What is Creatine monohydrate?
Creatine is a substance that is found for the most part in the muscles. Our body has a creatine pool, of which about 50% is supplied by food and creatine monohydrate as a supplement and 50% can be produced by the body itself. Creatine plays a role in a system that provides the muscle cells with energy during intense bursts of activity.
Plant-Based diet and the importance of Creatine
Athletes with a dominant plant-based diet have lower creatine levels in the muscles than omnivores. (1,2,3) This is because there is no creatine in plant-based products. Creatine in this case should be used as a supplement anyway to replenish muscle creatine stores. A study by Burkle et al. (1) shows that creatine supplementation saw greater improvements in lean body mass, maximum strength and the area of type II muscle fibres in vegetarians compared to athletes who did not have a vegetarian diet.
Benefits of Creatine Monohydrate (4,5,6,7)
- Supports the increase of (explosive) muscle strength
- Supports the increase in training volume (this allows you to train longer and heavier with more repetitions)
- Supports (accelerated) the increase in muscle mass
- Supports muscle recovery
- Supports muscle performance at high intensity sports
- Creatine may have a positive neurological protective effect. More research is needed. (7,8,9,10)
- Creatine can support injury prevention and support rehabilitation in case of injury. (7,11, 12, 13)
How much creatine per day?
The fastest method to increase muscle creatine stores is to use about 0.3 g/kg body weight/day of creatine monohydrate for 5-7 days, followed by about 5 g/day to maintain an increased storage. If you are not in a hurry, you can also choose to start with smaller amounts of creatine monohydrate, e.g. 5 g/day. The muscle creatine storages are increased in this case after about three to four weeks. (7) There are research results indicating that creatine monohydrate is best taken after exercise, but more research is needed to confirm this. In any case, it doesn’t hurt to try this out for yourself.
Creatine and water retention
Your body retains more fluid during creatine supplementation. Creatine works because the muscle cells convert creatine to creatine phosphate, which is an osmolyte (compound that increases the water content in muscle cells). This means that the more creatine phosphate enters the muscle cells, the more fluid enters the muscle cells. This is something positive. 60-70% of a muscle cell's volume is fluid. Research indicates that the anabolic/performance-enhancing (ergogenic) effect of supplementing with creatine, in addition to a higher availability of the substance itself, occur because of its cellular volumizing properties. Does your sport have weight classes? Then this is a side effect that you should take into account.
Creatine without water retention of “Lean creatine”
There are manufacturers/brands that claim that their creatine doesn't retain water. This is impossible, or they have done something to the product, which means that their creatine is not effective since the only way it won't cause water retention is by NOT entering the cell. Some manufacturers/brands have named their product "lean creatine". This makes no sense since water in muscles is part of “lean body mass”. Again, 60-70% of a muscle cell's volume is fluid. So, it’s a money-grubbing scheme.
Creatine monohydrate and beta-alanine as a power couple
Beta-alanine appears to have an enhanced effect when creatine is also used. (1)
Want to take a creatine break?
There are no negative effects with long-term creatine use. It is therefore not necessary to take breaks. If you do want to take a creatine break or if you sometimes forget to take it, keep in mind that the concentration of creatine in the muscle cells is reduced to the old level after about four weeks.
Creatine Monohydrate is the best researched sports supplement available on the market. It can be useful for people with a progressively increasing training regime. Do you want to train longer, heavier and more intensively and/or do you strive to build muscle mass? Then Creatine Monohydrate is suitable in combination with an optimal training stimulus and a well-thought-out diet. If you are unsure about your diet and the use of supplements, you can always talk to a sports dietitian.
- Burke DG, Chilibeck PD, Parise G, Candow DG, Mahoney D, Tarnopolsky M. Effect of creatine and weight training on muscle creatine and performance in vegetarians. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2003;35:1946-1955
- Harris RC, Soderlund K, Hultman E. Elevation of creatine in resting and exercised muscle of normal subjects by creatine supplementation. Clin Sci. 1992;83(3):367–74
- Lukaszuk JM, Robertson RJ, Arch JE, Moore GE, Yaw KM, Kelley DE, et al. Effect of creatine supplementation and a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet on muscle creatine concentration. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2002;12:336–48.
- Buford TW, Kreider RB, Stout JR, et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: creatine supplementation and exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2007;4:6. Published 2007 Aug 30. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-4-6
- Williams MH, Kreider R, Branch JD. Creatine: the power supplement. Champaign: Human Kinetics; 1999. (Series Editor)
- Kreider RB. Effects of creatine supplementation on performance and training adaptations. Mol Cell Biochem. 2003;244(1–2):89–94.
- Kerksick et al. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (2018) 15:38
- Russell T. Matthews, Robert J. Ferrante, Peter Klivenyi, Lichuan Yang, Autumn M. Klein, Gerald Mueller, Rima Kaddurah-Daouk, M.Flint Beal. Creatine and Cyclocreatine Attenuate MPTP Neurotoxicity, Experimental Neurology. 1999; 157 (1):142-149.
- Scandalis TA, Bosak A, Berliner JC, Helman LL, Wells MR. Resistance training and gait function in patients with Parkinson's disease. Am J Phys Med Rehabil.2001 Jan;80(1):38-43; quiz 44-6.
- Wyss M, Schulze A. Health implications of creatine: can oral creatine supplementation protect against neurological and atherosclerotic disease? 2002;112:243–60.
- Jacobs PL, Mahoney ET, Cohn KA, Sheradsky LF, Green BA. Oral creatine supplementation enhances upper extremity work capacity in persons with cervical-level spinal cord injury. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2002;83:19–23.
- Tarnopolsky MA. Potential benefits of creatine monohydrate supplementation in the elderly. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2000;3:497–502.