Does creatine have any side effects? Do I lose all / most my gains that I got from creatine if I stop using it? Is there any problem taking creatine with protein? How many grams I need to take daily to get the best results from creatine?
A: Do you consider weight gain and strength increases a side effect? There are mentions of increased muscle cramping in athletes with creatine use but this has never shown up in the studies. [Editors’s note: please see the creatine review article by Dr. Richard Kreider, PhD] It’s possible that creatine may increase water requirements (since it pulls water into the muscle) so an athlete (such as a football player) doing heavy workouts in the summer might be more prone to cramping if they aren’t drinking enough water.
In the short term at least, the gains in terms of weight and strength gains from creatine are transient. Of course, if you’re eating a large amount of red meat, you may remain creatine loaded for quite some time even if you stop using creatine so the gains may persist. In the long term, it’s possible that the increased training intensity from creatine might increase true strength and mass gains.
Nobody seems to have an answer for the whole creatine and protein thing and I’ve seen arguments on both sides of the fence. It seems anecdotally that people have taken creatine with protein and without and it works pretty much the same so I don’t personally thing there’s any worry.
As to amount, there are a couple of options.
- Fast loading: this is the standard loading phase which is 20 grams per day (5 grams 4 times per day) for 5 days.
- Medium loading: Some people, like myself, find that 20 grams of creatinte per day causes stomach upset and diarrhea. The first time I took creatine, I lost 4 lbs because I couldn’t eat and was on the toilet all day. As a compromise I found that I could handle 10 grams of creatie per day (2 5 gram doses) and loaded for 10 days.
- Slow loading: a recent study showed that 3 grams taken for a month results in the same creatine levels as with the fast loading phase. So decide whether you want to load fast or slow.
There is (contrary to what supplement companies want you to believe) no evidence supporting the maintenance phase for creatine supplementation. Daily turnover of creatine is about 2-3 grams and anyone eating sufficient red meat should stay creatine loaded for quite some time without any additional creatine. If you’re paranoid, take 5 grams once or twice a week (after training) after your loading phase.