The decision to supplement with creatine felt like a big one, where I needed to weigh the pros and cons, but I have finally started taking creatine. I am not a bodybuilder, I am a very normal person. So normal, I am a high school English teacher. I am living proof that normal people can take creatine. If you are interested in being strong, you should probably be taking creatine. Here is my story.
A side note, taking creatine won’t help build muscle if you are not getting enough protein and strength training. So, Check out these posts to learn basics if resistance training and to learn how much protein you should be eating. Also, consult your doctor before supplementing with creating if you are on any type of medication.
Creatine Cons: Cold Feet about Creatine
Ever buy supplements and then never take them? Like BCAAs or a pre-workout shake that make your skin tingle? They just sit in the dark back corners of a cabinet with other supplements and vitamins you aren’t taking. That was creatine for me in 2022.
Seven months ago I had read about creatine, I got excited, bought the stuff, and then teemed with uncertainty.
- Would my only result be puffiness?
- How puffy is puffy? (Scroll to the bottom to find out if I puffed up!)
- With teaching and grad school, is it worthwhile to take while not training as much as I’d like to?
- Am I even ready to try something new?
- Is there a downside to taking creatine?
I got cold feet and didn’t take it. The tub of creatine sat sealed and forgotten on the dark and unreachable side of the lazy susan for about seven months while the school year plugged along.
Deciding to start taking creatine
About 4 weeks ago, I was scrolling through Facebook on the couch with our cat Mittens, and between cat videos and clips of “Say Yes to the Dress,” I read a post about creatine by Eric Horst on his blog Training for Climbing.
Horst and I climb at the same gym. I have never said hi or told him that I liked his books, but I do. Anyway, in the post he was addressing the pros and cons of creatine for climbers. In a super short summary: creatine helps build lean muscle, but adds weight–a doubtful advantage for a climber. Nonetheless, Horst says yes to creatine.
Taking Horst’s counsel, I looked at Mittens’ derpy little cat face, scratched his orange head, and thought about my life situation. I’m 41 years old trying to get stronger and stay sane. Grad school was behind me for the moment, so I could train a bit more. On the other hand, my teaching career generally always has my plate pretty full, but that never changes, so now might be a fine time to start supplementing creatine in my diet.
Pro of Taking Creatine: Immediate Results. Just kidding.
So on Friday March 30, 2023, I put a flat quarter teaspoon of the stuff in my breakfast yogurt, and I sent my gym project that afternoon after school. Regarding the pros and cons of creatine, the pros were winning. On the drive home from the gym I told my husband that I had taken creatine that morning and jokingly claimed that it was working already. I’d be ripping holds off the wall in a week.
Pros and cons of taking Creatine: You do not need to load.
No. Scientists at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute wrote an article in the journal Sports Science Exchange in 2003 after creatine became a widely popular supplement in the 1990s. This article reviewed many studies that had been done regarding creatine supplementation. They report that according to the studies conducted up to that point in the history of creatine supplementation history, no data indicated that a loading phase was necessary. Athletes who loaded simply achieved increased the levels of creatine in their system faster than those who began with a maintenance dose. This fact about creatine supplementation is repeatedly confirmed and widely accepted. (Clarkson, Rawson, 1, 2)
If you want more proof, here are 3 other more recent sources that confirm the non-essentialness of a loading phase when introducing creatine into your diet. The first source is from the Journal of the International Society of SPorts Nutrition, and the other two are just blogs/magazines.
I didn’t load when I started taking creatine. I have never taken performance enhancing supplements, so a slow load made creatine a more approachable substance for me. Also, in the Horst post, he says no loading for climbers. Consequently, I did not load, nor do you need to.
Pros and cons of taking creating: Dosage is simple.
The serving size on my bottle of creatine says 5 grams, but every article I read says 3-5 grams per day. So, you should put a wee bit of thought into how much creatine you want to take daily. You can more precisely calculate how much creatine you need daily based on your weight. Finding your creatine dosage requires some basic math and conversions, but is super simple.
- Step 1: Figure out your weight in kilos. 1 lb = 2.2 kilos. Your weight ÷ 2.2 = your weight in kilos.
- Step 2: Calculate .07 grams creatine per kg of body weight. .07 x your weight in kg = your daily creatine intake.
But, this number is most likely going to be around 3-5 grams a day. Here are a bunch of articles that confirm this:
- How Much is 5 Grams of Creatine? (Video + Photos) (2023) – Lift Vault.
- Can You Take Too Much Creatine? Side Effects and Dosage
- Creatine Dosage Calculator for Men and Women
- How Much Creatine Should I Take? | Gainful
- Timing, optimal dose and intake duration of dietary supplements with evidence-based use in sports nutrition – PMC
Over All Pros of Taking Creatine: Felt results in the first 60 days.
Honestly, pretty good. In biking and in climbing, I have definitely had multiple moments that feel kind of more powerful, where I pull through something or over something extra hard for me and I am like, “Oh, I bet that was the creatine…”
2 weeks into taking a quarter teaspoon every day, we went to the NRG to climb. I started projecting Bimbo Shrine, an 11b at the Seven Eleven Wall. The beginning crux felt thrutchy and the crimps on the second crux felt small. About 6 weeks later, 8 weeks into supplementation, we went back. Back on Bimbo Shrine, I was able to lock off through the first crux and the crimps at the crux did not feel so bad.
I started taking a pretty conservative dose of a quarter teaspoon but now have upped my dose to a flat half teaspoon a day. I like to put it in my morning yogurt: a cup of Chobani Less Sugar Yogurt with a scoop of collagen protein. It is a great little meal. Which is perfect, because I am always in a bit of a rush in the morning, and don’t really like shoving food in my face in a rush out the door. It is only 150 calories with 20 grams of protein. That with a class of Athletic Greens, is pretty ideal.
Did creatine make you puffy?
And finally, did I puff up? I did not. My weight actually stayed the same. I did not measure myself or anything like that; that is too much work. However, full disclosure, at the same time I started on creatine, I was also trying to eat a little below my TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) because I thought my pants were getting a little tight… so maybe that accounted for it a bit? I think the jury is still out on this one. I’ll have to follow up on how my pants are fitting later.
Thank you for reading! I hope my story was a bit motivating and inspiring for you. It is not easy to be a ‘normal’ person, work all day, and try to stay at the ‘top’ of the sports we love and get olde, but we do the best we can!
Clarkson, P., Rawson, E. (2003). Scientifically Debatable: Is Creatine Worth Its Weight?. Sports Science Exchange. 16(4), 1-5. https://secure.footprint.net/gatorade/stg/gssiweb/pdf/2006925105422.pdf