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Creatine: how it's used
Creatine: how it's used

Creatine: how it's used

  • Reading time: 9 min.

You've already fine-tuned your diet and fitness program and are now thinking about taking a supplement. As a strength athlete your thoughts have probably turned quickly to creatine. Creatine is one of the most widely used supplements of proven effectiveness. But how do you make optimal use of creatine? We're going to tell you all about creatine use in this XXL Nutrition blog, including tips on your daily dosage and when to take it. This way you'll be able to use creatine for more explosive strength and muscle building!

How does creatine work?

Before you get started with creatine use, would you like to know exactly what creatine does? We're not going to go too deep in this blog into how creatine works, but we are going to explain it briefly. Do you want to know more about the effect of creatine supplements? Read more about what creatine does.

Creatine plays an important role in supplying energy to your muscles. Creatine has a major influence, especially in quick, explosive movements, such as strength training. It is converted into creatine phosphate in your body where it is stored in the creatine phosphate system. Your body uses this system when performing explosive strength exercises. These include Deadlifts and Military Presses.

Unfortunately, the creatine phosphate system is relatively quickly depleted. You can usually only sustain such an explosive movement for 15 seconds before over-acidification and loss of muscle strength occurs. Creatine use ensures that you have more creatine phosphate available for your muscles. With the greatest advantage being that you can perform these explosive movements more easily and more often.

Although most strength athletes and bodybuilders enjoy these creatine benefits, not everyone experiences a positive effect. About 20% of creatine users do not react to supplementation and therefore experience no increase in explosive strength. Quite possibly, they have naturally high creatine levels. We call this group non-responders.

Creatine use guide

But how exactly do you use creatine? We are going to help you on your way in this blog with our creatine use guide. We are going to tell you below everything you need to know before you get started using creatine. For example, we're going to share our best tips and tricks about how many grams of creatine you need a day and at what times you are best to consume them.

Do you want to know more about creatine use? Use our guide with tips on:

  • How much creatine per day?
  • Is a creatine loading phase necessary?
  • How should you take creatine?
  • When should you take creatine?
  • How long should you use creatine?

How much creatine per day?

To determine how much creatine you need a day, it's important to choose an intake schedule. You can choose a creatine loading phase, where you'll take a higher creatine dosage for the first five to seven days. After the loading phase, you'll switch to a regular daily creatine dosage.

You'll then start with 20 -25 grams of creatine or 0.3 grams of creatine per kilogram of body weight for 5 to 7 days. After which you'll change to 3 to 5 grams of creatine or 0.03 grams per kilogram of body weight per day. You won't consume this higher dosage in a single go, but will spread it out between 4 different times in the day.

Another way to use creatine is to skip the loading phase and start directly with a constant daily dosage. In this case you use 3 - 5 grams of creatine per day from day one (or 0.03 grams per kilogram of body weight).

Want to take more creatine than the recommended amount? That'd be a waste because your body won't be able to absorb the excess creatine. It'll be excreted in your urine and therefore won't increase your strength or muscle growth. All it'll do is ensure that you empty your jar of creatine faster and that you have to buy a new one sooner.

Take note: large bodybuilders with extreme muscle mass require a higher daily creatine dosage. Because if your muscle mass is greater, your body needs more creatine. In that case adhere to a maximum dosage of 5 - 10 grams of creatine.

Is a creatine loading phase necessary?

As you have read above, some athletes opt for a creatine loading phase. But what is the advantage of creatine loading? The loading phase ensures that you notice the effect of creatine use faster. Maximum creatine levels are reached faster, so you benefit sooner from more explosive strength during training.

There are no claims that it is better than sticking to a daily dosage of 5 grams of creatine per day in the long term. For example, this study[1] shows that you ultimately achieve the same results without the loading phase, but that you have to wait a little longer to see a change in athletic performance.

Therefore, it is not absolutely necessary to follow a creatine loading phase. If you use creatine in the long term, you'll achieve the same result as if you had started with 5 grams per day. The advantage of this is that your jar of creatine will last longer and you'll reduce your chances of nausea and diarrhea. This sometimes happens during the creatine loading phase.

How should you take creatine?

Once you've determined how much creatine you should take a day, creatine use is very simple. You can dissolve the creatine powder in water, a sports drink or another drink of your choice. It's also possible to add your creatine to a protein shake. Just give it a good shake or stir and your creatine drink is ready!

Creatine is also available in pill and capsule form. In this case, you take your creatine pills with sufficient liquid of your choice. The advantage of capsules is that you don't have to mix powder into your drinks.

When should you take creatine?

You use creatine every day, both on rest days and training days. To achieve the desired effect the time at which you consume your creatine doesn't really matter providing that you take your dose regularly each day. This study shows that taking creatine after training leads to greater muscle strength and lean body mass. But the difference is actually small and one study is not enough to base concrete recommendations upon.

