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Creatine Supplements - Common Questions Answered

Average: 4.3 (53 votes)
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Common creatine questions are answered. This article also addresses rumors and myths. A must read if you're taking (or planning to take) creatine.

Creatine Drink Aside from whey protein, creatine is probably the most-used muscle building supplement in gyms all over the world. Yet, creatine is surrounded by myths and rumors spread by people in gyms, magazines and on the internet who really do not understand what creatine is and how it works. It’s these rumors that either stop people from taking it or teaches them to use it incorrectly.

Common creatine myths:

  • Creatine stunts your growth
  • Creatine is a form of anabolic steroid
  • Creatine is illegal
  • Creatine makes you fat
  • If you stop taking creatine you get withdrawal symptoms
  • The more creatine you take the more you’ll grow

If you know anything about creatine you just have to laugh at some of those! So today I’m going to answer some questions I often get asked about creatine and hopefully clear up some of the rumors while I’m at it!

What is creatine?

Creatine is a substance made by the body and used to store energy. The chemical name for Creatine is methyl guanidine-acetic acid. Creatine is made up of three amino acids - Arginine, Glycine and Methionine. Our liver has the ability to combine these three amino acids and make creatine.

The other way we get creatine is through our diet, or dietary supplements. Foods that are high creatine include red meat and fish.

What does creatine do?

I could write a whole article about what creatine does so I’ll keep this short and to the point. Creatine has 4 basic roles.

  • Provides energy to your muscles
  • Enhances protein synthesis
  • Increases cell volume
  • Lactic acid buffer

The main points you really need to worry about are 1 and 3. The first point is providing energy. To understand how creatine works you need to learn about ATP. ATP is your body’s source of explosive energy. Your body can get energy from other sources such as carbohydrates, but it takes much longer to convert carbohydrates to a usable energy source. So when you need energy fast, your body turns to its ATP sources. ATP can provide a huge amount of energy to your muscles fast, but it doesn't last long. In fact, you can deplete your ATP stores in just 15 seconds.

This is where creatine kicks in. When you deplete your ATP stores you're left with ADP, which is basically useless for exercise. Now, the creatine which is converted into Creatine Phosphate reacts with the ADP to turn it into ATP. So creatine takes an essentially useless chemical and converts it into usable energy (ATP). Your body can continue to do this until your creatine stores are depleted. This is why it's best to take creatine supplements before your workout, but we get into that later.

Point number 3: increased cell volume. Put simply, creatine increases the amount of water in your muscles. Sometimes when a bodybuilder takes creatine for the first time they will put on a few pounds within a week or two. This is known as "water weight". Water weight can make your muscles appear larger. When a user stops taking creatine it’s not uncommon to drop a few pounds.

How much creatine is in our body and where is it stored?

The amount of creatine you have in your body depends on your lean muscle mass and bodyweight. The average 200 pound man has approximately 150 grams of creatine in their body. Around 95-98% of creatine is stored in muscle tissue with the remainder stored in other body parts like the brain.

Is creatine a type of steroid and is it dangerous?

First of all, creatine is naturally occurring and produced by the body. This makes it a very safe supplement. If your body has too much creatine that it doesn’t need it will simply convert it to creatinine and excrete it. That being said, there is such thing as “too much of a good thing is bad for you”. Taking too much creatine may place excess stress on the liver which could lead to problems after extended use. When it comes to creatine you have to adopt the “less is more” mentality. You will be wasting your money if you take too much creatine, your body can only take and use so much before it is excreted. And no, creatine is definitely not a type of steroid!

When is the best time to take creatine?

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Traditionally, most people take creatine after their workouts and at 1-3 other times throughout the day. This is what is also recommended if you read the label of most packaging. There are 2 theories when it comes to when you should take creatine.

Theory 1: You should take creatine about 1 hour before your workout for maximum benefits. I agree with this theory. When you take creatine it stays in your blood stream for about 1.5 hours. So, when you workout you want to have the maximum amount of creatine available for your muscles to use. Taking creatine 1 hour before your workout gives your body time to absorb the creatine and 1.5 hours for you to use it.

Theory 2: Once creatine is absorbed into your muscle cells it can stay there for long periods of time. This means, it doesn’t really matter when you take the creatine as long as your muscle cells are full when you workout. The problem I see with this theory is that yes, your muscles have optimum creatine levels, but where is the extra creatine going to come from to replace the creatine used during an intense workout?

I have yet to come across a scientific study that compared these 2 theories.

Do you need to “load” creatine?

