Creatine supplementation in the United States is a $14 million per year industry, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, UMMC. This popular supplement is an amino acid that your body produces in your liver, kidneys and pancreas. Creatine supplements may benefit strength-training athletes, but sedentary and aerobically trained athletes may not reap the same benefits. The key to building lean muscle mass with creatine is taking the right amount of it at the right time of day. Check with your doctor before taking creatine supplements.
How it Works
When you consume creatine supplements, the creatine is absorbed into your bloodstream and transported to your muscle tissue. It’s stored in your muscle tissue as creatine phosphate. It acts as a secondary energy source for your muscles during short bursts of vigorous exercise, such as lifting weights. Your muscle’s main source of energy when lifting heavy weights is adenosine triphosphate, or ATP. This energy burns up within a matter of seconds during a heavy lift, and that’s where the stored creatine steps in to produce more ATP.
Creatine in Your Body
According to Certified Fitness Trainer and Specialist in Performance Nutrition Jeremy Likness of Bodybuilding.com, 40 percent of the creatine in your body is free-flowing, while the remaining 60 percent is stored in your muscle tissue as creatine phosphate. Your body makes about 2 g of creatine per day on its own. Your body can store additional amounts of creatine in the muscle tissue, which is what makes creatine supplements so effective. However, there is a “saturation point” where no more creatine can be stored, so it’s important to stick to the dosage recommendations offered by the manufacturer of the creatine product and your doctor.
Adults can safely consume up to 20 g of creatine per day for up to seven consecutive days, also known as the loading phase, according to UMMC. Consume this amount in 5 g increments spread out equally throughout the day. Taking it before bedtime is fine, since creatine supplements don’t have any stimulant effect. After the first week of supplementation, decrease the dose to 2 g to 5 g per day, known as the maintenance phase, for up to six months. Don’t supplement beyond six months at a time, since long-term studies have yet to conclude the safety and efficacy of long-term supplementation.
Check the ingredient list on your creatine packaging. It should not contain caffeine as an ingredient. This stimulant will not only keep you awake at night, but it also lessens the effectiveness of the creatine, according to UMMC. Your best bet is to go with a 100 percent pure creatine monohydrate, since it’s the most widely studied type of creatine and contains no additives. Creatine may interact with certain medications, such as NSAIDs, so talk to your doctor before trying it.