Can Creatine Help You Build Stronger Muscles?

Are you tired of spending hours in the gym without getting results? Are you starting to feel tempted to either give up on your quest for gains – or maybe feeling tempted to use steroids or other anabolic drugs to start gaining more muscle?

If so, you’re not alone. We’ve all hit plateaus in our bodybuilding programs at some point. We’ve all felt the frustration of hitting the weights every day while watching our numbers stagnate.

But before you do anything drastic, I think you should take another look at the healthy, legal options that are right in front of you.

I’m talking about creatine. You might be asking, “Can creatine help build stronger muscles?” The answer is that creatine works for most people who use it. This isn’t marketing hype or Internet conspiracy BS. Study after study has shown that about 80% of strength athletes respond well when adding creatine to their training and nutrition program.

What is Creatine?

Creatine is basically a building block of protein that supports ATP and protein synthesis in the body during and after high-intensity athletic training. It is composed of three amino acids: arginine, glycine, and methionine.

It is a natural substance that is commonly found in animal protein sources such as red meat and fish, particularly herring. Our own bodies also create creatine in the liver.

So creatine isn’t some kind of steroid or something cooked up in a lab. It’s a natural product that we consume in our everyday diets and produce in our own bodies.

Hundreds of scientific studies have shown that supplementing with creatine can increase muscle mass, boost muscular strength, increase endurance and improve athletic performance. Few supplements out there can live up to their own hype, but creatine is the real deal.

There’s nothing miraculous about it, but the scientific literature shows beyond any reasonable doubt that creatine works.

How Does Creatine Help Build Muscle Mass?

This is really important: creatine itself won’t pack on the mass. It’s not a steroid or a miracle supplement. Creatine supports your efforts in the gym, and those workouts – along with a solid, balanced nutrition program – are what build muscle mass.

How does creatine work?

Creatine supports the ATP process in your body, supplying your muscles with additional energy to power you through your workouts. With adequate creatine levels, you are able to lift heavier weights in the gym and perform more reps per set before exhaustion sets in. That additional work is what stimulates increases in muscle mass.

So as long as you’re getting all the nutrients that your body needs in your diet – along with sufficient rest in between workouts and enough hours of sleep at night – then you should experience increases in muscle mass, strength, and endurance while supplementing with a high-quality creatine powder.

How to Take Creatine for Maximum Results

First, it’s important to understand that your creatine levels need to build up over time in order to be effective. Your muscles need to become saturated with the stuff, and this can take up to 30 days when supplementing with five grams per day.

There’s no consensus about when is the ideal time to take creatine. Some athletes and experts report good results when taking it pre-workout, while others prefer it as a post-workout regimen. Either way, experts do agree that creatine should be taken daily for several weeks at a time to produce the best results.

I’d recommend that you just buy a good creatine powder and mix it thoroughly with fruit juice, then have it either pre-workout or post-workout. Either way should be effective, as long as you take it consistently.

It’s usually recommended to cycle your creatine intake every few months, even if you’re not loading. So you might try taking it every day for one or two months – then take a couple weeks off to let your system reset before trying it again. That includes taking it on days you work out and on your rest days.

Most people respond well to this type of protocol and won’t need to do any fancy cycling techniques to experience continued gains.

Creatine - Build Stronger Muscle

How Much Creatine Do You Need to Build Muscle Mass?

While some athletes have reported great gains with creatine loading, most studies have shown that you don’t need to go overboard with the stuff. A consistent regimen of five grams per day is all you need to experience significant gains in muscle mass.

You can try creatine loading – and I’ll discuss that in just a second – but if you’re just starting out with it, there’s no need to use more than five grams a day for your first month or two.

Remember: it’s not about shoveling it down right before a heavy workout. Your muscles will need to become saturated with creatine, and it generally takes a few weeks of daily dosing for your body to absorb sufficient levels of creatine and shuttle it to your muscles.

Creatine Loading – What Is It?

