Building muscle is more complex than lifting weights and regularly drinking thick protein shakes. Protein shakes include several important nutrients such as protein, carbohydrates and sometimes fat; they also offer other supplemental nutrients, such as creatine. An excess of any substance in your body can cause undesirable results. In the case of protein shakes, creatine is the most widely cited reason for cramping. When you consume your protein shake, its size and content affect your chances of developing stomach cramping.
Check the nutritional information on any protein shake and you'll find creatine among the ingredients. Creatine is an amino acid found naturally in meat that helps your muscles convert energy during short but intense periods of exertion, like lifting weights. A study published in the September 2011 edition of the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" concluded that the best time to drink a protein shake is immediately after your workout because this is when your muscles are rebuilding the fastest. As with any supplement, though, incorrect usage can cause negative side effects. An abstract that appeared in the May 2011 issue of AJCN, while disputing allegations of the dangers of normal creatine use, advised pre-supplementation testing for any individual who has shown signs of kidney malfunction. Always speak with your doctor before taking any supplement, including creatine, to prevent possible drug interactions or negative effects due to you individual health condition.
Efficacy of Creatine
The benefits of consuming protein immediately after working out are documented through several undisputed studies, including the aforementioned September 2011 AJCN study. Scientists debate, however, over the efficacy of consuming more than 20 milligrams of creatine at once. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, the effects of creatine depend on how much creatine your body naturally stores. In other words, if your creatine levels are adequate, drinking a protein shake with extra creatine won't enhance your performance like it will if your creatine stores are low.
Creatine and Dehydration
Drinking a protein shake with creatine before lifting weights increases the level of creatine in your muscles, but it also leads to dehydration and cramping. To synthesize creatine, your muscle cells must absorb additional water. Drawing water away from your internal organs and into your muscles without drinking any replacement fluid makes you vulnerable to dehydration. The dehydration soon causes stomach cramping.
Balance the effects of creatine by drinking at least 12 ounces of water for every 10 milligrams of creatine in your protein shake. This is in addition to the fluid you would normally drink before, during and after your workout. Since your muscles rebuild the fastest immediately after lifting weights, the most effective time to drink a protein shake is right after your workout. This is also the time to prevent stomach cramping by drinking additional fluid.