Creatine was first discovered nearly 200 years ago and is known as one of the world’s leading supplements. In fact, unlike most of the supplements in your stack, creatine has hundreds of scientific studies demonstrating its benefit in sport performance, bodybuilding, fat loss (Buford et al. 2007).
Here are just a few benefits creatine can 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!
Dosing: Firstly, there is a large amount of confusion around dosing. This question largely depends on the type of creatine you are using. However, common sources of creatine such as Creatine Monohydrate should be dosed at around 3-5g per day. In contrast, other forms such as Creatine HCI, used here at Kaged Muscle, is only required in doses of around 2g per day. As discussed previously in the article, the amount depends on the molecular make up, bioavailability / absorption and an individual’s bodyweight.
Remember to check your pre and post workout supplement ingredient list; just because it lists creatine, most brands are drastically under, (low), meaning you will need to add additional creatine if you want to reap all the benefits discussed earlier. If you currently use Kaged Muscle products, then there is no need to worry, as they contain the efficacious dose – you can just take it as it is. 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, as, like dosing, the answer 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 quicker. This means it really is down to the individual – if you want to load creatine at the start you can. However it’s not needed, unless in a time sensitive situation such as an athletic competition or contest prep.
Timing: Creatine may be best suited around the workout; however we are 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, some other studies have found no additional effect when testing creatine away from the workout window compared to around the workout. Although this is when we study creatine in isolation, other research has shown the insulin spike from protein and / or carbohydrate (like in your post workout shake) may aid in absorption (Steenage et al., 2000). If, like most people, you take a post workout, it would make perfect sense to throw your creatine in with it, much like we do with Re-Kaged. It is also worth noting, that we lack research on taking creatine both pre- and post-workout. Mechanistically this makes sense and may be beneficial, which is another strategy you can experiment with.
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: As mentioned above, 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).
As already mentioned, people have reported some forms of Creatine can increase water retention. While this may not be an issue for most of the general public or for a typical gym beginner, it could be more noticeable for the Kaged Muscle fans wishing to stay lean and ripped year round or athletes wishing to optimize every aspect of performance. One advantage with a more concentrated, high 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.
Price vs Cost Effective
Just because it’s cheaper per serving or per 100g, this doesn’t mean it’s more cost effective. One should also always purchase the patented form of creatine, regardless of which form you go with. Due to creatine’s popularity, many companies have tried to make a quick dime by selling on sub-par creatine, usually filled with artificial sweeteners and other cheap fillers such as carbohydrates and amino acids. Remember, all the studies use the 100% pure patented source – if you use a cheaper product which lacks the efficacious dose, you may not meet the threshold to saturate the muscle cell and be wasting your money completely. If one product is $10 cheaper but doesn’t provide enough actual Creatine to provide benefit, you are actually wasting your money altogether. Here at Kaged Muscle we work exclusively with C-HCI (who own the patent for Creatine HCI) and use optimal amounts of ingredients in all our mixed products, such as PRE, IN & RE KAGED.
In summary, like with most nutritional or supplement recommendations there is inter-individual variability, some people may love one type of creatine, whilst others may love another. If you’re yet to try Creatine HCI, today may be the perfect opportunity, even if you’ve used other forms for many years – remember, just because something works well, it doesn’t mean it’s optimal. A patented, pure form of Creatine HCI, like the one we use in Kaged Muscle supplements, certainly won’t cause any harm and may actually improve your absorption rate and performance, along with no digestive issues or water retention. For more information, visit the Kaged Muscle Creatine HCI page here.
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