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I want to clear up any confusion about supplementing with creatine. This is the DEFINITIVE guide to maximally effective creatine supplementation.
In the past I have experimented with (and encouraged readers to experiment with) 2 different approaches. The 2 methods were as follows:
(1) The common method of loading for 5 days @20g creatine per day. Then 5g per day thereafter.
(2) 20g creatine per day for 3 days. Followed by no creatine supplementation for 3 days. Then 20g creatine for 3 days, and so on and so on. 3 days on, 3 days off.
If you’re wondering about this 3-day mini cycling of creatine (option 2), it came from Paul Cribb of ast-ss.com and you can read about it here. Many of you experimented with this newer method, as did I, and found that it was no more effective that the traditional dosing pattern. For convenience then, it would only make sense to use the traditional approach.
Do you need to “load” with creatine? This is oftentimes hotly debated, but the short answer is yes. Yes, that is, if you want to reach maximum levels of creatine saturation inside the muscle as quickly as possible. Remember, what we want to do is…
Maximize the uptake of creatine by muscle cells to create and maintain the maximum muscle creatine concentrations possible
You would still get there without loading; perhaps after a few weeks. But better results come by reaching saturation as quickly as possible. How to load? Easy…
- For the first 5 days, take 20g creatine per day (split into 4 x 5g servings)
- After that, even on non-training days, take 5g per day. More on taking creatine on non-training days here.
You could maybe afford to take a 3g-4g serving on non training days, since you don’t require as much muscle creatine without training.
Should you cycle creatine? Yes, I think it is best practice to cycle creatine. I stated above, we want to “maintain the maximum muscle creatine concentrations possible”.
However, it may not be possible to maintain high muscle creatine concentrations over a longer period of time (6 to 12 weeks) .
Also, long-term creatine supplementation may cause creatine saturation outside the cell, which prevents effective muscle uptake for weeks or maybe even months .
So in order to avoid this, we cycle on and off. How to do it effectively? It’s easy. I’ll discuss this within the context of a 10-week training cycle – followed by a week lay-off as we do in THT.
(1) Week 1 – 8 – Maintain creatine levels with 5g per day taken AFTER your workout in your post-workout protein shake
(2) Weeks 9 + 10 – During your last 2 weeks of training, come off creatine altogether (2 weeks off in total)
(3) Week Off Training – Load creatine at 20g per day for 5 days (split in to 4 x 5g servings)
(4) Week 1 New Cycle – Repeat step 1 above. Your muscles are now saturated with creatine and you’re ready to train. Maintain at 5g creatine taken post-workout in your shake.
Why load on that week off and not during week 1? Firstly, loading on your week off means your muscles will reach maximum creatine saturation levels just in time for your first week back to training!
Also, creatine has been shown to preserve muscle mass when not working out. Most people will not lose muscle when taking a 7-day lay-off (some people come back stronger). But just to be on the safe side, loading with creatine at this time will aid in preserving your hard-won gains.
The Best Type of Creatine
So now you know the dosage and cycling pattern. What about the TYPE of creatine.
Forget the hype and marketing. Studies have shown that creatine monohydrate is FAR superior to Kre-alkalyn  and creatine ethyl ester . Basically, we want a form of creatine that does not convert to creatinine in stomach acid. Both kre-alkalyn and creatine ethyl ester convert to creatinine to a much higher degree than creatine monohydrate.
For more on studies about the most effective creatine, read this, ‘Creatine Facts: What Is The Best Creatine’. If you’re in Europe, you can get a fantastic (and cheap) Creatine here. In America, you can get a high-quality, cheap Creatine here. More awesome creatine stuff at MuscleHack:
- For info on its safety and effectiveness read The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition’s position statement on creatine – it’s all good.
- For an in-depth look at what creatine actually is and how it works inside the body, read What is Creatine and How does it Work?
Now you know how to take creatine. You know the doses, the cycles, and the best type of creatine to take. You shouldn’t have any further confusion on the matter 🙂 But if you do, just ask below.
Train With Intensity! Mark McManus
 The effects of Creatine Long-Term Supplementation on Muscle Morphology and Swimming Performance in Rats. J Sports Sci Med. 2009 Dec 1;8(4):516-22. Yildiz A, Ozdemir E, Gulturk S, Erdal S.
 Creatine supplementation in health and disease. Effects of chronic creatine ingestion in vivo: Down-regulation of the expression of creatine transporter isoforms in skeletal muscle. Guerrero-Ontiveros ML, Wallimann T. Mol Cell Biochem. 1998 Jul;184(1-2):427-37.
 Kre-alkalyn® supplementation has no beneficial effect on creatine-to-creatinine conversion rates. Tallon MJ and Child R
 Creatine ethyl ester rapidly degrades to creatinine in stomach acid. Child R, Tallon M: Abstract presented at 4th annual conference of the ISSN 2007.
