All You Need to Know Before Buying Creatine Supplements
With the tons of creatine supplements flooding the marketplace and the varying instructions from different manufacturers on how to use their products, creatine supplementation can get very confusing.
Having used a couple of creatine supplements personally, it is rather weird just how many of these supplements there are with no one to tell us which one is best.
The variety in the type, production and form these products take can be very intimidating.
But, there’s no need to get overwhelmed. Here are a few basic things I wish I had known before using creatine supplements.
Creatine supplements are basically synthetic aids used to improve energy output and performance in athletics, body building, weight lifting and a variety of sports.
There are several variations of the basic ingredient which is creatine monohydrate present in these products.
Knowing what exactly is in your supplements is quite important as some supplements may contain more than the active ingredients.
Some may contain creatine along with BCAAs and other supplements such as nitric oxide as an energy blend.
TIP: Learn to read and interpret labels correctly. They can save you a lot of money and stress.
Criteria to Consider When Buying Creatine Supplements
Thanks to the rather misleading advertisement practices of several fitness brands, it is very important to your health and finances that you consider these factors before choosing a brand of creatine supplements.
- Types of Creatine
There are several types of creatine supplements available for public consumption.
Most of these supplements are derivatives of creatine monohydrate and have different advantages and disadvantages.
Check out which one is in your favored supplement brand before you make your next purchase. Several companies make claims about these types of creatine that are misleading.
The types of creatine include Creatine Monohydrate, Creatine Ethyl Ester, Creatine Hcl, Creatine Citrate, Micronized Creatine, Creapure®, Creatine tartrate, Magnesium creatine, Creatine glutamine taurine, Creatine HMB, Effervescent creatine, Creatine titrate, Liquid creatine,Creatine gum, Time released creatine, Creatine Malate, Creatine Gluconate, Creatine Alpha Keto Glutarate, Creatine Serum.
Of all these types of creatine, creatine monohydrate is the form of creatine that has been used in the majority of studies that show the benefits of creatine over a long period of time. It is the gold standard of creatine use and is proven to work.
Creatine citrate is creatine bound to citric acid. It is more soluble but no more effective than creatine monohydrate.
Creatine ethyl ester was previously sold as a more effective form of creatine.
However, research has proven that creatine ethyl ester is less effective and is actually converted back into a waste product known as creatinine pretty quickly.
Liquid creatine is any type of creatine that is suspended in a liquid.
Micronized creatine is a more soluble finer powder than regular creatine. There is no difference in effectiveness though.
Creatine nitrate is basically creatine bound to a nitrate group. This increases its solubility and the nitrate has ergogenic properties. However, it has not been proven to be any more effective than creatine monohydrate.
Creatine magnesium chelate is a form of creatine bound to magnesium. It has been proven by one study to reduce creatine induced muscle water retention but is otherwise the same as creatine monohydrate in effectiveness.
Buffered creatine has a higher pH level than creatine monohydrate but is not any more effective.
Creatine hydrochloride, malate and pyruvate are other fancy forms of creatine that have also not been proven to be more effective than creatine monohydrate.
Creatine monohydrate is basically still the gold standard of creatine supplementataion.
Form In which Creatine is Sold (Pills, Powder, Capsules, Bars or Blends)
Different people have different preferences when it comes to choosing the form they’d rather take their supplements in.
For people who are on very strict diets for weight loss or other medical reasons, creatine pills, capsules and zero calorie powders may be ideal and will not compromise their diets.
In fact, it will help increase their energy and strength.
If you are on any medication always ask your doctor about possible drug interactions before you start using a supplement.
Blends and some powders may not be zero calorie but may be more suitable for use than other options as they can deliver several supplements at once.
Some blends can contain protein supplements, vitamins, minerals, caffeine, arginine and several other ingredients.
Price per dose
Another criterion to consider when choosing a creatine supplement is the price per dose. Basically we are considering how much value you get for your money.
For this purpose, you can calculate by dividing the price of the supplement by the number of doses/scoops/blends it contains.
In this way, you are able to determine the price per dose. This can help you see more clearly whether or not the brand you are choosing is really worth the price.
