What is Creatine Monohydrate ? More Energy! More Power! More Gain!

Without a doubt, the most used natural supplement for building muscle mass is creatine monohydrate, extremely popular with professional athletes, bodybuilders, and weight lifters.  It is also the bodybuilding supplement with the most ongoing research.
Even though you can achieve amazing mass gain results by eating a muscle building diet and following an effective workout program, by taking a natural supplement such as creatine monohydrate you can train harderrecover faster and achieve the lean mass gain faster.

What is Creatine Monohydrate?

creatine monohydrate

In the 1800s, a French chemist by the name of Michel-Eugene Chevreul uncovered a naturally occurring compound that was being synthesized in the liver of our bodies from a variety of amino acids and is stored in our muscle tissue.  This compound was then being used by our body for energy.
Chevreul named this substance creatine!
It was later discovered that creatine was not only created in the liver but also our kidney and pancreas by the synthesis of three common amino acids found in protein-rich foods, Arginine, Glycine, and Methionine.
Creatine travels through the bloodstream and is ultimately stored in your liver, kidneys, and pancreas and in numerous muscle tissues throughout your body, including your heart and skeletal muscle. It is also found in the neural tissues of our brains, eyes, and nerves.
Creatine is both naturally occurring in the body and can be synthesized/made from eating dairy foods, nuts, seeds, poultry, beef, fish and some grains.  Some great sources of creatine include red meatsalmonherring, and tuna.
However, creatine is often taken as a muscle-building supplement in powder form as creatine monohydrate.

 So What Does Creatine Monohydrate Do?

How does creatine monohydrate work

Creatine’s primary function in the body is to provide energy to your muscles. Creatine monohydrate supplies your body and muscles with adequate creatine and ultimately boosts your energy levels through facilitating bioenergetics within the body.
When you are performing any type of exercise, your muscles are fueled by a compound called Adenosine Triphosphate or ATP.  As the name suggests, ATP is a molecule containing three phosphate groups…high school chemistry anyone?
Your body releases chemical energy by breaking one of these phosphate bonds and releasing a phosphate group from ATP through a process known as oxidative phosphorylation. When released, this provides you with the energy you need to work out, especially when you are following an intense muscle-building program.
However, the energy from one ATP molecule only lasts a few seconds before it is used up.  This is where creatine comes into play!
Once stored in your muscles, creatine combines with phosphorus to create creatine phosphate (CP). When creatine phosphate releases a phosphate group, this phosphate joins together with Adenosine Diphosphate (ADP) to reform an ATP molecule.
By releasing a phosphate back into ADP your creatine levels are restored allowing your body to produce more ATP, ultimately release more chemical energy.
Amazingly, all of this takes place in your muscles within seconds and is known as bioenergetics.
 Creatine Monohydrate and Your Muscle Fibers 
There are two main types of muscle fibers that humans have.

Type l Muscle Fibers

Type I muscle fibers contain myoglobin and create ATP through a process known as oxidative metabolism. Type I fibers are better suited to endurance sports and are slow to fatigue or tire from exercise, even after long periods. Type I fibers prefer to be fueled by triglycerides or fat.

Type ll Muscle Fibers 

Type II muscle fibers, also known as fast-twitch muscle fibers, are the opposite and favor short bursts of speed and power.
Type IIa muscle fibers are also slow to fatigue like Type I muscle fibers but are better suited to exercises lasting up to 30 minutes. Creatine is needed for Type IIa fibers as they use creatine phosphate and glycogen as a fuel source.
Type IIb muscle fibers tend to tire very quickly during exercise and are suited to exercises lasting less than 1 minute. Type IIb fibers rely heavily on ATP and creatine phosphate for fuel.

The Benefit of Taking Creatine Monohydrate for Muscle Building 

The amount of creatine available in your body and the amount of ATP you can produce directly impacts your energy levels and output during a workout.
By taking a creatine monohydrate supplement to build muscle mass, you are helping your body to not only produce energy but also recover faster after each workout session.
This results in many benefits of creatine monohydrate if you are trying to gain lean muscle and get ripped.

benefits of creatine monohydrate

Benefit #1. Increased Energy 

Having more creatine in your muscles allows your body to restore more of the ATP needed to successfully complete intense workout routines. This translates into an increased likelihood of performing more reps and lifting heavier weights.

Benefit #2. Increased Muscle Size and Weight Gain 

Taking a creatine monohydrate supplement results in the suction of water into your muscle cells through a process known as cell volumization. This increase in water in your muscle cells makes them bigger and firmer. This must not be confused with water retention which occurs outside of the muscles. This also results in an increase in weight which many hard gainers seek.

Benefit #3. Increased Muscle Growth 

To gain muscle mass, your muscles must go through ‘tear and repair’ process. This means that every weight training routine leaves small tears in your muscles that repair themselves after your workout when you are resting and sleeping.  It is during this recovery period that muscle growth occurs. Through the help of creatine monohydrate, enhancing this recovery process allows you to train harder resulting in more ‘new’ muscle growth.

