Let’s begin with what Creatine actually is. Creatine Phosphate a high-energy compound found in muscle cells, which is used to convert ADP into ATP by donating phosphate molecules to the ADP. ATP is the molecule that is converted into ADP with a release of energy that the body then uses. Sounds complicated but to simplify when you sprint or lift weights your body runs out of energy and uses Creatine to make more of it therefore you can sprint longer and lift more weights in the realm of a 5% – 15% increase in maximum power and performance. Short-term Creatine supplementation increases 20–30% the number of repetitions at a specified percentage of single maximum-repetition in weightlifters. As a result of this extra work the body can recuperate at a faster rate yielding greater muscle mass and strength gains. Interestingly Creatine has no effect on aerobic activities as the body uses energy a bit differently with aerobic training.
Creatine has been available since the early 1990’s and has an excellent safety record. A quick search on pubmed.com yields 429 published studies although they vary greatly in scope. Personally, having been involved in Sports Medicine and the Nutrition industry for decades I would say Creatine is very effective for increasing lean muscle and strength & power. One oddity is the question of water retention. To my knowledge there has been very few studies done on Creatine Monohydrate and water retention some do point to this. The reason being is that Creatine Monohydrate has poor solubility, you basically need a lot of water to dissolve and absorb it. This extra water in the digestive tract could lead to bloating and a puffy look, but it varies on the individual. There is no doubt that Creatine, in general increases water retention INSIDE of muscle tissue, this is a good thing for recovery.
When looking to dodge the water weight or puffy look I would recommend a product Containing Creatine HCL and / or Creatine Gluconate, these forms of creatine are digested better and require less water for absorption. A good example would be ATP48 which contains all three versions with few extra ingredients to help with absorption. https://www.ngnutra.com/product/atp48-creatine-matrix/
Now for the million-dollar question, when is the best time to take Creatine?!
The correct answer is this – if you had to pick ONE time. Studies show it is post workout! The reason for this is because your body gets depleted during a workout and is like a sponge sucking up extra creatine for the next work out. BUT- I believe in also taking a small dosage PRE-WORKOUT as well. The reason for this is that your body can use a small amount immediately and that gives you a better workout, when taking both pre and post workout you will have the best of both worlds for effectiveness! An easy way to do this is what ever creatine product you are taking split the dose half before and half after. On your non workout days I would suggest you take half a dose in the morning and half in the afternoon for enhanced uptake. Some products recommend “loading phase” This is just for creatine monohydrate and consists of taking 4 dosages per day for the first week or two and then backing off to one dosage per day. This does get into your system a bit quicker, maybe a week or 10 days sooner versus not loading. A good conservative rule of thumb would be 3 months on and one month off, this isn’t rooted in deep science but I am an advocate of giving your body a break, so it doesn’t build up a tolerance.
Hopefully this clears up some confusion and gives you a bit of direction in why Creatine works, what type to take (ATP48), and when to take it!
Thank you for reading,
Co-owner NG Nutra / Science Nutrition INC
505 5th St. Ste 803
Sioux City, IA 51101