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To get bigger gains in the gym, you need to push yourself outside of your comfort zone.
If you want to do this, you need to find extra resources in your body to help you take it to the next level. Your energy reserves will depend on your diet and the energy-boosting foods and supplements you consume.
Discovering the best diet and dietary supplements will mean you can reach your fitness goals faster. It will also help you stay healthy and reduce the risk of injuries.
If there's one supplement you can be confident that every bodybuilder will have in their locker, it's creatine. Yes, creatine is the worst-kept secret of the fitness industry, and its popularity has grown over the years.
Those looking to get significant gains from their workouts know the many benefits that creatine can bring to the table and are taking full advantage of it.
Let's have a closer look with our body-boosting ultimate guide to creatine.
What is creatine?
Creatine monohydrate is a naturally occurring substance found in protein-rich foods such as fish, beef, and chicken. And we absorb a small amount of it through our diet, which is created naturally in our bodies.
Most of the creatine in your body (around 95%) is stored in the skeletal muscles as phosphocreatine.
The rest is stored in your liver, kidneys, and brain. Creatine helps form ATP (adenosine triphosphate), an energy source your body dips into when you feel fatigued.
It's a rapid energy source that your body uses when needed. You know, when you feel physically exhausted or mentally tired and need an extra push.
It's also an essential energy source when performing high-intensity exercises like sprinting or resistance training.
When creatine is added to your system through food or dietary supplements, creatine can help regenerate ATP faster, boosting exercise performance.
Topping up your creatine levels could be the best decision you ever made. Let's have a closer look at the benefits of creatine.
Why take creatine supplements?
To make any physical fitness progression, you need to take yourself out of your comfort zone.
Doing the same thing day in and day out will maintain your fitness level, but it won't make your body work harder than before and adapt to the new demands in the form of bigger and stronger muscles.
As the saying goes…
"If you keep doing what you've always been doing, you'll keep getting what you've always been getting".
In other words, you'll stay in the same place unless you push yourself harder than before. If you're going to push yourself harder week by week, you'll need ample energy reserves stored in your skeletal muscle to undertake the new challenges.
Your number one priority in this sphere is your regular diet. Taking care to ensure you’re consuming all of the correct nutrients your body will crave when undertaking a strict exercise schedule is paramount.
This will mean taking in a decent amount of protein, carbs and healthy fats, but there's a limit to the amount of creatine you can absorb through nutrition alone without overeating. This is where creatine supplementation comes to the fore.
Taking a creatine supplement will enable you to boost your levels quickly and easily.
Read: Our epic guide on when to take creatine for the best results.
What effect will creatine have on your workout?
There are several reasons why you should incorporate creatine supplements into your diet, especially if you’re undertaking a heavy workout schedule.
Creatine is excellent for both your body and mind and will give you added confidence to put in efforts that you might otherwise be hesitant about.
This super supplement can benefit you in many ways, and using it as a supplement to enhance your athletic performance and supercharge your workout comes with these body-boosting benefits…
- Creatine can improve your muscle strength and size. An extra energy boost means more reps
- Creatine can improve endurance. Being able to perform for more extended periods will fast-track your progression
- Creatine can enhance your mental focus. Yes, creatine is excellent for brain health and cognitive function
- Creatine helps muscle cells produce more energy. It will help to increase muscle glycogen, which is needed during heavy lifting or high-intensity exercise
- Improves high-intensity exercise performance. ATP, produced by creatine, is the go-to energy source for fast-movement exercises
- Creatine speeds up muscle growth and recovery. Yes, it helps maintain a continuous energy supply to your muscles during intense lifting or exercise
- Creatine can help lower blood sugar levels by increasing molecules that bring blood sugar into your muscles
In addition to the buzz surrounding creatine, there are also several misconceptions—or myths.
This is likely due to the ‘Chinese Whisper’ effect, as information can get twisted and distorted while being passed from one gym goer to the next.
Inaccurate information is unacceptable when it comes to our health—so it's essential that you get the facts right. Otherwise, you could risk a major setback or injury.
If you're not taking creatine because of a rumour you’ve heard—you could miss out on its big-hitting benefits.
The best source of information is always science and research, which should always be favoured over hearsay and gossip.
