a lot I cannot eat like I used to. Regardless, I still want to achieve a certain physique and that is why I have decided to supplement with creatine.
Creatine also has other positive effects to consider including lowering blood sugar, and a probable benefit if you suffer from a fatty liver that is not related to alcohol misuse. My family has a history of diabetes through the last two generations so I will take any help that I can get to address this. My last annual health screening also showed risk for fatty liver, so again, I appreciate any help I can get.
There are two general ways to take creatine. For the quickest results you can start with 20g daily, spaced in four equal doses. This you will do for 5-7 days to ensure that your muscles are fully saturated, which is typically called the loading phase. Afterwards you will move into the maintenance phase where you will take 3-5g daily. Recent research has shown that you only need 3g a day for maintenance. Some packaging may say 5g, but you can save the extra two to save some money.
This is the method that I used and my overall experience was good. Through my research before I had learned that some people experience bloating with this approach and I did feel that from about day 5 to day 7. However, when I reduced my intake to the maintenance dose in the second week I was fine after about one more day.
My wife however did not have a good experience with the loading approach. The bloating was much worse and made her extremely uncomfortable so she stopped around day four. If you find this happening to you, do not be discouraged - you can simply transition directly to the maintenance approach.
Just take 5g of creatine daily. The approach is slower as it will take 3-4 weeks for your muscles to be flush with creatine and receive the full effect, but the bloating feeling should be minimal if not eliminated altogether.
It is good to drink plenty of water when you take creatine. If you do not it will not hurt your liver despite what some critics say, but since creatine holds onto water in your body it is a good idea to keep hydrated.
Once you have completed loading and are in the maintenance phase there is no reason to take a break from creatine. I recall in my youth that people would frequently cycle creatine but studies have shown there is no need for this.
There are many types of creatine out there but the performance is all the same, so do not fall for the hype! Everything outside of creatine monohydrate is a waste of money.
Finally, l am adding a couple of links to articles and videos that I found useful, and you may benefit from them too.