Recently we gave you the basics about Creatine in our review of MusclePharm’s Creatine.
In this review, we’ll look more closely at how it is beneficial to us as bodybuilders, dosage, and its side effects as we look at Optimum Nutrition’s Micronized Creatine Powder.
Findings of Creatine & Bodybuilding
Creatine is probably the most researched sports supplements, with over 500 studies carried out so far. They have confirmed creatine’s importance as both a fuel and muscle enhancing supplement.
Unlike a lot of supplements, research was also able to show that creatine produces significant improvements in athletes who require high levels of strength and power for their chosen sport.
These improvements include gains in body mass as well as a decrease in body fat. In the past, it was thought that the increase in mass and muscle volume was due to water retention, but now it’s been confirmed that much of the gain is actually lean muscle mass with only a small amount being retained water.
How it helps workout performance
Supplementing with Creatine can give you an immediate, marked improvement in your performance in any sport requiring explosive movement. When used properly, bodybuilders and other athletes develop great strength, endurance and lean muscle mass as well as a reduction in body fat.
Creatine is most effective for short duration, heavy exercise, like strength training which requires short, fast bursts of high power activity. About 2 grams of creatine is produced in our liver and kidneys each day. Most of it is stored in our skeletal muscles, heart and other body cells.
In muscle cells, it is converted to creatine phosphate, which acts as a small fuel source, enough for several seconds of heavy exertion. It also helps to replenish you cellular reserves of ATP, our body’s fuel which gives us the energy needed for muscle contractions.
A higher availability of ATP means you’ll be able to train longer and get more work from muscle tissue that would otherwise be fatigued. (Reps to failure).
Dosage: How much should you really take?
You may have seen “experts” at the gym taking massive 20gm doses of creatine before after and during a workout and think that to get maximum benefit you need maximum supplementation. In reality, we excrete a lot of the creatine we ingest. When I say a lot, I mean up to 46% according to studies.
So if you take a 10gm dose, 4.6gm is flushed from your system and down the toilet, literally.
When you start supplementing with creatine, you need higher a dosage to build up a store in your muscle tissue. This is called the loading phase. The general findings of most research shows that, when you begin loading, four to five 5 gram doses per day, over five days is enough. A better way of calculating your needs is to use the following formula.
0.3gm per kilogram of body weight each day.
Using this formula, a 100kg (220lb) bodybuilder needs around 30gm of creatine over the course of a day NOT all at once is more than sufficient.
Once you have loaded your cells with reserves of creatine, you need to keep them topped up by replacing what is used during your workouts. This Maintenance Phase requires less daily intake.
The recommended maintenance dose is 2 to 5 gm TOTAL per day.
This is enough to replace your expenditure and keep you muscle cells loaded with enough extra creatine for your next workout.
What’s the best way to use Creatine?
Creatine is most effective when taken with carbohydrates. Combining them can boost the amount of creatine your body accumulates in muscle cells by up to 60%.
The combination of creatine and carbohydrate helps to increase insulin which in turn, increases your body’s uptake of glucose. The glucose is then stored as glycogen in your liver, and muscles for fuel.
Which type of creatine is the best?
Although some supplement companies are claiming that their “patented blend” or “new improved formula” is better than others, all the research to date shows no proof that these are better than the most common form of supplement: CREATINE MONOHYDRATE POWDER.
If you are tempted to buy creatine citrate or creatine phosphate, you should consider that all the major clinical studies, including those I’ve cited in this article, have been performed using creatine monohydrate powder.
With regard to the idea that liquid creatine is more effective than powder forms, the studies have show that in powder form, once mixed with water or juice, it is just as easily absorbed by the body as a liquid form. Perhaps most importantly, in liquid form you might not be getting what you paid for, instead it may be creatinine, which is a worthless by-product of creatine when it breaks down.
Creatine is very stable in its powdered form, but when it is exposed to moisture or acids for a long time, it begins to break down into creatinine. The preservatives commonly used in liquid creatines (citric and phosphoric acid) actually break creatine down.
For my money, there is no better choice than powdered creatine monohydrate.
Side effects and warnings
Although creatine is a naturally occurring compound in our body’s, it doesn’t mean that it is 100% free of side effects or potential risks. Most people can supplement with creatine with no problem however, in rare cases, it can have negative side effects, especially in excessive doses.
