Which is better creatine pills or powder

How to take creatine correctly: what to keep in mind

Creatine used to be an insider tip in the fitness scene, today it is sold on a large scale as a dietary supplement. But not everywhere that it says creatine is (only) creatine in it. Bargain purchases can be at the cost of health. What is serious and what should you keep your hands off of? How do you take creatine correctly and what about the side effects?

What is creatine and what is it supposed to do in the body?

Creatine (or better: creatine monohydrate) is an organic acid that occurs naturally in the human body, especially in muscle cells. As creatine phosphate, it can recharge the "muscle batteries" at lightning speed. This battery works in the form of what is known as ATP (adenosine triphosphate). ATP is the main fuel for your cells. If energy is needed for muscle work, the ATP splits off one of its three phosphate groups: It becomes ADP (adenosine diphosphate, which only has two phosphate groups): This releases energy that the muscle can use for movement.

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However, these energy reserves are only sufficient for a few seconds at maximum load. Before the body uses other ways of generating energy, creatine comes into play. As creatine phosphate, it can recharge the "low-energy" ADP with a phosphate group to form "high-energy" ATP.

"Creatine administration increases the amount of creatine phosphate in the muscle. This means that maximum performance can be maintained for longer," explains Uwe Schröder vom Institute for Sports Nutrition in Bad Nauheim. This applies to short, high-intensity loads. The muscle can work longer at a high level - without becoming too acidic. Above all, strength athletes who have to achieve maximum performance in a short period of time benefit from this; in the endurance area it is of no use, because there the energy can be obtained differently.

For which athletes is creatine useful?

The intake of creatine is basically worthwhile for any type of sport in which the body has to switch to anaerobic energy supply for a short time. In weight training, for example, with repetitions with high weights or when sprinting over a distance of 100 meters. "With the former, creatine can lead to an increase in strength of up to 10 percent, because maximum strength can be mobilized over a longer period of time and one or two more repetitions are possible," says Mic Weigl, expert for dietary supplements (www.micsbodyshop.de). This leads to increased muscle growth.

How do I take creatine correctly?

Creatine can either be taken in the form of a course of several weeks (with or without a loading phase), as well as permanently. Opinions differ as to which method is the better. Since the cures are always followed by a break, your strength values ​​(due to the cyclical intake) can increase or decrease by leaps and bounds. As a result, cures are generally no worse than long-term use.

Important to know: Creatine does not work immediately. "If I take creatine now, I won't have more strength in training today," said Weigl. "Depending on the initial status, it takes a few weeks until saturation is reached and an effect can be felt during training."

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In general: A normal daily dose of creatine is 5 grams. If you take the supplement, you should drink a lot with it. This not only rinses the powder out of your mouth, but also promotes the absorption of creatine into the blood and muscles. Otherwise, the poorly soluble substance in the stomach can sink ineffectively and - even more unpleasant - cause foul-smelling side effects such as flatulence or bad breath.

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You can take a creatine regimen with or without a loading phase

How does a creatine regimen work?

A creatine cure is always useful for experienced strength athletes when performance has stagnated for some time and you want to overcome a performance plateau. What kind of regimen you end up doing is entirely up to you. The important thing is: leave it at 3 cures a year.

A classic creatine cure is divided into a loading phase (duration 5 to 7 days) and a maintenance phase (7 to 11 weeks). During the loading phase, you take in around 20 grams of creatine (4 x 50 grams) a day in order to fill your creatine stores as quickly as possible. In the subsequent maintenance phase, you only add 3 to 5 grams of creatine per day for the rest of the cure in order to maintain the level of the storage tank. This is followed by a break of 4 to 6 weeks.

However, you can also omit the loading phase, because it is not absolutely necessary to achieve a long-term increase in strength. This also works with a creatine regimen without a loading phase, in which you only take 3 to 5 grams per day for 8 to 12 weeks and then take a break.

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Alternatively, you can take creatine continuously, i.e. every day, without a break. "Instead of the classic charging phase, smaller quantities of a maximum of 5 grams per day are preferable over a longer period of time. Once the storage units have been charged, 2 grams per day are sufficient," recommends Uwe Schröder.

Does the intake of creatine reduce the body's own production?

"With long-term use, the body does indeed reduce the production of creatine. However, this process is reversible if creatine is dosed in the usual way and taken for an appropriate period of time," explains Uwe Schröder. He therefore recommends taking creatine only in the form of a cure (a maximum of five grams per day for a maximum of twelve weeks). Then it's time to take a break. Incidentally, through intensive training, your creatine level increases by itself, but only to a limited extent.

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Can creatine side effects occur?

Most of the side effects are mainly observed in the "loading phase" mentioned above. But even a creatine regimen without a loading phase can have side effects. In addition to gas or nausea, muscle cramps can also occur as creatine side effects - especially in the calves. Magnesium helps against this. In addition, there is an increased water retention in the muscles. However, it is normal and harmless for water to be stored. Your muscles are then under greater tension - this can lead to injuries. However, the water has a disruptive effect on bodybuilders who want to take part in a posing. The definition is decreasing.

