Creatine was first discovered hundreds of years ago and is known as one of the world’s leading supplements. In fact, creatine has hundreds of scientific studies demonstrating its benefit in sports performance, bodybuilding, and even fat loss (Buford et al. 2007).
Here are just a few benefits creatine has been shown to provide (Buford et al., 2007):
- Increased strength and power
- Increased muscle mass
- Increased fat loss
- Improved recovery
- Improved sports performance
With the popularity of creatine constantly increasing, many different forms of creatine have been produced; this can cause confusion amongst bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts. Here we will break down the mechanisms and benefits of creatine, which may demonstrate why certain forms of creatine are superior to others, helping you make an informed and educated decision on which to buy.
Within the human body, we produce around 1g of creatine per day which is synthesised mainly within the liver and kidneys (Persky et al. 2001). The majority of creatine stores are found within muscle and humans can obtain additional creatine externally via diet (foods such as meat & fish) and supplementation (Burke et al. 2008).
There are two key considerations when supplementing with creatine and deciding on which form to use:
- Aqueous Solubility: this describes how well creatine mixes and is absorbed. Below is a list of the common creatine forms and their relative solubility score (the higher the score, the greater the solubility). As you will see, some forms of creatine such as Creatine HCI have a much greater solubility, which is why a much lower dose is required.
Creatine Monohydrate: 1.0
Creatine Citrate: 2.8
Creatine Pyruvate 5.9
Micro Crystalized: 0.9
Creatine HCI: 39.3
- Cell Permeability: in this context cell permeability describes how well creatine crosses the intestinal barrier. Some forms of creatine have a poor permeability, meaning most of that which is ingested is not actually absorbed, thus resulting in it being excreted in the urine. Creatine HCI has one of the highest absorption rates out of all the creatine forms currently available on the market.
It is also important to note the key relationship between creatine and water. Certain sources of creatine require a large amount of water, which is one of the reasons why certain individuals experience digestive issues and extracellular water retention (outside the cell) when taking it. Here is a comparison of two forms of creatine, Creatine Monohydrate (CM) and Creatine HCI (C-HCI):
– A 5g dose of CM would require approximately 625ml of water to maximise absorption.
– An equivalent dose of C-HCI would only require 10ml of water to maximise absorption.
For those struggling with GI discomfort/distress on their regular type of creatine supplement, switching to a smaller more dense form of creatine, such as Creatine HCI could help. While some people may be just fine on other forms of creatine, one study in fact found greater absorption of creatine HCI versus other forms following a 2-week supplementation period.
Creatine 101 – What you need to know!
Amount needed: Firstly, there is a large amount of confusion around the amount of creatine you need to consume. This question largely depends on the type of creatine you are using. However, common sources of creatine such as Creatine Monohydrate should be around 3-5g per day. In contrast, other forms such as Creatine HCI, you only raround 2g per day. The amount depends on the molecular makeup, bioavailability/absorption, and an individual’s body weight.
Remember to check your pre- and post-workout supplement ingredient list; just because it lists creatine, some products contain smaller amounts of creatine, meaning you will need to add additional creatine if you want to reap all the benefits of this supplement. If you do need to add additional creatine, you can try using Kaged Muscle's latest product, Creatine HCI.
Loading: Creatine loading is a debated topic within the bodybuilding community. The answer to whether or not you should load creatine may depend on the source and an individual’s goal. Most sources of creatine do not need to be loaded and it provides no additional benefit (Willoughby et al., 2006), although loading may help you saturate the cells a week or two faster. This means it really comes down to the individual – if you want to load creatine at the start, you can. However, it’s not required, unless in a time sensitive situation such as an athletic competition or contest prep.
Timing: Creatine may be best suited around the workout; however, research has yet to reach a definitive answer. The research on creatine timing (along with other nutrient timing topics) is mixed. Some studies have found additional benefits post workout, which may be due to increased blood and nutrient flow to the muscle, caused by a variety of mechanisms such as GLUT 4 translocation (Steenage et al., 2000).
However, other studies have found no additional effect when testing creatine further from the post workout window. Although this is when creatine is studied in isolation, other research has shown the insulin spike from protein and/or carbohydrates (like in your post workout shake) may aid in absorption (Steenage et al., 2000). If you consume a post workout shake, it would make sense to throw your creatine in with it, much like Kaged Muscle does with Re-Kaged. It is also worth noting, that there's a lack of research on taking creatine both pre- and post-workout.
Cycle: Another popular strategy is cycling your creatine intake; however, no research has shown this to be superior to a chronic smaller, daily dose (Willoughby et al., 2001). Without evidence of health risk or performance improvements from cycling, you may just be wasting periods of time when your creatine stores become depleted.
Mixing with other supplements: Some supplements may aid in creatine absorption, including protein and carbohydrates (Steenage et al., 2000). Interestingly, other supplements such as Beta Alanine have recently been found to work synergistically and further increase its performance benefits (Hoffman et al., 2006).
Individuals have reported some forms of creatine increase water retention. While this may not be an issue for some, it could if your goal is to stay lean and avoid that puffy look. One possible advantage with a more concentrated, highly soluble form such as Creatine HCI is no bloating or water retention since only a fraction of water is required to help transport the creatine molecules.
Like with most nutritional or supplement recommendations, there is variability from person to person. While some may prefer one type of creatine, others may prefer something else. If you have yet to try Creatine HCI, consider adding it to your supplement stack. For more information, visit the Kaged Muscle Creatine HCI page here.
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