Creatine is a naturally occurring amino acid that is popularly supplemented by bodybuilders and strength-training athletes. It enhances strength and improves high-intensity exercise performance. It’s used by beginners as well as advanced athletes looking to build muscle and repair damaged tissues following intensive training programs.
However, many athletes do not know if creatine is working for them. If you are new to using creatine or considering adding it to your daily routine, then you need to know if it is working or not. I’m going to provide you with everything you need to know to tell if creatine is working for you.
How to Know if Creatine Is Working
The quickest way to know if creatine has started working is when your training volume in the gym increases. After five to seven days of taking your first dose (if following a loading phase), your muscles will be saturated with creatine, which will lead to an increase in workout volume you can perform before reaching muscle failure. For instance, you will find that you can lift more weight for more reps than you could before creatine supplementation.
Initial weight gain is another way to tell if creatine has started working. You will notice a fairly sudden increase in weight because creatine will draw and retain more water in your muscle cells. This leads to muscle growth and an increase in overall body weight.
Early increases in body weight following adding creatine to your daily supplement stack will be due to water retention. In time, creatine will help you add lean muscle mass, but do not expect that early on.
Therefore, if you are looking to increase your intensity in the gym and add more weight, then creatine is the right choice. Now, let’s dive in deeper into what you can expect when supplementing creatine.
Creatine Before and After: Understanding Its Benefits
Increased lean muscle mass is the goal of most athletes supplementing creatine, so it’s important to understand how it works so you can better understand the benefits.
Muscles convert creatine into phosphate, which later forms adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATPs are the energy-carrying molecules obtained from the breakdown of food particles and released to fuel muscle processes like explosive exercises.
However, before enjoying the full benefits of creatine, your muscle cells must undergo a complete saturation phase which requires a certain amount of time. Here are the two ways of taking creatine supplements to attain full muscle cell saturation:
- Creatine loading phase: This initial stage involves taking more creatine (around 20 grams per day) for five to seven days. This phase is the fastest way to enjoy the benefits of creatine supplementation. Its benefits include enhancing strength and increased muscle mass.
- Non-loading phase: This phase involves taking a baseline of creatine (3-5 grams) each day for up to three weeks to reach full saturation. It is one of the safest methods and more effective for some users.
Creatine Before and After: Effects
The good news is that creatine supplementation effectively provides muscle energy during workouts or other high-intensity physical activities. However, it sometimes has drawbacks, like how it affects sleep which may affect some users, especially when trying it out for the first time. Here are some of the lesser knows effects your should understand before adding creatine to your daily supplement stack:
Initial Weight Gain
The first few days of taking creatine supplements users may increase weight (some gain up to five pounds). This should not be a thing to worry about because it is normal, and there are various techniques you can apply to curb further weight gain if that is not your goal.
There is a sudden weight gain because when creatine enters your muscle cells, it tends to draw and retain water into the cells. This water retention makes your muscles feel fuller most of the time, leading to an increase in weight.
Therefore, choosing the loading phase is vital. If you choose the creatine loading phase, you will notice a sudden weight gain (the first seven days of consuming creatine). On the other hand, if you decide to go the non-loading phase way, your weight will increase steadily over a period of three weeks until the muscles are fully saturated.
Most strength athletes will take creatine because of it’s promise of increased weight. So this will be viewed as a benefit for most new to taking creatine.
Creatine supplements are proteinous, meaning they can cause stomach discomfort if not paired with a proper diet. This problem occurs throughout the saturation phase, and it is vital to understand how to reduce it. So, how can one reduce the stomach problems created by creatine supplementation?
- Refrain from taking creatine on an empty stomach or with caffeine. Taking creatine on an empty stomach may lead to gastrointestinal distress, such as bloating and nausea. On the other hand, taking it with caffeine reduces its effectiveness.
- Ensure the creatine is completely dissolved. Sometimes stomach problems result from creatine not dissolving correctly in the body. To curb this issue, dissolve your creatine supplement in hot water to help the body absorb it thoroughly and quickly.
- Avoid taking large amounts of creatine in one dose. Taking large amounts of creatine at once may irritate your stomach, leading to nausea, abdominal pain, and vomiting. If you are using the loading phase, you should split your creatine into smaller doses throughout the day. Another best way to ensure optimal creatine dose is to use a non-loading phase.
- Change the type of creatine you are using. Consider using a different kind of creatine if the one you have is creating more problems in your stomach. Opt for stomach-friendly creatine, such as creatine hydrochloride, or creatine monohydrate.
- Drink lots of water. This is another way of curbing stomach problems when taking creatine supplements. Water helps dissolve creatine quickly, making it easy to be absorbed by the body.
Increased Creatinine Levels in Blood and Urine
Creatinine is a byproduct of creatine. It results from normal wear and tear of the muscles in the body. Doctors use it to check if the kidneys are functioning correctly. A higher amount of creatinine may indicate that your kidney is not working properly.
