Supplements Part 1: Creatine and Caffeine

I normally do not take supplements because I build my health/fitness regiment around whole foods and exercise.  However, last semester, I did a group research project about Creatine.  I kept hearing about it and my PhD professor was telling us about recommending it to the college athletes she counsels.  It really piqued my interest.  So, we did so much research on it to discover it.

Firstly, although creatine is naturally found in meat (and in our bodies), we can’t ingest very much from our food.  We found in several studies that patients who supplemented with doses of creatine in conjunction with regular exercise saw increased muscle growth as compared to those who did not supplement with it.  This was true for many participants, in the gym and even in the medical setting (like patients with muscle atrophy).  In all the studies, there had been no negative long term effects in supplementing with creatine (which is a great plus).  How it works is that it helps with BURSTS of energy (like in weight-lifting, shot-putting, etc).  It does NOT work for endurance performance.  Note that it doesn’t magically build muscle: it allows for short bursts of energy so that you can exert yourself more during workouts.  This extra umph during exercise and resistance training helps with increased muscle growth.  You can’t just take this, not work out, and expect your muscles to grow.

I decided to try it myself.  My really good friend, Adrian, gave him his stash of creatine monohydrate, and I started taking daily doses of 5 grams (1 teaspoon) post workout.  Note that it’s a post-workout supplement because once you use up your creatine in your last workout, you need to replenish the stores in your body to be used for the next workout.  There are a couple of different dosing suggestions.

Dosing Option #1:  Having a “Loading Phase” in which you take 20 grams each day for the first full week.  During the subsequent weeks, maintain your dosage by taking 10 grams each day.

Dosing Option #2:  Don’t do a “Loading Phase” and instead just go straight into taking a regular amount each day (10 grams).

I take 5 grams instead of 10 grams because that is what I am more comfortable with.  During the past two months of taking it, I’ve seen an increase in the intensity of my workouts, and as a result, seen strength and muscle growth increase.  However, I can honestly say that I’ve also upped my game in the gym during those two months because I’ve mentally (and physically) pushed myself harder than I have ever before.  So, maybe it’s just a placebo effect that’s helping me.  Either way, it doesn’t hurt me to take the supplement and I’ve seen the results I want.  For now, this is the main supplement I include in my fitness regiment.

Aside:  Many prefer caffeine over creatine to get similar results.  Caffeine is an immediate pre-workout supplement you can take (by drinking some coffee!) which can give you that extra push during your exercise which allows you to push a little harder.  It can be a successful alternative.

As always, do your own research and be safe when taking supplements.  Anything you put in your body can have positive, negative, or no effect.  Be safe, friends.

If you have any other fitness/nutrition question, holla back!  I’ll be continuing a mini series on supplements from now on 🙂  Keep an eye out!

Thomas Ngo
NASM Certified Personal Trainer
RD In-Training


One Comment Add yours

  1. I, too, take only 5 grams per day because I think that’s plenty enough. Great information on the dosing. I also wrote a post on creatine. Read this article.

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