Author: Morgan Jones • Fact checked by: Tara D. Thies • Sept. 23, 2021
Creatine can sometimes get a negative reputation due to preconceived notions about its safety, efficacy, and potential side effects. However, years of ongoing research has shown that creatine supplementation can be quite beneficial and safe to use for most people. Creatine can increase strength and muscle gain or maintenance, especially in those partaking in resistance training workouts. Read on to see some things to consider when adding creatine into your routine.
If this is your first time using creatine, you should be aware that you may notice an increase in water retention with its use. This is a harmless and normal reaction, and comes from the fact that creatine can cause your water cells to draw in and retain more water.
It’s important to keep in mind that weight gain associated with creatine supplementation will be in the form of water weight and/or muscle mass. Creatine really works in the way of putting more water into your muscles so they may work at first capacity. So, indirectly--creatine has the ability to improve your overall performance in the gym, making your workouts more intense.
Some people may not notice much or any water gain, though. Consuming enough water each day and continuing to engage in regular physical activity can help to minimize any noticeable water retention. A standard dose of creatine for most people is around 3-5g per day, but if you find that you are retaining a lot of water, try decreasing or cutting the amount in half. Creatine can be helpful to anyone who is working out regularly or active, is an older individual, or who follows a diet that is limited in animal products.
Creatine can be taken at any time of the day to see the benefits from it. Some research points at it being most effective when consumed soon before or after workouts, but that evidence is limited. Many people will use it surrounding workouts, but otherwise, you can consume it elsewhere if you prefer.
Unlike caffeine and other stimulants, creatine isn’t something that will have an immediate effect on your performance. Instead, in order to get all of the benefits of creatine supplementation, you want to keep your muscle stores saturated with it, which can be accomplished by supplementing with creatine every day, at any time during the day.
On days you don’t workout, you can also take creatine at any time of day. Feel free to mix your creatine along with any of your other Gainful supplements for convenience, or with any other beverage of choice.
A popular way to use creatine is through what is known as "creatine loading". This involves taking 20–25 grams of creatine, split into 4–5 equal doses for 5–7 days. The purpose of loading is to saturate your muscle cells with creatine quicker so that you can experience its benefits sooner. You can determine your daily dose for the loading phase by multiplying your weight in kilograms by 0.3
Following the loading phase, 3–5 grams per day is the recommended dosage across the board to maintain muscle stores of creatine.
Skipping the loading phase and taking the maintenance dose of 3–5 grams daily from the beginning of use is another way to supplement with creatine. This method is just as effective as creatine loading, but just takes longer — typically 28 days — to experience the same benefits. Compared to the loading method, taking the maintenance dose over a longer time may be more convenient and cost effective, since it involves just 1 dose per day rather than multiple doses. Additionally, if you are concerned about that initial spike in weight gain related to water retention caused by loading, or if you experience digestive issues, beginning with smaller doses can help to prevent these things.
Creatine is a popular and well studied nutrition supplement that can be safely integrated into any fitness routine. It has been shown to effectively improve overall sports performance by supporting muscle mass and strength. Reach out to your Gainful RD at anytime to see if creatine is right for your goals by emailing RD@Gainful.com.
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