Should You Use Creatine Or Not?


 Creatine in Bodybuilding: Maximizing Muscle Gain and Definition

Creatine, a well-known supplement in the fitness world, often raises questions, particularly during the cutting phase of bodybuilding. A common concern is its potential to hold water in the body, which could seemingly counteract efforts to appear more shredded for competition. However, evidence suggests that creatine is beneficial during the growth season and during the peak week of competition preparation.

Understanding Creatine's Role

Creatine, or methylguanidine-acetic acid, is a powerful ergogenic dietary supplement that enhances resistance training adaptations. It increases skeletal muscle creatine content (free creatine and phosphocreatine), enhancing the capacity to resynthesize adenosine triphosphate, which is crucial for rapid high-intensity exercise performance. Beyond this, creatine positively influences muscle growth factors, cellular hydration, calcium and protein kinetics, and glycogen content, and even reduces inflammation and oxidative stress, all contributing to muscle accretion over time.

Long-term studies indicate that creatine supplementation, combined with resistance training, augments gains in muscular strength, power output, and anaerobic performance.

Creatine and Body Hydration

Creatine increases total body water but primarily within muscle cells (intracellular hydration), not outside (extracellular hydration). This distinction is critical, especially for bodybuilders aiming to achieve a shredded look. For instance, a study by Ziegenfuss et al. (1998) revealed a three-day creatine loading phase could boost intracellular fluid volume by 3% without affecting extracellular fluid.

Further research supports creatine's role in glycogen synthesis and supercompensation, which is crucial during carbohydrate loading in the peak week. When combined with carbs, creatine not only enhances its own uptake but also promotes increased cellular hydration.

How to Take Creatine and Recommendations

Creatine supplementation is a crucial aspect of fitness and bodybuilding, with numerous studies showing significant increases in muscle mass and strength following specific dosing strategies. There are generally two approaches to creatine supplementation: loading and maintenance.

  1. Loading Phase:

    • The traditional loading phase involves taking about 20 g of creatine daily, typically divided into four 5 g doses, for approximately one week. This method rapidly increases muscle creatine stores.
  2. Maintenance Phase:

    • Following the loading phase, a maintenance dose of 2–3 g of creatine per day is often recommended to sustain the elevated creatine levels.

However, research suggests that the loading phase might not be essential for everyone. A study found that muscle creatine saturation was similar after 28 days of consuming 3 g of creatine monohydrate daily, compared to following a traditional loading phase.

Daily Consumption and Forms of Creatine:

  • Most individuals do not achieve a daily intake of 3 g of creatine through diet alone, making supplementation necessary.
  • Creatine monohydrate is the most extensively studied and recommended form due to its effectiveness and cost-efficiency. Other forms like kre-alkalyn and creatine ethyl-ester have not demonstrated superiority despite often being more expensive.
  • A recommended dose is 3 g of creatine monohydrate daily. Over approximately 28 days, this dosage leads to maximum saturation of creatine phosphate stores in the muscles. It's important to note that creatine does not have an acute effect; rather, its benefits are observed over time.

Alternative Dosing Strategy:

  • Another common method is to start with a refueling cycle of 5 days, taking 20 g of creatine, divided into four doses throughout the day, followed by a maintenance dose of 3-5 g per day. This strategy helps to build up creatine stores quickly, within about a week.
  • Athletes with a larger body mass may benefit from slightly higher doses due to their greater muscle mass. For example, a 100 kg individual should take 5-10 g creatine per portion.

While there are various strategies for creatine supplementation, the most effective and cost-efficient approach remains the daily intake of 3 g of creatine monohydrate. This dosage ensures gradual and sustained muscle creatine saturation, enhancing performance and muscle development over time. The choice between a loading phase or a simple daily intake should be based on individual preferences and goals.

Strategic Use of Creatine in Fitness and Bodybuilding

Given creatine's role in muscle water content and energy storage, continuing its use during the peak week may be beneficial. Muscle creatine levels diminish slowly after reaching their peak, suggesting that substantial intake post-glycogen loading phase may not be essential, though small amounts could expedite carbohydrate delivery to muscle on competition day.

For those concerned about creatine's bloating effect, which is generally unlikely, ceasing creatine intake 1-2 weeks before peak week is an option. However, its role in directing water intracellularly makes its use during peak week advantageous for enhancing muscle size.

In summary, creatine is a potent supplement in bodybuilding, aiding muscle building and achieving a well-defined physique for competition. Its ability to increase 'good weight' - intracellular hydration - makes it a valuable tool for athletes, particularly in the critical phases of their training. As Burke et al. 2023 concluded, when combined with resistance training, creatine supplementation promotes noticeable muscle hypertrophy, underscoring its significance in the bodybuilding regimen.

Conclusion: The Integral Role of Creatine in Fitness and Bodybuilding

In conclusion, creatine stands out as a cornerstone supplement in the realms of fitness and bodybuilding. Its multifaceted role in enhancing muscle strength, size, and overall performance is backed by a wealth of scientific evidence. Importantly, creatine's ability to increase intracellular hydration is pivotal in aiding muscle growth and achieving a lean, well-defined physique – a primary goal in competitive bodybuilding.

The strategic use of creatine, particularly during peak weeks, aligns with its benefits in optimizing muscle appearance and performance. While concerns about water retention are common, the evidence indicates that creatine primarily increases intracellular water, thereby contributing positively to muscle aesthetics and function without the undesired extracellular water retention.

Creatine's versatility in dosage – from traditional loading phases to simpler, consistent daily intake – offers flexibility for individuals to choose a supplementation strategy that best fits their goals and lifestyle. The universally recommended form, creatine monohydrate, remains the gold standard due to its proven efficacy and cost-effectiveness.

Ultimately, whether aspiring bodybuilders, seasoned athletes, or fitness enthusiasts, incorporating creatine into a training regimen can be a game-changer. It supports physical goals and aligns with the pursuit of peak performance and aesthetic excellence, fundamental to the ethos of bodybuilding and fitness.

Thus, creatine is not just a supplement but a crucial ally in the journey toward achieving and surpassing fitness goals, embodying the blend of science and athleticism that characterizes modern bodybuilding. As we continue to explore and embrace evidence-based approaches in fitness, creatine's role remains firmly established, underscoring its enduring relevance and efficacy.


Burke, Ryan, Alec Piñero, Max Coleman, Adam Mohan, Max Sapuppo, Francesca Augustin, Alan A. Aragon et al. "The Effects of Creatine Supplementation Combined with Resistance Training on Regional Measures of Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis." Nutrients 15, no. 9 (2023): 2116.

Iraki, Juma, Peter Fitschen, Sergio Espinar, and Eric Helms. "Nutrition recommendations for bodybuilders in the off-season: A narrative review." Sports 7, no. 7 (2019): 154.

Kreider, R. B., Kalman, D. S., Antonio, J., Ziegenfuss, T. N., Wildman, R., Collins, R., ... & Lopez, H. L. (2017). International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 14(1), 18.

Ziegenfuss, T. N., Lowery, L. M., & Lemon, P. W. (1998). Acute fluid volume changes in men during three days of creatine supplementation. J Exerc Physiol, 1(3), 1-9.