Studies have shown that loading creatine for the first 5 days is the most effective way to saturate your muscles with creatine. You do not have to load it, it will make it's way into your muscles but it will take longer.

Do you need to “cycle” creatine?

The theory behind cycling is that if you keep giving your body a substance it will eventually get lazy and stop producing it itself. I agree with this theory. There have been no long term studies (I mean over 10+ years) that can conclusively prove or disprove this theory so I’d rather be safe than sorry! It’s always a good idea to give your body breaks for any supplement. I have found that 8 weeks on and 4 weeks off works well for me but by all means experiment for yourself!

Are all types of creatine supplements equal?

Definitely not. How the creatine is taken, and what type of creatine it is greatly affects how quickly it’s absorbed, how much is absorbed and how much makes it to muscle tissue. By far the most common type of creatine on the market is creatine monohydrate which comes in powder form and is taken with liquid. Other type of creatine supplements include Creatine Phosphate, Creatine Citrate and Creatine Ethyl Ester.

What is the best type of creatine supplement?

Of course no one agrees on what the best type of creatine supplement. For my money (and many others agree) micronized creatine monohydrate is good value for money, easy to take and has excellent absorption levels. Plus, all the scientific studies have been conducted with creatine monohydrate which means we know a lot more about it.

Can I increase my creatine level without taking supplements?

Yes, but it’s very impractical. This is because foods like red meat that contain creatine only have very small amounts. For example, a pound of raw steak contains about 0.9 grams of creatine. So if you wanted to get 10 grams of creatine per day you would have to eat 10 pounds of steak (preferably raw!). The fat content of the steak would cause severe weight gains as well.

Does taking carbs with creatine increase its effectiveness?

Creatine Monohydrate is absorbed best when it is taken in combination with foods containing a high glycemic index (GI). Those foods would contain a high concentration of simple sugars. Research has shown that taking Creatine with drinks such as grape juice (with a high GI) increases the effect of Creatine Monohydrate due to insulin release stimulated by the simple sugars take part in transporting Creatine to the muscle cells.

More information on creatine - creatine supplements section.

This article should have dispelled some rumors about creatine and helped you understand how it works. If you have any more questions about creatine or you just want to chat about building muscle head over to our muscle building forum.

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Comments (161)

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Wed, 09/22/2010 - 11:49

Hi Paul,

Without knowing the severity of your blood pressure, I wouldn't recommend creatine use until you speak to a physician.

From WebMD:

http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/news/20000309/creatine-muscle-mass

"Canadian researchers say that the popular -- and controversial -- muscle-building food supplement creatine does not raise blood pressure or cause kidney problems over the short term."

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justin
Posted Sun, 09/26/2010 - 08:54

when should i take creatine if i take no explode before my workout

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Sun, 09/26/2010 - 19:27

Hi Justin,

Take 5 grams pre-workout with your NO Xplode, and 5 grams post workout.

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dusty odell
Posted Sun, 08/12/2012 - 21:45

I usually take Creatine-Monohydrate before my work out as well as after. Although I do not take N.O. Explode, I take a different pre-workout supplement called, super pump max, i mix it in with my superpump 45 mins before and with my muscle milk 15 mins after workout.

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aalex
Posted Wed, 11/03/2010 - 02:53

Hi I'm 16 and bought creadrive at gmc. I
work out at school 4 times
A week for about and hour. Im new to taking this
supplement and skip taking it for 1 day meaning I take it twice
A week will that still help.

I also play soccer and I been wondering if taking creating
Before a game would be good and help or just be bad

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Wed, 11/03/2010 - 11:26

Hi Aalex,

As long as someone stays properly hydrated, taking creatine before a sporting competition can be beneficial.

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Kevin
Posted Mon, 12/27/2010 - 15:01

Steve,

I was wondering if it is worth it to load the creatine or to just take the same amount over the course of working out? I know if i load the creatine i will see results faster but the results will eventually die down. If i take it the same amount continuously i will see results but not immediately. How long would it take to see results if i took say 7-10g of creatine a day instead of loading it?

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Mon, 01/03/2011 - 13:18

Hi Kevin,

Loading creatine won't cause diminishing benefits, nor will it necessarily create faster benefits. I would try 5 grams pre and post-workout, and it you are not noticing results within a week (like improved pumps), then try a loading phase.

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jacob
Posted Mon, 12/27/2010 - 17:34

im just wondering if this stuff reeally heelp yyyou getbigger muscels? and with it harm you at all i heard it will hert your heart bucouse your heart is aa muscel?

