Creatine Supplements - Common Questions Answered

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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M&S writers is a collection of all the other writers that have published content on Muscle and Strength.

161 Comments+ Post Comment

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Posted Sun, 11/09/2014 - 11:09
prof2014

Hey, very insightful

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Posted Fri, 10/31/2014 - 05:44
Rahul

Hi, I am taking a scoop of NO xplode pre workout and a scoop of scivation extend during it. Post workout i consume 2 scoops of mass tech mixed with a scoop of BSN cell mass. Am i going overboard with any of the mentioned supplements? Needless to say the ingredients in them, especially creatine (since all have creatine in them).? Please advice how to mix and match given the mentioned satck i have. Thanx

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Posted Sun, 10/19/2014 - 18:45
Nikki

I'm trying to lose a little weight, but also trying to build a little muscle to have more definition. I know creatine will help with but will it also make me gain weight in return?

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Posted Sun, 10/19/2014 - 18:41
Nikki

Hi, I'm 23 years old and Im trying to lose weight, just ten pounds, but I am also wanting to get more definition to my body and I want to take creatine but I'm afraid I will in return just gain weight? I'm just so confused with all this creatine. Any help would be appreciated.

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Posted Sat, 08/09/2014 - 13:47
mike

Is it safe to drink cell tech which contain creatine and Xtend (intra workout) on the same day? how would you recommend me to drink cell tech and Xtend? Because I heard that Cell tech and Xtend are both consumed during workout.

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Posted Fri, 05/02/2014 - 13:32
John

Hello, I'm doing weight training from past one year and was taking whey protein from Optimum Nutrition and Musclepharma with no complication. Last week i thought to give a try to creatine and brought creatine monohydrate by Optimum Nutrition. I didn't went for loading and took it simply 3-5gms postworkout for 5 days. I felt palpitation (heart beats fast) after consuming it, and then after a week i discontinued. But the palpitation are still going. Is this normal with the creatine. Today i also feel heat in my abdomen region, may be the liver has heated up. Although i drink 5lts of water a day. What should i do now?

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Posted Sun, 04/27/2014 - 08:35
Sam

Hi I am sam, and i am doing exercise from last one year, now m thinking to purchase a good quality protin so can yew please me advice it will be a great help from your side.

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Posted Mon, 01/20/2014 - 02:57
zach

Hey I was told that if you let you creatine pills get super cold its bad for them for example leaving them in you car over night in -3 weather

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Posted Wed, 12/11/2013 - 04:35
sanjeev muga

hiii sir.... i want to ask that, i have started workout last 1month... and now m taking last two days DOMIN8R HIGH LEAN MUSCLES but still i cant picking weights in gym, so i want to ask can i take creatine supplement for for heavy weight lifting??? plsssss suggest me and reply plss... m in very tension and in confuse.... i want to lift the weights but i not getting.. pls reply..

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Posted Sat, 11/23/2013 - 01:37
Adutwum Justice

there is a saying that, bathing cold water always reduce muscles trained. is it real???

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Posted Sat, 11/23/2013 - 01:33
Adutwum Justice

I was previously using casilan 90, it was fake. but i wanna try on creatine. i just wanna know the real dosage and how many times it's good to trained daily on slim guys.

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Posted Tue, 11/19/2013 - 22:11
Logan Dennis

I'm 16 can I use creatien will it effect me in long terms

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Posted Wed, 10/23/2013 - 23:21
Bella Nicole

I started creatine x3 a week. No powder i have the pill form. How to get the best results?

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Posted Mon, 10/14/2013 - 02:31
Rohit

Steve, great article!

I have a question, but before that, here's my situation:
I'm trying to lose around 22-25 lbs of extra fat that I have primarily around my belly. I'm primarily relying on "clean" diet amounting to around 1500 calories, 6 days a week cardio in the morning on empty stomach, and 3 days a week of weight training in the evening on alternate days. I've done that for 2 weeks and had great results. I take whey protein supplement (60g per day). Recently I've added VPX Meltdown to increase the fat burn. My question is a) Is creatine recommended in my situation (someone who is trying to lose fat)? b) Is it safe to take it along with VPX Meltdown, would you know?

