One of the most frequently asked questions by athletes – this one is for you, heavy lifters and everyone who works hard at the gym.
If you are into bodybuilding and strength training in general, chances are that you’ve heard about creatine.
In a nutshell, creatine is, arguably, one of the most widespread muscle-building supplements. Creatine helps your muscles perform stronger during the workout and recover faster after it.
Interestingly enough, there are hardly any side effects found in creatine, which is quite unlike a lot of other sports supplements that are out there. “If it is really so, what’s the big deal?” you might ask. “Just take it and get pumped.”
Well, there are still a few tips and tricks on how to take creatine to get maximum effect – and most of these tips are about how much water you should drink with creatine.
Even small Internet search on the subject reveals all sorts of solutions – from “bro” tips like “drink a couple of gallons per day and you’re gonna get big, man” to the “scientifically proven” recommendations “0.5 oz per each pound of weight” to “you should drink the same amount of water as you always do.”
This article provides a great insight on the “water and creatine” problem to finally give you a definite answer to the question “How much water should you drink with creatine?”
Before we get on with the details, let’s talk about the creatine itself first – what it is, what makes it so great and how we should use it.
What Is Creatine?
According to this popular definition from Examine.com, creatine is a kind of molecule in your body’s energy system which is capable of rapid energy production to help support the cellular function.
In short, it’s a substance that gives our body an additional rapid burst of energy and helps our muscles contract better, which is exactly what we need during the workout, isn’t it?
From a chemical point of view, creatine is a nitrogenous organic acid that occurs naturally in vertebrates and helps to supply energy to all body cells, primarily muscle cells.
Creatine has always been there in your body, and it’s a totally organic substance. However, our natural creatine production is not sufficient enough for the extreme loads our muscles go through when you are working out.
That is why athletes (not only bodybuilders, so to say) and scientists have figured out how to exploit this wonderful creatine effect for the benefit of muscle growth and strength. They have started mass-production of creatine.
Typically, creatine is available in two main forms – powder and capsules. Both of them are alright for your purposes. The only type of creatine we would recommend you to avoid using is liquid creatine because of its low quality.
To choose the right brand, make sure to read the product reviews first – the rule of thumb here is to go with the known, tried-and-true products rather than experimenting with something no one has ever tried.
For those of you who are always eager to learn something new, here’s more information about creatine.
How Does Creatine Work?
In general, creatine is like that power-up from the old console video games – when your character picks it up, it becomes noticeably strong and powerful but only for a short period of time after which he gets back to normal.
This is pretty much what creatine does to our body. It gives our muscles an additional burst of energy right when we need it most – during a heavy workout.
Since our muscles are not used to such heavy weights in our everyday life, any kind of weight-lifting exercise is a huge stress for them.
Depending on how well your muscles overcome this stress, they will grow faster, slower, or won’t grow at all. The latter usually happens when you don’t do your exercises the right way or with the proper technique.
Your muscles grow slowly if you workout without using any active supplements because every person’s body has its own natural limits.
However, if you do use some supplements, your muscles can allow you to do longer and more productive workouts while helping the muscles recover faster and grow bigger.
Here’s a little bit of chemistry for you, regarding the working principles of creatine (just a little bit).
1. ATP is the energy currency of life
Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is a small molecule that transports chemical energy between cells to make metabolism happen.
2. Every living organism contains more or less regular amount of ATP in its cells
3. When an organism is put under stress (heavy workout in the form of muscular contraction in our case), it causes body to use its ATP resources
4. During the stress (workout), the phosphate by-product reduces ATP in adenosine diphosphate (ADP)
5. Thanks to its chemical properties, creatine helps body turn ADP back into ATP for additional energy and faster recovery
Creatine is almost universally used by bodybuilders, athletes, and other members of the fitness community. It’s available at any sports supplement store and comes in two main forms – powder and pre-portioned capsules.
There are no known side effects to using creatine, and this is one of the reasons for it becoming that popular. It’s not a magic pill, of course – just a good supplement that will help you get bigger faster if used properly.
How To Drink Creatine Properly?
