Creatine – The beginner’s guide

A scoop of creatine on top of creatine

Creatine is an extremely popular sports supplement that increases performance in high-intensity exercises. Because of this, it’s used by many athletes who need explosive strength. But what is creatine, is it safe, is it good for beginners, and how do you use it? Let’s find out.

What is creatine?

Creatine is an amino acid primarily found in muscle cells. It helps your muscles produce energy in high-intensity exercises such as weight lifting. It’s a popular supplement among athletes and bodybuilders, as it has been shown to have a positive effect on strength and muscle gains.

The body can naturally produce creatine. Things such as meat consumption, exercise, muscle mass, hormone levels, and of course, supplements can have an impact on the creatine levels in the stores.

Is creatine good for beginners?

As a strength training beginner, your goals are often similar to those you’ll have after a year or two of lifting. The goal will often be some variation of getting bigger or stronger. Studies have shown that creatine can help with that, no matter where in the progress you are. Creatine is not just good for beginners, but it’s recommended and can help you reach your goals faster.

The only time I wouldn’t recommend a beginner (With no health issues) to use creatine is if they’re not sure about working out. In that case, it’s better to save the money until you fall in love with the sport.

The benefits of creatine

Creatine is one of the world’s most popular sports supplements, and it has been that way for years. To gain and maintain such popularity, it has to have proven positive effects. And creatine doesn’t disappoint. Some of the most important benefits of taking the supplement include:

  • Helps muscle cells produce more energy
  • Improved high-intensity exercise performance (Heavy lifts, sprints, etc.)
  • Builds strength
  • Faster muscle growth
  • Can improve brain function
  • May reduce tiredness
  • And much more

Creatine has many benefits but is mainly used, for its ability to aid muscle growth and strength gains. It’s the only supplement on the market that has a direct and proven impact on those things. Because of this, it’s one of the most popular.

Related: Workout plan for beginners

Side effects

While creatine, is for most, a safe supplement, it does come with a few annoying side effects. The most common is a small weight gain but isn’t limited to just that. The most common side effects include:

  • A small weight gain due to water retention
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle cramps
  • Heat intolerance
  • dizziness

These side effects (Except the weight gain) are rare but do occur. If you want to stay safe, drink enough water and make sure that you don’t exceed the recommended dosage. More isn’t always better, especially not with creatine.

Does creatine cause hair loss?

The question “does creatine cause hair loss?” is often up for debate but with no real answers. Creatine might be a part of increasing DHT, an androgen that contributes to the male sex characteristics. DHT can help increase muscle mass but also increase the risk of prostate cancer and speed up the process of balding for people with an already high hairline.

But you shouldn’t worry too much about this, at least not yet. The connection between balding and creatine haven’t been studied enough yet, but there doesn’t seem to be a significant connection.

What type of creatine is the best?

One thing that almost any study, studying creatine has in common is that they have used all used creatine monohydrate. Because of this, we have to assume that creatine monohydrate is the best and most effective type of creatine on the market.

However, this doesn’t mean that the other types are useless. The different types have slightly different benefits, and some will prefer them. As of now, the benefits of these haven’t been studied enough to prove their effectiveness.

How much creatine should I take?

The recommended daily creatine dosage for people who workout regularly is 5g. Less athletic people can maintain on 3g daily.

Creatine isn’t a supplement like whey protein or pre-workout. With creatine, a bigger dosage doesn’t give better results. At a certain amount, the body’s natural stores are full, and the body won’t be able to absorb and use more. Not only will the extra creatine be wasted, but the risk of side effects will increase.

Exceeding the recommended dosage of creatine should usually be avoided. In some cases, a loading phase might be the exception.

Related. How to set up your macros

Do I need to have a loading phase?

Having a loading phase fills the creatine stores faster. You can get the full benefits after just 6-7 days instead of the 30 it would take without a loading phase.

Loading creatine is a simple process. Take a 5 g dose, 4 times a day for a week. That’s a total of 20 g of creatine every day for 7 days. Keep in mind that while loading creatine can give faster results, it can also increase the risk of annoying side effects.

No, having a loading phase isn’t necessary, but it will help you enjoy the benefits of creatine faster, however, with more side effects. If you’re slightly more patient, you can skip the loading phase. In the long run, the results will be the same.

When should I take it?

The timing of your creatine doesn’t have a big impact on how it works in your body, as it’s stored in the muscles. The most important thing is that you remember to take it every day, also on off days.

Studies have indicated that taking creatine close to a meal that contains protein might lead to better absorption of the supplement. Because of this, many take their creatine together with a protein shake.

Related: Protein shake before or after a workout?

Do I need to cycle creatine?

We have to cycle products that will create tolerance or sensitivity towards it. As creatine does none of those things, we don’t have to cycle it.

Creatine can be used for as long periods as you wish without harming you or your future use of creatine. However, if you stop hitting the gym for a longer period (several months), you might consider saving your money.

What happens if I stop taking creatine?

People often fear that once you stop supplementing with creatine, the body will struggle to produce enough by itself. While the production might slow down, it won’t have a noticeable effect on you.

Once you stop supplementing, it usually takes somewhere between a couple of weeks to a bit more than a month to reach your pre-creatine levels. It will take the body a couple of days to produce as much as it did before.

As there is no overlap between the two, nothing bad will happen from you’re stopping creatine. You will still have the results gained from it, and the production won’t be worse than before.

You might, however, experience a small weight loss. This is simply because of a reduction in retained fluids.

Related: Calculate your caloric needs with the BMR calculator

Conclusion

Creatine is one of the most studied sports supplements in the world. They have proved that creatine, as the only supplement, has a direct impact on muscle growth and strength gains. It’s easy to use and is for safe most. The side effects are mostly harmless and can often be avoided by drinking enough water and not exceeding the recommended dosage. This makes creatine an ideal supplement for weight lifters also for beginners.