Also, I'm planning to add EFAs and multivitamin such as Universal Nutrition Animal Pak. Am I thinking in the right direction?
Just to add, I'm planning to add

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Posted Fri, 07/26/2013 - 15:36
Axiel Villanueva

Can I use begin to use Creatine , while supplementing with whey protein ??

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Posted Mon, 07/01/2013 - 01:14
Anthony De

I'm 16 years old and I just recently bought Extreme Edge Post Workout Muscle Rebuilding and Recovery protein drink by bluebonnet and it says it contains 4 grams of creatine per scoop. Is this bad for a kid my age?

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Posted Mon, 06/10/2013 - 11:34
PC

Would creatine harm a 14 or 15 year old boy with a weight of 185 pounds

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Posted Thu, 06/06/2013 - 12:47
Saiwan

Hey. I just jointed a gym last week. Shall I start using any supplements, or I have to workout for few month and then I use creatin or protein ? Thank

Joey's picture
Posted Thu, 06/06/2013 - 14:10
Joey

It's to you. You never NEED supplements, but you can start whenever you feel comfortable.

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Posted Wed, 04/17/2013 - 02:36
Josh

Hello I am thinking about starting up and I'm worried because I keep hearing people saying that these viruses they have are getting worse. I just resently came down with bells palsy but it's almost gone would it be ok if I start it? Or would it make it worse? Also what do you recommend I start with? I'm 21 and I'm around 160 I work out on a regular bases but Id like to increase my muscle mass - josh

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Posted Wed, 12/05/2012 - 12:53
trenton

Thanx for the Tip,I meant to say “ive heard that creatine dosage should be atleast 5grams” in my last post.,sorry about that

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Posted Sat, 12/01/2012 - 03:38
trenton

my creatine creapure dosage says 3 grams,is this to little should i increase the dosage to 6grams? because ive heard that creatine dosage should be atleast grams

Joey's picture
Posted Wed, 12/05/2012 - 12:26
Joey

3 g per day should be enough. Personally, I always take 3-5g per day. 

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Posted Thu, 11/29/2012 - 07:01
Moe

From what I've read if you take half a dose an hour before you train and the other half post work, will this be more effective?

Joey's picture
Posted Fri, 11/30/2012 - 10:59
Joey

That's certainly an effective way to go about it, but the timing of your creatine doses is mostly irrelevant. Creatine is something you need to saturate yourself with.

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Posted Tue, 10/09/2012 - 20:42
amigo

i started using creatine and since then i have been having a hives problem
i am also on high blood pressure drugs is creatine causing this problem

Joey's picture
Posted Wed, 10/10/2012 - 12:19
Joey

Hi Amigo,

That's definitely a question for you doctor.

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Posted Thu, 07/26/2012 - 06:23
mohammad ali

ive just found out ive got lactose intorence so ive stop taking protien powders so im thinking of just taking creatine supplements and getting my protien from foods can i still build muscle

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Posted Fri, 07/13/2012 - 21:29
Jim

Will this supplement make you stronger and/or look stronger?

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Posted Fri, 07/13/2012 - 21:26
Jim

I am 16 years old and play baseball year round. We do a lot of weight lifting on our team. I am looking for an increase in strength and to look more muscular. Is creatine the right supplement for me? Excluding age

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Posted Wed, 06/13/2012 - 02:57
ismael

if i dont use my 5 day supply creatine all in one week would it effect my results??

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Posted Sat, 06/09/2012 - 22:07
Karma

I'm a 24 year old female Marine. I weigh 115 and I workout 5 days a week but I am not gaining any muscle mass just toned. I took whey protein for two months nothing happened. Would creatine but good for me? If so what is the best creatine to take?

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Posted Thu, 05/10/2012 - 19:54
Chris

I'm 17 and I'm very skinny (6' 120 lbs). I just ordered creatine and started working out but I'm wondering if I should take the regular 5 g 4 times per day in the loading phase since I have much less muscle to saturate. Is it possible to overload on creatine? One last question, I'm a competitive swimmer so is creatine even a good supplement for me if I'm intensely swimming up to 4 hours a day?

