Aktualisiert: 12. Mai 2020
More strenght, more muscles, better recovery, better cognitive skills, better sleep, ...Is it too good to be true?
Creatine is probably one of the most popular dietary supplements, since there is no supplement that has a greater density of scientifically based studies than creatine. There are well over 300 valid studies on this topic, making creatine one of the most researched and safest supplements on the market. Around the topic of creatine, countless myths are accumulated, which will be examined more closely in the following and it will be crystallized whether it makes more sense to supplement creatine every day or to cycle it.
What is creatine actually?
Creatine comes from the Greek word "kreas", which means "meat" in English. It is an endogenous substance that is produced in the liver, pancreas and kidneys. It is synthesized from the amino acids glycine, arginine and methionine and is used in the anaerobic energy supply to obtain ATP (adenosine TRI-phosphate = 3 phosphate groups). This happens because ATP is our fastest energy supplier and during intensive training it is already used up after up to 3 - 5 seconds and is converted to ADP (Adenosine-DI-phosphate = 2 phosphate groups). The creatine ingested through food is synthesized by the enzyme creatinase to creatine phosphate, which has the function to resynthesize ADP. By releasing a phosphate residue, ADP is synthesized to ATP and we have renewed access to this energy source. Our body's own synthesis produces about 1g of creatine per day, but we need at least 2 grams of creatine per day to achieve a balanced creatine balance. Through our food we take up creatine mostly only through meat, fish and in small amounts through other animal products. In vegetable foods, the substance is only present in very small amounts or not at all. Excess amounts are excreted in the bowel movement (1).
In addition, humans have the possibility to store up to 5g of creatine in their cells. About 90% of creatine is found in the skeletal muscles, but also in the heart muscles and brain. This energy supplier is also indispensable for our muscle, but also brain and nerve function. Our visual and auditory processes as well as our reproductive instinct also access creatine in a certain way. But in very small quantities it is found in practically every cell of our body. High concentrations are found above all in the "white" type 2 muscle fibres (FT muscle fibres = "fast twitch"), which are responsible for fast, explosive and powerful movement sequences, e.g. sprints or weight lifting. They consume more energy, including ATP and work in the anaerobic (without oxygen) range of energy supply. In this way they differ fundamentally from the "red" type-1 muscle fibres (ST = slow twitch), which work with the aerobic (with oxygen) energy supply. These fibres twitch more slowly and tend to work more with slower movements in a high repetition range, e.g. cycling or jogging (2). In addition to the release of ATP, studies have also shown that creatine can reduce cell damage during exercise, which could lead to increased endurance and faster recovery (3).
Why should you take creatine?
As described above, there is hardly a supplement in the world that has a more complete study record, which thus provides an indicator of the safety of information and valid, reliable research.
In one study (2018) a test group of 30 strength athletes was given creatine in powder form for 4 weeks. The creatine group consumed a mixture of 5 grams of creatine monohydrate and dextrose (sugar) 4 times a day for 6 days, giving the test group 20 grams of creatine supplementation per day. Over the remaining 22 days of the study, 2 grams of creatine per day were taken as dietary supplements. The placebo group received the same amounts of cellulose mixture, which could have virtually no positive effect on the test subjects, in the same dose over the same period of time. Both test groups were on the same training level, were randomly selected and completed the same training over 4 weeks. Result: After 4 weeks, the creatine group showed a significant increase in 1RM (1 Rep Max), a better bounce, a higher sprint speed and a fat-free muscle gain with a simultaneous loss of fat mass. It was also found that the athletes who took creatine suffered less cell damage during training. The placebo group also showed progress in most categories tested, but this was significantly less than in the creatine group (3). A meta-analysis (2017) compared 53 studies on this topic, in which over 1000 subjects were tested (4). In particular, it was compared how the subjects' performance behaved under intensive loads for less than 3 minutes. The result: Again, the comparison of 53 studies showed an increase in strength due to creatine supplementation!
Further studies could prove that creatine supplementation has a positive effect on regeneration and sleep (5).
Who should take creatine?
From a scientific point of view it makes sense to supplement creatine in any case.
Basically, creatine is something for everyone who wants to improve in a sport, to go to their performance limits and beyond. From a sports point of view, it makes more sense to supplement creatine if you want to train your strength, speed, explosive strength, maximum strength or speed, as creatine releases ATP, which is especially useful for FT-muscle fibres and for short sequences of loading.
Are you a top athlete who wants to improve your "personal record" above all and go beyond your performance limits? Then we definitely advise you to supplement creatine.
Nevertheless, even as an endurance or recreational athlete you can boost your performance by supplementing creatine, because as already described, the brain, nerve, visual and hearing functions of creatine can benefit significantly! Due to the positive effect on regeneration and the minimization of cell damage during training, creatine supplementation is also justified for endurance athletes in the range of dietary supplements.
