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Creatine: How Much to Take and When

© Ray Sahelian MD, Dave Tuttle
 (Excerpted from Creatine: Nature's Muscle Builder, Avery Publishing Group, 1996)

Creatine monohydrate dissolves easily in liquids. As with most powders, it dissolves faster and more completely in warm and hot fluids, so heating the liquid will leave less creatine on the bottom and sides of the glass. If you have a microwave, heat the liquid for about a minute. Then add the creatine and stir until the powder is dissolved.

Some liquids are better than others for creatine consumption. Glucose polymer drinks or those with dextrose or maltodextrin are good choices. This is because the shuttle system used to transport creatine into the muscle fibers involves insulin, and these forms of "simple" sugars activate this mechanism quickly. Fruit juices are also good options. Although juices contain fructose, a sugar that is absorbed somewhat slower than glucose and dextrose, juices are assimilated relatively quickly, so they are perfectly acceptable as creatine vehicles. They may be more convenient, too. You could also mix your creatine with a combination protein/carbohydrate drink, although the protein content of the drink will slow the assimilation of the creatine compared to glucose or fructose alone.

Athletes have sometimes been told to avoid mixing citrus juices such as orange juice with creatine. The reason given is that the acidity in these juices boosts the production of creatinine, which is the waste product of creatine metabolism. However, creatinine is formed in the muscles, not in a glass. Moreover, the citric acid in orange and grapefruit juices is insignificant compared to the concentrated hydrochloric acid found in the stomach. If creatine can make it through the stomach and into the body, a little bit of OJ won't hurt. Then again, most people don't drink orange juice warm, but if you enjoy it that way, don't worry about the acidity.

On the other hand, one study by Vandenberghe shows that the benefits of creatine are counteracted when it is consumed with large amounts of caffeine (the equivalent of five cups of coffee). The study found that while caffeine did not reduce the increase in creatine-phosphate levels within the muscle fibers, dynamic torque production in caffeine/creatine users was 10 to 20 percent lower than in test subjects who took creatine alone. In fact, torque production for the caffeine/creatine users was no different than the placebo group. Based on this research, you should stay away from high-potency caffeine pills. Mixing creatine in caffeinated drinks, at least according to this study, may also reduce or even neutralize the performance-enhancing effects of this nutrient in the short term. It's better to take your creatine with a glucose- or fructose-based drink that will stimulate your insulin response and facilitate the uptake of creatine into the muscle fibers.

The Best Time to Take Creatine
Creatine remains in the blood stream for a period of one to 1 1/2 hours. This is the window of opportunity that muscles have to draw creatine from the surrounding blood vessels and store it in their cells. If these cells are full of creatine, and the brain, heart and testes have all of the creatine they need, the excess will eventually be processed to creatinine and excreted.

Therefore, timing is important. You want to make sure that the maximum amount of creatine is absorbed by your muscles and not wasted. This is why we recommend that your loading and maintenance doses be divided into two to four servings, depending on the total amount of creatine you are consuming.

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About The Author
Ray Sahelian, M.D., is a popular and respected physician who has been seen on numerous television programs including NBC Today, Dateline NBC, and CNN, and quoted by countless major magazines such as Newsweek He is the bestselling author of ...more
 
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