Creatine is the most popular and commonly used sports supplement available today. There are numerous studies backed by anecdotal evidence that support the efficacy of creatine supplementation. Creatine has a wide range of benefits which includes increase in fat-free mass, increase in strength and increased brain function.
While the effectiveness of creatine is well known, the most effective way to take creatine is not known. In order to design an “optimal” cycle for creatine, a number of factors must be considered.
Researchers initially found that 20 grams per day of creatine, taken for five days, successfully raised muscle creatine content by 30-45 percent. The same protocol – 20 grams per day, then maintenance of supraphysiological concentration with 2-3 grams daily after that – has been used since 1996 with little to no deviation in the research.
Consider the fact that a 150 pound male (70 kilograms) will burn through about two grams of creatine naturally every day. Since 95 percent of creatine exists within muscle tissue, the average resistance-trained athlete would require greater amounts of creatine just to maintain normal cellular levels.
The two-grams-per-day maintenance level is the current recommendation by the American College of Sports Medicine's expert panel on creatine.
So the most commonly used protocol for creatine is as followed:
- Loading phase 4 x 5 grams for 5 -7
- Maintenance phase 5 grams every day
These are the guideline for the average human but there is a more specific approach which takes into account current mass:
- Loading phase 0.3 g / kg for 5 -7
- Maintenance phase 0.03 g / kg every day
So, an individual weighing two-hundred (200) pounds would require 200 lb * (1 lb / 2.2 kg) * 0.3 g = 27 grams per day for the loading phase, then 2.7 grams per day for the maintenance phase.
When to take creatine
On workout days it's best to take it immediately post training. On other days you can take it whenever you want. Studies have shown that there is a better creatine uptake in the muscle when you include simple carbohydrates with you creatine. So it's not a bad idea to take creatine with an orange juice or some other containing containing simple carbohydrates.
Is creatine supplementation safe?
The majority of studies indicate that supplementation with creatine for prolonged periods of time using large doses are safe. One study concluded that supplementation from nine weeks up to five years did not adversely affect renal function. Yet another study examined muscle damage, hepatic (liver) and renal (kidney) function, and found no adverse effects from creatine supplementation.
There is potential cause for concern, however. The by-product of creatine use in the muscle is creatinine. Creatinine is typically harmless, and is flushed by the kidneys. When the kidneys are not functioning properly, however, any type of excess strain can cause problems.