According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, creatine (monohydrate) is the most effective ergogenic (performance-enhancing) nutritional supplement currently available to athletes for increasing high-intensity exercise capacity and lean body mass during training. Creatine is a combination of three different amino acids, glycine, arginine, and methionine.
What is it?
Creating is a combination of three different amino acids, glycine, arginine, and methionine. That's it, it is nothing more than a combination of amino acids. Creatine is also produced by the body and found in high protein sources of meat such as fish and red meat. It is NOT a lab synthesized compound, it is natural.
How Does it Work?
Creatine's main action in the body is to store high-energy phosphate groups in the form of phosphocreatine. During periods of stress, phosphocreatine releases this energy to aid cellular function. This mechanism is what causes creatine to increase strength, but can benefit almost every body system, including the brain, bones, muscles, and liver. Most of the benefits of creatine occur through this energy mechanism.
Another benefit of creatine is that creatine itself is a fuel source. In fact your body's first choice of energy when performing anaerobic activity (such as weightlifting) is your creatine phosphate stores. By supplementing with creatine phosphate you will increase these stores, thus giving you more energy for your workouts. There is another anabolic property that creatine holds and this is its ability to hydrate muscle cells. When muscle cells are hydrated a few things happen. The most notable being an increase in protein synthesis. The second being an increase of ions into the cell. Since the cell is holding more water, it can also hold more ions since the ions will follow water into the cell in order to keep the concentration the same. When more ions are present in muscle cells (the most important being nitrogen) muscle protein synthesis also increases.
Is it Necessary to Load on Creatine?
No it is not necessary to load but it can help you see results faster. You see to get the full benefit of creating you must saturate your muscle cells with it. Using a small dose (5g), this will take up to thirty days depending on the individual's lean body mass. However using a loading dosage as described below in out Loading Calculator, one can quickly saturate the muscle cells in this time period and then use a maintenance dosage for the remainder of their time taking creatine. We find that this results in the best performance feedback from our customers. (Note out Creatine Loading Calculator is presented in Flash Format and will not work with iOS devices)
Is it Necessary to Cycle Creatine?
Once again it is not necessary to do so but it can help. Your body has an internal equilibrium which you can swing in your favour for a duration of time, but over time that equilibrium will eventually swing back.
Meaning taking excess creatine for a short period of time (4-8 weeks) may temporarily increase your creatine phosphate stores but after a while your body's feedback mechanisms will likely place sometime of control on creatine phosphate storage to bring the levels back down to normal. This mechanism may be to decrease your body's own production of creatine or to downgrade the number receptors that admit creatine into the cell. Taking time off from creatine can help bring your body's equilibrium back into a state where in taking excess creatine will be beneficial again. I would like to make clear at this point that I know of no studies to back this theory up with, it could be right or wrong, I am just merely applying my knowledge of biochemistry to a frequently asked question to which there is no good answer to yet.
What is the Best Time to Take Creatine?
There has been much discussion on this but we believe taking creatine in the morning, pre-workout and post workout are the most beneficial times for several reasons.
1. Insulin helps drive more creatine into muscle cells, if you are a smart bodybuilder then in your post workout meal you should be eating foods that help spike your insulin, if this is the case, then taking creatine with this meal will help it's uptake into muscle cells. 2. The body absorbs many nutrients better first thing in the morning, pre-workout and after a workout. 3. Creatine will help refuel your body's low creatine phosphate stores.