Parts of Section 3 and 5 are copyrighted by Paul Moses and reprinted here with permission. He and the Training-Nutrition mailing list he maintains are gratefully acknowledged for being the prime source for this faq.Section 4 is copyrighted by Kilo Sports.
Where applicable, quoted texts are copyrighted by their owners, which are given.
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Creatine is a hot topic today for almost any weightlifter. The benefits of creatine usage for some lifters are so fantastic, that it becomes somewhat mystical for newcomers. The purpose of this document is to explain the working of creatine in a non-technical way, to be a guideline for its use and to be a reference point. Lately, the 'gurus' are becoming increasingly annoyed by the repeated questions about creatine. As a result, incomplete or incorrect information is passed on. There already is a section on creatine in the supplement faq, compiled by Paul L. Moses, but this section is rather brief.Back to top
As you probably know creatine (usually in the form of creatine monohydrate) is a supplement taken to enhance anaerobic performance. Creatine Monohydrate is a white, odorless crystalline powder, clear and colorless in solution.From the Training-Nutrition FAQ:
[Creatine monohydrate is a popular new supplement that serves as
energy reserve in muscle cells. Muscular contraction is powered by
the breakdown of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) to ADP (adenosine
diphosphate). When all the ATP is broken down, creatine phosphate in
the muscle donates a phosphate group to ADP, and further energy
reactions can occur. Creatine monohydrate is a precursor to creatine
phosphate. By supplementing with CM, CP levels in muscle apparently
are maximized, and more muscular work can occur, since there are
greater energy reserves to use.
Creatine also helps with resistance training by bloating the
with creatine rich fluid. This allows for greater leverage and
requires the muscle to move less and lift more weight. While this may
seem kind of trivial, some researchers today think that one of the
stimulating factors of steroid use is water retention. Anabolic
steroids may actually work in part because of cellular fluid retention
in the muscles. The swelling action and the related stretching of the
cells may in and of itself cause a reaction which stimulates the
muscle cells to grow. So in some respects creatine might be as good
The good: Many people report increasing their lean muscle
between 6 and 10 lbs while using CM, though gains seem to stop after
that point. CM is nontoxic, even in large amounts.
The bad: Some people report symptoms including headaches,
teeth, and the sound of blood rushing in their ears while using CM.
Creatines effects on blood pressure are an open question. Since it
has the effect of fluid retention in muscle, it might increase blood
pressure in the same way high sodium levels do, but this has not been
established or refuted. Also, it is expensive.]
Creatine seems to be well studied in scientific research. (See Section 6 - Further Reading). Scientific evidence supporting creatine is there, but while some very good results have been reported, like a 20 lbs body weight gain in 6 weeks and strength increases, others have reported no significant gains whatsoever while taking the supplement. Like all supplements, supplementing creatine is useless if your body already has enough of it. Further supplementation is then not needed and just a waste of money. If however, you do not have the optimal levels of creatine in your muscle cells, then supplementation is a good idea which can really enhance your training. Some people get minimal or no effect from creatine. This is probably due to their already high creatine levels due to dietary intake or perhaps the efficiency/inefficiency that they produce ATP. If you take creatine monohydrate and don't notice any results in about 2 weeks it's a good bet that you're one of these people. Once you plateau, your muscle cells will probably be saturated with creatine and since the body loses about 1-2% creatine a day you should be able to get away with cycling on and off creatine to lengthen your results. Once you stop creatine supplementation and your body clears it 100% (about 2 month process) you'll probably be back at your old strength and muscle mass levels. Of course the gains in mental ability (I've done this beore I can do it now) and tendon/skeletal strength increase resulting from these heavier workouts will remain.
A word of warning for those that need to undergo a medical test while on creatine; Greg Cox (firstname.lastname@example.org) reported:
[I recently went through a month-long hassle
with a life
insurance company over blood test results which showed
elevated creatinine levels. This is a known side-effect
of creatine supplementation as described in the Training
"Creatine creates a byproduct called creatinine, which may
show up on medical tests. Creatinine is usually a sign of
kidney problems, but it is harmless as a side effect of
creatine supplements. In other words, this is a false positive
While we (those who train and use supplements in pursuit of
muscular and performance gains) may be confident that this
is a false positive result, we are a small minority of the
population, and the insurance company and my personal
physicial were not confident that this was a false
positive. I ended up consulting with my personal physician
and taking another blood test in order to clear this up.
My advice from the experience is:
* Always make certain that you are drinking plenty of
water. This is especially important to help the
kidneys deal with the abundance of nutrients that
bodybuilders seek to keep in their blood.
* Consider dropping supplements such as creatine
monohydrate about a week before taking a blood test
for insurance or a physical. This is what I did
for my second blood test (along with increased water
intake), and the second test was "normal". Dropping
supplements briefly before a blood test may save
some hassle, is easier than trying to educate those
conducting the blood test about supplements, and should
not have a large impact on training progress.]
This section precedes the section on proper usage of creatine, as it will clarify some of the strange directions for use.
[From: Kilo Sports: Typical Analysis
Creatine Monohydrate has the formula C4H9N3O2-H20. Creatine is the guanidine- derived, phosphorylated compound which maintains cellular ATP homeostasis in the higher animals.
