Creatine is a non-essential organic acid that is produced in limited quantities in the liver and kidneys from three amino acids. In addition, creatine can be ingested through the dietary intake of meat and fish or pure creatine as a dietary supplement. Creatine is elementary for the energy production of skeletal muscles and, with a good creatine supply, improves muscle metabolism, leads to an increase in performance during short-term and intensive exercise and improves strength building. Therefore creatine is the most popular dietary supplement for athletes.
When should creatine be taken – before, during or after exercise?
The timing of creatine intake plays a minor role. Different scientific studies give different recommendations. The fact is, however, that creatine is not consumed directly by the body, but is stored in the muscles independently of the time of intake.
Only when new ATP is needed quickly as fuel for energy is creatine consumed. It is therefore not important when you take creatine, but that you take it every day without interruption. This also means that you take creatine on the days when you take a break from training. Creatine is best absorbed by the body when taken on an empty stomach – i.e. two hours before or after a meal.
How long should creatine be taken?
Creatine is one of the harmless food supplements. This means that long-term or permanent use is possible. However, study results have shown that even short-term intake demonstrably improves performance.
Vegetarians in particular benefit from a longer-term intake. New studies are investigating whether long-term use can protect against neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. However, clear results are not yet available. It is important that the body, especially the kidneys, are given a recuperation phase in which no creatine is absorbed. If creatine is taken as part of strength training, an additional 4-week break should be taken after two to three months so that the physical structures such as muscles, ligaments and tendons can adapt to the increased strength level.