I’m not typically one for supplements; I tend to go with the philosophy that you can get everything you need from what you eat and drink. Yes, I take whey protein, but only usually on my training days in a post-workout smoothie as a pre-breakfast breakfast, or as a method of cooking healthier alternatives to my favourite snacks, like protein pancakes, protein waffles, or other sweet treats.

But one supplement I have been taking this year that I feel has made a big difference to my training is creatine. Whenever I’ve been asked about supplements, I’ve always expressed the opinion that the only one that really has solid research behind it is creatine, and now I’ve experienced the benefits of it first-hand I really can put my money where my mouth is.

So what exactly is creatine?

Creatine occurs naturally in the body as phosphocreatine (or creatine phosphate), and it is one of the molecules that creates immediate, usable energy for the cells of your muscles, in the form of adenosine tri-phosphate (ATP). This energy source is the one that gives the “spark” to your ignition – fuelling the first few seconds of a sprint, the power behind a heavy lift, or the drive in your high jump. It’s fast acting and short in duration, before your body moves on to using the next energy system in the chain.

Put simply, supplementing with creatine means the body has more capacity for creating ATP, enabling you to recruit more muscle fibres and work harder. And if you can work harder, you will get stronger, faster.

Creatine supplementation can help you get stronger, faster. Find out more: Click To Tweet

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Benefits of creatine supplementation

There are many, many suggested benefits of supplementing with creatine, but the few that are reliably backed by research (and, in my opinion the most important ones) are:

Increased muscle strength/power

One study found a 20% increase in muscle strength following creatine supplementation and a resistance training programme, compared to 12% with a resistance training programme accompanied by a placebo.

Another study found that the force output by a muscle following creatine supplementation was 33.4% higher (peak torque), with the time to reach peak torque 54.7% lower, when compared to a placebo. This resulted in a 8.9% increase in the speed of the electric signal causing the muscle to contract after supplementation. As you may already know, force x velocity (speed) = power.

Increased anaerobic performance

Several studies have found improvements in VO2 max tests (the maximum amount of oxygen your body can uptake), and anaerobic performance in sprinting, swimming, and Wingate (cycling) tests. Though some of these studies only found significant differences in men, and not women (while others demonstrated results in both genders).

Increased muscle mass

Many studies have found increases in lean body mass associated with creatine supplementation. At first, this is often attributable to water retention in the muscle (water also counts as lean body mass), but after continued use and training, muscle mass is also significantly increased).

Caution when using creatine

There have been concerns about kidney function with creatine use, but recent research has found that continued use of creatine as a supplement is perfectly safe for generally healthy individuals. Those who already have kidney troubles should check with their doctor before using creatine.

Another common concern with creatine is water retention. Creatine encourages your muscles to take up more water, which can give a pumped up effect (which some users like for the aesthetics of bigger-looking muscles!) and can come with increases in weight of over 2kg. As long as you drink plenty of water to help keep you hydrated, this is totally harmless. I find myself mega thirsty when I’m taking creatine, so drinking enough won’t be difficult!

Creatine SupplementWill creatine work for me?

Not every supplement has the same effect on everyone. I’ve personally found creatine to have a huge effect on my training and performance; I had the best 1RM testing week since first starting CrossFit after taking creatine for about 6 weeks, I also had immediate strength gains when testing my Olympic weightlifting moves after just 1 week of supplementation. But not everyone will reap the same benefits.

What appears to be the biggest influencer on creatine supplementation effect, is the amount that is actually taken up by the muscles – and this seems to vary from person to person, with some being identified as “responders” while others are not. All I can suggest is try it and see!

*Updated 24th May 2016*

In fact, in my recent fitness DNA test, I read that “around 1 in 3 people do not respond to the positive effects of creatine. Although it is not completely understood why, it may be that non-responders have high natural levels of creatine and that supplementation does not have a significant effect. Unfortunately, it is currently not possible to tell from your genes whether you are a ‘responder’ or ‘non-responder’. The only way to find out is to try it yourself.”

*End of update*

How should I take creatine?