Creatine occurs in highest concentrations in skeletal muscle, followed by cardiac and smooth muscle, brain, kidney and spermatozoa. Strenuous exercise rapidly uses up cellular reserves of creatine phosphate to replace ATP, the only chemical that powers muscle contraction and relaxation. Creatine Monohydrate is a very bioavailable source of creatine, which can readily combine with normally abundant phosphorus stores to replace creatine phosphate. Six subjects performing 5 sets of 30 maximal contraction with one-minute recovery periods had greater peak muscle torque production in the final 10 contractions of set 1, throughout sets 2 to 4, and during the middle ten contractions of set 5 after creatine monohydrate supplementation for 5 days, compared to baseline performance and to six subjects taking placebos. They also had lower plasma ammonia accumulation, supporting the hypothesis of improved ATP replacement. No difference was seen in blood loctate levels. The body shows an adaptive response, building creatine stores in the muscles more rapidly when subjected to at least an hour a day of intense exercise along with frequent creatine-loading. "One hour of hard exercise per day using one leg augmented the increase in total creatine content of the exercised leg, but had no effect on the collateral.Toxicity: None]
Of course, first read the label and any additional leaflets that come with your brand of creatine monohydrate.
Usually, the use of creatine is split into a loading and maintenance phase. During the loading phase, large quantities of creatine monohydrate are taken. Because the creatine only slowly disappears from the body, a maintenance phase in which less creatine is taken will still provide the body with adequate levels of creatine. For suggested duration of the phases and quantities see below.It is recommended to drink lots of water while on the creatine.
[From the Training-Nutrition faq:
Powder form is preferred over capsules.
Most users recommend a loading phase when first starting with CM. For 5 to 7 days, take a teaspoon (approx. 5 grams) 5 times per day. After that go on maintenance at 5 grams twice per day.]
Note: it is discouraged to use caffeine while on creatine; while creatine makes your muscles hold water, caffeine will do the opposite, thereby reducing the effects of the creatine intake.
Don't mix creatine with citrus juice. Orange, grapefruit, cranberry, in fact, most fruit juices have been most recently found to neutralize the activity of creatine monohydrate. The reason is the waste product creatinine develops. A lot of you put creatine on your tongue and drink it down with grapefruit juice. If you have taken creatine this way in the past, stop it now! You are not getting creatine, you're getting waste product.
Do mix creatine monohydrate with warm water--in a glass. This is the only way to ensure you're getting the full benefits of creatine in its dry form. Creatine does not have to dissolve to be effective.
Do be sure to drink a full eight ounce glass of good water 8 times a day. Creatine pulls water from other parts of the body to perform its work in cell volumization of the muscle. This is what makes the muscle larger and firmer. Replenish your H2O!
Creatine (creatine monohydrate) dosage derived from works by Pierre Dahl (nutritionist at NSTC in Stockholm, Sweden) and professor Hultman (at Huddinge Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden)
|Bodyweight||Phase 1 (loading)||Phase 2 (maintenance)|
|days 1-4||days 5 and on|
|10g per day
(2x5g per day)
|3g per day|
|15g per day
(2x7.5g per day)
|4g per day|
|20g per day
(2x10 per day)
|5g per day|
For those who have trouble getting their creatine cheap, the following will help. I am in no way connected with any of these companies.
email@example.com (Joe McKinney)
Mike Rocheleau also has very interesting offers, for his latest prices see http://www.undergroundsports.com
In the Netherlands: [From w.lange@chem.LeidenUniv.nl (Martyn Lange)
[From firstname.lastname@example.org (Matthias
Balsom, P.D., et al. (1995) Skeletal muscle metabolism during short duration high-intensity exercise: influence of creatine supplementation. Acta-Physiol-Scand 1995 Jul; 154(3): 303-10
Balsom, P.D., et al. (1994) Creatine in humans with special reference to creatine supplementation. Sports-Med. 1994 Oct; 18(4): 268-80
Balsom, P.D., et al (1993) Creatine supplementation per se does not enhance endurance exercise performance. Acta-Physiol-Scand. 1993 Dec; 149(4): 521-3
Birch, R., et al. (1994) The influence of dietary creatine supplementation on performance during repeated bouts of maximal isokinetic cycling in man. Eur-J-Appl-Physiol. 1994; 69(3): 268-76
Cooke, W.H., et al. (1995) Effect of oral creatine supplementation on power output and fatigue during bicycle ergometry. J-Appl-Physiol. 1995 Feb; 78(2): 670-3
Greenhaff, P L., et al. (1993) Influence of oral creatine supplementation of muscle torque during repeated bouts of maximal voluntary exercise in man. Clinical Science 84; 565-71
Greenhaff, P.L., et al. (1994) Effect of oral creatine supplementation on skeletal muscle phosphocreatine resynthesis. Am-J-Physiol. 1994 May; 266(5 Pt 1): E725-30
Harris, R. C., et al. (1992) Elevation of creatine in resting and exercised muscle of normal subjects by creatine supplementation. Clinical Science 83: 367-74.
Maughan, R.J. (1995) Creatine supplementation and exercise performance. Int-J-Sport-Nutr. 1995 Jun; 5(2): 94-101
Stroud, M.A., et al. (1994) Effect of oral creatine supplementation on respiratory gas exchange and blood lactate accumulation during steady-state incremental treadmill exercise and recovery in man. Clin-Sci-Colch. 1994 Dec; 87(6): 707-10
Ohira, Y., et al. (1994) Non-insulin and non-exercise related increase of glucose utilization in rats and mice. Jpn-J-Physiol. 1994; 44(4): 391-402
Ohira, Y., et al. (1994) Responses of beta-adrenoceptor in rat soleus to phosphorus compound levels and/or unloading. Am-J-Physiol. 1994 May; 266(5 Pt 1): C1257-62
Wakatsuki, T., et al. (1994) Responses of contractile properties in rat soleus to high-energy phosphates and/or unloading. Jpn-J-Physiol. 1994; 44(2): 193-204