Benefit #4. Improved endurance 

Having more creatine in your muscles provides your body with more energy to get through workouts. The more energy you have, the longer you can workout before fatigue sets in and therefore achieve greater lean mass gains.

Benefit #5. Improved Strength and Power 

By supplementing with creatine monohydrate, having more energy and more muscle growth means you can increase your strength and power much faster than you would with a creatine deficiency.

Benefit #6. Buffering of Lactic Acid 

Lactic acid occurs when energy production slows down to the point where your body has to rely on the breakdown of fat or protein to fuel itself. The more ATP you have available to your muscles, the longer it takes for your body to run out of fuel and ultimately decreases the buildup of lactic acid within your muscle tissue.

Additional Benefits of Taking Creatine Monohydrate 

Creatine monohydrate may be associated with exercise, athletes, and bodybuilders but there are other great benefits to taking creatine monohydrate outside of muscle building and endurance.
The Mayo Clinic has found that consuming creatine can benefit people with other complications such as:
  • Arthritis
  • Congestive Heart Failure
  • Gyrate Atrophy
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Muscular Dystrophy
  • McArdle’s Disease
  • Mitochondrial Diseases
Taking creatine has also shown to improve the cognitive abilities of the elderly.

The Dangers and Side Effects of Taking Creatine Monohydrate 

There have been hundreds of studies done on the possible side effects of creatine monohydrate supplementation and for most individuals, creatine monohydrate has proven to be safe to use daily. But, although generally safe, all nutritional supplements and muscle building supplements have the potential for side effects and creatine monohydrate is no different.

Creatinine and stress on Your Kidneys

Like many substances that are ‘manufactured’, creatine has a by-product that can be found in the body known as creatinine. Creatinine is a chemical waste molecule from muscle metabolism and is filtered by your kidneys and excreted from the body in your urine.
Although it is harmless, creatinine is used as an indicator of kidney function in blood tests. Your kidneys work to maintain a stable creatinine blood level of 0.6 – 1.2 milligrams per deciliter. As kidney function decreases, your body’s ability to filter and excrete creatinine is negatively impacted, resulting in an increase in creatinine levels in the blood.
By supplementing with creatine monohydrate, once creatine saturation occurs in the muscles, excess creatine is converted into creatinine.  As a result, your kidneys must work harder to maintain stable creatinine blood levels by excreting this excess creatinine from the blood.  Many health professionals believe this creatine overload causes unnecessary strain on the kidneys and results in elevated creatinine blood levels.  This shows up in blood tests, indicating kidney malfunction, often falsely.
However, studies have failed to show that creatine supplementation causes any long or short term kidney damage:
  • Jeri D. Ropero-Miller, Helen Paget-Wilkes, Paul L. Doering, and Bruce A. Goldberger
    Effect of Oral Creatine Supplementation on Random Urine Creatinine, pH, and Specific Gravity Measurements
    Clinical Chemistry 2000; v. 46, p.295-297.
  • Burke, Darren G.; Smith-Palmer, Tauris; Holt, Laurence E.; Head, Brian; Chilibeck, Philip D.
    The Effect of 7 Days of Creatine Supplementation on 24-Hour Urinary Creatine Excretion
    Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. 15(1):59-62, February 2001.
If you are undergoing medical tests, it is a good idea to tell your doctor or health professional that you are taking a creatine monohydrate supplement in addition to your conventional medication.

Other Potential Creatine Monohydrate Side-effects 

In addition to the on-going concern with potential kidney damage due to excess creatinine production, some people have experienced muscle spasmscrampsdiarrheagas and bloating while taking creatine monohydrate.  However, these side effects often occur if any muscle mass building supplements are taken in excess.
Pregnant women and anyone taking kidney or liver medication should definitely avoid using a creatine supplement.  Diabetics using insulin should also be careful as creatine can interfere with insulin absorption. Few studies have been done on children under the age of 18 and they too should avoid creatine monohydrate supplementation.
However, if you are a healthy individual and not on any medications, then creatine monohydrate is a safe muscle building supplement that will help you achieve your muscle-building goals when combined with a muscle building diet and an effective muscle-building program.

How to Take Creatine Monohydrate?

Creatine Monohydrate can be taken in many forms, including as a pill, but it is most commonly taken as a creatine monohydrate powder mixed with milk, juice or water and sometimes combined with other muscle building supplements, such as dextrose and beta-alanine.
The most optimum creatine monohydrate dosage for muscle gain is around 3 to 5 grams per day (although larger people may wish to double the dose) and is best taken over an extended period.
When you first begin taking creatine monohydrate, there are two methods you can follow: Gradual and Loading.

Gradual Creatine Monohydrate Supplementation 

Some people like to gradually add supplements to their muscle building diet and if that’s you, simply take 3 grams of creatine monohydrate a day. You can gradually build this up to 5 – 7 grams a day if you wish.
This is a good option if you are new to bodybuilding supplements and are looking to increase your muscle mass and strength over an extended period.

