With more people looking to improve their performance and/or aesthetics, supplement manufacturers are now coming up with a myriad of products to help athletes and exercisers achieve their goals.
What is creatine?
It is an organic compound that is found naturally occurring in muscle cells. It is formed by three amino acids (arginine, glycine, and methionine) and helps facilitate the production of adenosine triphosphate (or ATP) - the body's prime source of energy.
This compound is found in large amounts in red meat and fish, particularly beef, pork, salmon, and herring.
Our bodies typically have adequate stores of creatine within them. Supplementation allows for more energy production and hypertrophy, since there will inevitably be larger amounts stored in muscle cells.
What are the benefits of taking creatine as a supplement?
There are numerous benefits to supplementing.
Improves athletic performance
The first, most noticeable reward is a boost in athletic performance. This is largely due to higher amounts of phosphocreatine producing higher amounts of ATP, thereby providing more energy to the body. However, it does not necessarily improve cardiovascular endurance.
Boosts muscle growth (hypertrophy)
This is due to the higher amount of the substance being stored in the muscle cells. Moreover, creatine retains water within the body, making muscles appear larger.
Increases muscle strength
Being able to endure more workload results in improved strength levels. One may notice a significant increase in the loads they are normally able to lift.
Enhances repair of muscles after damage
Due to its effectiveness with muscle building, it aids with repairing damaged muscles as well.
Helps retain muscle with age
Our bodies tend to eat away at their muscle mass as we grow older. Although it cannot be stopped completely, supplementing with creatine helps retain some strength and mass even in older ages.
What is the best time to take creatine - before or after a workout?
This has been a long-standing debate in the world of fitness. Although nutrient timing is important, there hasn't been much research with regards to creatine monohydrate. However, each time window provides its own advantages.
Some studies have shown that consumption immediately after a workout results in greater amounts of lean muscle mass over time. This is due to muscle protein synthesis (MPS) that continues to occur long after the workout and consumption of post-workout supplements.
However, other studies also suggest that consuming it 30 to 45 minutes prior to a workout aids in supplying the body with more energy, thanks to the higher levels of ATP being produced. The energy provided is best utilized during the workout.
So these are the effects of supplementing on workout days. What about the rest days? You wouldn't stop eating food just because you aren't working out for a day, would you? Similarly, it can be consumed on your rest days as well, preferably with a meal.
The bottom line
Creatine can be taken either before or after the workout, as long as there's not too long of a gap between consumption and working out - 20 to 30 minutes is recommended. It is advisable to take it before the workout if you intend to expend more energy, and after the workout if you're looking to increase lean muscle mass.
Some experts even advise taking half the dosage before and half after the workout.
Timing won't matter much on your rest days. It is recommended to consume your usual dose with carbs to facilitate its absorption into the body. Do remember to consume lots more water than you would normally do. Else, there's a good chance the creatine will pool up within the kidneys, leading to kidney stones. Ouch!
Poll : How do you time your creatine consumption?
Before working out, always.
After I finish working out.