Creatine is an amazing supplement. I’d go as far as saying it’s the single best performance enhancing supplement you can legally buy. It’s well researched, safe and inexpensive. So how does it work, and which creatine is the best?
I’m not going to pump you full of hard-to-understand science, so don’t worry. I want you to fully understand how creatine works in the simplest terms possible.
What is Creatine?
Creatine is a compound made by the body and stored almost entirely (95%) in muscle tissue. We also get creatine through eating red meat and seafood.
Specifically, it is stored in our muscle tissue as creatine phosphate (phosphocreatine).
It’s not by mistake that our body makes and stores creatine phosphate in muscle tissue. It is one chemical reaction away from making what is known as ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate), which is essentially the molecule that is like gasoline to a car.
It’s All About Energy
For muscles to perform movement, energy is required. The human body is an incredible machine, able to create energy from several different pathways (energy systems):
- Aerobic: Oxygen, carbohydrate and fats are used to create ATP. This is a slow and efficient method of producing energy. Think of jogging a slow 5 miles, or sitting and reading this article.
- Anaerobic: Carbohydrates (glucose) are broken down without oxygen to create ATP (energy). Think of sprinting for 30-60 seconds.
- Phosphocreatine: Creatine is directly converted into ATP via a one-step chemical reaction. Think of performing 3 heavy reps on the bench press, or performing a short, max effort sprint.
All energy pathways lead to the production of ATP, which is the final compound needed to create a muscular contraction.
The phosphocreatine system is used for immediate, high intensity effort generally lasting less than 10 seconds. Beyond this short burst, this system cannot continue to produce energy.
Supplementing With Creatine
If we already make creatine in our own body and consume it through food, why should we supplement with it?
Our bodies will naturally produce around 1g/day. Even with the additional creatine consumed in our diet, this is not enough to fully saturate the muscle.
Supplementing has been shown to increase muscle saturation of phosphocreatine by 20-40% or more, to the point that the muscle is fully saturated.
That additional creatine in your muscle tissue will allow you to lift heavier weight for more reps throughout your workout. There is simply more immediate energy available for explosive activity.
Effects of Supplementation
Studies show that Creatine supplementation can lead to:
- Maximum power and strength increases of up to 15%
- Improved Sprint Performance
- Amplified effects of resistance training on strength and muscle mass
- Improved neurological function in both young and old people
- Improvements in fat free mass/body composition
- Improved recovery
Buy it in Bulk
Creatine is generally an inexpensive supplement, which is awesome because it’s one that actually works.
I highly recommend using Bulk Supplements. You can get pure ingredients, get much more of them, and for a cheaper price than at the store or on amazon. You can get 500g of creatine for around $16!
Which Creatine is the Best?
Being the most widely studied supplement of all time, one thing we do know is that creatine works.
There are several different forms of creatine available on the market today, most of which proclaim themselves to be the superior version.
However, studies continue to show that most of these different versions do not outperform plain old creatine monohydrate (the most common form).
One exception to this may be Creatine Hydrochloride (HCL).
Creatine HCL is far more water soluble than creatine monohydrate, meaning you can use less of it and get the same benefits.
One study showed that 1.5g/day of creatine HCL resulted in the same benefits as supplementing with the standard dose of 5g/day of creatine monohydrate.
The study also found that supplementing with the HCL version led to larger improvements in lean body mass, without the water retention normally caused by monohydrate.
Bottom Line: The two best creatines to take are creatine monohydrate and creatine HCL. There is evidence that creatine HCL may have additional benefit when it comes to lean body mass, but both will certainly make you stronger and help you gain muscle.
How to Supplement with Creatine Properly
Research shows that the optimal way to take creatine is to “load” it for at least 4 days – 1 week by taking 20g/day split up into 4 doses. After that, take 5g/day as a maintenance dose to maintain muscle creatine saturation.
It’s important to take it every day to ensure you maintain levels of muscle saturation. Like so many other things, consistency is important.
It really doesn’t matter when you take it. Most people prefer either before or after their workout, mostly as a matter of making it a habit. You should take it every day, even on the days you do not work out.
Note: This article contains affiliate links to products I believe in and use. They come at no additional cost to you, and are listed for your benefit.
Creatine works, and I hope I’ve helped shed some light on how exactly it can benefit you. Research shows that creatine monohydrate and creatine HCL are the two best types, and both can give you results.
I hope you found this helpful, and as always, I hope it helped you get a little closer to that best version of YOU!
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