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The Most Efficient Way to Use Creatine For Lifters

Jason Hughes
Published by Jason Hughes
Fact checked by Markus Oliver, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: June 22, 2022

Creatine is one of the best supplements that you can add to your gym routine. It is extremely popular and many lifters can purchase it over the counter. It is such a popular supplement that most even take it when they are not lifting (or on your day off) due to the benefits it provides your body other than muscle growth. Even though it has been approved for retail consumption, there are some controversial claims, especially if the manufacturer or retail store selling you the product is tampering with the ingredients and adding things such as a filler to dilute the contents.

In this article, we will take a look at everything related to creatine. First, we will explain what creatine is and why it can benefit your body, primarily muscle growth. We'll go over the best tips on when to use creatine, and even how to cycle it to get the best results.

What Is Creatine?

As previously mentioned, creatine is one of the top supplements that most lifters go for in the supplement aisle.

Studies have shown that it can not only improve muscle growth but can drastically improve your strength and endurance during your workout.

Think of it like the old Popeye cartoon. Popeye would eat his spinach and gain a temporary boost in strength. This is similar to the effect creatine can have but much more.

OK, So What Is It?

Creatine occurs in the body. It is naturally found in your cells and helps your body to produce ATP (energy) during high-intensity exercise. Creatine is created from amino acids, and it closely resembles the stricture of an incomplete protein. It uses the amino acids glycine and arginine to create the substance we know as creatine. Creatine is made in the liver and kidneys from these building blocks (amino acids) and the rest is usually found in your food. Creatine specifically comes from animal-based protein, as the highest concentration of creatine comes from red meat and seafood.

This can be bad news for vegan bodybuilders, but creatine itself is synthetic and vegan friendly (although make sure to check the label first!)

How To Use Creatine for Muscle Growth

Creatine contains instructions on the label but is usually administered in powder form and taken as a pre-workout supplement. Creatine helps your athletic performance in many different ways, the chief of which is increasing the energy stores found within your body. Not only does this allow your muscles to recover quickly, but it also gives them as much as a 40% improvement in strength, allowing you to lift more heavily and increasing the pace at which you can improve your lifting records.

Creatine can also be taken on off days, as previously mentioned, and this will also help your muscle growth. Here are the benefits of how to maximize your intake:

Overworking: Creatine boosts your muscles, allowing you to work harder at the gym, further breaking down the ligaments and sinews found within. While this may sound like a bad thing, it is the way that muscles grow. The more you break them (and allow adequate recovery time) the faster they will grow.

Message delivery: The electrical and chemical signals between cells improve, which is an important addition to your body, especially to signal muscle reparation and growth.

Hormonal advantages: Creatine has not been proven to increase testosterone, but other anabolic hormones within the body (IGF-1) were noted to increase - which directly aids in muscle growth.

Hydration: Creatine brings more oxygen and blood to the cells, increasing their water content. The more hydrated your cells are, the better they can absorb nutrients and grow.

Cutting? No problem!: Creatine helps to hang on to as much protein as possible in times of a cut, meaning that you will access your fat and carbohydrate reserves first.

On off days, creatine can not only help to repair your muscles more quickly but also increases the stores of phosphocreatine in your brain, which slows down or prevents the formation of neurodegenerative disease and also improves your concentration and the health of your brain.

Creatine Cycle

When using supplements that may have side effects over the longer term, (or even just to decrease the chance of dependency) the supplement should be cycled for the best effects. A cycle is a set of instructions that are followed throughout phases, and then a break is usually introduced before starting another cycle. The most common creatine cycle includes

The loading phase - Taking a large dose of creatine (30g) a day for 7 days. Split the doses up evenly throughout the day as 30grams is too voluminous to be taken at once.

Maintenance phase - Creatine is naturally occurring in the body, and you only need about 4 grams a day. This phase should end after the 6th week.

Break phase - a 3-week pause is recommended before beginning another loading phase.


Best time to take creatine?

Creatine enters your body and has most of the beneficial effects lingering there throughout the day. During your rest days, it will not matter when you take creatine, as long as it isn't right before bed. On your workout days, it is best to take 30 minutes before your workout to reap the maximum strength benefits from the temporary pump.

Does creatine need to be cycled?

There are many debates, and science isn't conclusive on this. Some say that the cycle prepares your body for optimum intake, others make a valid point that it is extremely difficult to tell when the body has effectively gotten rid of the creatine internally to begin a new cycle, and should just be taken as a standard dose for a few months before taking a break.

Do i need creatine?

Creatine isn't really necessary for those that eat a regular amount of red meat or seafood. Creatine supplements are only recommended for bodybuilders, weight lifters, and those on a vegan or vegetarian diet.

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