Everybody’s talking about it, but there’s a lot more to creatine than meets the eye. Yes, it’s a very popular supplement and yes, it can help some people get closer to their goals. I love creatine and recommend it for all my members with strength goals, but we've laid out the facts so you can decide if it's right for your training.
Part of the challenge with understanding creatine is that it’s everywhere. It’s one of the most studied supplements out there, which means you’ll find all sorts of information online talking about how it works, who it’s suitable for, and whether or not it’s safe. This vast amount of detail is great. It means we know a lot more about creatine than we do about other less-tested products. But it can also be confusing – especially if you’re new to supplements in general and just want to know what it does.
So that’s where we’ll start. With a basic breakdown of creatine and why it’s become such a staple in gyms all over the world.
The first thing worth saying about creatine is that unlike a lot of other supplements, it’s naturally occurring. It’s already present within our bodies, where it’s mostly stored in muscle cells.
There, it plays an important role by providing those muscles with energy when they need it. That might be during a sprint, swim, weights session, or any other type of intense activity. Some of the more recent research around creatine has also shown that it’s good for our brains too – boosting mood and even being linked with better health in people with Alzheimer’s disease.
From a fitness perspective, creatine’s energy boost makes it invaluable during the process of getting stronger. That’s particularly the case if you’re focusing on explosive movements or lower reps with heavier weights, where a bit of extra drive can make a massive difference.
So far, so simple. Creatine is already part of your fitness routine because your body makes its own. But do you need more?
Because creatine is so useful to our bodies, it’s no surprise that a lot of people are interested in boosting how much of it they have to tap into during a tough workout.
The levels of creatine that we can make naturally are relatively low – even if you eat a lot of the healthy foods that help produce it, like seafood and red meat. Taking a supplement is what tops things up, helping you push further, for longer, more consistently. You only have to look at a few ‘creatine before and after’ pictures online to see the difference it can make, but supplements aren’t a magic bullet. You still only get out what you put in, so there’s no point taking creative powder if you’re not following it up at the gym.
If you do have a regular exercise programme though – one that features lots of intense activity – then there’s a chance you may see see noticeable results, along with useful improvements in your strength and endurance.
If you’re interested in supplementing to get your own creatine before and after comparison, then it’s important to do it in a way that’s safe and sustainable.
First things first, creatine monohydrate is the type you should be looking at. It’s the form of creatine that’s been tested most, which means all the potential benefits we’ve touched on in this article come from direct analysis of how it affects the human body. You might see other types out there, like creatine ethyl ester or creatine hydrochloride, but they haven’t been as thoroughly researched and the jury’s still out on whether or not they’re safe or even useful.
Secondly, despite the fact that creatine takes a while to build up in the body, there’s no need for a ‘loading’ phase where you take high doses to kick things off. Just start with a consistent daily dose of somewhere between 3-8 grams (5g is the typical scoop size for most packs). You’ll want to adjust that by your weight. If you weigh less than 55kg – start with 3g. If you’re over 91kgs – 8g. Anywhere between and 5g should be perfect.
As for timing, when you take creatine doesn’t matter all that much. Some studies have shown that a dose after resistance training can lead to better results, but the key is consistency – because creatine takes time to build up.
Last but not least, if you’re already taking other supplements you might be asking: Can you mix creatine with protein powder? As long as you’re sticking to the recommended doses then mixing may be more convenient for you, but there’s not a lot of evidence out there that it makes much of a difference to performance.
Like any supplement, the dangers of creatine come from its potential side effects.
Does creatine make you gain weight? In a way, yes. Creatine causes muscles to hold onto more water, so it will make you a bit bigger. For some people, that’s the goal, so no problem. But for others who want to lose weight, this side effect is reason enough to give it a miss. As always, it all depends on what you’re trying to achieve.
Another common issue with creatine is an irritated gut. This is quite often linked to that unnecessary ‘loading’ we talked about before, which can overload your system and upset your stomach.
With side effects like those in mind, it’s up to you to weigh up all the information and decide if creatine makes sense for you and your body. Used correctly, it can be a great help for certain people, while others are better off without it. Either way, the basics like nutrition, exercise, and sleep should always come first to build the right foundations.
Need personalised advice to work out what’s best for you? Choose a personal trainer that goes with you. Go Another Round.
Get a remote PT for just £65 per month. Cancel anytime.Let's do it