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- I also recommend to US readers this Optimum Nutrition whey (and here's a low-carb whey)
- And this quality, inexpensive creatine ~ Mark McManus
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Great reinforcement on the foundation of creatine cycling, Mark! Both methods (traditional and 3-on-3-off) are great for your situation. If you have a long weekend trip or have any reason that taking creatine might not be convenient, the 20g at 3-on-3-off is fantastic. Otherwise, it’s nice to have your usual 5g a day.
Excellent article Mark and a great refresher! This bares repeating because we are bombarded with what’s supposed to be “better” with all the marketing geared at us with lies and moneymaking tactics. It’s the few like you that give a shit to inform what’s what. I tip my hat to you bro. Excellent as always my man. Keep it up.
@Zipper. Many thanks, pal 😀
i have lastose problem(means i can’t digest direct milk intake)
i take samll dose 2-3 day a week
Question – can i take creatine with water or juice or with corn flakes
@Rob. Thanks. Yes it’s good to have the option to switch it up when life gets in the road.
I’ve been working out for years trying different methods to pack on the muscle… The only time I actually gained muscle, got stronger, and just looked and felt better, was doing the THT routine. By far the best muscle building regiments. Thanks for all the help man!
Thanks for this article Mark… I think 2 process is better….. Which 1 you recommend?
@Nick. I am compiling a page of reasons why people should use THT training. Can I use your comment in it?
@amit. Does that mean you can’t have whey? I just have my creatine with my whey.
@Abhishek. Method 1, just out of convenience.
ALL THE COMMENTS THAT I HAVE READ, NON GIVE ANY INFORMATION ON PROTEIN WHEN ONE IS A TYPE 2 DIABETIC. IS THERE ANY INFORMATION OUT THERE?
Hi , why take creatine after workout and not before
Cheers Mark, good article.
Is it ok to take caffeine while on creatine? I take caffeine pre-workout, but the creatine mono I’m on says to avoid taking caffeine and creatine together on the packet.
Thanks in advance.
Thanks for sharing your knowledge. What about hydro creatine? Is it worth taking?
@Ronald. Whey protein will stimulate an insulin response. You’d be better off getting your protein from solid food. It still stimulates an increase in insulin, but to a much lesser degree.
@Duncan. Creatine is not a pre-workout supplement. After a workout, when you’ve used up some of your creatine phosphate stores in the muscle, your body is primed for the intake of creatine. So this is the best time to take it. With creatine all you want to do is reach saturation levels and keep it there. It is not a type of “fuel” to be taken like a pre-workout supplement; it doesn’t work like that. Take it with your whey after training.
@Sean. That’s another hotly debated subject. The research I’ve read would suggest that regular caffeine intake (daily) can negatively impact creatine levels inside muscles (meaning you get weaker). But if it’s a one-off, it’s fine and can actually be beneficial.
What s your thoughts on taking Creatine HCl like (Creacore) verses monohydrate? when I take monohydrate I always feel bloated from holding water weight. Can you obtain the same results.
I m very confused between pre-workout and creatine….if I m using pre-workout then is it beneficial to use creatine. ???
Very interesting read.
Unfortunately for me, i seem to have a sensitivity or allergy to creatine. Whenever i try to take it, I get large itchy bumps all over my body.
have you ever come across this? any ideas how to overcome this? i have a very large bag of unused creatine mono… lol
Any help or insight would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks for the creatine tips… It’s really made a difference in my strength gains!
Any tips for creatine non-responders? Years ago creatine seemed to work. But no longer. I do eat a lot of red meat so that leads me to think I have enough in my system that supplementing doesn’t make a difference. Thoughts?
@Rex. I haven’t read any proper research on creatine HCL, to be honest. But since we know mono works, why risk it with anything else?
You should read my post on bloating here https://musclehack.com/will-taking-creatine-leave-you-bloated/
@pankaj. Yes, unless there is creatine in the pre-workout. But you should make your own pre-workout and take creatine after training. Here is my homemade pre-workout formula https://musclehack.com/cheapest-no-xplode-ever-how-to-make-your-own/
@Gasen. That’s new to me, buddy. You sure it’s the creatine. Buy a creatine on it’s own, not mixed with other ingredients. And try creapure.
@Matt. Just make sure you cycle it as indicated in the article, and take no more than 5g. Not cycling and taking too much will cause you to not respond after a while.
I your opinion, is Creapure about the best and most effective brand?
I’ve tried many types and the texture varies greatly.
Just started my new Creapure jug and it is much more soluble and easier to drink.
I’d live to stick with this one if it’s really the top of the heap as far as creatine goes.