WHAT IS CREATINE MONOHYDRATE?
As a naturally occurring substance, creatine is responsible for resynthesizing adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is considered the energy currency of the cell, specifically in skeletal muscle cells, and provides the substrate needed for muscles to contract (95% of all creatine is found in skeletal muscles and 5% is found in the brain). The body produces creatine at a rate of approximately 1 gram per day with an additional 1 gram consumed though diet. With supplementation we increase resting creatine levels in the body through a loading and maintenance phase that can last days, weeks, or even months.
Through creatine supplementation, we are providing our muscles with a surplus of creatine in order to facilitate ATP production at a significantly higher level. This allows us to perform anaerobic exercise more efficiently resulting in higher resistance and repetition during resistance training. Creatine has been studied thoroughly and is proven to assist a wide range of individuals including adolescents, athletes, and especially the elderly. There are a few precautions that should be considered before beginning a creatine regimen, especially those with forms of kidney disease. However, research has supported that creatine supplementation does not cause further damage to the kidneys or renal system if consumed appropriately.
In this post we will walkthrough how to choose the best supplement for you, how to supplement creatine properly, what type of exercising will benefit most, and review some common myths or misconceptions and what the facts actually show.
WHICH CREATINE MONOHYDRATE SUPPLEMENT IS BEST?
How to Choose a Creatine Monohydrate Supplement
When beginning the search for the best creatine supplement for you I recommend answering the following questions first:
What company are you purchasing the product from? Do they adhere to good manufacturing practices?
Does the product contain any additional ingredients besides creatine monohydrate?
Has the product been third party tested for additives or banned substances?
Some of these questions may be difficult to answer as there are hundreds of options available to choose from with few companies actually providing the information needed. Therefore, when it comes to choosing a supplement I rely on the companies willingness to provide information on production and its history of production. A few of the leading producers are Optimum Nutrition, Muscle Tech, and Cellucor.
What Type of Creatine Monohydrate is Best?
Creatine monohydrate comes in several different forms. The only two that I believe are worth considering are a micronized powder or pill. To narrow this choice down further, the pill form can be quite large and may require taking 3-5 times per day (depending on dosage). The micronized form can simply be added to any beverage, including water or a protein shake. However, the powder can have a grainy texture similar to sand. In short, I recommend the micronized version as you can add it to a beverage in the morning and forget about it for the remainder of the day.
What is the Best Creatine Monohydrate Recommendation?
Optimum Nutrition produces a micronized creatine monohydrate powder with zero additives or extra ingredients. It is third party tested through We Test You Trust for quality assurance with proper warning labels on consumption. The product can be found at most nutrition stores but is also available for online purchasing. The serving size selection is dependent on the duration of the loading and maintenance phases which should be determined before purchasing. Brain Meets Brawn is not financially supported by or in no way affiliated with Optimum Nutrition.
HOW DO YOU SUPPLEMENT WITH CREATINE MONOHYDRATE?
Choosing a program duration for creatine supplementation is entirely up to you! Research has revealed that the benefits of creatine are evident following even a couple days of consumption. It is recommended, however, for a program to last several weeks to months. In this post we will create a plan for a 10-week program with a loading phase and maintenance phase.
What is a Creatine Loading Phase?
The first 5-7 days of creatine supplementation are considered the loading phase. During this time creatine monohydrate dosage is approximately 20-30 grams per day. It can be specifically calculated as 0.3 g/kg/day. For example, an individual weighing 150 pounds would require 20.4 grams per day. In micronized from this can all be added to a single beverage and consumed throughout the day. In pill form this will require 3-5 pills per day depending on pill dosage.
It is important to note that 20-30% of individuals are non-responders to the loading phase. This does not mean that creatine supplementation won't be beneficial, rather, the individuals resting creatine levels are elevated and will not experience the immediate boost in creatine skeletal muscle levels.
What is a Creatine Maintenance Phase?
Immediately following the loading phase, maintenance will last for the remainder of the program. During a 10-week program 7 days will be dedicated to loading while the remaining 63 days will be maintenance. During this time a lower dosage of 3-5 grams per day is recommended. These levels are much more tolerable to digest.
What are Total Muscle Creatine Stores?
