Last Updated: Feb 3, 2018
If you ask questions about how to take creatine you're bound to get a bunch of different answers and views on the subject. Everyone seems to have different opinions on the matter. You're unlikely to find a straight answer, but you're likely to get very confused!
This article will clear the air on effective creatine usage so that you can get the most out of your creatine. l'll explain how to take creatine properly, when to take creatine for maximum effect, and also about proper creatine loading and cycling.
Out of all the muscle-building/bodybuilding supplements out there, creatine is perhaps the most complicated. By that I mean you can't just take it however you want to and expect to see great results. You must take it a certain way to achieve the best results with it. But don't worry, once you know the proper practices then it becomes very simple to use.
Do You Need a Creatine Loading Phase?
A popular way of creatine use that has been proven to work is that of "creatine loading". For the first few days of supplementing with creatine you "load up" with a very high dosage to saturate your muscles with creatine. The point of this loading phase is to get a lot of creatine to your muscles quickly so that your body can start using it faster.
For loading you should be taking 20-25 grams per day split up into 2-4 servings, for the first 4-7 days of using a creatine supplement. For example if you choose to take 20 grams a day for your loading, you could take 4 servings of creatine throughout the day consisting of 5 grams.
But is loading with creatine really necessary? It's a constantly debated topic amongst bodybuilders. Some say you need to load up, and some say it won't help you. The good thing to know is that it doesn't really matter either way, as studies over the years have proved that both a loading and non-loading approach to taking creatine is effective.
Creatine loading will speed up your body's ability to use that creatine, meaning faster results. However studies have shown that over a longer period of time such as a month or two, if you simply take a small creatine dosage daily and eliminate the loading phase you will get the same results.
So whether you load or not doesn't really matter in the end. You can save some bucks by not loading, but you won't experience results as fast. Take your pick.
The Creatine Maintenance Phase
After loading your muscles with plenty of creatine for a few days with the loading phase, you can then lower the daily dosage to simply maintain the level of creatine in the body. It you decide against loading, then you would simply start with the maintenance phase.
The typical recommended amount of creatine to take per day is 5-10 grams. 5 grams would be a good place to start if you have never supplemented with it before. Through trail and error you will eventually find out what creatine dosage works best for you, as everyones body is different.
Some people will need more creatine than others, but you can't find this out without trying it out for yourself. Your weight should also play a part in deciding how much creatine to supplement with.
Another popular debate is whether to split your daily dose into multiple servings throughout the day, or to just take your whole dose at one point in the day. Again, you should see what works best for you. One way to go about it is this: If you're taking 5g a day then just take it in one go, but if you're daily dosage is higher such as 10g then divide it up into 2 servings of 5g.
When To Take Creatine?
Yet another debated topic is when to take creatine for the best results. Should you take creatine before a workout? After a workout? When waking up? Before bed?
Asking these questions to different people will get you a variety of responses, so it's hard to know who to listen to. One thing is for sure though, taking creatine immediately after your workouts is definitely beneficial and something I would highly recommend to anyone taking creatine.
Also, taking your creatine on an empty stomach will help absorption. So taking it immediately after waking up in the morning is effective too.
This is how I personally do it. If I'm on a loading phase, I will take 5 lots of 5 gram servings which totals 25 grams a day. 5g immediately after waking up, 5g before my workout, 5g straight after my workout, and two other 5g dosages inbetween other meals during the day/night.
I do this everyday for 5 days. Then I start my maintenance phase where I take 5g a day. If it's a workout day I will mix my 5g in with my pre workout shake, and on non-workout days I will take my creatine after waking up in the morning (just before breakfast).
What To Mix Creatine With
Ok, so you know how to take creatine properly, but what should you take it with? Firstly, you should be aware that there are two main types of creatine supplements out there.
You've got plain creatine monohydrate powder, and then there's enhanced creatine products such as Cell-Tech and No-Explode. These modified creatine supplements are made to help absorption and effectiveness, but the truth is if you learn about proper creatine use then you can get the same effects with a plain creatine monohydrate powder.
So I would advise you to buy a decent quality creatine monohydrate powder. This will save you some bucks, as products like Cell-Tech and No-Explode can cost you quite a bit more and in my opinion aren't necessary are full of marketing hype (by all means go for them if you want though, I would just personally stick with plain monohydrate powder).
Taking your creatine monohydrate with fast acting carbohydrates such as juice will help your body absorb the creatine more effectively. This is because the carbs release glucose into your blood stream when broken down, and this produces insulin which helps transport the creatine to your muscles.
When I take my creatine in the morning after rising I sometimes mix it with a glass of grape juice, and when I'm taking it just after my workout I mix it with a sports drink.
Grape juice or a sports drink are a great choice to mix your creatine with. I would avoid mixing with orange juice as there is a theory that the citric acid in it will lessen the effect of the creatine. Nobody really knows the truth about this, but its better to be safe than sorry so just stick to grape juice or something else.
Final Thoughts on How to Take Creatine
Now you know how to take creatine effectively, proper creating loading, when to take creatine, and what to mix it with, here are a couple more things to keep in mind:
Best Creatine Powder for 2018:
As for actually buying your creatine, like I mentioned above I would personally just get a plain creatine monohydrate powder as it works well and is the most economical option.
You don't need a fancy (heavily-marketed) expensive pre-workout product that is filled with a load of extra stuff you don't need and may even be fairly unhealthy (don't fall for the hype).
Check out my recommended supplement stack here to see my #1 recommended creatine powder based on first-hand experience with many different powders over the years.
Whilst I don't take creatine much these days as I'm past that initial skinny to muscular transformation which benefits greatly from such supplements, I still stand by it and recommend it, especially to anyone who needs a little extra edge to their mass gain program to break a plateau or to fully maximize results with a new bulking program.
It's not necessary if you get your nutrition down right, train hard, maximize your natural testosterone, etc, but it can be a little handy helper. Just don't expect it, or any supplement for that matter, to be some sort of magic pill to amazing results as much as companies try to have you believe. No such thing as a magic pill in life; everything worth achieving is gonna take sweat equity. Good luck my friend.
What Is Creatine And How Does It Work?
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Creatine and Negative Side Effects
Are there any side effects to creatine usage? Find out in this article.
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Natural Bodybuilding & Health Author Since 2008
Mad-Scientist of Hardgainer-to-Hero Transformations for 12 Years & Counting
Last and Definitely Least: Certified Fitness Instructor (Australia)