Almost every bodybuilder on the planet has tried creatine at some point. Most have seen good, if not incredible, results. So if you’re one of the few who saw poor or no results from it, you may be wondering what’s wrong with you. Probably nothing, if you’re among the small percentage of the population who don’t respond to creatine because you already have high levels of it in your muscles. If you’re like the rest of us but still aren’t seeing any effects from creatine, here are a few things you can do to guarantee results.
Timing: Postworkout, when the muscles are primed to take up nutrients, is the most critical time to take creatine. Ingesting 3-5 grams of creatine after training is the smartest way to get it into your muscles. Also consider taking a 3-5-gram dose with your preworkout protein shake to ensure that your muscles are saturated with creatine during the workout, enabling them to better produce the rapid energy they need when lifting weights. This also makes muscles stronger by pulling more water into their cells, giving them a biomechanical advantage and helping you lift more weight or squeeze out an extra rep or two. A recent study from Victoria University (Melbourne, Australia) reported that subjects who took a supplement containing creatine, glucose and whey protein immediately before and after workouts gained significantly more muscle mass and strength than those who took the same supplement in the morning and before bed. On days you don’t work out, take a dose of creatine with any meal.
Sidekicks: Knowing what to take with your creatine will maximize its uptake into the muscle cells. Creatine requires insulin to get to the muscles, and the best way to boost insulin levels is to consume a 3-5-gram dose of creatine along with 60-100 grams of fast-digesting carbs and a 40-gram whey protein shake after workouts. It’s a smart idea to take supplements that boost insulin secretion and either enhance or mimic insulin’s actions at the muscle cell to improve creatine uptake. These supplements include alpha lipoic acid (ALA), 4-hydroxyisoleucine, gymnema sylvestre and Cinnulin-PF.
ALA is an antioxidant that enhances insulin’s actions at the muscle cell, and a study from the University of Saskatchewan (Canada) found that test subjects who took ALA with creatine and sucrose (table sugar) increased muscle creatine levels significantly more than those who took just creatine and sucrose, or creatine alone. The amino acid 4-hydroxyisoleucine is extracted from the herb fenugreek; it has been proven in numerous studies to increase insulin release by the pancreas. Gymnema sylvestre is an herb native to India that increases insulin release, as well. Cinnulin-PF is a trademarked water-soluble cinnamon extract and, unlike the other three supplements, the active ingredient – hydroxychalcone – mimics the effects of insulin at the muscle cells. Because high insulin levels during your workout decrease the amount of fat you burn, taking this insulin mimicker preworkout will give you similar benefits to insulin without the negative effect on fat-burning.
Before training, consider taking 100-250 mg of Cinnulin-PF along with your creatine. Postworkout, when you want insulin levels to be high, take 300-500 mg of ALA along with your creatine, protein and carbs. If you’re dieting and don’t want the added calories from 60-100 grams of carbs, ingest your creatine with a protein shake and 250-500 mg of gymnema sylvestre or 300-600 mg of 4-hydroxyisoleucine, both of which boost insulin in the absence of carbs.
Form: Most guys do fine with creatine monohydrate – just be sure to use a micronized product, meaning it has been processed down into the smallest particles possible. That’s important because large creatine particles can sit in your intestines and draw water into them, and the result is serious gastrointestinal problems such as cramps and diarrhea. If you find that micronized creatine monohydrate still upsets your stomach or just doesn’t net the results you expected, consider other forms of creatine such as creatine gluconate, creatine alpha-ketoglutarate or creatine ethyl ester.
Creatine gluconate is simply creatine bonded to glucose, which helps creatine to be better absorbed by the intestines and taken up more easily by muscle cells due to its effect on insulin. Creatine alpha-ketoglutarate is creatine bonded to alpha-ketoglutarate (AKG). Since AKG is readily absorbed by the intestines and taken up by muscle cells, you won’t have stomach issues or need to rely on insulin to get creatine into your muscle cells. This holds true for creatine ethyl ester, which is creatine bonded to an alcohol and an acid. This ester group enhances creatine’s ability to pass across cell membranes, such as in the intestine and muscle cells. Try one of these forms of creatine and take a similar dose pre- and postworkout.