Grab your cheat sheet…
Getting in those extra pumps at the gym can make all the difference. An extra rep here and there will make a big difference over time. And pushing beyond your thresholds is the only real way to go for those big gains.
Those who perform reps to failure will know this only too well—and if you want bigger muscles to grow, you need to wear out the old ones.
Eating a healthy protein and carb-rich diet is essential if you want to get the energy and strength to push harder. But if you want to push past your usual limit, you’ll need an additional edge.
Creatine is one of the most widely used and studied of all bodybuilding supplements and it can help you to achieve more than you ever thought possible. It’s often described as bodybuilding’s ‘worst kept secret’. So, is it all just hype and bull, or is there plenty of substance to the rumours?
There are plenty of myths circulating around creatine and one grey area is how to take it.
Should you take it before or after a workout—and how much should you take?
What is creatine, exactly?
You can use creatine with confidence as it’s one of the world’s most scientifically-studied supplements.
About five decades ago, scientists started looking into the possibility of creatine supplements to push athletes beyond their usual limits. It really started to catch on around 30 years ago when both amateur and professional athletes started to take creatine supplements.
Creatine occurs naturally in the liver, kidneys, and pancreas, which help to turn creatine phosphate into ATP (adenosine triphosphate).
This provides our muscles with the energy they need for quick bursts of effort, like those performed when lifting big weights at the gym.
Did you know? 95% of the creatine in our body is stored in the skeletal muscle.
Some of the creatine in your body forms naturally and some comes from the food you eat. You need it most during exercises where you perform quick, sudden movements, like sprinting, cycling, and weight lifting.
As we only have a limited amount of creatine stores in our body. But by topping them up with a creatine supplement, you can enhance your athletic performance.
Did you know? An average male will store around 120g of creatine naturally, but by supplementing, it’s possible to store around 160g.
Why should you take a creatine supplement?
It’s no coincidence that creatine is one of the most popular bodybuilding supplements.
If you’re looking to gain some serious muscle mass, you need to work harder. You need to rep until failure. You need to push yourself beyond your usual limits.
This is exactly what the right creatine supplement will help you to achieve. Whether you’re wanting to run faster, lift heavier, perform more reps or push yourself harder than ever before, creatine’s got your back.
Intrigued? Let’s dive a little deeper and look at the big benefits of taking creatine.
The major benefits of taking creatine
Creatine will help you to maximise your strength and muscle mass. A regular dose of creatine will also help you reach your goals faster thanks to its ability to help with muscle fibre repair.
Creatine will give you the extra bursts of energy needed to perform more reps when you’re lifting weights.
In fact, research shows that there are three key areas where you can expect to see huge differences after supplementing with creatine.
Let’s have a peep…
Creatine is shown to be most effective in giving you a boost for those short, sharp bursts of energy—the kind that you’d expect to perform at the gym when performing resistance training.
Performing this type of exercise more often means more gains, extra muscle mass, and gargantuan strength.
In fact, studies show that those supplementing with creatine can gain twice as much muscle as those who don’t.
The main reason for this is because of the extra training you’re able to put in during your training sessions, which lead to much bigger gains over time. Plus, your muscles recover quicker—so you consistently ace your gym sessions, gaining more mass in a shorter amount of time.
The biggest gains you make are likely to be in your upper body, which contains more type one muscle fibre.
FYI: Creatine specialises in upper body gains, especially when you perform fast, dynamic exercises.
Enhanced athletic performance
Getting a better quality performance at the gym will also lead to bigger gains over the long term, because of improved glycogen stores.
In fact, studies show that creatine supplementation can significantly increase strength and performance, sometimes by as much as 20%. That’s pretty epic.
More energy in the gym means you’ll be able to increase your strength more rapidly— and your athletic performance will be seriously improved as a result.
For every extra rep you manage, you’ll gain new and bigger muscle growth. And this is particularly obvious when it comes to competing or trying to beat a PB.
Those competing in events that command rapid energy bursts and quick recoveries often see huge gains from creatine supplementation.
Reduced recovery times
The quicker your glycogen stores are replenished, the more energy you’ll have in reserve.
Creatine will stock your glycogen stores up in rapid time and this is particularly important for resistance training—where they can be reduced by around 40 to 50%.
This means you can push harder for longer and keep each rep at more or less the same intensity—this is essential if you want to get the best results.
Loading up with creatine means you’ll have an extra amount of glycogen stored for a longer, more intense session.
Did you know? Recent studies have concluded that creatine can increase endurance significantly.
There’s little doubt that creatine can help with the most important stages of resistance training and help you to push harder and faster towards your goals.
Read: Our five top tips on enjoying a quicker recovery after your workouts to get close to your muscle-building goals.
How to take creatine like a pro
Creatine supplements are usually available in a powdered form which is dissolved in water.
