Creatine: Ingestion methods
Last modified: Thursday, 26. March 2009 - 4:59 am
Creatine is sold in powdered, liquid, tablet, capsule, and chewing-gum formulations. The most popular formulation of creatine is creatine monohydrate, which is also the creatine formula that has been most extensively tested in clinical studies. Pure creatine monohydrate is a white, odorless, crystal powder with a faintly sweet taste. Other variations of creatine supplements are available, including creatine citrate and creatine phosphate. However, the clinical data on the effectiveness of these formulas is limited.
There are two types of dosing techniques commonly used. The first is to start with a large loading dose of 20 g, taken in 5-g increments four times a day, for 2-5 days. This is followed by a lower daily maintenance dose of 2 g or less for up to six weeks. The second method is to forgo the loading dose and simply use the smaller daily dose. The latter method may avoid some of the gastrointestinal distress and cramping that has been occasionally reported with loading doses.
Oversupplementation with creatine is common, and can be harmful to individuals with existing kidney problems or to athletes who don’t properly hydrate themselves during workouts. Human skeletal muscle can only store up to 160 millimoles (mmol)/kg per day. After this limit is reached, any excess dietary or supplemental creatine will be excreted in the urine. When the body is already demanding fluids to replace those naturally lost during physical activity, severe dehydration can be a very real danger. For this reason, anyone taking creatine should always maintain adequate fluid intake of at least six to eight glasses of water daily.
Creatine is sometimes mixed or taken with sports drinks or other carbohydrate-heavy beverages. This practice is based on results of a 1996 clinical study published in the American Journal of Physiology, which reported that carbohydrate solutions increased uptake of creatine by skeletal muscle in study subjects. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends against regular heavy carbohydrate loading of 100 g or more along with creatine dosing because of the potential negative health affects of high sugar intake over time.
Some creatine products currently on the market are also “enriched” with other nutrients, including protein, glucose, vitamins, herbal ingredients, and other amino acids. Again, no hard data exists on the effectiveness of taking creatine in combination with other dietary supplements or herbals.