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Posted Tue, 04/17/2012 - 22:55
Jay

I'm 16

6'3
150 LB.
How much creatine should i take i'm taking 1 teapoon, should i take less?

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Posted Sun, 04/01/2012 - 00:15
DanG

I have been taking cell tech for some time now and was wondering if switching from that to Con Cret. Is this okay to do or should I just stick with what ive got?

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Posted Sat, 03/17/2012 - 23:47
manpreet

hey, i am taking buffered creatine (kre-alkalyn) its a top seller on the site you posted earliar but ive been taking it for a while now. i am looking to gain mass and am thinking about taking serious mass. serious mass has some creatine and glutamine in it and i was just wondering if my creatine intake would be too much if i kept taking my kre-alkalyn creatine and serious mass. what do you think?

Steven's picture
Posted Tue, 03/20/2012 - 13:54
Steven

Serious Mass only has one gram per scoop. That's not much. Continue using your kre-alkalyn the same way.

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Posted Fri, 03/16/2012 - 09:44
Hannah

Who is the author of this Article?

Steven's picture
Posted Tue, 03/20/2012 - 13:52
Steven

It was a collaboration between several M&S writers.

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Posted Thu, 03/01/2012 - 00:21
Alex

Ok so I just learned that your body will stop producing creatine naturally if you don' cycle and i'm a little worried.

I took creatine every day for about a year. Will my body produce it on its own again once I stop?

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Posted Tue, 02/21/2012 - 14:05
Willson

Sir i m smoking since 8year while doing this m going do zym now i left those thing and now i want 2 take this supplement and go 2 zym it will work 4 my more stemina and growth.

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Posted Mon, 02/13/2012 - 19:09
Jake

Is it ok to pre mix my cell tech and refridgerate it? i know the label says not to refridgerate; i'm assuming this just means in its powdered form.

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Posted Wed, 01/18/2012 - 21:44
Alan

one thing I am really curious about:
Does creatine help in building strength and muscle recovery as much if the person is a vegetarian which means there will be very less protein being taken?
NOTE: the person just wants to grow strength,but not muscle and size.

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Posted Mon, 01/16/2012 - 23:04
kalib

can u take 2 creatine supplements at one time say krealkalyn and ethyl ester

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Posted Mon, 12/12/2011 - 03:00
ben

hi there im type 2 diabetes 145 lbs 5ft 8 inches tall i have not taken any of that but this time i wanna try jack3d is this safe for plz help ty

Steven's picture
Posted Tue, 12/20/2011 - 13:44
Steven

I would talk to your doctor before using any pre-workout supplementation.

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Posted Thu, 12/08/2011 - 23:38
Mark

to Josh with the cold sore problem. I took whey protein for around a year post workout and never had any problems. I decided to copy a friend of mine and got a tub of Celltech and started taking it. I started the "loading" period of about a week and started having some issues. It started hurting in my lower abdomen and i had slight pain in my tool. I quit taking it immediately after this. However, I kept having problems and ended up breaking out all around the left side of my sack and inside of legs. I went to a dermatologist and it turned out I had shingles(herpes zoster). It i basically an episode of the chicken pox virus that stays in your nervous system you entire life showing back up. Cold sores are a different type of herpes but are still connected to the chicken pox virus. and for you idiots thinking i got it from something else I might add that i was 17 and had never been sexually active before. I guess creatine affects some folks alot different.

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Posted Tue, 12/06/2011 - 17:14
john

i took creatine monohyrate for aprox. 8 months i was taking 20 mg a day (double dose) three days ago i stoped taking it and ive been sick ever since. first night i was puking ive had a fever for three straight days i have no energy or appetite the second day i couldnt even get out of bed. anyone else experienced this?

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Posted Tue, 11/29/2011 - 22:05
Kaz

Hey,
I am a female, workout between 4 to 6 times a week. Looking into bodybuilding now, wonder if I am taking a pre workout supplement with creatine, is it safe to have creatine after my workout with my protein shake? Wonder if that going to be too much. (I take 5g everyday now)

Steven's picture
Posted Fri, 12/16/2011 - 12:54
Steven

That will be perfectly fine. The amount of creatine in a pre-workout usually isn't anything overly substantial.