It’s ready to drink instantly as it has a bioavailability of over over 90%. If you drink creatine when you have some sugar in your system, it’s likely to absorb into your system more readily as there will be an insulin spike—although we don’t suggest you go overboard with the sugar.
It’s easily prepared, just add the advised dose to water and you’re done. You can even add it to your water bottle to drink at the appropriate time before your workout.
Creatine is one of the fastest-acting supplements around and, once your stores are sufficiently topped up through daily dosing or loading—it will start working for you to the maximum effect.
If you’re taking a daily dose of creatine, it’s recommended that you stick to around 3 to 5g.
It will take slightly longer to top up your creatine than it will with creatine loading (which we’ll look at in a moment)—but it will achieve the same results.
Usually, it takes around three weeks to completely top up your creatine stores through a daily dose, so plan accordingly.
Read: Our essential guide to common creatine mistakes to get the most from your supplements.
How to take creatine for the best results: our quick tips…
- Make sure you take the correct dose
- Go through a loading phase to get a head start
- Back it up with a healthy diet rich in carbs, protein, vitamins and minerals
- Use it with confidence to help you power through your toughest workouts.
- Take some with you wherever you go so it's ready to use when you need it
- Take it at the right time
When should I take creatine?
The big question is—should I take creatine before or after exercise?
The answer is that there should be no significant system. Once you’ve got sufficient creatine in your body it will work to maximum effect.
So long as you’re taking it in the right amount every day, you’ll have creatine in your system which will be ready to work for you.
This means that you should also continue to take creatine on rest days. Doing so will ensure your stores are still being topped up.
Taking a daily dose means that your creatine levels will be topped up to maximum levels in around three weeks. Alternatively, you can speed up the process by creatine loading—which brings us onto our next point.
What is creatine loading?
If you want to give yourself a head start when you first start to take creatine as a supplement, you can go through what is known as a creatine loading phase.
This is where you take a bigger amount than the usual daily dose for a period of time in order to maximise your creatine storage more quickly.
Creatine loading means you’ll get faster gains compared to what you would expect from starting off with a regular dose of creatine each day.
Why? Well, because it will saturate the creatine stores in your body and get to work to serious effect from the first week.
If you’re eating a creatine-rich diet, you’ll be able to speed up the process further. To load, you can take around four times the usual recommended amount, which is anything up to 20g per day. Anything more than that may result in side effects such as stomach cramping.
The advantages of creatine loading
Creatine loading is a great way to get the supplement working in your body as early as possible.
It will get your creatine stores maximised in a safe way and in the quickest possible time. Here are three of the main reasons why you should go through a creatine loading phase.
It will get creatine into your system faster
The faster you get your creatine levels topped up, the quicker you can start utilising it for maximum gains.
As any athlete knows, the sooner you get started, the sooner you reach the finish line.
Being able to push yourself hard right from the start of a workout schedule will give you an added advantage and even more gains. In less than a week, your creatine stores will be pushed up to the max and you’ll be able to push harder and for longer with the additional energy boost you’ll get from creatine. More reps plus more sets equals huge gains—the kind that turn heads and drop jaws.
It will keep you going
Once you’ve gone through the initial loading stage, you’ll be able to drop down to a normal daily dose, which will keep you going on an even keel and continuing to push with more energy and resilience.
You’ll use around 2% of your creatine stores each day, which means that you’ll be able to keep your ‘engine’ topped up with a daily dose of creatine. This will help to maintain a constant ‘push’ in your workouts.
It will help to push you beyond your comfort zone
Another added advantage of having additional creatine in your body is that it will help to hydrate you properly during your workout.
Creatine helps to saturate your muscle cells which gives you added strength to push through the toughest of sessions.
More energy, more hydration, and going out of your comfort zone to produce bigger, stronger muscles is what it’s all about.
An all-round supplement like creatine helps you before, during, and after your session, which is exactly what you need if you want to reach your goals.
Taking a creatine supplement for epic results: final thoughts
With hundreds of scientific studies to back it up, there’s no denying that creatine is the business when it comes to pushing ourselves harder than ever in the gym.
The sooner you start to use it, the sooner you’ll start to make gains you didn’t think possible. Go get it.
One final thought about creatine. It’s something which hasn’t been mentioned yet, but it’s one of its biggest benefits.
Creatine will not only allow you to perform better, create bigger muscle mass, and give you an enhanced athletic performance—but it will also give you the CONFIDENCE to work harder in order to achieve those gains.
Once you start taking creatine and begin to experience its effects, you’ll start to perform with more confidence than ever before. And having the belief to push through the barriers is essential if you want to make serious progress.
Level up your gains with CrazyNutrition
Crazy Nutrition’s CRN-5 creatine formula is crafted with five grams of creatine plus electrolytes to help boost energy, support lean muscle mass, and maintain hydration— giving your muscles more strength to push out those last reps you didn’t know you had.
Everything you need to succeed in the gym.