When to take it, how to take it and more! 
Without doubt, Creatine is one of the most popular and well-researched supplements on the market. Almost everyone involved in fitness has heard of Creatine at some point in time, whether through personal use or just hearing others in the gym talking about it.  
However, there tends to be a great deal of confusion surrounding Creatine, –“When do I take it?”, “How should I take it?”, “Is a loading phase necessary?”  
But the main question is invariably – “Will I see any benefits, or is it just a waste of money?”  
Today’s article aims to give you the lowdown in this popular fitness supplement. 
Overview & how it works 
 
So what does Creatine actually do?  
 
Essentially Creatine is sold as a supplement that will give cells more short term energy to work with, allowing these cells to function better and, ultimately, leading to more effective workouts, lifting heavier, and quicker recovery. 
 
How exactly does this white tasteless powder do that? 
Well let’s get into a little science, but just for a second. Creatine is involved in a system known as the Creatine phosphate system, where Creatine and Creatine phosphate interchangeably donate or accept a phosphate group. This phosphate group can readily help replenish other molecules that lose theirs and need a replacement. The most notable and relevant example is replenishing ATP (adenosine triphosphate) from ADP (adenosine diphosphate). ATP is the main ‘energy currency’ of a cell. Creatine lets you replenish ATP directly, without needing to go through a lengthy process of breaking down other molecules. 
 
Creatine supplementation merely increases the pool of Creatine in a cell, and allows for a greater total phosphate donation to occur, resulting in more ATP replenishment. 
Loading Creatine 
 
Many supplement companies will tell you that you should load Creatine.  
Loading Creatine is where you take 15-20g each day for the first 5-7 days, essentially ‘saturating’ the cell, before dropping down to a moderate “maintenance dosage” of 2-5g a day. Although loading Creatine will potentially give a quicker initial uptake of Creatine by the cells, the latest research suggests that, long-term, you get no significant benefits by ‘loading’ the Creatine. Many people also find that the loading stage causes an upset stomach and loose stools, which, let’s face it, for minimal gain might not be worth the inconvenience. 
 
My advice, save yourself a little money, and potential time on the toilet, and skip the loading, starting with 2-5g daily will do you absolutely fine. 
 
 
When to take Creatine 
 
Taking Creatine with carbohydrates has been shown to actually increase the retention and uptake of Creatine within the muscles. There remains some debate as to why this occurs, but there is a strong thought that is has something to do with an interaction with the insulin which is released at the time of carbohydrate consumption. 
In my eBook, ‘The six missing pieces to your fat loss puzzle’, I go into depth about the actions of insulin and how it helps shuttle nutrients into cells. Also in my eBook, I touch on the ‘back-door’ way things get into the cell through ‘glut-4’. 
I would also suggest that you avoid taking creatine with caffeine, because in the absence of carbohydrates, caffeine can actually hinder the uptake of Creatine levels within the cell. Again, this may have something to do with GLUT4 (since caffeine can prevent GLUT4 activation). Anything that increases GLUT4 activation (carbs and resistance training) will improve the results of creatine supplementation, and anything that doesn’t (caffeine and endurance training) will negate the effects. 
 
So, long answer to a short question, I suggest taking Creatine post-training with either your post-workout shake (if it has carbs in it) or with your post-workout carb meal. Creatine, as mentioned earlier, gets stored in the cell, so don’t worry about it not being effective by taking it post-workout.  
By the time you train again it will still be sat in your muscle cells and ready to roll.  
By taking creatine post-training you are essentially ‘front-loading it’ so that it’s their ready for the next session. 
 
 
Cycling Creatine? 
 
Creatine doesn’t act upon any receptors within the body. This is important because anything that does has the potential to down regulate, or desensitise, the receptors if over used. This is how insulin resistance (and eventually diabetes) works – by insulin receptors being down regulated by constant carbohydrate consumption. Since Creatine doesn’t act on any receptors it doesn’t need to be cycled, products are usually cycled to stop your body becoming used to them but that doesn’t apply to Creatine . 
I have personally noticed Creatine work with me, and over the course of my prep I will be keeping it in. People who say creatine doesn’t work for them may not be giving it enough time to take effect, or they may be expecting steroid like effects. Creatine won’t make you freakishly strong overnight, it’s one of those products that will give you a slight advantage that over time will benefit your physique changing. 
 
But again, nutrition and a training program set up to your goals must come before looking at supplements for help! 
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