Below are some of the most popular misconceptions about creatine…busted.
Creatine causes kidney damage: FALSE
This is a typical piece of information where the truth has been slightly distorted to form a falsehood.
There's no scientific evidence to suggest that creatine can cause issues to the kidneys. The link between taking creatine and kidney issues comes from pre-existing conditions.
This means that unless you have a pre-existing kidney issue, it should be perfectly safe to take creatine.
If you have a health issue with your kidneys, you should take advice from a medical professional to make sure it's safe for you to take creatine.
Creatine is only taken by bodybuilders: FALSE
Bodybuilders certainly take creatine, which will form an essential part of their supplementation—but it works for other fitness areas too.
It's remarkably efficient when it comes to high-intensity exercises that require short, fast bursts of energy, like resistance training, cycling, and sprinting.
But, anyone looking to improve their overall fitness and build muscle can benefit from the properties of creatine.
Creatine Causes Water Retention: FALSE
This is one of the most popular myths about creatine, and it's easy to see why it would put people off from using it as a supplement.
Yes, creatine draws water into your muscle cells, which can result in bloating for some people in the first few days of a loading phase.
But this eases off quickly, especially if you’re working out. If you are using an inferior quality creatine, however, it can last a bit longer. The good news is…it's a short-term thing.
You shouldn't take creatine after a workout: FALSE
There's no specific time window for taking creatine, as you’re simply topping up your stores daily, ready to be used when needed.
The timing of supplementation can vary from person to person. What's essential is that you are taking it regularly to keep your levels up.
If you're taking other supplements at a specific time each day, add creatine to your supplementation routine so that you remember to take it. It'll have the same result whether you take it before, during, or after a workout.
You have to go through a creatine loading phase: FALSE
In a creatine-loading phase, you take a high amount of creatine for around a week to get your levels up quickly before reverting to the standard daily dose.
It involves loading around 20g of creatine daily for five to seven days to saturate your system in the fastest time possible.
This is a personal choice and isn't mandatory. The creatine you consume will have the same effect whether you go through a loading phase.
The only difference is that when you load, the creatine will get into your system faster and take effect more quickly.
Creatine causes stomach issues: FALSE
To be more accurate, it's mostly false. There have been rare instances that have resulted in upset stomachs—but these tend to be mostly when too high a dosage has been taken and in individuals susceptible to digestive issues.
If you stick to the recommended daily dose, there should be no digestive problems. If you feel that creatine is causing you issues—you can reduce the amount you take. If there are still issues, it's best to talk to a medical professional to see if you should continue with creatine supplementation.
Creatine can cause weight gain: FALSE
This myth can be linked to bloating, which can occur briefly after a loading phase. This temporary issue will ease off once you start to work out.
It can also be a misconception when you're building muscle mass while working out, as weight gain may occur due to the extra muscle mass you're building.
Creatine itself won't cause weight gain in your system—it's just additional bursts of energy that you can use to create bigger, leaner muscles.
NOTE: The good news is that plenty of scientific studies back up these misconceptions, and we would much rather go with a proven scientific fact than hearsay.
What is creatine loading?
As creatine is one of the most studied supplements, we know quite a bit about the supplement itself—how it works and how you should consume it.
When you take creatine for the first time, it can take up to a fortnight for it to take maximum effect as your stores take time to be completely saturated.
A shortcut to this is to do a ‘loading phase’ where you take a higher amount of creatine for a short period to top up the amount of creatine stored in your body more quickly. Stored creatine will then be available to convert to energy when needed.
Supplementing with creatine increases muscle creatine phosphate stores, which help to increase adenosine triphosphate (ATP).
This is the primary energy source for the human body and will allow you to find extra strength and energy when working out. A short-term loading phase will help get the creatine working quickly and efficiently to enable you to reap its benefits sooner.
Loading is only for some, and it will be your choice whether or not you choose this route.
How do I load with creatine?
To load, you need to know how much creatine you should take during the initial creatine loading period.
You need to take between 20 and 25 grams per day for five to seven days, which is a significantly higher amount than usual, usually around 3 to 5 grams per day.