There are studies that show creatine loading to be more effective than consistent low-dose usage, and there are studies that show no significant differences between the two. This kind of thing isn’t unusual because despite the fact that all humans’ bodies share the same basic design and components, we also are all very different and we react differently to training, diet, and supplementation.

So the decision to utilize a creatine loading phase is totally up to you. I’ve seen enough evidence that creatine loading is effective for many people, so I’d recommend that you try it at some point. If you’ve never used creatine, you can try loading right from the start to reach the saturation point faster and start reaping the benefits sooner.

But keep in mind that some studies and anecdotal evidence has shown that taking higher doses of creating can make digestive side effects more likely. More on that below.

But here’s a simple creatine loading plan:

  1. Take five grams of creatine five times per day
  2. Continue loading phase for 7-10 days
  3. Return to maintenance dosage of 5 grams daily
  4. Continue indefinitely or cycle off after 8-10 weeks before loading again

Best Creatine Products on Amazon

Some studies have shown that powder is the best form of creatine to take and that liquid forms and creatine ethyl ester (CEE) actually break down too easily before reaching your muscles, reducing their effectiveness. Below are five of the bestselling creatine powders on Amazon with the highest customer ratings.

1. Optimum Nutrition Creatine Powder, Unflavored

  • Over 4,000 customer reviews
  • 4.4 star rating
  • 86% of users rate at 4 or 5 stars
  • Micronized for easy absorption and less digestive stress

 

2. MuscleTech Platinum 100% Creatine, Ultra-Pure Micronized Creatine Powder

  • Over 800 customer reviews
  • 4.5 star rating
  • 88% of users rate at 4 or 5 stars
  • Micronized for easy absorption and less digestive stress

 

3. Creatine Monohydrate Powder Micronized by BulkSupplements, 99.99% Pure High-Performance Formula

  • Over 11,000 customer reviews
  • 4.8 star rating
  • 97% of users rate at 4 or 5 stars
  • Micronized for easy absorption and less digestive stress

 

4. Genius Creatine Powder

  • Over 100 customer reviews
  • 4.9 star rating
  • 97% of users rate at 4 or 5 stars

 

 

5. NOW Sports Creatine Monohydrate Powder

  • Over 500 customer reviews
  • 4.2 star rating
  • 81% of users rate at 4 or 5 stars

Possible Side Effects of Creatine

Ciaran Fairman, MS, CISSN wrote an excellent article on Bodybuilding.com in which he analyzed more than 30 scientific studies, showing that creatine is one of the safest supplements on the market. He took a look at six possible side effects that have been reported anecdotally over the years and showed studies that debunked them as myths.

One of most commonly reported side effects of creatine are digestive problems like stomach aches, gas, bloating, dehydration and cramps. These seem to be the most legitimate of all reported side effects, but even these occur very rarely and are mostly attributed to taking the supplement on an empty stomach or when ramping up dosages that are higher than what the manufacturers recommend, as is the case during a loading phase.

Other alleged side effects include kidney and liver damage – even though no scientific studies have verified this claim. Most studies show no adverse reactions to creatine in the digestive system or with the heart, liver or kidneys.

Temporary weight gain has also been reported, especially during the first week or two of beginning creatine use or at the beginning of a loading phase, but this is only a temporary effect of the creatine pulling additional water weight into the muscles to increase protein synthesis.

In other words, it’s just water weight, and it goes away once the body adjusts to the extra creatine intake. Additional weight gain after that first week or two is generally attributed to muscle gain.

Bottom Line: Should You Take Creatine?

The bottom line is that no other legal bodybuilding supplement on the market has as much rigorous, scientific support as creatine. It works for almost every athlete who uses it, and studies have shown that it is safe for daily use with minimal side effects.

If you’re a bodybuilder, powerlifter, football player or are involved in any sport that involves fast bursts of strength, power, and speed, then I would recommend that you start taking creatine daily.

Optimum Nutrition has an excellent reputation in the bodybuilding community, and its creatine powder is highly recommended.

If you’ve recently begun supplementing with creatine, please share your results with us in the comments below.

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