by Jason France
HELLO, TEAM...JASON HERE
Have you ever heard anyone say, “Supplements don’t work”?
It is true, not all supplements work. In fact, most don’t work in the manner they’re advertised. And, in all fairness, how could they?
“Drop 20 pounds in 20 days!” or “Build 10 pounds of muscle THIS MONTH!!!”.
These are outlandish claims, but they can be made because they don’t suggest a cure for anything. Plus, most companies lean heavily into the “Results may vary” and the “Results of client testimonial not typical” cover-your-ass language that further distances their brand from responsibility.
But then…there’s creatine.
Rarely will I intervene in a discussion during which a claim that “supplements don’t work” is made. Because, as mentioned before; many “supplements” simply don’t work…
They’re either not in their bioavailable form or they’re not in high enough doses or they’re not combined with the right cofactors to activate their design effect or the consumer was sold a different experience than what the supplement actually does.
However, if I hear someone claim that “creatine doesn’t work”; I'll be compelled to ask, at minimum, “Creatine doesn’t work for what”.
WHAT CREATINE WORKS FOR
Creatine works for increased muscle output.
Most often studied for its effect on short-burst, anaerobic power and interval-based, high-intensity sport, the fact is…creatine works.
And by “works”, I mean it can increase max power output and total anaerobic work capacity by up to 15%.
Walk into each training session over the week and deliver 15% more muscle output per session, and that compounds over time. And that translates into hyper-fast results cycles. (Link to citation here)
But it doesn’t stop there. Creatine acts as a neuroprotectant by improving mitochondria activity in neurons. Which means, creatine doesn’t necessarily wake you up or make you sleepy, but rather it helps your brain and body align more with your circadian rhythm. (Link to citation here)
It’s simpler than you think, and you don’t need to know chemistry to understand how creatine helps your muscles continuously convert waste into fuel. It’s just three (3) simple steps:
Energy Is Used: Energy in your cells converts from a 3-headed molecule, called adenosine-TRI-phosphate, into a 2-headed molecule as the third head, a phosphate molecule, is “burned off” in the conversion process.
Energy Is Restored: When creatine, called phosphocreatine in this state, is present within the cell during this process, it automatically replaces the third head which previously “burned off”.
Waste Is Buffered: In addition to the reattachment of the phosphocreatine, the corresponding waste products (nitrogen, sulfates, ammonia, nitrates, etc.) are buffered out of the cellular matrix, which reduces fatigue in the muscle site.
So, just to clarify; the creatine molecule (phosphocreatine) immediately replaces an energy molecule that, otherwise, wouldn’t have been–at least not as rapidly.
And then, while re-energizing the cell, creatine simultaneously exhausts the waste residue it replaced. (Link to citation here.)
In the world of muscle performance that’s called “working” or “efficacy”.
Creatine is THE most widely researched sports supplement in existence, and the results are substantial and undeniable.
BUT, WON’T I RETAIN WATER?
Of course you will.
So, here’s a secret that keeps people from looking freshly chiseled:
Muscle stores water. Muscles are hydrated so they can withstand the heat of innervation (that’s what voluntary muscle action is called).
The larger your muscle cells, the more hydrated they can be, which means they’re also able to withstand tremendous amounts of heat energy. This is a good thing as it allows you to work harder for longer–a second-order benefit of creatine use.
However, people can use creatine, lift heavy, and get strong, but still not have that chiseled look. How does this happen? The short answer is, it’s likely a nutrition issue.
Or, as mentioned above, the product may have the ingredient, but it could be in a non-bioavailable form or in a form that doesn’t integrate well with one’s chemistry.
BUT, IT MAKES MY STOMACH HURT
Well, now your back’s gonna hurt, cause you just pulled lawn duty! Haha. Name that film for ten extra points lol.
Okay, back to business. Yes, I understand the stomach issue, which is the result of one of two likely culprits:
Creatine molecules don’t dissolve easily in water or in the gut, which means they can irritate the bowels during digestion, OR…
- Upon being dissolved, creatine can mix with water in your stomach and bowels giving a heavy or bloated feeling.
If this is something you’ve experienced, or if your stomach can be easily irritated due to similar issues, then do this…
Spread your creatine intake into 4 or 5 smaller servings over the day.
Whether in water or in another beverage, allow the creatine to more fully diffuse with the liquid by shaking/stirring regularly for up to 10 minutes before consuming.
- Do both 1 and 2.
DOES IT MATTER WHICH CREATINE I USE?
There are, in fact, numerous types of creatine.
Creatine gluconate, nitrate, ethyl ester, as well as its most common supplement form, monohydrate.
Even within these various types, there are grades of quality and purity.
Creatine citrate, pyruvate, and monohydrate deliver the greatest boost to performance with the pyruvate form demonstrating superior effects. (Link to citation here).
But, you won’t find the pyruvate form of creatine often; and when you do there’ll be tiny, trace amounts of it tucked into a proprietary blend of crap.
Both, the citrate form and monohydrate form are available in a variety of qualities; which is why it’s helpful to select brands that use trademarked forms of ingredients, like Creapure for creatine or AlphaSize.
This indicates that the form of that ingredient has been tested and proven for efficacy, meaning that it works.
OH WAIT, ONE MORE QUESTION…
How much to use, eh?
Keep it simple and use the recommended dose on the bag.
Studies have suggested a loading phase during which your intake could be as much as 5 times that amount per day.
The actual "loading phase" formula is: 0.3 grams of creatine per 1 kilogram of body weight per day (.3gr / BWkg / day), after which a 3 to 5 gram per day dosage is recommended.
And, again, remember how you’re able to spread that daily dose over the full course of the day. And while that can help reduce upset stomach, it’ll still be important to consume creatine within 2 hours of your training session.
This is because creatine’s half life (time during which it’s “working”) is roughly 3 to 4 hours.
OKAY, THAT’S IT.
So, there is a lot of snake oil out there. Creatine, however, is not snake oil. But, that doesn’t mean you can just take it and get super chiseled.
You still gotta do the work…and creatine will help you do that work.
I hope this has been a helpful article that, if you didn’t have it before, gives you the permission to test creatine for yourself and see what all the hype is about.
My bet: you’ll see it for more than hype and find that it works just right.
My name is Jason at Suffer City; Be Great!