Creatine is a very famous fitness supplement, because it works. But do you know exactly what it does and how much to take? Lets start with the benefits.
Lower Muscle Lactate (Lactic Acid Buildup)
Take a look at the following chart and note the three sources of ATP: Creatine, Glycogen and Other Fuel (Glucose, Amino Acids, Fatty Acids). Note that Glycogen produces lactic acid while creating ATP. Lactic acid is what gives us pain in our muscles when doing continuous exercise like prone bridge. Creatine is a source is ATP with no lactic acid byproduct. By increasing your creatine levels, creatine is producing a greater portion of your ATP needs, and you have less lactic acid production.
Muscle Lactate measurements show a 40% reduction after exercise after taking 20g creatine per day for 6 days. A 40% reduction is a significant benefit for anybody affected by lactic acid.
In one study, the people who take 20g Creatine per day for 6 days showed an 18% increase in muscle creatine concentration before exercise, and a 53% increase after exercise. Usually creatine levels fall very low after exercise, but with creatine supplementation it just falls moderately after exercise. So ingesting Creatine orally does reach your muscles and stay there.
Improved High Intensity Exercise Energy
Creatine improves performance of short-burst high intensity exercise like sprinting and weight lifting, but does not benefit endurance performance. Creatine doesn’t increase power but instead increases energy production allowing you to perform high-intensity exercise for longer.
One study showed 4% higher total work production by those who took 20g creatine for 5 days than those who didn’t. Additionally, after exercising, those who took the creatine had more ATP (energy) remaining; their ATP decreased by 30% less.
Creatine helps your body to put on weight within days, but this is water weight. The water is residing in your muscles however, so may be seen as beneficial. With high dosages, 0.5kg of weight gain after 6 days can be expected.
While the strength gains do not come directly from the creatine, having the additional performance while in the gym does help you to progress faster. So continual creatine use does lead to greater strength gains.
Optimal Daily Creatine Intake
While the study mentioned above supplemented with 20g creatine per day and saw results after only 6 days, supplementing with only 3g per day will still reach the same muscle concentrations as the higher dosages, but it will take longer to reach full concentrations.
So it’s up to you whether to you prefer 1. taking 20g per day for a week or so then reducing to 3-6g per day as maintainance or 2. Taking 3-6g per day continuously. The first method is faster to take full effect but the second method is equally viable and arguably simpler to implement. Personally I take 5g of creatine per day, but 10g per day on training days (5g before and 5g after training). That level of creatine might be overkill, but it’s part of my pre and post-workout powder so a little creatine wastage is no issue for me.
- John W. Kimball. Fueling Muscle Contraction. [Go Up ↩]
- Balsom PD, Söderlund K, Sjödin B, Ekblom B. Skeletal muscle metabolism during short duration high-intensity exercise: influence of creatine supplementation. [Go Up ↩] [Go Up ↩] [Go Up ↩] [Go Up ↩] [Go Up ↩] [Go Up ↩]
- Casey A, Constantin-Teodosiu D, Howell S, Hultman E, Greenhaff PL. Creatine ingestion favorably affects performance and muscle metabolism during maximal exercise in humans. [Go Up ↩]
- Terjung RL, Clarkson P, Eichner ER, Greenhaff PL, Hespel PJ, Israel RG, Kraemer WJ, Meyer RA, Spriet LL, Tarnopolsky MA, Wagenmakers AJ, Williams MH. American College of Sports Medicine roundtable. The physiological and health effects of oral creatine supplementation. [Go Up ↩] [Go Up ↩] [Go Up ↩]