The anabolic, i.e. muscle-building, effect of creatine is not hindered by the water retention. It is also retained when the creatine stores are broken down again and the water retention decreases.

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The water retention makes your muscles appear more voluminous

There are no exact measurements of when the storage disappears. However, you can expect a period of about 2 to 3 weeks.

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Will creatine give me acne?

"In principle, there is no increased risk of acne to be feared," says Schröder. "Acne is not actually caused by an improper diet and can therefore usually not be triggered or intensified by preparations.

However, the predisposition to acne is hereditary and when many different factors come together, the consumption of different foods can lead to acne in people with such predisposition. The acne-causing (acne-causing) foods differ from case to case. It is important that, as with an allergy, you find the foods that work acne for you. The danger of creatine triggering acne in you is just as (un) likely as triggering it with chocolate, sausage or alcohol. However, the preparation HMB (hydroxymethyl butyrate), which is often taken in combination with creatine to build up muscles, has a very high acne-inducing effect.

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Psychological stress and increased training loads can also have an acne-related effect. So if you are hoping for improvement by taking creatine when you are under pressure to perform, you risk acne - not from the preparation, but from the psychological stress.

Powder or capsules: what form can I take creatine in?

Countless offers of different creatine products in the form of powders, capsules & Co. make you spoiled for choice when buying. If you believe the advertising promise of the provider, the conventional powder form is long gone. Instead, chewable tablets, liquids, fizzy drinks or bars - often mixed with other substances - should be highly effective and be absorbed more quickly by the body.

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Creatine comes in a wide variety of forms

But these "innovations" often do not keep what they promise. For example: liquid creatine, also called creatine serum. "Creatine is not stable in liquids. After a while, creatinine, a breakdown substance, forms. It is not harmful to health, but no longer works," says Dr. Frank Hülsemann, chemist fromGerman Research Center for Competitive Sports Cologne.

Bars or chewable tablets are useful when you're on the go, but they don't have to be swallowed with lots of water. But this is precisely what is important for "creatine digestion". Additional components, such as mineral salts or special carbohydrates, do not provide any definite added value: "Whether the mixtures really improve the absorption of creatine in the muscles is questionable," speculates Hülsemann.

What should I consider when buying creatine?

If you're bargain hunting when you buy, you're not necessarily doing yourself a favor. If the manufacturer saves on raw materials and production, this is at the expense of purity and thus quality. It is difficult to track down dubious suppliers, however, because creatine is "only" considered a dietary supplement: Strict quality controls as with pharmaceuticals do not have to take place in order for it to be sold.

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"Creatine is made 100 percent synthetically," explains Dr. Frank Hülsemann. "Removing impurities from production, for example residues from raw materials, costs money," says the chemist. And some manufacturers save that and forego careful cleaning. Harmful substances such as dicyandiamide, dihydrotriazine or even mercury can end up in the cheap doses of creatine. You cannot see, taste or smell it, because creatine is a white, tasteless and odorless powder. Impurities can only be detected with a laboratory analysis.

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Most of the producers are based in China, who sell their raw materials to countless middlemen. There it is filled and packaged. "Look on the packaging to find out where the product came from," says Hülsemann. The chemist recommends only using products "Made in Germany". Because in Germany creatine is produced according to the strictest standards. The German creatine costs a little more, but is highly pure. Cheap providers from overseas should be treated with caution. The Chinese producers sometimes use the carcinogenic thiourea as a raw material for production.

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Don't cut corners when buying creatine

Warning: creatinine instead of creatine

Bargain hunters can experience other surprises - namely that nothing happens. The can at a bargain price can contain some of the ineffective breakdown product creatinine instead of creatine. The fault is again the poor cleaning in production. Incorrect storage for too long can also cause the creatine to break down and reduce its effectiveness.

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Doping trap: anabolic steroids in creatine preparations

Doping controls and studies, for example by the Institute for Biochemistry at the German Sport University in Cologne, have already uncovered it: some creatine preparations contain prohibited anabolic steroids. "If the bottling plant's systems are not properly cleaned and hormones have been used there beforehand, they can also be found in the creatine," explains Dr. Frank Hülsemann. These are the smallest amounts, but which health-conscious athlete inadvertently wants to miss out on a hormone cocktail. Such contamination would be a disaster for competitive athletes: doping control positive.

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If you want to buy hormone-free creatine, you should first go to the "Cologne list"Look for dietary supplements. Serious manufacturers are listed on it." There is never 100 percent security, "says Hülsemann. However, he thinks it makes sense to use orientation aids such as the Cologne List:" Because creatine is a completely synthetic product As a buyer, I definitely want to know what's inside ".

Conclusion: More strength (endurance) thanks to creatine

Creatine is one of the most popular supplements in weight training, because by taking it you can improve your performance in terms of maximum strength, as well as your strength endurance. And you can even see it: Because more water is stored in the course of ingestion, which makes the muscles appear plumper. On the scales, this is reflected in a weight gain of 0.5 to 2 kilos. The muscle-building effect of creatine is not hindered by the water retention: it is retained even when the creatine stores are broken down again and the water retention decreases.

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