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Mon, 01/03/2011 - 13:22

Hi Jacob,

Creatine is very effective and extremely safe. It has been extensively tested and researched. It helps to improve performance, which can lead to more reps, more weight on the bar, and faster gains.

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Will
Posted Tue, 12/28/2010 - 20:04

im 23 and have been using creatine monohydrate (GNC) for 3 weeks and gained weight everywhere, which was my goal, and gained muscle super fast. at first it was big soft muscle for a couple days then hardened and the muscles healed...very nice supplement...i would recommend it and stick with the 5grams per day.

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paul
Posted Tue, 01/18/2011 - 23:29

so what i have read from pretty much every site is that creatine can't be taken with glutimine becuase they both fight for absorption and one wins, so wht is a effective way to take creatine and glutimine with both of them working to full power

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Wed, 01/19/2011 - 15:57

Research revealed that they don't compete with one another for digestion. Just take as you normally would...

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Paul
Posted Thu, 01/20/2011 - 16:43

so for my post workout shake, can i mix creatine, bcca, whey, carbs, and glutimine all in one.

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Mon, 01/24/2011 - 13:38

Yes.

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Bad
Posted Sat, 01/22/2011 - 06:59

Hey,

I just wanted to know if creatine mono is good product from Optimum Nutrition as i am planning to buy one...

Just completed 2 lbs of my Whey Protein from ON and found good results.

Again i had a query whether i should go for creatine or stick to Whey?

BTW i am a vegetarian

Bad

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Joe Murph
Posted Tue, 02/01/2011 - 20:56

Steve,

Im a 16 year old diabetic and i just got diagnosed this past summer and before i took it and got results. MY question to you is can i take creatine or any other supplement with Type 1 diabetes?

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Thu, 02/17/2011 - 13:53

Hi Joe,

I would talk with your doctor and parents before using any supplements.

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sam
Posted Tue, 02/08/2011 - 14:09

Hey, i have taken Creatine in the past and it has worked very well for me, currently i have just lost a few stone and im keen not to put any fat back on my body, so could you please tell me is there a chance Creatine will make me gain fat?

Kind Regards

Sam

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Dan
Posted Tue, 02/22/2011 - 10:42

Steve:

I have started working out again and have been going hard in the gym for the past 4 months and definitely feeling and noticing the difference and pyaoff.
Im loosing weight which is a good thing as I needed to and bulking up without a creatine supplement. But i want to get back on a creatine supplement that wont give me alot of weight gain but will allow me maintain my current weight and continued weight loss but still be beneficial during my workouts.
Any suggestions?
I did take Muscletech Creatine for years and contemplating that again or Size On.
Thanks
Dan

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Cal
Posted Wed, 02/23/2011 - 18:05

steve,

Im 15 and im about 6'2 165lbs. i want to bulk up a little for next years sports and was wondering if i should use 100% gold whey protien or creatine. if so, will it stunt my growth. and what is the best choice for me

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topbowl@hotmail...
Posted Sat, 03/05/2011 - 13:13

hi im 19 years old and have been weight training for 2 months without any supplements iv noticed a small difference in muscles but want more and im looking at using creatine but how much should i take daily and when and is it ok use protein shakes while using creatine?

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Kevin
Posted Sun, 03/13/2011 - 14:49

Hi my question is I'm 39 trying to start working out again and would like to take something to help me out my concern is that I had a seizure a year ago. would taking creatine conflict that in anyway. thks

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Amy
Posted Sat, 04/02/2011 - 00:49

Can I take creatine with BCAAs? Right now I usually take BCAAs before and after weight training. Could I just add creatine into my protein shake?

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Malte
Posted Sat, 04/02/2011 - 10:40

Fantastic article!

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Ted
Posted Sun, 04/24/2011 - 04:01

I am 14 and ive been taking this since i was 12 im ripped now

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Joe ball
Posted Sat, 04/30/2011 - 07:35

Hi
I was thinking of loading creatine for the first 5 day by the meaning loading how many creatine capsules should I take in the first 5 days.
Thanks

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kay--ttt----
Posted Sun, 05/01/2011 - 10:09

ive been taking creatine monohydrate for about 3 days.
is there any kind of chance for esults in the next week or so?

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Brian
Posted Tue, 05/03/2011 - 13:56

Does taking creatine have an affect on raising your blood creatinine level? Mine came back at 1.3, which is just a tad high, and I'm wondering if I need to stop taking creatine. Thanks in advance for your response.