In taking this extra amount during the early stages of creatine supplementation, you'll be able to get your levels of ATP up quicker and start to reap the many benefits of creatine sooner.
Try to ensure that during this loading period, you consistently take the supplement and don't miss a day.
By achieving the maximum creatine storage levels, you'll be able to push yourself harder in your workouts and achieve more significant gains much more swiftly.
If you want to get a head start with creatine, it's worth considering a loading stage. It's a strategy that is particularly effective for anyone hoping to gain improved athletic performance and greater power output, faster.
How to mix creatine
Creatine is available as a supplement in powder form, ready to mix. When you've mixed it, you can consume it immediately or add it to a water bottle to take to the gym.
Most people mix creatine with water, as it's probably the easiest way to do it, and it will also help to hydrate you.
You can adjust the amount of water based on your taste. Some people prefer to take creatine powder with them, mix it into a water bottle, and take it as needed.
We recommend taking it with water as creatine pulls water from the rest of your body towards your muscles, so keeping hydrated is essential.
If you find the taste of mixing it with water isn't to your liking, you can be more creative and mix it in with other drinks, such as…
- Fruit juice
- Protein shakes
- Coffee or tea
What you mix it with isn't essential. Your top priority here will be your preference and taste, but if you're not using water to dilute it, ensure you are still adequately hydrated.
Mixing creatine with fruit juice
The advantage of mixing creatine with fruit juice is not just about the taste. You'll also get an added boost of vitamins and minerals. The best fruit juice to mix with is a low-sugar one, preferably fresh and without added, non-essential ingredients.
Mixing creatine with smoothies
Again, as with the fruit juice, mixing it into a smoothie that contains fruit and vegetables will give you essential nutrients to help supercharge your workout.
The best option is to make your smoothies yourself so that you can be 100% sure of what goes in them—and you'll be able to hand-pick the ingredients that will help you gain the best results.
Mixing creatine with a protein shake
For a power-packed workout, try mixing creatine with protein. Both will positively affect your athletic performance but in different ways.
Protein powder contains essential amino acids, which will help you build more strength and a greater muscle mass. So adding creatine to the mix will give you an added boost of energy and endurance.
You'll be able to lift more and recover more quickly from exercise. It's best to make your protein shake yourself rather than buy one off the shelf that could contain harmful additives.
Ideal ingredients to add to the mix should include regular or almond milk, oats, bananas, and berries.
Mixing creatine with coffee
Some athletes swear by mixing creatine with coffee, stating that the pre-workout boost they get from the caffeine works well with the energy-boosting effects of creatine. But, it's not for everyone.
Whether you decide to go this route depends on your caffeine tolerance. The other point to note is that while some evidence suggests that coffee and creatine work well together, caffeine can have a diuretic effect, so you may need to hydrate more when you work out.
5 hacks on how to use creatine for best results
There are a few hacks that you can use to maximise the benefits of supplementing with creatine—which will enhance your exercise and sports performance.
They’re simple ways of looking after your body better and ensuring you are in great shape before and after each workout.
It's important to remember that the muscle-building process isn't just confined to the gym.
What you do before and after a workout is equally important if you are to progress and take yourself to the next level. What you eat before and after, how you look after your body, and how you recover are just three of the things that you need to look closely at.
Let's look at some of the best ways to use creatine.
1. Keep hydrated
As creatine can draw water from other areas of your body, staying hydrated before, during and after a workout is essential.
When you exercise, you'll lose water through sweat, too—so keeping on top of your hydration is necessary to stay strong and focused throughout.
2. Watch what you eat before and after exercise
It should go without saying that if you want to take your body to the next level, you must look after it.
This means consuming the proper nutrition and making sure that what you're eating is beneficial to your overall health and the workouts and recovery period.
Plenty of protein, carbs and healthy fats, such as chicken, eggs, beef, and salmon, will also give you some essential Omega-3 fatty acids, aiding your recovery and performance.
Greek yoghurt, oatmeal, almonds and bananas should also be at the top of your list and are great for making pre and post-workout smoothies.
Try to avoid alcohol, and if not, try to limit the amount as alcohol has a dehydrating effect and can make you feel lethargic as well as interrupt your sleep patterns.