The side effects can include: Anxiety, Breathing difficulty, Diarrhea, Fatigue, Fever, Headache, Nausea and vomiting, Rash, Gastrointestinal upset.
Taking creatine with stimulants, especially caffeine and ephedra can greatly increase the risk of side effects.
I’ve made this a separate section because there are some dangerous interactions between supplementing with creatine and some drugs used to treat diabetes and other disorders. If you are using anti-diabetes drugs of any kind, talk to your doctor before starting to supplement with creatine.
Similarly if you are on diuretic drugs or use acetaminophen (Panadol or Tylenol), there are increased risks of severe side effects.
I don’t usually tell people to drink more fluids, preferring to assume they know the importance of good hydration. But when it comes to Creatine, it’s very important to keep your fluid intake high.
Earlier I mentioned that some of the muscle volume increase is due to water. This is because creatine molecules attract water molecules.In doing so, there is less water available to the rest of your body unless you replace the loss. As a simple guide, don’t wait until you’re thirsty before drinking because by that time, you are already partially dehydrated.
Instead, drink small sips of water throughout your workout.
Taking all the facts I’ve listed above and in our previous article, you now have a good basic knowledge of Creatine supplementation. It’s by no means a complete breakdown, more of an overview that I hope helps you to decide if creatine is a supplement for you.
If it is, you might find the review below useful too.
Optimum Nutrition’s Micronized Creatine Powder
At SupplementTester.com, we’ve reviewed a few of Optimum Nutrition’s products and in the process reviewed the company. Suffice to say that they are an award winning and very well respected name in the supplement industry and we have usually found their products to be of a high standard.
You can read our full company round up in the review we did for their Gold Standard Whey.
Optimum’s promotional material for their Micronized Creatine Powder is very simple. No wild claims, just the facts. Each 5gm scoop is 99.9% Creapure™ brand Creatine Monohydrate. Creapure, from Germany is recognised as one of the worlds leading creatine brands, with strict quality control for consistent purity. There is nothing added. No flavors, colors, nothing. (I wonder what the other 0.1% is)
Serving size 5gm (1 scoop)
Creatine is a nitrogenous organic acid and has no calorific value.
Creatine is naturally quite bitter and most unflavored brands prove this. The Creapure brand as used in ON’s offering, is slightly less so.
However you don’t like bitter tastes, consider a brand with flavorings.
The term micronized, simply means it has been manufacture in a way that makes the powder in a very fine form(micro-particles). The makes it easier to mix, without gritty sediment. Also being very fine, the powder remains suspended in water or juice for a longer period of time before settling to the bottom.
I’ve only recently changed to Optimum’s creatine and I must admit it mixes better than my previous brand. That being said, if left for a few minutes before drinking, you’ll need to stir it again because ultimately gravity wins and the powder settles to the bottom.
Optimum’s Creatine comes in a wide variety of container sizes of: 150, 300, 600, 1200 and 2000grams. The recommended retail prices are: $9, $13, $24, $43.60 and $70 respectively.
Even at retail price these are very competitive with the serving cost between $0.13-$0.17 / serve. However as I write this, there is a virtual fire sale on this supplement at Bodybuilding.com with the prices set at: $6, $8.78, $15.58, $29 and $37.78 respectively.
That’s as low as $0.09 / serve. Even during a loading phase of 5 serves daily, it’s less than a dollar a day! (plus shipping of course)
Pros and Cons
- Award winning, highly respected company.
- Micronized for better mix-ability.
- 99.9% pure with no fillers, colors or flavoring.
- Creapure is a world leader in creatine manufacture.
- Slightly less bitter than some of its competitors.
- Huge discounts available making it very cheap even during loading phase.
- Still has the natural bitter taste.
As I have already mentioned, I’ve only just changed to this supplement. I’ve finished my loading phase and even during that time I noticed the difference in my workouts being able to beat my PB on most exercises so far and overall I feel like I have more energy.
It seems to be delivering what ON promises and I’ll keep you informed of any new developments.
With the company’s reputation, Creapure’s purity and high standard together with the massive savings available, I highly recommend this supplement to anyone considering using Creatine. It really is a two thumbs up supplement.