How To Take Creatine – Your Complete Guide
You’ve done your research and have come to the decision that you’re going to take creatine. This very well documented supplement has been used for many years by bodybuilders and athletes alike, all who hope to improve their performance, increasing strength output and boosting endurance.
There’s no denying the fact that creatine works, but if you want to see the best results from it, you need to know how to use it.
There are a few different strategies for using this popular supplement, so let’s take a closer look at each of these, giving you all the information you need to know moving forward.
The Loading Strategy
The first strategy is the one that is more commonly applied and involves a short period of loading before you move into the maintenance phase.
The goal here is to quickly saturate your creatine stores, which will be heavily depleted if you have been doing intense workouts previously without taking the supplement.
This allows you to start feeling the difference and seeing results rapidly.
How To Load Creatine
For the loading phase, you are to take twenty grams of creatine daily for a five day period.
It’s advised that you split this twenty gram dose up into four servings of five grams per serving.
When you take these servings is up to you, however taking one before the workout and one again after the workout is a smart move.
Moving On To The Maintenance Phase
Then once the initial five day loading period is up, you will then move into a maintenance phase, where you take two to five grams per day from that point forward.
At this point, your body should have reached full saturation so there is no need to keep taking the 20 gram dosage – two to five grams should be enough to keep you saturated while you do your intense workout sessions.
Note that two or three grams should be enough to keep most individuals at the point of saturation, however larger individuals may be better off pushing this up to the 5 gram mark as they have more muscle mass to support, thus can store more creatine.
What are the pros and cons of this strategy?
The biggest pro is the fact you will start noticing results quicker.
Within the five day period, you should already be noticing that your weight lifted is going up and you aren’t feeling as fatigued during the sessions you do.
- You’ll notice faster results
- You’ll be able to lift heavier
- You won’t feel as fatigued as usual
The con to this strategy however is that due to the very high 20 gram dose, many people will find they start to experience water retention and bloating to a more significant degree.
Some water retention and possibly bloating is common when you use creatine regardless of how much you are taking, however adding the loading period definitely makes it more noticeable.
If you are someone who is very concerned with aesthetics and doesn’t want to experience bloating, then this is not the strategy for you.
Likewise, some people may find that they begin to experience some muscle cramps with the loading phase in there, thus they choose to stay away from this and utilize the next strategy discussed instead.
- You’ll likely experience water retention and bloating
- You may experience muscle cramps, although this is typically rare
Keep in mind that many higher quality creatine products are designed to minimize the bloating/water retention you experience, so depending on the particular brand you use, this may not be an issue anyway.
The Single-Dose Strategy
This second strategy is the single dose strategy.
This is going to be more ideal for those who aren’t in any rush to see maximum results immediately and who want to stay looking as lean as possible (not experience any water retention).
How To Do This Strategy
With this strategy, you simply take your two to five grams of creatine right from the start.
So essentially, you skip loading and move straight into maintenance.
Given enough time, you will reach a point of full saturation with this strategy as well, it’ll just take longer to do so.
Some people may also wish to use the middle ground, taking 10 grams of creatine for 10 days straight and then move into the loading period from there. This will work as well and may help give you a bit of both worlds.
There’s a bunch of pre workout supplements that include a small amount of creatine into the mix, including ones like 4 Gauge pre workout.
What are the pros and cons of this strategy?
- You won’t experience bloating or water retention
- It will take longer to see the best results
Some studies have actually concluded that it really doesn’t matter which strategy you use. (Source)
Pre Or Post Workout?
Another question that typically comes up is whether you should be taking your create pre or post workout.
The answer is that all in all, it’s not going to matter all that much.
If you take it pre workout, you’ll prepare your body for the workout immediately ahead while if you take it post workout, you’ll get your body ready at that point for the workout that’s coming your way next time.
What’s more important than the actual time you take your creatine is that you take it with some simple carbohydrates.
As these simple carbohydrates spike blood glucose, this can help increase the uptake of the creatine into the muscle cells.
Because most trainees will be eating a higher carb meal immediately post workout (and not as often pre workout), this means that for many, post workout would be the time to take it. If you eat simple carbs both before and after the session, then you have your pick between the two different time periods.
Remember that since creatine will cause the body to store additional water, it is a must that you increase your total water intake when you start using it. This will help you avoid any muscle cramps or the bloating that may occur as mentioned above.
Should You Use Creatine On Non-Training Days?
Finally, you may be wondering whether you should take it on off days or not?
Since you will not be depleting your creatine stores to nearly the same degree on off days (since creatine is primarily depleted with intense muscle contractions), you generally will not need to supplement with it when you aren’t doing a hard workout session.
However, some individuals may choose to still take a small dose for extra support and to ensure they are always keeping their ‘tank’ full, so to speak.
As creatine is a relatively cost effective supplement, most people will do well taking it daily to assure it’s working optimally.
So there you have your complete creatine usage guide.
Depending on what’s most important to you and your own workout protocol, use this to help dictate how you choose to use this supplement.
As always if you have a more specific question concerning creatine you can always email us, we’re here to help!!