Also for bodybuilders, who have the goal to build up fat-free mass and at the same time reduce fat, studies show that it makes sense to consume creatine on a daily basis.
Basically, the dietary supplement of this substance has a positive effect for almost every person who does sports. A few exceptions are so-called "non-responders", which have shown very little or no effect on creatine intake (6). Why there are certain people who show no reaction has not yet been clarified. One explanation could be that endurance athletes have more ST muscle fibres, which could explain why, for example, a marathon runner does not show a clear reaction to supplementation. Bodybuilders usually have a mixture of ST and FT muscle fibres and individually react strongly or weakly to creatine supplementation.
Especially vegetarians or vegans have no source of creatine to access, which means that supplementation is the only way to consume creatine for this group of people.
Creatine does not seem to have any negative aspects for older people either, but can counteract muscle atrophy in old age, of course with continued regular training, and help maintain muscle mass.
What is the best way to consume creatine?
As already described, creatine is found in animal foods, but mainly in fish and meat. Creatine is virtually non-existent in plant foods, which means that people who avoid fish and meat in particular do not have the opportunity to increase their creatine balance in the body. In the following table, foods are listed as examples with their creatine content in grams per kilogram (1):
Creatine level of various foods (raw state)
It can be seen that even with the consumption of herring, at a peak of 10g per kg of fish meat, a daily amount of 500g would have to be consumed to arrive at a creatine intake of 5g. For beef, one would have to consume approximately 1.1 kilograms per day to reach the recommended value of 5g, for example. This does not include the fact that creatine is not heat-resistant and could be partially or completely destroyed during frying.
As a supplement, creatine is available as creatine monohydrate ("Creatine Monohydrate") and all other creatine supplements on the market are a variation of creatine monohydrate, whereby the substance is combined with other substances and is available in powder or capsule form. Myprotein's "Creatine Monohydrate" contains 100% creatine monohydrate, making it very easy to reach the daily recommended dose of up to 3-6 grams. Especially for people who want to reduce their fish and meat consumption, for vegetarians or vegans who want to benefit from the positive effects of creatine, it definitely makes sense to consume it as a dietary supplement. Especially as creatine monohydrate is one of the cheapest supplements on the market and also offers a financial advantage over animal sources of creatine through supplementation in powder or capsule form. There is no difference in the mode of action whether creatine is taken in powder form as creatine monohydrate or in capsule form.
Correct Dosis and Timing
Experts recommend sticking to the guideline of 3-6 grams a day (depending on the literature), as the body can store up to 5 grams in its creatine stores. During digestion, creatine can be destroyed by stomach acid, so it is advisable to consume a little more than too little. Of course, this varies from person to person, but supplementation up to 5 grams daily is a good guideline for most ambitious athletes and sportsmen. "Non-responders" or professional bodybuilders can easily supplement up to 10g creatine monohydrate per day to achieve the desired effect. Another possibility is to consume about 20g per day during the loading phase or 0.3g multiplied by your own body weight. After one week you supplement daily about 3-6 grams or 0.03g multiplied by your body weight (9). Timing does not play a major role in the intake. You can mix and drink your creatine monohydrate with water, juice or a protein shake either before or after training.
Does it make sense to do a loading phase or a cycle creatine?
A creatine regimen would mean consuming creatine monohydrate in a higher dose on a daily basis over a certain period of time, e.g. for 2-3 months, and then discontinuing the regimen after the regimen. A so-called loading phase describes a period of time in which one consumes about 20 grams of creatine monohydrate spread over the day to fill the creatine stores. In studies, the test subjects / athletes consumed 5 grams of creatine monohydrate four times a day to reach the "loading value" of 20 grams per day (7).
Since creatine has a consistently positive effect on certain areas of life, but has a particularly positive effect on athletic performance, it actually makes no sense to consume the supplement in a high dose only over a certain period of time and then discontinue it. It could only make sense if it is important to you as an athlete to boost your performance for a certain sporting event and you only want to go over your performance limit for that event. If it is not important to you to continue to perform after the event, for example because you take a break, it could make sense to use creatine only as a cure. However, since creatine has many other benefits (visual, hearing, nerve, brain functions), it does not necessarily make sense to stop taking the supplement completely.
A loading phase makes sense to fill all creatine stores in a short time, e.g. in 5-7 days, if you have not previously supplemented your diet with creatine. After the loading phase, you should limit yourself to about 5 grams per day again, as any excess is excreted anyway. If you are not in a hurry, e.g. due to a certain sporting event, you can simply take 5 grams of creatine monohydrate every day and you should be on the safe side. It also makes no sense to stop taking creatine monohydrate, as you would forego the benefits you have received. Long-term studies in which creatine monohydrate was consistently taken for over 21 months show that there were no negative side effects as a result (8).