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Lauren
Posted Tue, 05/10/2011 - 06:31

A quick question, I am a vegan fitness pole dancer / aerialist and I find that keeping my energy levels up and building strength is very difficult just within my diet. I take creatine but want to keep building lean muscle NOT bulk up, and reading this article I now understand that creatine does give you much bigger muscles through water retention, which is not very aesthetically pleasing for a woman dancer. Is there anything else I can take to build lean muscle and keep energy levels up that will not make me bulkier?

Thanks, looking forward to hearing your replies.

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Daniel Garnier
Posted Thu, 05/19/2011 - 11:45

hello,

i would like to know if mixing pure micronized creatine with the whey protein i am taking will do any positive effect? i am taking 52 grams of protein with each shake 3 times a day, one including before i work out.

thank you.

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Thu, 05/19/2011 - 15:07

You can take creatine with whey protein. It won't have any added benefits, but it isn't detrimental either.

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Daniel
Posted Fri, 05/20/2011 - 09:14

so in other words, its kinda like a waste of money to but creatine and mix it into my protein shake?

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Mon, 05/23/2011 - 13:25

No.

Creatine powder is very inexpensive.

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Daniel
Posted Tue, 05/24/2011 - 14:12

oh ok. so would you recommend me doing that?

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Fri, 05/27/2011 - 18:29

Sure.

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Brian
Posted Thu, 06/09/2011 - 12:49

Does taking creatine have an affect on raising your blood creatinine level? Mine came back at 1.3, which is just a tad high, and I'm wondering if I need to stop taking creatine. Thanks in advance for your response.

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Shafquat
Posted Wed, 06/22/2011 - 03:52

Hi. I am 18 years old . Can i take Gym supplements ? Though i am working out in gym but haven't take any supplements . As now i have became 18 so i was wondering if i can take gym supplements .. Can I take Supplements? Is it safe ? please reply me .

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Rob
Posted Thu, 07/07/2011 - 21:16

Cold sores and Creatine.....When taking creatine it is recommended to take in a lot of water. that being said, if you sweat a lot from working out etc...and you arent taking in a lot of water, that would cause you to get a cold sore. Dehydration is the main cause of cold sores.

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Gwil
Posted Mon, 07/11/2011 - 08:51

Hello,
What age do you think serious bodybuilding should start at? What age do you believe is too young?

Thanks.

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Drew
Posted Sat, 08/06/2011 - 17:10

Hi all,

Plz help i am not knowledged in any of this and have started the gym and stared using cretien and not 2 used to take and not and want is does for me. i am very slim and want 2 build musle. help

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Mon, 08/08/2011 - 15:48

Hi Drew,

I didn't understand your question. How can I help?

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MKE
Posted Mon, 08/15/2011 - 12:23

I've been taking creatine for a little while now and I've heard that you have to drink creatine monohydrate right after you mix it in water or it becomes useless so I was wondering is this true and how long does it take to turn into creatinine

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Fri, 08/19/2011 - 13:34

It's best to consume right after mixing.

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alexander
Posted Sun, 08/21/2011 - 19:41

does creatine x3 cause any form of long term health problems? what are the bad side affects of creatine x3?

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Tue, 08/23/2011 - 22:23

No, creatine is very safe. It's probably the most researched supplement in the industry.

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KIERAN
Posted Tue, 08/23/2011 - 11:35

Hi
ive just started a 4 day full body weights programme which was recomended by a friend , i am loading with creatine, i take a scoup of 100%whey protein an hour before work out and a scoup straight after, i am about 180 pounds 6 feet , with a little tummy fat but not really noticable, i have stopped drinking allcohol and am eating pretty healthy now ,

have you any more advise for me regarding times to take protein , creatine etc ? or just any helpfull hints that will show results

thanks
kieran

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Wed, 08/31/2011 - 14:45

Here are some articles I recommend:

http://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/supplement-timing-for-maximum-...

http://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/your-guide-to-workout-nutritio...

_____________________________________
<strong>Need more help? <a href="http://bit.ly/nO0uD2">Ask me on the forum.</a></strong>

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Tyler
Posted Thu, 09/15/2011 - 10:38

Ive been taking creatine, but my question is, If you stop taking it , does it make you lose muscle. i know itll make you smaller after not taking it cause the waterweight it adds, but Does it make you lose actual MUSCLE. Or will you still be stronger then you were before you started taking it, after you stop. And how much water do you have to drink a day while on creatine? SOMEONE PLEASE REPLY. thanks.

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Thu, 09/15/2011 - 11:05

Hi Tyler,

You won't lose muscle but you may lose a bit of fullness.

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