3. Rest and recover
We understand you'll want to achieve your fitness goals quickly, but it should be done safely.
Other than creatine loading, there are no shortcuts, but there are certainly ways to slow yourself down, and one of these is by not getting enough rest.
The recovery period is the muscle-building phase, and any attempt to disrupt this will almost certainly end with a setback.
Getting at least eight hours of quality sleep per night is essential whenever possible.
4. Try creatine loading
This is less essential than some other hacks, but if you want to get a head start—you can increase your creatine intake in the first week to raise your muscle stores faster.
Taking creatine at a higher dose is fine for the first week—but remember that a creatine load shouldn't last any longer than a week—and it's important to drop down to the usual dose after that.
Loading creatine into your system will allow you to raise your creatine levels and reap the benefits of creatine synthesis more quickly.
5. Mix with other beneficial supplements
It can be challenging to take in every nutrient you need through a healthy diet alone, and sports nutrition can help to top up your levels of nutrients, which will benefit your workout.
Mixing creatine with other supplements that can help your athletic performance will give you an added boost.
Protein powder is an excellent choice as it will help you both during and after the workout, helping to repair muscle tissue, reduce muscle soreness, improve muscle mass, and boost strength.
Some athletes like to mix creatine with a pre-workout, too—giving them an added boost of energy before a heavy session.
Creatine Supplementation Side Effects
When it comes to creatine usage, it's essential to follow the rules laid down by the many studies undertaken through the years.
Creatine monohydrate is considered a safe supplement, though—but on rare occasions, it can cause some mild side effects.
Taking too much creatine can cause some issues, so staying within the recommended limits is essential.
If you need clarification on creatine supplementation, it's always best to speak to a medical professional to get advice— especially if you intend to load up in the initial stages.
In rare instances, some people may experience bloating, muscle cramps, nausea or diarrhoea when consuming creatine in higher doses. But this tends to subside after the initial loading period.
There can be a small amount of temporary water retention when you start supplementing with creatine, but this usually wears off quickly.
Here are some of the most commonly asked questions regarding creatine supplementation.
Is creatine safe to take?
Creatine monohydrate powder is safe, provided you don't consume more creatine than advised.
Loading creatine is acceptable initially if you drop to the daily maintenance dose afterwards.
Creatine monohydrate is one of the most effective ergogenic nutritional supplements currently available to athletes to increase lean body mass during training.
Does creatine cause weight gain?
While we expect creatine to change your body composition from the additional gains you'll achieve from being able to work harder in the gym, the only potential weight gain you may experience is through possible water retention in the early stages of supplementation.
If you’re gaining fat while taking creatine, the problem will most likely come from another source, such as your diet.
Creatine will help you achieve a lean body mass and reduce body fat if taken alongside a regular exercise schedule.
Does creatine cause kidney issues?
No scientific evidence suggests that supplementing with creatine monohydrate will cause kidney issues.
But, if you already have underlying health conditions in that area, it's best to seek advice from a medical professional.
Is it safe to take creatine with other supplements?
Creatine is perfectly safe to take alongside other supplements, as long as the supplements in question don't also contain creatine, as this will lead to an overload and potential side effects.
Is creatine a steroid?
No. Creatine is a naturally occurring substance found in your body that can be topped up safely. There are no legal issues with taking creatine.
Are there any side effects from taking a creatine supplement?
Creatine is a natural substance, so there should be no side effects if you follow the recommended daily dose.
If you experience any issues, it should only be in the early stages as your body adapts to the additional amount of creatine in your system, or it may be due to taking too high a dose.
Level up your performance with Crazy Nutrition
Topping up with creatine monohydrate powder will allow you to get your creatine levels high and ready for action.
Taking creatine supplements will give you more energy to push yourself harder during intense exercise, increase muscle mass, and help you bounce back quicker after intense exercise.
Creatine monohydrate will help to increase energy, muscle strength, mental focus, endurance, athletic performance, muscle growth and recovery. Supplementing with creatine should be an important part of your road to supreme fitness.
If you’re looking for a supplement that will help you smash your fitness goals, give our Ultimate CRN-5 a try. With five grams of top-quality creatine per serving and two satisfying flavours to choose from, this is the supplement you need to succeed.