Creatine is one of the most popular ergogenic aids on the market because of its putative muscle building properties. And while there are those who don’t think it works, there is enough, legitimate scientific data to indicate that creatine supplementation is warranted for people who engage in weight training.
I’m not a big fan of any kind of supplement and aside from taking fish oil capsules – that’s a story for another time – I don’t use any kind of supplements. One of the reasons I don’t use supplements is that there isn’t a whole heck of a lot of legit science out there to justify using the vast majority of these products.
However, creatine monohydrate is a supplement that has been the subject of many studies and the data indicates that creatine monohydrate can increase muscular strength and muscle growth. Now there have also been studies that have shown it is not an effective supplement, but these studies have been outnumbered by the studies that show creatine works. As a result of these studies there is a belief – for some unknown reason – that creatine just doesn’t work for some people.
One of the reasons that I have given creatine a “buy” recommendation is that for a time I used creatine and experienced firsthand the advertised benefits from taking this supplement. As a result of following the prescribed loading and maintenance program I added muscle and got stronger. I gained about 6-8 pounds during the initial loading phase.
During the time that I was following the creatine regimen I was even more diligent than usual with regard to my diet and weightlifting program, and I was also able to get at least 8 hours of sleep every night. Those in the anti-creatine camp point to this kind of attention to detail and say, “It’s not the creatine that was responsible for your gains, it’s the program.” And I think that to some extent this school of thought is correct.
However, since I have always been very disciplined when it comes to following my program I feel that the gains that I experienced during the first 3 months of this regimen were due to the creatine.
Anecdotally speaking, I found creatine to be quite effective and can recommend its use under certain conditions. If you are going to use creatine supplements, you must be careful to remember to take both the regular loading doses and the daily maintenance doses as well. You have to follow your workout and nutritional routine to the letter and you must get sufficient rest.
You must make sure you are doing everything correctly in order to give the creatine the chance to do its stuff. And you’ll know if creatine supplementation is working as some studies I have seen point to a 6-8 pound weight gain that comes during the loading phase as a sign that the creatine is working.
By now some of you might be wondering why I haven’t stayed on my regimen of creatine supplements. I had a couple of reasons. First of all, to get the most out of creatine you have to remember to take it every day. For whatever reason, I’m very forgetful when it comes to taking anything regularly – medicines, supplements, vitamins – so I found myself going several days without taking my daily maintenance dose. Secondly, I didn’t want to carry around the extra 10-12 pounds that I gained during my regimen – I didn’t like weighing 218 – even though with these pounds came some serious strength gains.
I was in my late 30s at the time and had been there, lifted that, so I guess I could say the results really didn’t matter to me. Does creatine work? It did for me. How could I give people an opinion if I hadn’t tried it myself?
UPDATE: Since late 2008 I have been following a creatine regimen. By fine-tuning my training and loading/maintenance schedule I feel the benefits from supplementation without the weight gain I experienced in the past. If anything, I’m leaner than ever at a body weight of 205-pounds.