Many athletes follow a "loading" protocol of around 25 grams a day for five days, but this isn't essential. But as Ciaran Fairman notes in the article "Do I Need to Load With Creatine," you can also get the same benefits with around 5 grams a day, potentially with none of the mild side effects of the loading protocol, which include stomach pain and water weight gain. The catch is that you have to take it consistently. Don't skip it!
Although creatine is a natural component of food, the amount of food required to supersaturate the muscle with PCr may not be feasible. For example, it could require 22 pounds of meat daily . If creatine monohydrate is proven to be a safe and effective ergogenic aid, creatine supplementation may be the simplest way to increasing muscle stores. It may be beneficial to avoid caffeine if taking creatine supplements. One study showed that caffeine diminished strength gains seen with creatine use .
Creatine is a naturally occurring compound found in muscle in large amounts. Creatine monohydrate is the supplement form and combines is a combination of the amino acids arginine, glycine, and methionine. Creatine drives the important creatine phosphate energy pathway, which is important in high-intensity activity such as weightlifting. Creatine can improve body bulk and training performance in high-intensity activities. Be aware that not everyone responds to creatine supplementation and 30 percent of users may not see any improvement. Women may not benefit as much as men. In weight training, increased strength, bulk, and fat loss are reasonably consistent results.
Spillane M, Schoch R, Cooke M, Harvey T, Greenwood M, Kreider R, Willoughby DS. The effects of creatine ethyl ester supplementation combined with heavy resistance training on body composition, muscle performance, and serum and muscle creatine levels. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2009;6:6. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-6-6. [PMC free article] [PubMed] [CrossRef]
Another study found that one week of creatine supplementation at 25 g/day enhanced muscular performance during repeated sets of bench press and jump squat exercise. Creatine supplementation appeared to allow the subjects to complete their workouts at a higher intensity. The researchers concluded that, over time, working at higher intensities may provide a more intense training stimulus and improved muscular adaptations .
Creatine has been shown before in vitro to protect from MPTP-induced toxicity, which targets dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra and induce Parkinson’s disease in research animals. Creatine also protected these cells from death induced by low oxygen or glucose. One study noted that dopaminergic cell survival under the influence of creatine was 1.32-fold higher than control cells, the soma (cell body) was enlarged by 1.12-fold in these cells, and creatine showed some growth-enhancing effects while helping reducing destruction of dopaminergic neurons by various insults.
If your fitness goals are to get strong and build hard, visible muscle, then you’re going to want to train in three phases according to Heath. Strength, conditioning, and a blend of the two that works for you. “If you can get to the gym 4-5 days a week, that would be perfect,” he says. “You can still do chest/tri’s, back/bi’s, legs, shoulders, and make the fifth day a cleanup day, meaning focus on body parts you may be weaker in.” Check out Heath’s guide to finding your best muscle-building routine.