Should I Take Creatine and If So, When?
Let’s get one thing out on the table, we sell creatine and therefore we want you to buy creatine… OUR creatine to be exact, which is paired with HMB and has a host of impressive clinical data to prove its superiority. Click here to learn more about our CreatineHMB.
BUT for the remainder of the article, we are going to remain objective and focus on answering two commonly asked questions - 1) "What is Creatine"? and 2) Should I Take Creatine?" Our conclusions will be structured and supported by data gathered from clinical studies.
TL;DR. If you are looking to gain muscle mass, take creatine. Creatine also shows other various health benefits, although to lesser degree than muscle building.
What Exactly Is Creatine?
Creatine is a natural molecule found in all of our bodies, which works as an energy reserve complimentary to ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the primary energy molecule of life.
During exercise creatine is naturally utilized by the body, and it didn’t take long before research discovered it to be an effective performance enhancing compound.
This research grew and grew, making creatine in fact, one of the most researched ingredients in sports nutrition. Of the different types of creatine, creatine monohydrate has been backed by the most research, and demonstrated the most promise.
Interestingly: Creatine has been found to elicit a host of benefits surpassing its reputation of being a muscle-building one trick pony.
Should You Take Creatine
Rather than telling you what to do, we’ll present some of the data and let you make up your own mind.
No scratch that – yes, yes you should take creatine. And here’s why…
#1 Power Output
Power output is without a doubt the primary topic of interest with creatine supplementation, and this can be easily seen through the piles and piles of research on the topic.
Two of our favorite studies on creatines effects on power output are these two meta-analysis’:
- A 2003 meta-analysis on creatine supplementation determined creatine supplementation to elicit greater strength and lean body composition growth .
- An earlier 2002 meta-analysis focused primarily on strength, and observed creatine to produce an average of 21.52 pounds (9.76 kg) improvement (over 8 weeks) in total squat one max rep weight compared to placebo subjects .
Note: A meta-analysis is a study comparing the data of multiple preceding studies.
While the postdated nature of these studies may create speculation, creatine has been deeply researched for quite some time. Bottom line, they are still valid and have not been disproved.
#2 Lean Mass Increase
Creatine has been shown to not only increase users overall mass, but fat-free (lean mass) as well.
- After 28 days of creatine supplementation, one study showed fat-free mass gains of 3.97 pounds (1.8 kg) or 5.07 pounds (2.9 kg more than the placebo .
- Another study conducted over 12 weeks showed an impressive increase of fat-free mass of 3.31 pounds (1.5 kg) after 1 week and 9.48 pounds (4.3 kg) after the full 12 weeks . Most noticeable fitness improvements came in strength as measured by the bench press and squat 1 rep max.
#3 Reduced Fatigue
Supplementing with creatine has been shown to improve fatigue resistance in a number of clinical scenarios.
- One study measured fatigue by body heat markers (similar with body hydration tests below) showing creatine preventing fatigue .
- Another study involving weight lifters doing 3 rep max over 5 sets, showed improved resistance to fatigue at a statistically significant level .
Important Note: creatine supplementation appears to reduce fatigue in bodybuilding based strength exercises. However, its fatigue fighting effects are less predominant in endurance exercises like running, as noted in the power output studies.
#4 Total Body Hydration
Creatine increasing total body water weight is supported by both research and anecdotal user data like. While anti-athletes commonly attribute this to a ‘glamour effect’, there are real benefits to cellular hydration.
- Multiple studies show no negative correlation with increased total water body weight and athletic performance .
- Creatine supplementation appears to positively impact athletic performance in hot humid environments .
Note: Increasing total body water levels does not mean an increase in fat although it does increase weight. The effects are temporary, so when you stop taking creatine, your total water weight returns to normal.
Performance aside, we’re extremely interested in the ergogenic responses to muscle repair and subsequent building brought on by both the energy of creatine as well as the hydration effect.
#5 Improved Cognition and Alertness
Creatine has shown promising results for improving cognition in a number of ways. One of the most studied scenarios is in individuals who are sleep deprived, with creatine supplementation showing improvements in overall cognition and offering some long term neurological protection.
- One study analyzing the effects of creatine supplementation on cognition in vegetarians (people who obtain less creatine than the average meat eater through their diet) showed a statistically significant increase in both memory and reaction times .
- Another study shows that creatine supplementation on aging adults improves cognition .
#6 Reduced DNA Damage
DNA damage is directly related to aging and the condition of our mortality. Your cells incur damage from exercise and creatine has been shown in numerous studies to dramatically limit this damage .
- There is also evidence showing creatine providing near full protection from specific types of free-radicals (hydroxyl radicals and oxidation) . This seems to work by preventing depletion of ATP stores within cells, and is effective as long as the stores hold out.
Note: this particular beneficial example of creatine is still open to interpretation through future research. Present contradictions include exercise’s positive effects of longevity, with or without creatine.
What Time Should I Be Taking Creatine HMB?
"When should I take creatine?" - this is one of the most commonly asked questions we get at Transparent Labs. The answer is pretty simple. It doesn't matter as long as it is taken at a consistent time everyday. The key is to keep your creatine store levels consistently high.
One caveat here is to avoid taking creatine WITH caffeine. There is evidence showing that caffeine hinders creatines uptake and it is recommended on the Creapure™ website to not mix the two.
That being said, taking caffeine a couple hours before or after creatine supplementation provides very positive results. Most people prefer taking creatine after a workout (after caffeine) and there is soft evidence to support this . This is why we do not include creatine in our caffeinated PreSeries Pre-Workouts. Best to save it for after - perhaps in combination with a post workout drink.
Is a Loading Phase Necessary?
It is more common than not to load 20-25 grams of creatine (spread out over 5 servings) for the first 5 days of creatine use. The idea is to build up that base within your body (remember - we want to maintain creatine levels in your blood as mentioned above). It is then common to maintain creatine levels with 3-5 grams daily.
However, there have been more recent studies that have shown NO benefit to those who load vs those who do not, if 5 grams of creatine are taken daily for a minimum of 30 days.
We feel the evidence is strong enough to not worry about a loading phase if creatine is going to be consistently consumed, however, loading doesn't hurt.
Hard gainers: We also include creatine (3g) in our clean mass gainer. Combining creatine HMB with our mass gainer is a great way to supplement a large-dose for two-a-days and aggressive mass building protocols.
Is Creatine Really Better With HMB?
This article is focused on creatine and not HMB (beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate), which has an impressive amount of data behind it showing improvements in lean mass , strength , and endurance .
HMB is one of the most impressive sports dietary supplements, and was hugely popular in the early 2000s. It fell out of popularity because of patent infringements by many of the top supplement brands - with them ultimately deciding not to pay for the ingredient. The licensed version of HMB (which we use) costs 800% more than unlicensed and is one of the most expensive ingredients in all of the Transparent Labs product lineup.
We too feel the pressure to skip it, however, the ingredient is too good to pass up.
HMB is even more impressive when combined with creatine. The two complement each other, balancing out weaknesses each alone may have. Together, the two ingredients showed improved gains on lean body mass and strength (as measured by lower body compound movements) .
Get our CreatineHMB product here, available in both flavored and unflavored – both enhanced with patented BioPerine for optimal uptake.