What's the best way to take creatine supplements? This post tells you all: Click To Tweet

The most commonly researched form of creatine supplement is creatine monohydrate, it’s also the best value for money as it’s fairly cheap but can give you fantastic results. I use MyProtein creatine monohydrate* unflavoured powder and just add it to my post-workout smoothie or, if I haven’t trained that day, to some orange juice.

There are two options for dosage method, cyclical or constant.

Cyclical

  • 1 week load period 20-25g of creatine per day, spread out in even doses throughout the day
  • X number of weeks at 2.5-5g per day, or 0.03-0.05g per kg of body weight
  • 1-2 weeks break before starting the process again

The load period is associated with a huge stocking up of creatine in the muscles, which brings with it increased water retention and a bigger “pump”. There are arguments that significantly bigger boosts in strength and power can be identified in this period.

Constant

  • 2.5-10g creatine per day (or 0.03 to 0.1g per kg of body weight)… indefinitely

This usually means less water retention, and a more consistent uptake of creatine into the working muscles.

Which method you choose, is entirely up to you. How much you take within these ranges is dependent on your body weight and activity level/intensity. I take around 5g per day (2 small scoops) every day, and I noticed a difference within the first week of taking it, even without a loading period.

The good news is, as well, that the effects don’t seem to drop off after you stop taking creatine, i.e. there is no reduction in strength after discontinuing supplementation.

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Relevance for CrossFit

Because of the nature of CrossFit training, with heavy lifting, anaerobic/high intensity workouts, relatively frequent submaximal efforts, creatine has huge potential to improve performance. The strength and power benefits, anaerobic capacity improvements, and accelerated growth of lean muscle mass are all of great use to any CrossFitter. There are also arguments that creatine can help with recovery after exercise, which is also useful for those who train to the typical CrossFit programme of 3 days on, 1 off, 2 on, 1 off.

Have you ever taken creatine as a supplement? What do you think of it? Is there anything else you want to know about it? Comment below!

Photos taken using my Olympus PEN E-PL7* and M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 45mm 1:1.8 Lens*

* Affiliate link. Affiliate links do not affect the price that you pay, but any commission earned helps me to pay the costs of running this site. To find out more about my policy on this and other matters, see my Disclosure page.

Protein powder has become a bit of a staple in most fitness devotee’s kitchen cupboards, and we’re becoming more and more experimentative with using it, i.e. not just in shakes. Personally I can’t imagine anything more miserable than a scoop of protein powder just mixed with water in a shaker. It just doesn’t do anything for me, no matter how amazing the flavour!

My go-to use of whey is in a post-workout smoothie – made thick with frozen fruit and creamy with almond milk, but there’s so much more you can do with whey to really help you boost your protein and get building that muscle you’ve trained so hard for! Here are my top 12 uses for my favourite protein – MyProtein Impact Whey Isolate.

By the way… keep reading to the end to find an amazing TGIF offer from MyProtein for today (Friday 22nd April) only!

12 Uses for Whey Protein

In a smoothie… duh

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This is probably the most basic, but really effective, ways of using protein powder. I make a high-protein smoothie after every early morning workout… it’s my “first breakfast“. Simply mix frozen fruit with almond milk or coconut water and then blitz again with a scoop of whey protein. I also add creatine, which I’ve found has made a massive difference to my lifting. Easy.

Protein porridge

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Another really quick and easy way to use protein powder is to add a scoop to your morning porridge. I tend not to do this if I’ve already had my smoothie, as I tend to think one scoop of whey a day is enough (for me), but on days when I haven’t had a post-workout smoothie, protein porridge is an easy way to get my extra protein kick. Make your porridge as usual (boiled or microwaved – I tend to use water if I’m going to add protein powder) and stir a scoop through once cooked.

Protein pancakes

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This is an ideal use for protein powder, and probably my most-used second to a smoothie. I’ve made protein pancakes from a variety of different recipes, but one of my favourite is the super simple three ingredient protein pancakes. There’s nothing quite like cutting into a stack of pancakes knowing you’re still keeping to a macro-friendly meal. I especially like mine topped with berries, peanut butter and a cheeky squirt of choc shot.