The goal of a loading and maintenance phase is to increase resting total muscle creatine levels. On average, a normal individual has resting creatine levels of 120 mmol/kg. Vegetarians tend to average lower at 100 mmol/kg. When supplementing with creatine monohydrate these levels can jump to 140-155 mmol/kg. The loading phase will assist with raising these levels immediately while the maintenance phase keeps these levels elevated until supplementation ceases.
If you miss a day or two of creatine supplementation you can increase the next dosage by 1-2 grams. However, it can take 4-6 weeks for muscle creatine stores to return to normal once consumptions stops.
HOW TO BENEFIT MOST FROM CREATINE MONOHYDRATE SUPPLEMENTING?
During exercise the body can produce energy through three (3) different systems:
The Aerobic System | Long duration, low intensity exercise lasting several minutes.
The Anaerobic System | Short duration, high intensity exercise lasting approximately 1-60 seconds.
The Phosphagen System | Explosive, max effort exercise lasting less than a second.
Creatine supplementation research can only statistically defend improvements in anaerobic exercise with minimal research supporting aerobic or phosphagen system performance. Therefore, we will entirely focus on how creatine monohydrate improves anaerobic performance and what type of exercising should be done to best maximize the benefits.
The anaerobic energy system involves the production of ATP in the absence of oxygen. The presence of oxygen delivered to the muscles defines the difference between aerobic and anaerobic exercise. When performing resistance training the body is performing high intensity, anaerobic exercise. During this time creatine monohydrate supplementation greatly improves the synthesis of ATP to provide a consistent source of energy to the muscles to maintain contractions resulting higher repetition counts per set of exercise.
What Type of Exercise is Best with Creatine Monohydrate?
Consider the following hypothetical situation. An amateur weight lifter is supplementing with creatine monohydrate. Following a 7-day loading phase the weight lifters repetition increased by an average of three (3) reps per set. During a typical workout this lifter averages 15 sets of exercise. By supplementing with creatine the average repetition per workout for this individual would increase by 45 reps. Now let's do some math. If this person performs three (3) workouts per week that would equate to 135 additional reps per week. Over the course of a 10-week regimen that would result in an additional 1,350 total reps!
Again, creatine monohydrate supplementation has only been statistically proven to improve anaerobic capacity, specifically when performing resistance based exercises. However, this can also improve sprinting and other max effort exercise performance. Additional research must be conducted to defend supplementing for aerobic or phosphagen energy system performance.
Creatine Monohydrate Exercise Prescription
Type of Exercise | Anaerobic Resistance Training
Equipment | Dumbbells, Kettlebells, Barbells, Heavy Bands, Sprinting ect.
Repetition Range | 3-15 Reps Per Exercise
Exercise Duration | 1 - 60 Seconds
Target Heart Rate | 80-90% Max Heart Rate
QUICK FACTS ABOUT CREATINE MONOHYDRATE
Dehydration is NOT a side effect of creatine supplementation. Although there is a short term increase in water retention, over the long term there is no significant increase.
A study of men & women 65+ years showed improved fat free mass, anaerobic endurance, and reduced overall fat mass when supplementing creatine.
Creatine does NOT cause renal or kidney damage. However, please consult your doctor before starting any regimen.
Creatine is NOT a steroid. There are no increased in total or free testosterone or DHT level.
A loading response is NOT required. Resting creatine levels can increase using maintenance phase levels only.
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Antonio, J., Candow, D.G., Forbes, S.C. et al. Common questions and misconceptions about creatine supplementation: what does the scientific evidence really show?. J Int Soc Sports Nutr18, 13 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-021-00412-w
Cooper R, Naclerio F, Allgrove J, Jimenez A. Creatine supplementation with specific view to exercise/sports performance: an update. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2012;9(1):33. Published 2012 Jul 20. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-9-33
Mielgo-Ayuso J, Calleja-Gonzalez J, Marqués-Jiménez D, Caballero-García A, Córdova A, Fernández-Lázaro D. Effects of Creatine Supplementation on Athletic Performance in Soccer Players: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Nutrients. 2019;11(4):757. Published 2019 Mar 31. doi:10.3390/nu11040757