Americans -- competitive athletes in particular -- spend an estimated $14 million yearly on products containing creatine. The body stores creatine in the muscles as phosphocreatine, but during intense exercise it is converted into ATP -- one of the major energy sources for human performance. Many options for creatine products exist, and your personal preference -- whether taste, texture or cost -- plays a big role in which supplement you select. But some drink choices can provide additional benefits when used as the base for your creatine powder.
Many fitness publications insist that you should take creatine with high-sugar fruit drinks such as grape juice. According to findings in a 2011 issue of the “Journal of Sports Science and Medicine,” the hormone insulin regulates creatine uptake in your body. Using a high-carbohydrate drink to spike your insulin -- the study recommends upwards of 100 grams of sugars -- can increase creatine absorption by 60 percent while reducing the amount of creatine excreted in your urine. If you take creatine daily, however, this practice amounts to a lot of fruit juice -- and a lot of calories. If you go this route, consult a professional to help you choose the healthiest juice and create a plan to avoid weight gain.
Fenugreek may be the answer you need to achieve the creatine-shuttling effect of sugar without the calories. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health describes fenugreek as a plant with hypoglycemic properties, meaning it lowers blood sugar levels by mimicking insulin. A study at the Human Performance Lab in Texas that was published in 2011 determined that fenugreek can be as effective as sugar at promoting creatine uptake. You can easily mix creatine with fenugreek powder in water -- or select a flavored creatine powder to improve the taste.
Preworkout mixes target athletes by offering a convenient way to consume a variety of supplements before exercise. Usually flavored with only a small amount of carbohydrates, these drinks commonly include amino acids, electrolytes, caffeine and other thermogenics aimed at boosting energy, strength and endurance. If these additional supplements appeal to you, preworkout mixes may be your best choice -- many of them also contain a full serving of creatine. And creatine can easily be added to any formula that doesn’t already include it. Sports nutritionist Molly Kimball states that taking creatine directly before a workout can improve intensity and power -- plus, making supplementation part of your exercise routine will help you stay consistent and keep your muscles saturated.
Protein powders offer a quick way to consume adequate protein -- upwards of 30 grams in one serving -- without needing to prepare real food. After a workout, protein supplementation helps repair muscle tissue while promoting muscle growth. In fact, some experts argue that a time-sensitive window exists after training when protein must be ingested or strength gains can be lost. Research published in the “Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition” in 2013 further concludes that creatine supplementation may also be most beneficial directly after exercise in terms of recovery. While some of these benefits remain exclusively aesthetic -- subjects in the study boasted more body composition improvements than strength gains -- you may decide that post-workout protein drinks provide the best base for your creatine.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Creatine
- Journal of Sports Science and Medicine: Effects of Combined Creatine Plus Fenugreek Extract vs. Creatine Plus Carbohydrate Supplementation on Resistance Training Adaptations
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: Fenugreek
- Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition: The Effects of Pre Versus Post Workout Supplementation of Creatine Monohydrate on Body Composition and Strength
- ABC News: What Are the Benefits and Risks of Creatine Supplements?