Therefore, our advice is to either take your 5-gram dose of creatine in the morning on an empty stomach or immediately after your training. You can also opt to adapt your creatine use to rest and training days. Then adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Rest days = 5 grams of creatine when you get up
  • Training days = 5 grams of creatine immediately after training

If you opt for a creatine loading phase, then split your intake between four separate times. In total, you'll consume (approximately) 20 grams of creatine. You can follow this arrangement:

  • 5 grams of creatine when you get up
  • 5 grams of creatine before training
  • 5 grams of creatine after training
  • 5 grams of creatine before going to bed

What type of creatine should you use?

When you want to buy creatine, you'll come across various types. But which creatine is best? Creatine monohydrate is the best choice for most athletes. Monohydrate is also known as 'basic creatine' and it's the least expensive type. Therefore, we recommend that if you are starting out with creatine use, always opt for creatine monohydrate. It's a shame to spend more on other types that that aren't proven more effective.

As well as creatine monohydrate there are also 'luxury blends' and creatine with added extras. Well known creatine types include creatine ethyl-ester, creatine HCL, creatine nitrate and creatine kre-alkalyn. Although it's sometimes said that your muscles absorb these better, no scientific evidence has been found for this.

Studies have shown that these more expensive types of creatine do not work better and are not absorbed faster than creatine monohydrate. Creatine monohydrate is the best choice, especially when we take the price tag into account.

Creatine monohydrate dosage schedule

Okay, so you've just opted for creatine monohydrate to give a new boost to your progress. We are sharing a creatine monohydrate dosage schedule below, to show you how to use creatine step-by-step.

With a loading phase:

  • Days 1 to 7 = 20 grams of creatine monohydrate split into 4 doses per day
  • Day 8 onwards = 5 grams of creatine monohydrate per day, to be taken upon rising (on rest days) or immediately after training (on training days)

Without loading phase:

  • Day 1 onwards = 5 grams of creatine monohydrate per day, to be taken upon rising (rest days) or immediately after training (on training days)

As previously explained, a creatine loading phase is not essential. It simply ensures that you reach your maximum creatine levels earlier. Choose whichever method of creatine use feels better for you.

How long should you use creatine?

Previous thought was that that creatine should be taken as a course. For example, you'd take 5 grams of creatine monohydrate per day for three months followed by one month without creatine. But is it really necessary to temporarily stop your creatine use? Or is a creatine cycle unnecessary and can you take creatine on an ongoing basis?

The arguments for cyclical creatine use are:

  • Maintaining natural creatine production
  • The effect diminishes with extended use
  • Avoiding harmful effects of creatine

Recent studies have shown that these arguments are not necessarily valid for creatine use. When you stop using creatine your natural creatine production will quickly return to its previous levels. Regardless of how long you've been using it. It also provides no added value to the effect of creatine. Once you stop, your creatine values will drop quickly. If you start the next 'course' with a loading phase, then your value will again increase to maximum. There is no evidence that your body grows accustomed to creatine supplementation.

You don't have to worry about harmful effects of creatine use either. Creatine is the world's most researched supplement and has always been found to be safe. No harmful effects have been found for either short or long term creatine monohydrate use.

Therefore, it is safe to use creatine continuously and stopping from time to time is not necessary. And because creatine monohydrate is inexpensive, you don't need to stop to save money either.

Does creatine have health downsides?

Are you still a bit reluctant to use creatine? There's no good reason, because it has next to no side effects. Furthermore, creatine has been so thoroughly researched and found to be completely safe that you don't need to worry about downsides.

Not one scientific study has shown creatine use to be harmful to the body. It doesn't have any harmful effects on your kidneys, liver, heart or cardiovascular system and it doesn't cause muscle complaints either. Of course, this is true for healthy people, without underlying (kidney) disorders.

Creatine can sometimes cause stomach and intestinal issues. In most cases this is the result of a too high creatine dosage and not one of the supplement itself. Would you like to read more about creatine's potential side effects? You can read all about the downsides of creatine, supported, of course, by all the most recent scientific studies.

How do you best use creatine?

Creatine is a very useful supplement for strength athletes and bodybuilders. It increases explosive strength and reduces acid build-up in the muscles. After reading our blog about creatine use are you fired up and ready to get started? We're going to explain briefly once more below how you can make the best use of creatine. Make use of our tips to improve your athletic performance.

  • Take 5 grams of creatine a day (a loading phase isn't necessary)
  • Drink creatine in water, a sports drink or your protein shake.
  • Preferably take creatine when you get up or immediately after training.
  • Creatine monohydrate is the best choice
  • You can take creatine on an ongoing basis and do not need to take a break every so often
  • Creatine use is entirely safe
Sources

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5296953/

[2] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28806275/

Marvin Grouw
This blog is written by:
Marvin Grouw
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