One of the most common product questions we get at PSA HQ is about Creatine, so here is a long list of everything you need to know about Creatine.
What is Creatine?
Creatine is a molecule produced in the body, where it stores high-energy phosphate groups in the forms of phosphocreatine (creatine phosphate).
During periods of stress (during exercise), phosphocreatine releases energy to aid cellular function (energy exchange) – this is what causes strength increases after creatine supplementation, by providing ATP to the muscles, but this action can also aid the brain, bones, muscles and liver.
A further definition of creatine follows (if you want to get technical):
Creatine plays a central role in energy provision through a reaction catalyzed by phosphorylcreatine kinase. Furthermore, this amino enhances both gene expression and satellite cell activation involved in hypertrophic response.
Most of the benefits of creatine are provided through this mechanism.
- Amino Acid
- Provides ATP to muscles
- Used for increasing strength
- Most commonly used in bodybuilding
Why do I use it?
Creatine supplements in the form of creatine monohydrate are quite widely taken to boost creatine levels in muscles, a process called creating loading. Countless studies show that creatine loading can enhance performance in activities that require short bursts of intense activity, such as rowing, weight-lifting, and sprinting.
A 2015 example of a study in the Journal of Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism supporting the benefits of creatine concluded that, compared with resistance training alone, creatine supplementation improves muscle strength, with greater gains in lean tissue mass resulting from post-exercise creatine supplementation.
There is evidence indicating that Creatine supplementation is capable of attenuating the degenerative state in some muscle disorders (i.e., Duchenne and inflammatory myopathies), central nervous diseases (i.e., Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, and Alzheimer’s), and bone and metabolic disturbances (i.e., osteoporosis and type II diabetes).
This evidence has lead to further exploration of the uses of Creatine supplementation for the elderly.
The main uses of creatine are by athlete to increase both power output and lean mass.
- Increase strength
- Enhance performance in anaerobic exercise (sprinting, weight lifting, jumping – high intensity movement)
When it comes to competing professionally in various bodybuilding competitions, many competitors use creatine through a loading protocol.
To start loading, take 0.3 gram per kilogram of bodyweight per day for 5–7 days.
This loading protocol is generally followed by a maintenance phase, following with at least 5g/day either for three weeks (if cycling) or indefinitely (without additional loading phases).
If you’re completing the cycle, the final stage involves you taking a week or two without creatine, and then repeating the cycle (wash-out).
Do I need to load?
You do not need to load creatine. Many studies either use a straight does of 5-10g daily, or even smaller amounts and have noted benefits with creatine.
This method is called: “just taking creatine”.
Basically you don’t need to – you can use it to see if you respond to the amino, OR to get slightly quicker benefits, however if you’re using it in the long run, loading is not a requirement of creatine supplementation. There is no harm in loading, except perhaps digestive discomfort.
What are the differences between loading & not?
If you decide to load, it will cause faster saturation of muscles with creatine, and can cause greater acute increases in strength and body weight (via water retention). This may also confer a psychological benefit, since you can ‘see’ yourself getting bigger.
If you choose not to – taking a smaller dose for a longer period of time will eventually reach the same saturation point, but will just take longer. The differences at the end of a cycle, should you choose to end the cycle, would be minimal.
Competing & Creatine
Although it varies case by case, when you’re training for a competition, the trick with creatine is to cut off usage 4-6 weeks before the day of the show. Then 3-5 days out from the show you want to load the creatine back into your system. The reasoning behind loading the creatine just before the show is to pull the water from the body and flood the cells with water to make the muscles appear fuller.
Why am I Bloating?
We receive a lot of messages about creatine causing bloating and how to stop it!
When creatine is absorbed into the body, it pulls water in with it, causing cells to swell up. The increase in cellular swelling (water retention within the cell), per se appears to have a positive influence on muscle cell growth.
What happens if I go off creatine?
According to a 2004 study on the effects of ceasing creatine supplementation whilst maintaining resistance training in older men, it was found that there was no loss in strength or lean tissue mass when you stop taking creatine.
It should be noted that you may notice a reduction in size – this is because creatine holds water, making you look bigger. Once creatine has made its way out of your system your muscles return to their normal size.
Why am I feeling sick?
Stomach cramping can occur when creatine is supplemented without sufficient water. Diarrhoea and nausea can occur when too much creatine is supplemented at once, in which case doses should be spread over the day and taken with meals.
So there you have it! That’s our list of everything you need to know about creatine! If you have any additional questions, don’t hesitate to send us a message!
- Artioli et al, 2014, ‘Creatine Supplementation prevents acute strength loss induced by concurrent exercise’, European Journal of Applied Physiology, Volume 114, Issue 8, pp 1749-1755.
- Candow DG, et al, 2004, Effect of ceasing creatine supplementation while maintaining resistance training in older men . J Aging Phys Act.
- Candow et al, ‘Strategic Creatine Supplementation and Resistance Training in Healthy Older Adults’, Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 2015, 40:7, pp 689-694
- Coleman, 2015, ‘Creatine Phosphate’, Oxford Dictionary of Psychology, Oxford University Press.
- Gualano et al, 2010, ‘Exploring the therapeutic role of creatine supplementation’, Amino Acids, Vol 38:1, pp 31-44.