You’d be hard pressed to find a dietary supplement that has safely helped more people pack on muscle and increase performance than creatine. In fact, when it first broke onto the market, the first company offering creatine to the masses ran some rather infamous ads comparing its power to banned and illegal anabolic substances!

The ads were only partly true – creatine does offer the strength and muscle gains of some of the less potent versions of these things, but it does so in a way that doesn’t wreck your hormonal levels or otherwise endanger your health. Creatine is both legal and safe.

What is creatine?

Creatine is an amino acid (amino acids are the building blocks of protein) which is made in the body by the liver and kidneys and is derived from the diet through meat and animal products. Creatine (creatine monohydrate) is a colorless, crystalline substance used in muscle tissue for the production of phosphocreatine, an important factor in the formation of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the source of energy for muscle contractions and many other functions in the body.

What does creatine normally do in the body?

In the body, creatine is changed into a molecule called “phosphocreatine” which serves as a storage reservoir for quick energy. Phosphocreatine is especially important in tissues such as the voluntary muscles and the nervous system which periodically require large amounts of energy.

Why do athletes take creatine?

Studies have shown that creatine can increase the performance of athletes in activities that require quick bursts of energy, such as sprinting, and can help athletes to recover faster after expending bursts of energy. It helps increase muscle mass, more so than muscle endurance, so it’s not well suited for athletes participating in long, slow, endurance activities. However, the increase in muscle mass may be due to water retention and not an increase in muscle tissue.

I want to start taking creatine — is it safe?

For the most part, athletes haven’t experienced adverse side-effects from taking creatine. No consistent toxicity has been reported in studies of creatine supplementation.

There are a few inside tips you should definitely be aware of when you decide to take creatine. These will absolutely maximize your results with the supplement.

To Load or Not to Load?

There’s some debate among fitness experts, diet gurus and top trainers on whether it’s necessary to creatine load – meaning should you take a higher dose of creatine for a short period of time to quickly raise your creatine levels before going down to a maintenance dose.

My thoughts? In the early days of creatine use it became the thing to do when using the supplement. But as technological advancements have been made in the area of creatine absorption it is not necessary to preload anymore.

Is this written in stone? No. It’s possible you may respond just as well with loading creatine. Try out both methods and compare your results, to see what’s best for you. I have a feeling you will join me in becoming a believer in non-creatine loading though – nearly everyone I’ve ever trained has seen equal results following this protocol! But then again, I do cycle creatine regularly throughout the year.

Stay Hydrated.

It is VERY important to stay hydrated when you are using creatine. Think a gallon of water for a full grown male a day. If you neglect staying hydrated you may well end up experiencing muscle cramps or other issues. Avoid them by drinking enough water.

Cycle On and Off Creatine.

It’s a good idea to cycle off creatine every six or eight weeks and staying off for three or four weeks. Creatine is safe and side effect free for the vast majority of people, but it is also something that you probably want to take a break from just to give your body a rest from time to time. This is a rule for really every supplement you’re taking apart from protein powder.

On the Various Creatines.

Let’s be clear: all the most reputable studies in the lab and out on creatine have featured creatine monohydrate.

Creatine monohydrate is also the least expensive form of creatine on the market, but also it has proven in some cases to leave the body bloated and cause some users stomach cramps. The new forms like creatine ethyl ester have been engineered to not cause these effects, so are definitely worth a look.

If you are looking to get stronger and put on muscle, use creatine following these tips and You WILL get bigger and stronger fast! Nothing else will give you as much bang for the buck.

The creatine supplement I use is a high quality micronized creatine monohydrate from 1stPhorm, where I can tell/feel the difference as opposed to taking cheap lower grade creatine monohydrate from other companies.

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