Always keep in mind that though some brands may look cheap, they are actually more expensive. Calculating the price per dose can save you a lot of unnecessary expense.
Another factor you have to consider when you are choosing a brand of supplement is its solubility. Several powder supplement brands may not dissolve very well and can make drinking them an unpleasant experience.
In addition to this, clumping in the powder or particles of powder remaining in your mouth after you take the supplement can be unpleasant.
If in doubt, go to Amazon and read recent customer reviews about the product. By doing these, you will have a reasonable expectation of what the product will be like.
In the same vein, you can buy smaller sizes of creatine supplements as trial packs. If you love the product, then you can go ahead and buy a bigger pack after you finish that one.
As was explained earlier, not all types of creatine supplements are created equal.
As a rule, I don’t recommend buying any of the fancier versions of creatine except for the purpose of solubility. The more soluble types are usually easier to drink than the pure monohydrate form.
One other factor you must take into consideration when buying this supplement is the effect you intend to accomplish with this product.
If you can, write down the goals you aim to achieve by using creatine. This way you can determine whether you need only creatine or a combination product.
Your purchases should always be dependent on your intended result(s).
Consider the brand and its integrity
Brand integrity is something you should always check on when buying supplements. Unfortunately, supplements are not as tightly regulated as pharmaceuticals.
It’s in your best interest to only buy from trusted brands and to do your due diligence by checking customer reviews before you do.
How to Use Creatine Supplements
There are several ways to use creatine supplements. Some people recommend loading, others state that it is okay just to stick to a normal dose of the supplement from the beginning of using the supplement.
Some physical trainers and nutritionists recommend that you should start creatine usage with a loading dose. This is simply to help you see results faster. If you choose to go the normal route, you will still get results, it will just take longer.
A rapid loading dose of creatine starts from about 20g/day. This should not be maintained for longer than six days though. In this period, athletes have been shown to gain as much as a 20% increase in muscle mass.
After six days, you can continue to use creatine at about 2 to 3 grams per day to maintain the muscle mass gained in the six days.
A slow loading dose is done at 3g/day for 28 days and then the user continues on a maintenance dose of about 2g/day.
Another way to use creatine is by cycling through periods of six weeks of supplementing at 5g/day and then switching to a period off the supplements for three weeks.
Cycling creatine can help with the water retention that is a part of creatine use.
Creatine Maintenance Dose:
For most individuals a maintenance dose between 3 and 5g/day is sufficient to maintain muscle mass after loading. The dose is dependent on the person’s size and lean body mass and the amount of creatine in their diets.
For example, vegetarians will need more creatine supplements than others.
Taking with Carbohydrates:
It has been proven that creatine is absorbed into the body faster when it is taken with simple sugars.
Sugar stimulates the release of insulin; one of the hormones responsible for the uptake of carbohydrates.
The presence of insulin and the uptake it mediates will cause an increase in the volume of creatine deposited into your tissues during supplementation.
A great option is to mix your creatine powder with juice. If you’re using pills, powders or blends, you can take them with juice.
When to use the supplements
Creatine supplements are best used as pre workout or work out supplements. This is so that your body can benefit from the burst of energy they give you and work out for longer.
Alternatively, you can share your daily recommendation of creatine into morning and evening doses if you work out more than once a day.
It is important you drink a lot of water when using creatine. Drinking at least three-quarters of a gallon a day is recommended.
Note that using creatine causes water to be retained in your muscles and can cause weight gain of a few pounds in the first weeks of use.
However, the extra energy that creatine provides you will help you burn these off in no time. Gains after the second week are usually pure muscle mass.
Where to Buy Creatine Supplements
There are several brands of creatine supplements at health and fitness stores nationwide. If you are in doubt, try to read some customer opinions before buying a product and keep in mind all the criteria you should be considering.
Alternatively, you can shop online if the brand you want is not available in store. Just make sure you purchase from a trustworthy merchant.
In conclusion, buying creatine is not rocket science. Just keep all of these criteria in mind and choose wisely.
Now that you have gotten the best value for your money, onward to amazing muscle gains!