If you are anything like me, just hearing the word "creatine" makes you think to yourself: A. What the heck is that? OR B. Yeah, I've heard of it but would NEVER take it because that's only for men! Most women would also add they would never take it because they don't want to get big, bulky, or gain a bunch of extra water weight.
Up until about 6 months ago, I was definitely in that "B" category. Being a female, I would have absolutely ZERO need to incorporate creatine into my daily routine! Boy was I wrong AND if I could go back a year when I really started to focus on building muscle and body recomposition... I would in a heart beat!!! Everything that I originally thought it was used for was almost entirely WRONG! As it turns out, it is probably one of the most underutilized sports supplements available (especially by women). Coincidentally it also happens to be one supplement on the market that now has decades of extensive research to back up its claims. I was honestly under the impression that the only reason anyone would take it was because it helped to grow your muscles (like to get HUGE). While that is partially true to an extent I suppose, it has far more benefits than that alone. Let's take a closer look...
Basically, it's a substance already present in our bodies (and found naturally in many foods such as meat and fish)! It's a blend of amino acids that are transported in our blood by an ATP (active transport system) and used by our muscles. Our skeletal muscles actually store 95% of the creatine in our bodies. Makes total sense why it's a supplement used widely by those who strength train and are looking to to build muscle, huh?
Having more creatine in our muscles allows us to push/pull weights with more force/energy and do more work. More work = more growth (obviously your nutritional needs for your goals need to be met as well.) So my original thoughts were obviously correct, but what I didn't know was that there are many other benefits to this awesome supplement!
Aside from women who are looking to gain lean body mass ( A.K.A "toning"… still hate that word), individuals who perform high intensity interval training (HIIT) could greatly benefit from adding creatine into their supplement regime. Since it allows you to produce more energy, more energy will allow you to push you through your interval sets and improve your overall athletic performance. Same principles go for individuals who run long distances. It could help push you through the fatigue that will eventually set in during those long distance runs.
Another benefit of taking creatine is muscle recovery. This is HUGE for me. I remember for the first year or so of my journey, I was sore nearly EVERY single day. Regardless of how much I stretched or foam rolled, took hot baths, or soaked myself in Epsom, I was guaranteed to have sore muscles. I always found it difficult to figure out what muscle group to train on any particular day because it seemed I was always sore somewhere. Initially, that got me excited (sore = hard work = progress) but after awhile, it simply just got annoying. Fast forward to 6 months ago when I decided to start taking creatine. I have noticed a PROFOUND difference in not only the level of soreness my body has, but also in recovery time. Last year after training legs, I would be sore for 2-4 days (so sore I could barely walk down the stairs). Now my muscles will feel tight and sore, but only for 1-2 days and then I'm good to go. This is huge for me since I train lower body 2-3 times per week!
The last major benefit I see from creatine is helping with muscle retention. I think one of the biggest mistakes I made while in my last dieting phase was not taking creatine. I remember during the course of my 15 week cut, I felt like the muscles I had worked so hard for were simply just deflating before my eyes. During any dieting phase/cut, it's almost inevitable that there will be some muscle loss because your body certainly isn't taking in the amount of calories to build muscle, let alone maintain muscle. Creatine can help to preserve that hard earned muscle! If/when I ever decide to do another dieting phase, creatine will be taken DAILY! I will not make that mistake again!!!
Hands down, creatine monohydrate will be the best option. Not only is it typically less expensive than other forms, it's also the most well-researched & studied. With so many brands and varieties on the market now, I would rather just keep it simple! I personally choose a plain, unflavored one and throw a dose in the last bit of BCAA's I have from my workout.
Most people will aim to take 5 grams per day, but I have seen/felt the benefits sticking to roughly 3 grams per day. Since your muscles can only hold a certain amount anyways, I feel like there isn't a reason to try and over saturate them.
Anytime you want! Some people take it in the morning before training, some people take it intra-workout (during workout), and others (like myself) take it immediately post workout. I don't think it makes a huge difference "when" it's taken, as long as it's taken!
I think this is a huge misconception. Creatine does hydrate your muscles (hydration = water), so you may see some initial fluctuations in weight, but nothing significant in my experience. Personally, I feel like the benefits far outweigh any minor changes on the scale.