There are a few approaches to using creatine as a supplement. Let’s talk about the most common one, which is equally good for beginners and intermediate athletes alike.
- Make sure to consult with your physician before starting to use creatine, especially if you have a condition related to the blood sugar level
- Use ONLY powdered creatine or creatine in capsules – “Not the liquid one”
- Load the body with creatine first and then gradually come down to the “maintenance” amount
- Take the right amount of creatine at the same time every day – the exact time when you start does not really matter; it’s the regularity and sticking to the schedule that makes a success here (e.g., one dose every 4 hours – morning, lunch, evening, before going to bed)
Below are the instructions on how take creatine to achieve the maximum effect – for those who have never take it before.
- Take your creatine container and measure exactly 5 grams (most products have a scoop inside them, so use that – if there’s no scoop, use your teaspoon)
- Put the powder in a cup.
- Mix the powder with one quart of water (roughly 1 liter) and stir it with the spoon (alternatively, you can use a shaker if you have one)
- Drink the creatine mixture right away – the longer creatine stays in water, the faster it degrades, thus losing its valuable qualities
- Drink another cup or two of water to wash the original mix down – creatine takes up some of your original body
- Start with four doses per day for the first five days (“loading” phase), then tape off to 2 or 3 doses per day (“maintenance” phase)
- The cycle is usually 5 days of loading, 3 weeks of maintenance, and 1 or 2 weeks off. Then repeat.
If you happen to have creatine in pre-portioned 5-gram capsules, you can just skip the steps 1 through 4 and proceed to drinking right after you have swallowed the capsule.
How Much Water Should You Drink With Creatine?
Now it’s finally time to give answers to our main question.
As we’ve mentioned before, you should drink plenty of water with creatine because the creatine-related chemical processes involve pulling water from your bloodstream and sending it directly to your muscles.
That means that your regular body functions should require more water than usual, and THAT’S WHY you should drink more water while taking creatine.
“But how much water, though?” you would probably ask. Let’s see what the parameters are.
First of all, your body weight and height. Obviously, the bigger you are, the more water you will need.
Secondly, it depends on your current water drinking habit – how much water you usually consume during the day.
And, finally, it depends on how many workouts you have per week.
Having considered all that, we would suggest the following recommendations.
- Stay hydrated regularly – never allow your body to go without water for more than 3 hours straight
- Drink when you are thirsty – make a habit of always having a bottle of fresh water beside you wherever you are
- Remember that water comes not only with water itself – it’s in every dish, especially vegetables, and fruits
- While working out, take a sip of water from your bottle after every set you do
- Don’t drink less than 1 gallon and more that 3 3 gallons of water per day – these are quite general recommendations but they’ve got to be observed anyway
If you want a certain number to follow, it would be safe to say that you should drink anywhere from 6 to 8 glasses of water per day while taking creatine.
And if you want a formula – well, we’ve got one for you. To calculate the exact amount of water you need to consume (generally, not on creatine), you should divide your weight in pounds by two and drink that number of ounces of water per day.
No idea what we’re talking about?
Here’s an example: your weight (200 lbs) / 2 = 100
Therefore, you should drink (at least) 100 ounces of water per day, or approximately 3 liters (one liquid ounce equals roughly 0.3 liters). And that’s what your regular daily consumption should be – when you’re not on creatine!
When you are on creatine, though, you would want to increase you water consumption by roughly 17 ounces (0.5 liters) if you take 5 grams of creatine daily.
So, the target amount of water for a 200-lb athlete on creatine would be 3.5 liters daily. Please mind that this is just an approximation – take note of what your body feels like and drink more if you’re really thirsty.
However, try not to go over 2 gallons per day – that much water can wash out sodium out of your body, which is potentially dangerous for your health.
There are no restrictions on food – you can keep your regular menu as long as it’s healthy and balanced.
You’ve learned everything you need to know about creatine – what it is, what it does, and how to use it properly for your sports regime.
Creatine is a great, all-natural supplement that allows your muscles to grow and recover faster while posing almost no side effects except for the need to consume more water than usually.