Taking creatine may result in an increased level of creatinine, which may cause concern among some users. You should not panic if you notice creatinine elements in your blood or urine tests, as those with a healthy kidney function do not tend to see adverse kidney effects from creatine supplementation. This is because most creatine supplements pose minimal risk to healthy individuals. As always, you should always consult your doctor when starting or stopping creatine supplementation.
Ways to Tell if Creatine Has Started Working
The main reason why people take creatine supplements is to enhance strength and improve exercise performance. Therefore, the best indication that creatine is working is if you are seeing increases in weight or reps lifted in the gym.
Less Tired in the Gym
The body’s muscles have a mechanism of converting phosphate into adenosine triphosphate(ATP). The ATP carries energy from the breakdown of food molecules to the muscles, providing more energy.
When the muscle cells have more energy, you will likely feel less tired when working out or training. For instance, you may notice that you are completing more sets and reps than before without feeling fatigued.
Getting Bigger Muscles
This is one of the easiest ways to know if creatine has started working. Within one week of constantly taking creatine(required dosage), you will realize that your muscles are getting bigger as time passes.
Remember that creatine is a hypertonic solution that will draw water into the muscle cells. This will eventually increase the muscles’ volume, making them fuller and more prominent. However, you may fail to notice an increase in muscles for some time as these changes vary from person to person.
Increases in Strength
This is another easy way of telling if creatine has started working. The increased amount of ATP in the muscles helps to strengthen the cells(in the muscles), making you spend more time in the gym than you used to. You will also be able to lift more weight than before or even more.
Besides lifting more weight, you can also perform more reps and steps than before. So, what are the benefits of lifting more weight, reps, and sets when using creatine as a supplement? Simple, you become stronger faster.
Creatine makes your muscles saturated and, in turn, draws and retains water in the cells. This water retention in the muscles makes your body less dehydrated than before you started using creatine.
One benefit of staying hydrated when taking creatine supplements is that water helps dissolve them (creatine supplements) quickly. This, in turn, helps to curb stomach problems and makes it easy for the muscles to absorb creatine.
Thirstier Throughout the Day
If you feel thirstier throughout the day than before, just know that creatine has started working. Remember that creatine holds more water in the muscles, and the one you drink is quickly drawn into the muscles. This triggers the brain to make you thirsty, hence drinking more water.
That said, you must ensure you remain hydrated regardless of whether or not you are using creatine. This way, you will stay healthy and more muscular.
More Water Weight
Starting to see a theme here? More weight comes from creatine holding more water in the cells of your muscles. The water saturation in the muscles makes them look fuller. This is a great benefit, in particular for bodybuilders looking for maximum muscle size and that 3D look.
Less Muscle Soreness
The core function of creatine is to provide muscles with more energy. It also helps reduce muscle damage and inflammation. So, when the muscles are less damaged and contain more energy, you can do more activity and feel less sore.
Your Overall Volume Increases
If you can lift more weight or do more reps and steps for a longer time than before, just know that creatine is working perfectly. It means you have more energy to lift heavier things. This, in turn, increases your overall volume.
Improved Brain Function
Besides providing energy to the muscles, creatine can help improve brain function. It leads to improved memory and reduces mental fatigue. Creatine works on your brain precisely as it works on your muscles.
Some Tips for Fast Creatine Results
Are you new to creatine supplements and wondering how to consume them and achieve the best result? Here are the best tips to help you out:
- Do Your Research: This is the first thing you want to do so that you have one that has minimal side effects. You can conduct online research, ask people who have used them for longer or talk to your doctor.
- Use the Right Kind: Always use a creatine the experts are recommending. You can try creatine monohydrate as it is a widely researched form of creatine.
- Take it at optimal times: Always read the instructions to follow the recommended dosage.
- Exploit the loading phase: The loading phase helps saturate your muscles within seven days before switching a maintenance dosage.
- Stay consistent: It is advisable to stay consistent with your creatine supplement to achieve the best result. Take your creatine dosage at the right time and maintain a consistent workout.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Does Creatine Take To Increase Strength?
It takes about seven days for creatine to saturate the muscle cells and start to increase muscle strength (if you are using the creatine-loading phase method). On the other hand, it may take three weeks if you are using a non-loading phase. Keep in mind that strength increases are not based solely on creatine (or any other supplement) and you must follow an effective training program to see progress.
How Long Does Creatine Take To Improve Mental Performance?
It takes two weeks for creatine supplements to improve mental performance among older people. Creatine helps improve memory and recall ability. It also protects against neurological diseases and boosts brain function.
What Factors Affect How Long Creatine Takes to Work?
Various factors affect how long creatine takes to work, such as the dose you take, the type of exercise, and the duration of use. For example, an optimal dose of three to five grams daily may increase your strength within four weeks.
There are various ways to know if creatine works for you, such as increased strength, muscle increase, decreased dehydration, and improved brain function. Others include less muscle soreness, more water weight, and less fatigue in the gym. Remember to stay hydrated and maintain a healthy diet.