After one year of creatine supplementation I experienced no change in how I adapt to exercise. My rate of gains in the gym and on the bike had no change. That is, the gains that I made were the same as what I usually expect to see with the training I do.
I tried a loading phase of 20g a day for a week followed by a daily maintenance dose of 5g/ day of pure creatine monohydrate. I always had a carb source when taking the creatine, much of the time grape juice. I cycled about 12 weeks on and 4-6 weeks off the creatine. I also tried a low dose long term loading phase 3-5g/ day for 10 weeks.
I tried pretty much every dosing regime I could find in the research. Not that there are a lot of loading protocols, there are really only two primary strategies; lower dose loading phase over a longer period and a high dose over a shorter period, followed by a maintenance phase. Maintenance phase is typically recommended to be between 3-6g per day.
I experienced no weight gain when I was on creatine, and no weight loss while cycling off creatine. I experienced no weight gain during the loading phase, where some research reports an approximate 1.5 - 3.5 pounds of water gain (creatine holds water with it in muscle cells).
I experienced no extra mass gain beyond what I would usually expect from strength training.
I experienced no added ability to do more repetitions, no increased power in a set, and no increase in the number of sets I could do before fatiguing. My sprint power on the bike did not improve beyond normal increases, nor did my ability to sustain short term power (30 to 90 seconds).
I'm not saying I trained and didn't get results, my performance did increase, but my rate of gain was unchanged from when I was not taking creatine.
I use a periodized strength training regime with repetition ranges 4-6, 8-12, and above 30. I compete in mountain biking so building huge mass is not an objective, but I do train to offset muscle loss from endurance sport, and to have a small net gain in mass as well, as I've lost mass in the past few years.
A few years ago I became quite ill and was not able to train for a few months, I was entirely sedentary with most days spent lying down. On my return to training my ability to train was low and took about a year to get back. Over this time my thigh girth measurement reduced from 61 (24in) to 53 cm (21.5 in). I also lost a couple centimetres off my biceps and chest (about 1 inch).
Before some readers take the view that I'm an endurance athlete and don't train for size, keep in mind that I lost mass due to atrophy from disuse, due to illness. I want that mass back, and I train hard (smart hard, not just hard), to get it, but since I am an endurance athlete I can't afford to dedicate myself to a muscle hypertrophy program exclusively. I expect to gain only 2 - 3 pounds of lean mass over a year of training, when considering that I have to train for mountain biking as well.
The original intent of creatine was not for mass gains, but rather for performance gains. Creatine is meant to increase creatine stores in the muscle. Creatine is used to generate energy rapidly for muscle contraction, over about an 8-15 second duration.
More creatine in the muscle theoretically would result in more energy production where shorts bursts of energy are required, such as in strength training or sprinting. Despite creatine not being intended to enhance mass gains, some research has suggested it may produce this effect, and most gym goers have the belief that mass gain is a primary benefit of creatine supplementation.
There was a time in my past, about 13 years ago, where I did less bike riding and hit the gym with the intent on putting on mass. Over 3 years I went from 180 lb at 6% body fat to 197 lb at 6% body fat.
I was still riding and doing some competing at the time, but I was tired of being the skinny cyclist and wanted some mass. I put on nearly 20 lb of lean muscle mass. Things have a funny way of changing and I wanted to be the skinny cyclists again. The bike bug returned and I went back down to 175 - 180 lb.
After being ill about 3 years ago my weight reduced to 162 lb. Right now I'm at 165 lb at 8% body fat.
When I first started competing in cycling back in the 1980's I weighed about 160 lb. I'm 6ft 2in.
I went to a Golds gym and asked a bodybuilder to help me get stronger and bigger muscles to help me sprint better. The bodybuilder had never trained an endurance athlete before and was pretty excited to take a shot at it. He helped me go from 160 lb to 171 lb over about a year and half. No supplements.
I have experience in gaining lean muscle successfully (no creatine), and I'm now training for mass again. My mass gains with creatine are not any greater than without creatine.
This makes sense because not all research on creatine shows that every person responds with performance or mass gain. I am clearly one who has no significant results.
I keep a detailed training log as well as a body measurements log with thigh, chest, calf, bicep, hip, and waist girth, as well as fat calipers skin folds and a high-end body fat scale.
For those who know me or have read my opinions on supplements you may be asking, 'Cris, why would you do creatine?' Isn't it true that I'm always on about how there really isn't any good research that shows 100% conclusively that any of these sports performance supplements do anything at all? Yes, that is my opinion. Actually it's not really an opinion, it's a research proven fact.
