For many years, creatine was thought of as the greatest supplement breakthrough of the 20th century, however, in recent years it has been forgotten by many lifters and even maligned, by some, as an ineffective scam.
Has creatine become the victim of the “new is always better” type thinking, or is it still the wonder-supplement it was touted to be all those years ago, but simply forgotten in the minds of many recreational lifters?
Creatine is stored as phospho-creatine in your muscle cells, thereby allowing muscular energy to be ‘recycled’ by donationg a phosphate molecule to regenerate ATP (muscular energy) during bouts of intense anaerobic exercise. The reasearch shows that the right form of creatine, when taken correctly, can enhance your strength and endurance during repetitive anaeribic activities by about 15%.
Doesn’t sound exciting enough? Well, this means that, in essence, if you normally manage to bench press 100 kilograms for 10 reps, when taking creatine you would be able to lift the same 100kgs for 12-13 reps OR that you could potentially lift 110-112kgs for 10 reps.
Since progressive overload is so essential is strengh-related sports, this can equal some phenomenal progress.
The primary srgument against creatine supplementation is that the predominant amount of weight gain when on creatine is simply ‘water-weight’. 75% of users will experience a 0.8%-2.9% increase in body mass within the first few days of initiating creatine use.
Logic tells is that this is true, however, muscle gain should be directly proportional to overall weight gain, in the sense that 73% of muscle is water. Thus, if you gain 5kgs using creatine, at least 1.5 kilograms should be muscular weight.
In addition to this, creatine helps to increase muscle mass by increasing levels of certain anabolic hormones (such as IGF-1), improves cell-signalling of satellite cells and reduces protein breakdown.
Creatine also appears to assist in recovery. A recent study found that lifters who performed curls to failure experienced less muscle pain (when supplementing with creatine) than the control group who did not use creatine. No direct cause was found, but researchers pointed towards creatine’s “multifaceted functions” as an explanation.
Research shows creatine to be effective for anaerobic, short-duration repetitive exercise (such as weight lifting). This means it won’t assist very much for endurance-oriented endeavours.
Despite the plethora of creatine supplements available on the market currently, there is very little evidence to suggest that any of the more expensive forms are dramatically more effective than good old creatine monohydrate. Creatine monohydrate is the most common form of creatine.
That being said, monohydrate does, ideally, need to be loaded. In addition, this can cause gastrointestinal disturbances as well as reduced muscular definition due to water retention. Creatine hydrochloride (Creatine HCl) is a form of creatine where the molecule is bound to a hydrochloric acid moiety. Creatine HCL (hydrochloride) has shown to be as effective as creatine monohydrate in terms of strength, hypertrphy and recovery, whilst eliminating the aforementioned negative effects of the substance.
Creatine HCL has also, anecdotally, been shown to enhance pumps during and after workouts more so than regular monohydrate. Whether this has a direct impact on greater hypertrophy remains to be established.
In conclusion, for anyone participating in any kind of intense, anaerobic activity (including bodybuilders, powerlifters, rugy players, martial artists etc) creatine should be a staple in your supplement arsenal.
Ideally, opt for a high quality creatine supplement such as Titan Labs’ Hydacrete creatine HCL. If you are looking for a more cost-effective option and are not concerned with the potential for water retention and slightly blurred definition, Titan Labs creatine monohydrate is the perfect second option.