Creatine has been associated with health supplements for many years. What many people may not appreciate is that creatine is a naturally occurring compound that our body absorbs from certain foods, and more recently, health supplements.
One of the biggest questions asked by many is how much creatine should one take per day. We also get asked about the benefits and if there are any risks, as well as the different ways you can take creatine.
That’s why we put together this comprehensive guide, to provide you with the answers you need.
Let’s start by taking a look at what creatine is.
What Is Creatine?
Creatine is a compound that we obtain from foods like fish and meat. It also occurs naturally within our bodies. Its primary function lies in the process of converting the food we eat into energy to help us keep fit and active. This is why it’s been linked heavily with exercise and performance enhancement supplements, particularly for muscle energy.
On a more scientific level, creatine is chemically made up of three different amino acids: arginine, glycine and methionine. It’s functioning supports the production of something called adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is what cells use for energy.
In the context of exercise and health supplements, creatine is said to be useful for intense physical activities, like weightlifting and sprinting as it helps regenerate ATP at a quicker rate. As we’ll explore below, it’s used to help with boosting performance and muscle mass.
There are different types of creatine which offer different benefits. Let’s take a look at them. You can also learn more about creatine here in our comprehensive guide.
The Different Types Of Creatine
If you’re new to creatine supplements, you may have encountered a range of terms and names for different types of products and the potential benefits they have. Here’s a quick and simple breakdown:
This is perhaps the most common form of creatine, known for its ability to bind with water molecules. A significant amount of scientific research has been conducted on this form of creatine, in part because it is said to bring the most health benefits. With a lot more research behind it, it’s also considered one of the safer types of creatine to take.
This type of creatine is a form of creatine monohydrate which has undergone a process known as micronization. It’s a fancy word for reducing the size of the creatine molecules to make a powder which helps it dissolve better in water. The idea behind micronization is to make the supplement easier to take. If you want to know how much creatine you take per day too you can easily calculate it by using this form.
Creatine Ethyl Ester (CEE)
Another type of creatine, CEE is marketed as being more absorbent, but to date, not much research has backed that claim up. Users of this type of product also say that it causes less bloating.
This is another type of creatine that is marketed as superior to monohydrate. It’s said to reduce the conversion of an unhelpful byproduct within the absorption process called creatinine. Research is still ongoing to prove this claim.
This type of creatine is often used in pre-workout supplements and is said to boost blood flow to muscles.
Similar to monohydrate, this type of creatine is popular for its ability to be mixed with other ingredients and without the need to make up the drinks yourself using creatine powder.
Which Type Is Best?
Many in the health and exercise supplement industry turn to creatine monohydrate when asked what type of product is best.
Its biggest benefit lies in its versatility, especially in micronized form. When ground into a fine powder it can be used in everything from health drinks to milkshakes.
The benefits of creatine monohydrate look set to extend beyond just exercise too. German company Alzchem recently won approval to offer their monohydrate product, Creavitalis, for use as an ingredient in food.
With the range of plant-based products rising, Creavitalis could be used within the likes of vegan sausages and burgers to help add vital nutrients that non-vegetarians get from eating meat. This can help them build body weight and enjoy a more balanced diet, as well as allowing them to take part in more high-intensity exercise.
Why Do People Take Creatine Supplements: The Scientific Benefits
As we’ve mentioned above, creatine predominantly supplies energy to our muscles. However, it’s also been linked to improving brain health too. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of creatine and the science to back them up:
- Creatine has predominantly been used as an exercise supplement, in weight training, resistance training, football and other intense sports. A systematic review of all available studies by Kreider and Stout (2021), published in the journal Nutrients, concluded that using creatine supplements has numerous health and therapeutic benefits.
- Creatine can improve performance when exercising in the likes of gyms. A study by Cooper et al (2012), published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (J Int Soc Sports), found that supplements can increase creatine storage which helps recovery between high-intensity exercises, as well as exercise performance as a whole.
- Creatine can help boost cognition and brain function. A study by Avgerinos et al has found that creatine supplements may also boost short-term and working memory, as well as general intelligence and reasoning.
These benefits have been found in both older and younger people. Check out our guide here to learn more about the benefits for people as they age.
Are There Any Risks In Taking Creatine?
While a significant body of scientific research has begun to build up around creatine, its impact is still being studied. As a result, some degree of caution should be adopted.
For example, little research has been conducted on the impact on pregnant or breastfeeding women. Similarly, those who may have liver disease or a kidney function problem or disease should also avoid creatine, as well as those with diabetes and those who suffer from bipolar disorder.
As for side effects when taking the product, some people have reported upset stomachs, with symptoms like diarrhoea, particularly after taking large doses.
It's also advised to drink lots of water when taking creatine. This can lead to fewer muscle cramps and improved athletic performance as a whole.
How Much Creatine To Take Per Day
One of the biggest sources of questions we receive is on the subject of how much creatine to take per day.
The shortest and most important answer is that it depends on the type of creatine you’re taking and the reason. Read the product’s guidelines and follow them, but also account for your own body and what you know and understand about it.
As with any supplement, individual response to individual products matters a lot, so always pay close attention to your body after taking something new, like creatine.
For instance, if you’re smaller in stature than average then following the same recommended dosage may be too much for you, so you should adjust accordingly. And if you’re still unsure, consult a professional nutritionist.
There are general guidelines for taking different types of creatine products too. A lot also depends on the reason you’re taking creatine. Bear in mind these two phases and the dosages for each:
Creatine loading is an approach people take if they want to experience the benefits of creatine sooner. It gets its name from the loading up of creatine stores in your muscles.
The creatine loading phase usually lasts between 5 and 7 days.
During this period, the daily dosage is around 20 grams per day, split into 4 or 5 doses (so four doses of 5 grams or five doses of 4 grams). However, you should always consult the product guidelines and if you’re still unsure, speak with a healthcare professional.
The maintenance phase in the creatine-taking process usually follows the loading phase. It’s the stage where you can reduce your daily intake to a level that keeps it at an elevated state.
On average, the daily average dose falls to around 3 to 5 grams. Muscle mass and saturation is still gained in the same way as the loading phase, it just takes longer with the maintenance dose.
A key thing to remember is that the maintenance phase is the standard approach to taking creatine daily. The loading phase is optional and designed to give you an immediate boost. However, some people can experience gastrointestinal upset, so a more steady, consistent approach may work better, allowing your body to adjust.
So, in short, how much creatine per day depends on your aims and reasons for taking it.
The Different Ways To Approach Creatine Supplementation
We’ve looked at the potential benefits of creatine and how much to take per day, and we’ve also discussed in loose terms the different ways that you can take it. In this section, we provide more detail.
- In terms of supplements, it’s possible to take creatine in:
- Energy bars
- Liquids, like milkshakes and yoghurt drinks, such as the creatine monohydrate supplementation methods discussed above
- Creatine in natural foods that are rich in protein:
- Red meats like veal, pork and beef. These meats can help with muscle growth.
- Seafoods like shellfish
- Animal milk, including dairy, goat and sheep’s milk
Key Takeaways On How Much Creatine To Take Per Day
- The amount of creatine to take per day is dictated by the purpose behind taking it.
- If you want an immediate boost, up to 20 grams per day, divided into four or five doses, is advised.
- Average doses to maintain elevated levels of creatine are between 3 and 5 grams per day.
- However, the right dosages can vary from person to person, even if you follow the guidelines. It’s always best to monitor your reactions. If you’re still unsure, get advice from a healthcare professional.