How do I take creatine?

by Kaizzad Capadia | January 19, 2016 Views :

Creatine Monohydrate is a Nutritional Supplement that is an Ergogenic Aid (Aids increase in performance).

To a certain extent all nutrients, including water, increase performance IF one were to be deficient in it prior to its consumption. For instance, if you were dehydrated during a physical activity & you were to take an Oral Rehydration Hypotonic Solution (ORS) of Water, Electrolytes & Dextrose at a 6% concentration, then you will see a dramatic improvement in performance. But, this still cannot be called as Ergogenic because you are merely filling up a deficiency. In doing so you are bringing your sub-par performance up to par. The same ORS will NOT increase performance in a fully hydrated subject.

What is an Ergogenic aid?

A true Ergogenic aid is one that when ingested in a physiological state (No Deficiency of the substance being ingested) & taken to supra-physiological levels in the body, increases performance.

This condition is satisfied by Creatine Monohydrate and thus, it can truly be called an ''Ergogenic Aid''.

Creatine Monohydrate stormed the fledgling Sports-Nutrition Supplement Industry in the early 1990's as the ONLY true Performance Enhancing (Ergogenic) Aid that could safely be categorized as a Nutritional Supplement. Up until that time, all other substances that genuinely increased performance unfortunately belonged to the Pharmaceutical Drugs Category and thus increased performance significantly, but at the cost of health. Creatine Monohydrate was the first truly efficacious Ergogenic Aid that improved performance significantly without any adverse side effects.

Not many users know that Creatine exists in the human body mainly within human skeletal muscle in the form of Creatine Phosphate. Creatine Phosphate (CP) is an integral & irreplaceable part of Anaerobic Energy Metabolism, more specifically the Phosphagen System or the ATP-CP System. This system provides quick bursts of energy for extremely high intensity physical exertion that cannot last for more than 20 seconds.

A true Ergogenic aid is one that when ingested in a physiological state (No Deficiency of the substance being ingested) & taken to supra-physiological levels in the body, increases performance.

The human body has many sources of energy - Blood Glucose, Liver and Muscle Glycogen Stores, Free Fatty Acids and Stored Triglycerides in Adipose tissue and Amino Acids from Skeletal Muscle protein. But all of these sources have to finally be converted to Adenosine Tri Phosphate (ATP) to be used as fuel. Consider ATP to be the Energy Currency recognized by the body to consume for any physical or basal activity that the human body does or is made to do.

So here's how Creatine works:

The Human Skeletal muscle has readily available ATP in the muscles which can be used in the first 2-3 seconds of any activity. Any activity that is so incredibly intense that you cannot continue it for more than 2-3 seconds is done purely with the already readily available ATP. For example - A one RM Squat, a competitive Clean & Jerk/Snatch or a High Jump/Long Jump, Shot-Put/Hammer Throw.

ATP, which is an Adenosine Molecule bonded to 3 Molecules of Phosphate, provides this energy by cleaving off a Phosphate molecule and turning itself into Adenosine Di Phosphate (ADP).

But, if the activity were a little less intense, such as a 100 meter Sprint lasting over 3 seconds, then the exhausted stores of ATP have to be replenished quickly as the reduced ADP is not our body’s energy currency and therefore isn’t recognised as a fuel source.

This regeneration of ATP is done by the Creatine Phosphate (CP) present in our skeletal muscles. CP donates a phosphate to ADP and turns it back into ATP. When this regenerated ATP breaks a phosphate bond to release energy, the energy thus released provides for another 12-15 seconds of activity.

So basically, in activities that last for more than 3 seconds but are intense enough to only last for less than 20 Seconds, the energy is provided first by readily available ATP and then by CP.

100 and 200 meters sprints and Sets of 4-10 RM in weight training exercises are classic examples of activities that are intense enough to limit the duration of the activity within the ATP-CP energy metabolism time frame of less than 20 seconds.

It was seen in numerous clinical trials that Creatine Monohydrate, when ingested at a particular dosage, converted in the body to CP & increased CP stores to super saturation levels over a period of time if taken according to a particular dosing protocol. Once Super Saturation levels (Supra-Physiological) were achieved, it was found to enhance the ATP-CP cycle thus allowing the person significantly greater performance in activities that were intense enough to limit the duration to less than 20 seconds.

