Creatine monohydrate, creatine for short, is a natural supplement that’s widely used to ramp people’s athletic performance up a gear.
The beneficial effect is obtained with a daily intake of 3 g of creatine.
One of the reasons why it’s got such a massive following is because research has proven it time-and-again to be one of the most popular supplements for exercise performance.1
What is creatine exactly?
Creatine is nothing more than an organic compound, which is found in meats and fish.
Consuming high quantities of these foods can increase natural creatine levels.
Creatine exists in your body and approximately 95% is stored in skeletal muscle as creatine phosphate (CP).
Creatine phosphate binds to Adenosine Di-phosphate (ADP), becoming Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP), which is used to supply your body with energy.
ADP + Creatine Phosphate (CP) = Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) ENERGY
When you train at a high intensity, ATP stores are broken down and become ADP; losing one of its phosphate molecules, which provides you with that quick, explosive energy.
Supplementing with Creatine has been shown to increase concentration levels of Creatine within muscle cells therefore, allowing ATP to be restored quickly. In a nut shell, Creatine is natural and provides your body with energy.
When it comes to understanding creatine monohydrate’s make-up, it is important to look at it from two perspectives:
- the body’s version of creatine
- the creatine that’s manufactured synthetically
What is the creatine that’s naturally produced by our bodies made from?
In our kidneys and our livers by the amino acids, glycine, arginine and methionine. Our body converts this trio of amino acids into creatine phosphate and phosphocreatine, which is then stored in our skeletal muscles and used for energy.2
More specifically, it’s creatine that’s responsible for making something called Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) which provides our bodies with energy for muscle contractions.3
What is manufactured creatine made from?
Manufactured creatine is made by combining sarcosine, sodium salt, and cyanamide, an organic amide compound, in a steel reactor.
This is then heated, under pressure, to create creatine crystals.
The crystals are further refined and any unwanted particles are filtered out before the crystalline creatine is passed through the milling process.4
What does creatine do?
It does a lot to support your energy! Creatine benefits include:
- Support physical performance during exercise
- Increase the effect of resistance training on muscle strength
It’s because of this that creatine’s often taken to achieve short bursts of speed and energy, for activities such as weight lifting and sprinting.
But for all the widespread usage and adoration, the scientific research that’s been done on creatine’s impact is a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, studies have found that it can help improve performance during short bursts of activity. While on the other, there’s no evidence of its ability to help with endurance pursuits. In the meantime, research has also revealed that not everybody’s muscles respond to taking it either.5
Which Creatine to choose?
There any too many forms of Creatine on the market to name them all. A few of the popular ones you may have seen; Creatine Monohydrate; the most researched and tested form of Creatine which increases intracellular liquid therefore increasing muscle volume.
Creatine Ethyl Ester is a ‘no bloat’ Creatine and has been said to cause no water retention in the stomach. This makes it suitable for those who may suffer from the uncomfortable bloating associated with Creatine Monohydrate.
Kre-Alkalyn is a relatively new form of Creatine and is said to be at the optimum pH level for maximum absorption. Both Ethyl Ester and Kre-Alkalyn require a smaller dosage due to their ability to be up taken by the body at a more efficient rate.
Other buffered Creatines combine various forms of creatine and carbohydrate sources to assist with the delivery of creatine to muscles and to aid in your recovery following exercise.
When to have creatine?
There is no hard evidence which states a difference of Creatine timing as long as it is ingested on a daily basis.
However, supplementing with Creatine post-workout will deliver it to the muscles most efficiently. As you ingest carbs after a workout, they are broken down into glucose which will act as a shuttle and drive nutrients (including Creatine) into the muscles.
On training days depending on the form of Creatine, take around 2-5g with your post-workout shake or your first meal of the day.
You can supplement Creatine all year round but taking a break every 12 weeks is recommended. Have a 4 week period off Creatine and cycle it like that on a consistent basis.
Are there any side effects of taking creatine?
Supplementing with Creatine Monohydrate has been shown to increase the intracellular fluid; this gives your muscles a fuller, boulder appearance and is often confused with ‘water retention’. This water retention within the muscle cell is not actually a bad thing, this means you are more anabolic (able to build muscle) as you have a more hydrated muscle cell.
Many sceptics have often confused intracellular (within muscles) water retention with water retention in general. Yes water retention within the stomach will cause bloating and discomfort however, creatine doesn’t cause this issue unless you are loading with high quantities of around 20g+ per day and/or combining it with high amounts of carbohydrates. Even so, not everyone will experience this. The simple solution; lower your dosage so you don’t get the ‘bloated’ feeling.
Having a 5g serving of creatine monohydrate once per day shouldn’t cause any discomfort. Plus a 5g dosage over 3 weeks will saturate your muscles in the same way excessive loading of 20g per day would over a 5 day period but without the associated bloating. So, intracellular fluid (fluid within the muscle cells) caused by supplementing with creatine monohydrate is a bonus as you’re in a more anabolic state.
There are many other claims such as Creatine causes liver damage or kidney and heart problems but there has been no evidence that such issues have been proven true in relation to Creatine supplementation.
What’s the best creatine for you?
As is the case with all supplements, deciding on the best creatine for you very much depends on personal preference.
For instance, how often you want to take it, how you want to take it (e.g. as a capsule or by drinking it) and whether you want it to be pre-combined (if available) with anything else.
You may want to try: Precision Engineered Creatine 240 Capsules 700mg
Why choose them? These capsules contain ultra-pure creatine monohydrate to provide even more energy to increase physical performance during exercise.
Our customers have given them a 4.5 out of 5-star rating. According to Stepgym, they’re:
‘Easy to take … and improve my endurance and make me feel good about my work-outs and that I made the effort to take it.’
Also check out: PhD Creapure 90 capsules
You may want to try: Optimum Nutrition Micronised Creatine Powder 634g
Why choose it? This powder contains 3g of creatine monohydrate per serving and mixes easily with juice or water.
Our customers have given it a 4.2-star rating. Robert M says: ‘It’s the best. It’s strong creatine and good quality, if you try this product you will see more power!!!’
You may want to try: Vox Creatine Chews Mint 100
Why choose them? They’re a quick and easy way to get your creatine hit.
You may want to try: Maxi Pre Workout Pink Lemonade 300g
Why choose it? Get your muscles ready for exercise and get the most out of your physical activity.
Our customers are loving Grenade’s Berry Blast. Bruce Mac says it’s ‘rocket fuel’, while Lori90 ‘loves the kick she gets from it before work-outs and the noticeable lift in energy.’
What about vegan creatine?
There are vegan creatine supplements on the market too. They include Reflex XFT’s Creatine powder, which is ideal for putting into protein shakes and smoothies.
Vox’s creatine chews are also suitable for vegans too. Each chew contains 5g of creatine and can be consumed alongside other creatine supplements.
Last updated: 11 February 2021
Author: Bhupesh Panchal, Regulatory Affairs
Bhupesh started his career as a clinical toxicologist for Public Health England, advising healthcare professionals all around the country on how to manage clinical cases of adverse exposure to supplements, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, industrial chemicals and agricultural products. After 7 years in this role and a further year working as a drug safety officer in the pharmaceutical industry, Bhupesh joined Holland & Barrett as a Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate in 2019.
In his spare time, Bhupesh likes to cycle and has been learning to speak Korean for several years.