Creatine Monohydrate Loading 

On the flip side, many people have been training for a long time and are seeking that extra muscle-building edge.  If you are experienced and want to gain the most benefits from creatine then creatine monohydrate loading is perfect for that.
Creatine loading involves taking 20 grams or 0.3g per kg of bodyweight of creatine monohydrate for the first 7 days and this is often referred to as the creatine loading phase.  You then decrease your intake to 5 – 7 grams or 0.03g per kg of body weight a day for as long as you want.  This is often referred to as the maintenance phase.
The benefit of loading on creatine monohydrate is that you will saturate your muscles with creatine and create rapid weight gain and increased muscle strength over 7 days.

When is the Best Time to Take  Creatine Monohydrate? 

A creatine monohydrate supplement can be taken at any time, however, to really optimize your creatine supplementation it is best to take creatine directly after working out by adding it to your post-workout shake.
There are many reasons for this but the most important reason is that post-workout your intramuscular glycogen levels are depleted and your muscles are in recovery mode ready to absorb the nutrients you feed them.
By adding creatine monohydrate to your post-workout shake, your muscles absorb the creatine best, along with the necessary protein, carbs and essential amino acids found in the shake.
If you are taking a creatine supplement twice a day, you can take a small amount e.g. 1-2g pre-workout or just before going to bed and the remaining dose e.g. 6-5g post-workout to ensure you have sufficient muscle saturation for your workout sessions.

Taking Creatine Monohydrate with Dextrose and Beta-Alanine for Maximum Results 

Also, you can aid the absorption of your creatine supplement by mixing creatine monohydrate with approx. 16 – 70 grams of dextrose and 2g–6g of beta-alanine. This creates an insulin spike leading to an increase in creatine absorption by up to 60% and an increase in protein synthesis.

Creatine Monohydrate cycling 

Some athletes and fitness trainers swear by cycling creatine monohydrate and others who believe it isn’t necessary. Because creatine is a naturally occurring substance in the body and creatine monohydrate being a harmless supplement, it really is not necessary to cycle your supplementation.
If you are worried about reaching a creatine plateau and supplementation losing its effectiveness or you are simply worried about the possibility of kidney damage due to overload, try a creatine cycling schedule of every 6-8 weeks.
This means that you would take a creatine monohydrate supplement every day for 6-8 weeks, and then stop for 6-8 weeks, before taking it again. Like many aspects of muscle building supplementation, cycling off creatine is a personal choice and it is up to you to decide if it is beneficial and necessary based on your specific muscle gain goals and health concerns.

Common Creatine Monohydrate Myths and Our Opinion 

When it comes to getting ripped, bodybuilding, weight lifting, and exercise in general, many myths are surrounding what you should and shouldn’t do.
Here are some of the creatine monohydrate myths that you will hear when working out in the gym or while discussing your workout program with your buddies.

Myth #1. You must cycle your supplements 

 For some supplements to build muscle it is important to take a break every now and then but creatine monohydrate is safe to take long term without any serious side effects. Creatine cycling is therefore not necessary.

Myth #2. Creatine monohydrate loading is dangerous 

Loading creatine is a technique that has been used by many professional bodybuilders for many years and is even a component of many structured workout programs. excess creatine is filtered from your bloodstream and passed through your urine.  When done correctly and in the right doses, creatine loading is very safe.

Myth #3. Take Creatine monohydrate at any time 

As with many other supplements, creatine can be taken at any time but creatine is more effective when taken after a workout. This helps the muscles absorb the creatine better and aids in muscle repair.  Excess creatine that is not used is stored in your muscles for your next workout.

Myth #4. Don't Mix them 

Creatine monohydrate is safe to mix with other protein supplements, along with caffeine and carbohydrates. Putting creatine into your post-workout shake lets you refuel, repair muscle and takes care of your supplementation needs all in one quick drink.

Myth #5 Women shouldn't take it 

There’s no evidence to suggest that creatine monohydrate supplementation is only for men. The only time a woman shouldn’t supplement with creatine is when she’s pregnant (and that goes for many other muscle building supplements too!).

Myth #6. Creatine is only for people in their 20's and 30's 

Taking a creatine monohydrate supplement has benefits for people of all ages, from twenty years old's looking to gain muscle to eighty years old's suffering from neuromuscular diseases.  The only age concern is for those under the age of 18 as few studies have been done to show whether or not creatine harms young children in their crucial developmental stages.

Myth #7. Creatine Monohydrate should only be taken for a short period

Unlike some supplements, creatine is naturally formed in the body and also found in the foods we consume daily. Creatine monohydrate is a more concentrated form and no studies have proven it unsafe to use over a long period.
As with all nutritional supplements, it’s important to decide what works for you based on your goals and needs.
Being able to get through an intense workout and fully recover quickly from each intense workout routine you perform is very important. Relying on creatine from your diet and body alone may not be enough to fuel your muscles during intense workouts.
Taking a muscle supplement such as creatine monohydrate therefore can be beneficial.  However, it is not a miracle worker and should never replace a great muscle building diet, an effective workout program, and hard work! 

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