The one problem with Creatine Monohydrate was that bio-availability was not exactly ideal. Dr. Paul Greenhaf, who is a scientist who has probably done the most research on Creatine Monohydrate, suggested an ingestion of 75 grams of dextrose along with 5 Grams of Creatine Monohydrate to overcome the problem of bio-availability. Basically, using the insulin surge that the Dextrose provided would sort of pile-drive the Creatine to the muscle cells. 

This delivery worked as clinical trials proved that the results were better in the group that ingested Creatine Monohydrate along with 75 grams of Dextrose as compared to the group that ingested only Creatine Monohydrate.

There were also some issues with the Creatine being resistant to being soluble in water; often giving in to sedimentation or settling down of the granules to the bottom of the container. This caused whole granules of Creatine Monohydrate to be swallowed & would then result in Gastric Distress. Gastric Distress, of course, would neutralize any ergogenic benefits that Creatine can provide.This issue was resolved with the introduction of Micronized Creatine which stayed beautifully in suspension. Basically, it dissolved well in water.

Dosage and supplementation protocol

Now, the effective dosage suggested by Dr. Paul Greenhaf was 5 grams per day of Creatine Monohydrate.

But he also suggested 20 grams a day loading phase of about a week to 10 days.

At the time, many believed that this loading phase merely showed a significant increase in anaerobic strength performance quickly in a matter of 10 days and that the same results could be achieved by being a bit more patient at the 30 day mark even if loading was skipped and you started off and maintained 5 grams per day. But this thinking was flawed and does not work nearly as well as the loading protocol.

Creatine hydrates cell , or in other words, shuttles water and glucose into muscle cells, thus giving a fuller tighter appearance to skeletal muscle.

The reason for this is simple - without loading the Creatine that is being ingested to the tune of 5 grams per day is also being utilized at nearly the same rate due to intense workouts. This makes reaching Super Saturation/Supra-Physiological levels very difficult.

With the loading phase of 7-10 days we are providing the body a lot more creatine than it can use even if you were to intensely workout 7 days a week. This creates a build-up leading to the much desired Super Saturation/Supra-Physiological levels that lead to ergogenesis.

I personally have tried both protocols but now firmly follow the loading phase every single time I get back to Creatine Supplementation with a gap of more than 2 months. The loading protocol involves taking 5 grams of creatine with 75 grams of dextrose on an empty stomach 4 times a day. The problem with this is the amount of Dextrose multiplies to unacceptable levels & WILL LEAD TO FAT GAIN. Most people getting fat on these kinds of protocols used to falsely accuse Creatine for causing Edema (Water Logging in the Subcutaneous Layer just under the skin).

This is rubbish because Creatine actually helps in the beneficial kind of water retention. It actually cell hydrates, or in other words, shuttles water and glucose into muscle cells, thus giving a fuller tighter appearance to skeletal muscle.

The bloated look was not due to Creatine but due to actual fat gain happening with the huge 75X4=300 grams of Dextrose per day for 7-10 days. I do have a solution to this.

We must also note that the 75 grams Dextrose needed for the insulin spike is not connected with the grammage of Creatine. This means that you would require 75 grams of Dextrose for that significant surge in Insulin, irrespective of whether you were taking 3 or 5 or 10 grams of Creatine.

Another factor to be considered is that Dextrose does not have to cause Fat gain if the sugar load is timed correctly with the bodies low glycogen level phases.

The correct way to take Creatine

Keeping the above in mind, I suggest the following:

20 grams a day loading phase for 7 days:

First Dose of the day:
10 grams of Creatine Monohydrate (CM) with 75 grams of Dextrose, first thing upon waking.

Second Dose of the day:
10 grams of Creatine Monohydrate (CM) with 75 grams of Dextrose immediately post workout. (On Non-Training days, ingest the 2nd dose around 5pm on an empty stomach as usually at 5pm, most people have a relatively empty stomach having taken their lunch at around 2pm)

Loading Phase from 8th Day till the 10th Day:

10 grams of Creatine Monohydrate (CM) with 75 grams of Dextrose only post workout. (On Non-Training days, ingest this one dose immediately upon waking.)

