Building Bigger Muscles with Creatine
How much do you understand about creatine? Many powerlifters, endurance athletes, and bodybuilders rely on this crucial supplement for performance and building bigger muscles. Do you know how it works?
If you’d like to better grasp what it takes to build bigger muscles in a short amount of time, you need to understand creatine. It’s a powerful supplement that has been extensively tested, researched, and proven to be effective.
In this article, we’ll help you understand how this supplement enhances your performance in and out of the gym. We’ll answer the common questions about what it does, how it works, what types to take, and how to include it in your supplement routine.
What is Creatine?
Broken down, creatine is simply a collection of three amino acids: glycine, arginine, and methionine. All three are known as proteinogenic, or protein-creating amino acids. They work almost exclusively to synthesize and create proteins in your body.
You can get creatine from high-protein food sources like red meat and fish. Your body also has the ability to create these amino acids, making them non-essential amino acids. The organic compound of creatine is a wonder when it comes to improvements, so let’s examine what it does.
Creatine powers your workout by giving your body energy. To get technical, creatine does two things. One, it produces more ATP, the energy that fuels your muscles. If you have more energy in your workouts, you can lift more weights, heavier weights.
The increased performance in the gym translates into bigger muscles and better results. Taking creatine boosts the creatine phosphate stores in your body. These are part of the fuel reserves that your body draws on for energy when you need it most.
Creatine is also known as an “osmotically active substance”, meaning it draws water into your muscles. More water in your muscle cells means more protein synthesis. Most first-timers report a weight gain within the first week of regular dosing. This is water weight to begin with, usually 1-2 kgs. But that soon translates into an increased muscle mass as the protein synthesising kicks in.
But the side note here is that all the increased water and boost of energy needs to be used. You need to workout, push your body to use that fuel so that your body can respond with an increased muscle mass. Otherwise, all that weight gain just remains a water weight gain. This can leave you bloated and undefined.
The Safety of Creatine
It’s a common misconception that creatine is a steroid or is a synthetic compound that you can’t find in nature. That is not true. It is a natural compound that can be found in red meats and can be synthesised by your body. For normal body maintenance, you already ingest enough creatine with a high-protein diet.
Creatine happens to hold the title of the most scrutinised supplement for performance. Over 500 studies have been performed to ensure that it’s safe. That’s good news for the person who’s about to drink their first glass of creatine supplement, wondering if this is the right move. Don’t worry. It is.
There are no studies to support any finding that creatine has negative effects on the body. After many years of consistent usage, we can trust that creatine is safe and effective without any risk of long-term adverse reactions.
We DO understand that your body needs to use creatine as a supplement to good nutrition to see effects. If you’re eating junk food and downing creatine with every meal, you won’t see the results you expect. You need to be eating well and training hard to make full use of the supplement.
Creatine for Weight Lifting
As we mentioned, you have the capacity to lift more weights and do more reps on creatine. But if you aren’t using that energy boost and increased water uptake for muscle growth, it all gets wasted. You have to hit the gym.
There is no magic pill that boosts your muscles. The formula remains the same. Work in the gym produces results outside the gym. You can’t escape nature.
If your goal is increase muscle mass, creatine will be your best friend. Here’s how it works. You won’t see the results overnight. It will take regular dosage over time (more on dosage further below) to increase the energy stores and the ATP production. You will see an increased water weight, and as you flood your muscles with creatine, your performance starts to improve.
How fast does it work? One study showed that participants did a normal 6-week weight-lifting routine and saw an increase of 2kg of muscle mass over that time. That’s muscle mass, not just weight gain. Another study showed that over a 3 week period, performing the same resistance training routine, those who took regular creatine saw dramatic increases in strength and lean muscle mass over those who weren’t taking creatine.
Another perk is that creatine has a muscle volume enhancing effect. Chasing that “pumped up” look? Creatine can help.
Creatine for High-Intensity Training
One of the amazing benefits of creatine is increased energy stores. Which is useful for high-performance athletes who need to access just a little bit extra “oomph” to perform better. Creatine has the following effects which would interest those who have high-intensity training.
- Resistance to fatigue
- Increased fast-twitch muscle speed
- Lowered recovery times
- Increased brain performance
- Enhanced muscle endurance
Creatine enhances your muscle’s ability to perform anaerobically, or without oxygen. When you practice high-intensity cardio exercise, you push your body past the point where simply breathing in gets enough oxygen to your muscles. That’s when you start burning off calories stored in fat cells. If your muscles can work more efficiently during that stage, you have a higher capacity to burn fat and build muscle.
How to Take Creatine
It might be worth noting that not all people experience the same results. If you already have a high-protein diet, loaded with red meats and fish sources, you already have an increased amount of creatine in your body.
But if you have a diet that doesn’t include any red meats, the effect from supplementing creatine will be more pronounced. Vegetarians report having more exaggerated results because of the sudden flooding of creatine in a body that doesn’t get much of it through food.
For normal usage, it’s best to take 5 grams per day. This is a safe amount that will naturally saturate your muscles over a 30 day period. Remember that creatine isn’t an “instant hit” supplement, but will take time to see the results.
Creatine is all about saturation, not timing.
Some weightlifters suggest the best time to take creatine is right after your workout. This is when your body is receptive to intake nutrients. You have the best chance to absorb as much of the creatine as possible during that state.
It’s also good to take creatine mixed in with a fruit juice of some sort. Sugar produces a spike of insulin, which increases the uptake of creatine into the bloodstream. You should aim for 70 grams of sugar per 5 grams of creatine for optimum effect. After a workout, you already need to replenish your carbs, so it pairs nicely with that post-workout carb hit.
If you want to see increased results faster, you can load your creatine. Over a period of 3-5 days, overload your system with 15-25g of creatine daily to flood your muscles quickly. You can maintain that high level after the creatine loading time with a normal 5g daily dosage to keep the levels high.
This will produce faster results, but be warned that you need to have deeply intense workouts to use all that excess energy and water intake into your muscles.
Some opt to cycle their creatine intake. Your body can adjust to just about anything, including a supplement. If you cycle your intake, you “shock” the body into continually responding to what you’re providing it.
Every 6-8 weeks, dramatically decrease your creatine intake for a few days while maintaining a high-intensity workout schedule. You will deplete your energy stores. When you reintroduce creatine into your body, your equilibrium will respond faster and boost your results again.
Types of Creatine to Take
You will find many different types of creatine on the market, but not all of the methods are the same. By and large, liquid creatine is not as effective as the powdered version. Your bloodstream doesn’t absorb it well and over time, the creatine will degrade in the solution, changing to a waste compound called creatinine.
Creatine monohydrate and micronised creatine are the most common and most approved forms of this supplement. They absorb quickly in the body and they give the results that we talked about before. You want to get your creatine to your muscles, not expelled as waste.
Creatine For You
If you’re on the fence, let us reassure you. Creatine is safe, tested, and demonstrated to be effective.
Focus on flooding your body with creatine through regular dosing rather than seeing it as an “instant” fix. Use the excess water intake and increased energy stores consistently through intense training.
Incorporate creatine into your routine and you'll see huge improvements.