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The Latest Update on Creatine
Part Two

Since there are still no long-term studies regarding the safety of taking creatine monohydrate, the "super supplement" of the Nineties, you have to make a personal decision about whether you want to experiment with your body or not. However, if you do decide to take creatine monohydrate, here is what you should know about how to use it properly. Take note that "properly" means "based on current research". As more studies are done, the recommendations might change. These are the best recommendations that researchers can come up with at this point in time. Lastly, if you are a coach or fitness trainer, medico-legal experts in the U.S. warn that you (the school, team, or fitness center) could be sued for recommending creatine to your players or clients if anything adverse should happen to them since long-term use of creatine is still not proven to be safe.

Initial loading dosage.
There are two ways of taking creatine. The first method uses an initial loading dosage of 20 to 25 grams per day (four or five doses of 5 grams each equally divided over the course of the day) for five to seven days. The second method, a more gradual technique, is to consume 3 grams of creatine a day for approximately one month. According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Health & Fitness Journal, this should increase creatine levels by 20 %.

Maintenance dosage.
ACSM points out that the exact maintenance dosage is not known but "a daily dose of approximately 0.03 to 0.08 grams per kilogram of body weight should be adequate to replace normal breakdown of creatine and maintain elevated creatine stores". Creatine manufacturers usually recommend approximately two to five grams of creatine per day. It is sensible to remember that "more is not better" since consuming large amounts of creatine may cause fat to accumulate in the liver.

Take creatine with carbohydrates.
Some research studies indicate that taking creatine with a carbohydrate source like juice or a sports drink may increase the total amount of creatine in the muscle by 60% compared to taking creatine alone. These studies recommend taking 90 grams of carbohydrates with each 5-gram dose in the initial loading phase. One study showed that the creatine-carbohydrate relationship also affects performance - study participants taking creatine alone increased anaerobic work capacity by 9 % while those taking creatine and carbohydrates increased their anaerobic capacity by 31 %.

Other research implies that the electrolyte sodium may play an important role in determining how well creatine is absorbed by the muscle cells. Researchers at the University of Oxford in England found that when sodium levels are below normal, the absorption of creatine was decreased by 77 %. Researchers suggest drinking a sports drink instead of plain water after intense exercise to maintain normal sodium levels.

Creatine supplementation may need to be "cycled".
It has been observed that some people plateau or do not experience the same results anymore after a few months of creatine supplementation. The theory is that creatine uses certain proteins as a transport system into the cells but prolonged use of creatine can shut these proteins down. Therefore, some researchers are recommending using creatine in a 'cycling' fashion. They say to try a two- or three-month "on" cycle followed by a one month "off" cycle. This will also give your kidneys and digestive system a rest.

Creatine and coffee don't mix.
Don't take creatine with coffee since caffeine may cancel out the effects of creatine. Researchers still cannot explain why this is so.

Potential problems.
The American Council on Exercise (ACE) presented the following potential problems with creatine supplementation in its ACE Fitness Matters Newsletter:

Creatine can be used or abused. It you don't need it, you are just wasting your money and may even be harming your body. If you need it, it may improve your performance slightly in short-burst intense activities like sprinting, jumping and weight lifting.

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