Maintenance Phase from the 11th day onwards:

5 grams of Creatine Monohydrate (CM) with 75 grams of Dextrose only post workout. (On Non-Training days, ingest this one dose immediately upon waking.)

To get the full benefit of Creatine supplementation, TAKE IT EVERYDAY. There is no need to cycle off Creatine, it can be taken year round. There is absolutely no shut down of the body’s own abilities to manufacture CP via any negative feedback loop.

Just in case budget is an issue, you could take a 4 week break after every 12 weeks on it. The super saturation levels will be maintained for a while if therapy is continuous for 12 weeks. Beyond 4 weeks the levels will decline & there will be a significant drop in performance. But if you can afford it then the prudent thing to do would be to take it year round.

On severely carb restricted diets geared towards Fat loss, you can shift to Creatine Ethyl Ester products. It has been seen that Creatine delivery & bio-availability in this form is good and does not require the dextrose mediated insulin spike. But on a gain I would any day prefer the cheaper & more thoroughly researched Creatine Monohydrate form.

A few key Pointers for Creatine Monohydrate Supplemental Usage:

  • The powder is white, crystalline, tasteless and odourless. Any taste or odour should make you suspect a degraded product.

  • Creatine is not very stable in water and, after a prolonged period, degrades to its inactive metabolite Creatinine. If you find the powder to be any less than free flowing or rather find it to be hard and lumpy, suspect it to be degraded.

  • Go for reputed brands that use SKW (Germany) Micronized Creatine Monohydrate. That is the gold standard when it comes to Creatine supplementation.

  • Reputed brands such as Optimum Nutrition ensure excellent packaging in Air-Tight jars that will not allow the product to be degraded by moisture.

  • Due to Creatine’s ability to get degraded in solution to Creatinine, DO NOT pre-mix the solution and keep it stored in a bottle for later consumption. Every Creatine Solution consumed must be freshly prepared & consumed immediately upon making the solution.

  • Micronized Creatine, although much better than regular Creatine, still isn’t very soluble. So, do not mix Creatine in Ice cold or refrigerated water. Always use water heated up to room temperature. Stir or shake vigorously for at least 15-20 seconds and then consume immediately.

  • Creatine will improve your performance on the gym floor & you will end up lifting heavier. But that also means more micro-trauma to the muscles, thus increasing the need for Protein. DO NOT EVEN THINK OF SPENDING ONCREATINE IF YOUR PROTEIN REQUIREMENT OF AT LEAST a minimum 2 grams per Kg Bodyweight is not met.

I want to reiterate that it is completely SAFE and has NO ADVERSE SIDE EFFECTS.

But consumption by beginners who are nowhere near comprehensive Motor Unit Recruitment & have sub-optimal Rate coding in their muscle fibers is a complete waste of money. A beginner sees huge increases in performance in the gyms purely on the basis of bettering his form & Technique. At this stage buying Creatine is a criminal waste of money.

Ergogenic Aids must only be taken by advanced strength enthusiasts or athletes who have already explored the limits of their performance. Only then will Creatine Monohydrate work.

I hope the above is a comprehensive guide on anything & everything that you needed to know about CREATINE MONOHYDRATE.

-Kaizzad Capadia
Executive Director NEULIFE
Co-founder & Director - K11 Fitness Academy

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  • Good one!

    On: June 13, 2016 By: Nikhil Gharkar
  • well..... nice article on creatine monohydrate. Though it has no side effects but i have seen some people having hair loss after taking creatine. It maybe due to DHT. taking creatine results in increment of DHT (dihydro testosterone) and increment in DHT causes hair loss. but many of my friends took it but only few of them had hair fall. after searching on internet and discussing with my professors I found out that DHT does causes hair fall and creatine does increases DHT proportions in body a lot. But i also found out that hair fall will only occur to them who have it as genetic problem not in them whose family never saw such issue with hair fall.

    On: April 30, 2016 By:

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