What should you pay attention to when taking creatine and what negative side effects can occur as a result?
There are many claims that certain side effects are associated with taking creatine:
Water retention under the skin and thus loss of definition
deterioration of the skin (acne)
Flatulence and diarrhoea
Creatine supplementation restricts the body to make its own creatine
Creatine damages the kidneys
Creatine is stored exclusively in the muscle cells (90% in the skeletal muscles) and binds water. For this reason, you should make sure that you drink significantly more water than usual, as the muscles can only be sufficiently filled if the body has enough water available. There is no scientific evidence that creatine stores water under the skin.
A weight gain is only logical because creatine binds the water and stores it in the muscle cell. However, you do not need to worry about gaining fat mass. On the contrary, studies have proven that creatine supplementation is associated with an increase in lean mass and a decrease in fat mass (3)!
Deterioration in skin texture or acne has been reported by individuals in isolated cases, but there are no scientifically based studies that can prove that there is a correlation between acne and creatine supplementation. The same applies to hair loss.
During a loading phase, individuals report flatulence due to the significant excess of creatine. Therefore, one could not necessarily recommend a cure or loading phase if it is not absolutely necessary. Furthermore, an overdose of creatine could lead to diarrhoea. This is also not scientifically proven, but in all cases it is recommended to drink enough water to bind the creatine in the muscle cell.
Even the last myth that supplementing creatine with food causes the body to stop producing its own creatine remains a myth. This is because even this could not be confirmed in studies and there is no correlation between the body's own creatine production and external intake.
Take Home Message
On the whole, creatine is an excellent supplement, which shines with numerous performance-enhancing benefits. Not only does it have a positive effect on your strength levels, but it can also help you build lean muscle mass, lose fat mass, speed up your recovery and improve your mental and cognitive abilities. For both recreational and professional athletes, creatine brings several benefits. Since it is largely only found in fish and meat, it could give vegetarians and vegans in particular a real performance boost, which does not mean that "carnivores" should expect less positive effects. Make sure to drink enough water to cover the extra demand and to hydrate your muscle cells. This is especially true if you decide to take a cure or a loading phase. Otherwise, you can stick to the guideline of about 5 grams a day to be on the safe side, if not everything should be absorbed by your body.
Meine Creatin-Empfehlung (vegan)
Mein derzeitiges veganes Proteinpulver
Hans-Konrad Biesalski (Hrsg.): Ernährungsmedizin: nach dem Curriculum Ernährungsmedizin der Bundesärztekammer. Georg Thieme Verlag, 2004; S. 236.
Stefan Silbernagl, Agamemnon Despopoulos: Taschenatlas Physiologie. 8. Auflage. Thieme Verlag, 2012 S.62
Chia Chi-Wang et al. (2018): Effects of 4-Week Creatine Supplementation Combined with Complex Training on Muscle Damage and Sport Performance: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6265971/
Lanhers C et al. (2017): Creatine Supplementation and Upper Limb Strength Performance: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27328852
Dworak M et al. (2017): Creatine supplementation reduces sleep need and homeostatic sleep pressure in rats: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28397310
Syrotuik DG et al. (2004): Acute creatine monohydrate supplementation:
a descriptive physiological profile of responders vs. nonresponders: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15320650
Kreider RB et al. (2003): Effects of creatine supplementation on performance and training adaptations: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12701815
Kreider RB et al. (2003): Long-term creatine supplementation does not significantly affect clinical markers of health in athletes :https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12701816
More literature used:
Melenkamp M (2019): Kreatin in Lebensmitteln: Der ultimative Guide:https://www.bodystacks.de/lebensmittel-creatin/
Kreider RB et al. (2003): Effects of creatine supplementation on performance and training adaptations: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12701815
Kreider RB et al. (2003): Long-term creatine supplementation does not significantly affect clinical markers of health in athletes: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12701816
Patel, Kamal (2020): Summary of Creatine https://examine.com/supplements/creatine/?fbclid=IwAR07Nvgw_JCtxpZaJeXjuPGltUfsJjDLHKNkJ10BA-NcAn9M-_A7GNzQdsY
Dominic (2019): Creatin Kur für optimalen Muskelaufbau: https://www.muskelmacher-shop.de/magazin/training/creatin-kur-fuer-optimalen-muskelaufbau-muskelmacher-shop/
Kreider RB et al. (2017): International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28615996
Gualano B et al. (2011): Creatine supplementation does not impair kidney function in type 2 diabetic patients: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, clinical trial:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20976468