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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)

One of the most important decisions for an athlete is determining the right amount of creatine to take. Your daily dosage needs to be high enough to achieve the benefits you seek, yet should not be so high as to overload your body's ability to assimilate this nutrient. Clearly, there is no advantage to consuming so much creatine that part of your dose winds up flushing out of your plumbing. At the same time, creatine usually has no side effects when taken in moderate amounts, so there isn't any particular reason (other than cost) why you couldn't include a modest margin for error in your daily dose.

In the past, recommended dosages for creatine were simple. Athletes were told to take so many grams for so many days or weeks to load up on the nutrient, then take a lower maintenance dose of so many grams from that point on. While these recommendations had the advantage of simplicity, they also resulted in some athletes getting too much creatine for their needs, while others wound up taking too little to achieve the maximum possible gains. Therefore, in this book we are providing you with tables for loading and maintenance that take into consideration the two most important variables: bodyweight and exercise intensity. This will allow you to fine-tune your creatine supplementation to your particular muscle mass and workout schedule.

Foods That Contain Creatine
One way to get part of the creatine you need is to consume the skeletal muscles of other animals. Just as human muscle contains creatine, so does the muscle of most mammals and fish. As you can see in Table 1, the amount of creatine in most meats is relatively constant, staying within a narrow range of four to five grams per kilo (2.2 lb). Cod has a lower amount because of its high water content. While it seems logical that chicken and turkey also contain creatine, the precise quantity of the nutrient in these meats is currently not known.

While you can get some of the creatine you need from these protein sources, you shouldn't dramatically increase your meat and fish consumption in order to pump your muscles full of this nutrient. Remember that meats and fish contain a lot more than creatine. All animal flesh contains relatively high amounts of cholesterol, which has been associated with hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis). Also, most meats, especially beef and pork, contain high quantities of saturated fats. For example, one kilogram (2.2 lb) of raw round steak contains only four grams of creatine, but 119 grams of fat. Porterhouse steak has a bit less creatine, but 325 grams of fat per kilo! You won't live to see your 90s if you clog your arteries with the fat and cholesterol from all the meat you'd have to eat to get enough creatine to improve your strength and power. Moreover, this fat content can dramatically increase the total number of calories you consume each day. Unless your exercise intensity and volume increase at the same rate, you will wind up gaining unwanted pounds of body fat. A far better solution is to take the non-fat, non-cholesterol supplement known as creatine monohydrate.

The Loading Phase
The concept of a loading phase came from the scientific studies done in the early 1990s. A 1992 study by Harris found that a low dose of creatine monohydrate (one gram) produced only modest increases in the blood level of creatine and no appreciable increase in muscle. Other studies with low dosages had similar results. On the other hand, Harris discovered that five grams given four to six times per day resulted in a sustained rise in blood levels and a significant accumulation of creatine in the muscle fibers. It was therefore determined that higher creatine levels in muscle could only be achieved if there were a consistent elevation in the amount of creatine in the blood stream over a prolonged period of time.

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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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