Creatine helps your body produce energy during heavy lifting and high-intensity exercise. It’s naturally found in your muscles, but supplementing your diet with additional creatine has been proven to increase muscle size.
Creatine also supports brain health and exercise performance. Since it is found in foods like meat, vegetarians especially will find this supplement useful.
At the end of the day, creatine is one of the cheapest, most effective and safest supplements you can take. Every time I have had the goal of building muscle, 5 grams of creatine monohydrate has done the trick.
Here’s how it works and the dosage you should take.
How Creatine Works
In high-intensity exercises lasting between 1-10 seconds, creatine’s primary role is to increase the phosphocreatine stores in the muscles. This helps you lift heavier. It will also help you recover in between sets faster.
Creatine also helps you gain muscle in the following ways:
- Boosted workload: Enables more total work or volume in a single training session, which is a key factor in long-term muscle growth.
- Improved cell signaling: Can increase satellite cell signaling, which aids muscle repair and new muscle growth.
- Raised anabolic hormones: Studies note a rise in hormones, such as IGF-1, after taking creatine.
- Increased cell hydration: Lifts water content within your muscle cells, which causes a cell volumization effect that may play a role in muscle growth.
- Reduced protein breakdown: May increase total muscle mass by reducing muscle breakdown.
- Lower myostatin levels: Elevated levels of the protein myostatin can slow or totally inhibit new muscle growth. Supplementing with creatine can reduce these levels, increasing growth potential.
And finally, because creatine increases phosphocreatine stores in your brain, some studies have shown this to improve brain health and even prevent neurological disease (i.e. Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s).
When starting to use the supplement for the first time, you want a rapid increase in muscle stores of creatine. To do this, take 20 grams per day for five days. Split these 20 grams up into four 5-gram servings throughout the day–something like this:
- Before breakfast.
- Before lunch.
- Before dinner.
- Before bed.
Following the loading period, take 3–5 grams per day to maintain high levels within your muscles. As there is no benefit to cycling creatine, you can stick with this dosage for a long time.
If you choose not to do the loading phase, you can simply consume 3–5 grams per day. However, it may take 3–4 weeks to maximize your stores.
Since creatine pulls water into your muscle cells, it is advisable to take it with a glass of water and stay well hydrated throughout the day.
Creatine is one of the cheapest, most effective and safest supplements you can take on the market. It’s also one of the most popular among elite athletes.
If you decide to take it, I would recommend overloading on the supplement for the first five days with 20 grams (5 grams at a time at four different times during the day).
After this five day overload period, stick to 5 grams of creatine monohydrate.