My main motivation to use creatine was so I could write about the experience.
I wanted to personalize what I wrote about creatine.
Going by the research, there really isn't any logical reason to believe that any of the so-called performance supplements are going to make a real significant gain in human performance. With a couple exceptions.. creatine and caffeine. Although far from a iron clad consensus, there are studies that show some people who take creatine or caffeine do exhibit a mild increase in sports and training performance.
The emphasis is, some people in some studies. Not all people in all studies. The reason why some people don't respond to creatine might be that their muscles already store maximal levels of creatine so supplementing creatine does not load any additional creatine into muscle cells. There may be other genetic reasons that aren't understood yet.
It could be that some studies that showed gains failed to use a study method that controlled for natural response rates to exercise between individuals. That is, some people respond to exercise to a greater degree than others and if this isn't considered some of the extra gains may be attributed to creatine when the gains were simply a natural response to training.
In studies that are not placebo controlled those on creatine may have a placebo response where they are expecting to feel more energetic when on creatine so this is how they behave.
Whatever the case, the take home here is that even with the two supplements that may contribute to performance, creatine and caffeine, neither may have any effect at all in you.
Nobody should expect to have miracle results from these pills or powders. If your friend tells you they got great results, that doesn't mean you will, and it doesn't mean their results were from the supplements.
They may have simply become more motivated to train because they were excited about being on a pill that makes them perform so they put more effort into their training.
When I tell people creatine will most likely not work for them so don't bother, a common comeback is, "how do you know it doesn't work, have you tried it?"
I don't need to try creatine to know if it works or doesn't. There is enough research showing the degree of response, if any, that can be expected from creatine. What's the possible practical outcome of taking creatine? If you're a responder you may squeak out a few more repetitions than usual compared to when not using creatine. You may extend the duration you can maintain short term high power output, perhaps by 5 to 10 seconds. If a person actually gets this result, that's pretty good; but few studies show this degree of response occurring, and no studies show this result occurring in all study subjects.
You will lose this extra performance once off creatine, but it's possible that after repeated cycles of creatine use a person may retain a degree of the benefit because the small extra training load resulted in a small permanent benefit.
A person is likely to increase performance in a competition to a greater extent with a good training taper, diligence with quality sleep and nutrition, and trigger point massage therapy, than they may achieve with creatine supplementation. We know that recuperative sleep, good nutrition, and proper recovery increase performance in everyone, every time. Creatine? Maybe, maybe not, and the degree may not be that great.
Reporting research findings isn't enough for many though. So now I can say, "yes, I tried creatine and I gave it an honest try, for one year, and it did nothing."
My post exercise nutrition is usually a 250 to 500 ml serving of 1% chocolate milk, sometimes with whey protein added so I can get about 25g of protein post workout. Most of my protein comes from food, about 20-40 grams on some days come from pure unflavoured whey protein for convenience. I consume about 130 -140 grams of protein each day when training.
I'm now starting a caffeine study of one on myself. I'll be following researched caffeine loading protocols that reported the greatest effect. I will be taking caffeine pills since the research shows the pills have a better effect (if any) compared to consuming coffee or caffeinated beverages.
I don't drink coffee or anything caffeinated. I don't agree with caffeine supplementation for sports performance. As with creatine I want to report on my personal experience. Caffeine and creatine are the two most popular, legal supplements that people use to improve their performance. I want to see if they make a difference in me. Maybe yes, maybe no. No for creatine.
Creatine did nothing for me. Stay tuned for my report on caffeine.
Did I take the wrong creatine? What about other types? How about buffered creatine? There are no studies that show conclusively that creatine other than creatine monohydrate work any better than creatine monohydrate.
Should anyone use creatine? I'm not sold on the idea. I say train healthy with the right work to recovery ratio, sleep healthy, and eat healthy. Stay consistant, and expect small gains over long periods that add up to large gains. That strategy will take you where you want to go, whatever level you're at.
Avoid dependancy on pills and promises, train healthy, eat healthy.
Here's some phone camera pics of me.. Sorry.. Some day I'll get some good high res pics. I expect to put on a few pounds over the next year.. I'll post those pics at that time.
I'm not a strength athlete so I'm not a huge guy, but I'm doing not so bad for an endurance athlete. I'm 46 old.
International Center for Sports Nutrition PDF on creatine