Ultimately, the decision on whether or not to use creatine supplements in your weight gain program will depend on a cost/benefit analysis, your ethical position on the use of dietary supplements and your comfort level with the safety of use.
As creatine safety is covered elsewhere (and, in my opinion, they are extremely safe supplements for most prospective users) this page will focus on the expense as compared to the benefits of usage and the ethics of use.
By itself, the expense is not necessarily overwhelming. Supplementing with 5 grams of quality creatine monohydrate powder daily can be done for less than 20 cents a day.
However, in order to reap the benefits, the costs can be more…
The Real Expense Of Seeing Creatine Benefits
To see the benefits, you must not only be supplementing correctly but be additionally supplying your body with a good muscle building diet including a lot of protein and other nutrients. You should also be taking a good multi-vitamin.
For creatine supplements to be most effective and therefore cost-efficient at helping you gain weight and build muscle you must be….
- Dieting consistently for weight gain and therefore providing the body with an excess of calories from which to build muscle – Weight Gain Diet.
- Training consistently with heavy weights and great intensity – Weight Training Program.
- Supplementing smartly. This means paying attention to dosage, timing, loading, etc. You can dramatically improve your creatine results simply by learning how to effectively use it.
If you are not doing the above three things, you will not be getting the best results possible from use and you may not get any results at all. You might as well not waste your money and time.
When you add the costs of these things to the costs of creatine supplements, you can begin to see some bigger expense numbers.
Taking creatine supplements will never be more important than giving your body the necessary nutrition to build muscle. They will never be more important than proper training. All of creatine’s abilities to help you build muscle are dependent on these things.
You can build significant muscle with a good diet, proper training and NO supplements. Without a good diet and proper training you won’t build significant muscle no matter what supplements you take. Accepting this fact as fact will save you a lot of frustration and money.
Now, when you have these things covered, creatine supplements can definitely help you accomplish some amazing things…
When To First Consider Using Creatine Supplements
If you are just beginning training, just moving off the couch and into the gym, this may not be the time to invest in supplementation. Providing your body with good muscle building nutrition will give you the ability to make some very good and fast muscle gains. Supplementing certainly wouldn’t hamper these gains (it would help) but its presence would not be the determining factor.
In other words, when just beginning, combine weight training with proper nutrition and your body will respond with or without creatine.
The best time to first consider using creatine supplements may be when you hit your first plateau. At this point you should be disciplined with your weight gain diet, working out with great intensity and tracking your program religiously. If not, you probably haven’t really hit a plateau; you just need to try harder.
A plateau is a place you will inevitably come to as your training continues. It is a like hitting a wall where everything that has worked in the past suddenly seems to stop working – the gains dry up and the body stops responding. Old tricks like changing your workout routines or upping your caloric intake seem to affect little change. Now you are ready to see if creatine can work some magic for you…
…and the good news is that it quite possibly can.
But be ready to work even harder at the gym, to take your intensity from 100% to 110% and beyond. Do this and you will truly see what creatine supplements can do.
Ethics of Using Creatine
Personally, I think the majority of people who question the ethics of use do so based on misinformation. A disturbing number of people operate under the impression that creatine is a steroid or is at least closely related. It is not.
It is true that both anabolic steroids and creatine are ergogenic or performance enhancing bodybuilding supplements. However, this is where the similarities end. Steroids are hormones, creatine is protein.
Creatine can rightly be classified as a dietary supplement where anabolic steroids cannot. Theoretically one could consume enough creatine rich food to equate to the creatine levels that can otherwise be attained through supplementation (see how much food here).
The confusion about the differences between creatine and steroids likely goes back to Mark McGwire’s 1998 admission that he had used both prohormones and creatine (and later it became clear that he had also used anabolic steroids). From then on, the two have been associated together in a lot of people’s minds. The media can still occasionally be caught calling creatine a steroid.
The facts are that creatine has a lot more in common with Vitamin C than it does with steroids.
I still get the occasional email from a trainer that goes like this…
“I want to keep my training natural so I am not using creatine. I am taking glutamine, arginine and a multi-vitamin.”
The flaw in this logic is that glutamine, arginine and creatine are all amino acids. It is impossible to make the argument that you are more natural by foregoing creatine but engaging in glutamine or arginine supplementation.
It is also difficult to make the argument that the creatine user is any more unnatural than the average person who pops a multi-vitamin every morning. The concepts are exactly the same – in an effort to make sure they receive maximum coverage of nutrients important to their health and goals, both groups are supplementing their diets with an (by the strictest definition) “unnatural source.”
“Natural bodybuilding” or “natural training” can have different meanings to different people. How you define it is up to you. But rest assured that despite its reputation, creatine is just a dietary supplement.
More questions about creatine supplements?
Check out this site’s Creatine FAQ for a long list of typical questions and links to the answers, everything from how much and when to use it to whether or not it causes hair loss???