If you want complicated explanations or jargon that needs a degree to understand please go elsewhere. My articles are always no-nonsense clear and concise that tell you in an honest and easy way the facts as I see them. I am also not going to waste half the space of the article on references.
The information is out there on the net or in quality papers for all to see if they so choose to take the time to look it up. References can be faked and taken out of context with ease so they are not all they are cracked up to be anyway.
One of the best selling bodybuilding products of all time has to be creatine. This has more to do with slick advertising and clever use of studies than anything else. That being said creatine is a weapon every bodybuilder, who has their diet and training sorted, should have.
But ask most people why they take creatine and they will say because it builds muscle; "Up to 5 lbs or more in a week!" or that it lets you train longer, therefore getting more muscle.
This article will not be popular with those who sell creatine but let me explain to you the real benefits of creatine and why taking it in the standard way is counterproductive to your muscle gains and why you must take it in the right form.
Creatine is basically a fuel. Your car needs petrol to make it move. Your muscles need ATP. All your muscles have this energy source of ATP and this gets burnt off every time your muscles contract. When the ATP runs out your muscles are fatigued and cannot do any more work.
Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the biochemical way to store and use energy. It is the source of energy that keeps everything going.
If we load up on creatine the body has more fuel. Creatine allows us to train longer because it reduces the lactate acid threshold. It does this by increasing the muscles contractile strength and this in turn allows the body to use fewer fibers to do the same amount of work. If we recruit fewer muscle fibers we produce less lactate acid. That is why it is great for athletes in endurance sports but not the be all and end all for us bodybuilders.
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The way we grow big muscles is to recruit and wipe out as many fibers as possible when we train. If we take something that allows us to recruit fewer fibers then it doesn't take a degree to realize that this is not good news for muscle growth (for the complete newest theory on how to train to recruit every muscle fiber for massive muscle growth see the training chapter of the Manifesto of Mass).
So should you throw away your tubs of Creatine? No. Creatine is useful, damn useful if used correctly.
A Powerful Anti-Catabolic
Firstly, creatine is the first port of call that your body goes to when your diet is missing amino acids. Creatine is made from two amino acids, arginine and glycine from which nine other amino acids can be manufactured.
So creatine is a great 'anti-catabolic,' protecting your body from breaking down existing muscle tissue to make up for times we cannot get down the food with the correct amino acid profile. That is the main benefit of creatine. The muscle gains will be indirect from the strength increases and mainly the anti-catabolic properties.
The first week or so when you can gain up to 5 lbs has been used in a very clever way to make people buy creatine in the first place. It is not muscle tissue gain. It is a form of water retention - only this is within the cell and that gives you a 'full' look.
This look is great, nothing wrong with that at all and if you like it then great, no harm done. I like it too. It is just important to see this effect for what it is. What you have to realize though is that this gain will not be week in week out and is not muscle tissue, it is retained water.
It will disappear after you stop the creatine. Some companies 'blur' the lines between the cell volumization properties of creatine and real deal muscle mass. Something my supplement range does not do.
How To Take Creatine To Get The Magic
So how should you take creatine? Firstly chances are you are taking too much. Far too much! The more is better attitude is keeping you from progressing when it comes to creatine and does little more than make supplement companies richer.
Studies show that your body will only take in as much as it wants and it will take in next to nothing unless you ingest creatine correctly in the first place. Let me show you how and allow you to unlock the door to the benefit this supplement can bring.
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Firstly creatine should be taken hot, not boiling (Creatine was first used on race horses and they would only drink it in tea, in fact in the UK one of the first companies to produce creatine was thinking of producing it as a tea bag), anything over 80 degrees will turn the creatine into an unusable form.
Yes you can take it in coffee to dispel an ongoing myth and in fact is the best way to take it if you have read above you will see why. Take it hot and reap the benefits, take it cold and get next to nothing in return. Try it and see for yourself. You have plenty of time to become a believer.
Take it cold or without a carbohydrate and you have been urinating your creatine away as most of the creatine you take is excreted around 65% is lost (3 of 5 grams taken is stored when taken cold).
For most take no more than 10 grams when loading and 2- 5 grams (maximum) once loaded on training days only. Why on training days only? Because creatine, once at peak storage in the body, will only be used up (to any extent) when you work out. Every time you work out your store drops, so you replace it. Replacing it when you have not trained will simply spill over the store and you are wasting your money.
How To Load And Keep Loaded
The unofficial method I use for my clients to calculate the maximum amount of creatine needed to be beneficial and not to keep you small is to load take your bodyweight and divide it by 5. Then half your answer. That would be your approximate daily intake for loading. Be your own boss, find out what works for you.
10 days to load should do the trick, it normally takes 6 -7 days but a 10 day load makes sure you are loaded. Taking more is simply wasting your money. Your body will take in only what it want, when it wants. Stay on creatine for no more than 3 months straight as creatine transport molecules down regulate after a time and you get less effect.
Drink plenty of water when on any form of creatine as it can cause muscle dehydration and that can and has resulted in local muscle tears.
Only take pure creatine monohydrate and mix it with dextrose (or similar high carb fruit juice is good as well). Creatine ethyl ester is now the best thing to take as it is up to 40 x stronger than creatine monohydrate with less side effects (like bloating), look to the tub for directions on how much to take of this.
You will thank me for this advice. I sell creatine myself and it has not hurt sales to tell people the facts and the truth. Yes people use less and therefore they buy less, but they get so much more out of doing the way I have described above that it makes customers happy and happy customers return to you time and again.
This article is copyright J. Stettler 2008 and is a re-worked section from my best seller The Manifesto of Mass the third edition can be purchased from the above sites.