Protein chocolates

My favourite way to make protein chocolates is with dates and sea salt to make a kind of salted caramel truffle! All you need is some 70% cocoa chocolate, 7 medjool dates (soaked in hot water to soften), 4 tbsp vanilla whey, 4 tbsp almond milk, 2 tbsp coconut flour and 1/2 a tsp of coarse sea salt. Melt the chocolate and drizzle a little in the bottom of a silicone chocolate tray. Put in the fridge while you blitz the remaining ingredients together in a food processor. Remove the tray from the fridge and add a dollop of your truffle mixture. Press the mix down a little with a wet finger, then top with more chocolate and return to the fridge until set. Try not to eat them all at once!

Protein waffles

 

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Similar to pancakes, but arguably waffles feel like more of a treat. Check out my recipe for a real treat of a breakfast. I’ll make these when I’ve got a bit of time to spare to enjoy them – the perfect weekend brunch! I have an electric waffle maker, but you can just as easily buy a waffle iron to use on your hob. If you’re feeling really indulgent? Coat the top in melted chocolate and leave them to cool… oh my word.

Protein bars or balls

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These are super simple to make and store for whenever you need a quick snack! Just mix together protein powder, nut butter, oat/almond/coconut flour to make your base, add in optional textures/flavours like Rice Crispies, chopped nuts, dried fruit, chocolate drops, honey, etc. Shape into balls or bars and top with whatever takes your fancy. No baking required!

Protein pudding

If you haven’t done this yet you are missing out! Protein pudding is one of the simplest, but tastiest things you can do with protein powder. Just mix greek yoghurt with your favourite flavour whey protein (I tend to mix half a scoop per 150g of yoghurt) for the biggest protein kick of your life! Top with fruit and/or granola for a delicious pudding, or layer in a kilner jar if you want to be instagrammable!

Protein ice cream

A slight twist on the above, homemade protein ice cream is super satisfying! Mix greek yoghurt with whey protein, but this time blend it together with some frozen fruit (bananas are really good, or berries/mango. Transfer to a freezable container stirring every 10-20 mins, or mix in an ice-cream maker if you have one! Delicious. If you really feel daring you could go for raspberry swirl effects, or stir in nuts/chocolate chips for a bit of crunch.

Protein flapjack

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I’m a big fan of Battle Oats, but these sorts of things can get very expensive so if I’m feeling a bit strapped for cash I’ll make my own flapjack snack bars. They can be frozen and taken out when you desire, and you can top them with chocolate or yoghurt coating to make them a little bit more… luxurious. Check out the recipe I wrote for Runista of the ultimate energy bar and simply swap half to two thirds of the oat flour for whey protein!

Protein hot chocolate

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This may sound a little weird, but a lot of people make hot chocolate with chocolate powder, so why not protein powder for your evening wind-down drink? Perfect for overnight muscle synthesis while you sleep! Simply mix a scoop of chocolate whey with warm almond milk or water and a drop of vanilla extract if you fancy! Add a teaspoon of coffee for a mocha… yum.

Protein fudge

Sometimes that sweet tooth kicks in and you want something really sweet and fudgy… when that time comes, turn to protein fudge. All you need is whey protein, coconut flour, peanut butter, pea protein, coconut milk or almond milk and honey. Amazing. This recipe for protein fudge from Protein Pow is my favourite – she really knows her protein baking!

Protein muffins

 

Muffins

Another recipe for knocking up when you want to stock up on healthier snacks! All you need is mashed banana, oats, dates, eggs, walnuts, protein powder and baking powder. Blitz it all together, pour into muffin cases and bake at 180o until a skewer comes out clean. The full recipe can be found in my post about the Tefal Fruit Sensation blender!

So that’s it, my top 12 uses for MyProtein Impact Whey Isolate! What’s your favourite way to use protein powder?

MyProtein TGIF Offer

The deal:

25% off site (MyProtein*)

FREE Smartshake 600ml when you spend £30

FREE Impact Whey Protein 250g when you spend £45

FREE BCAA Plus Pills when you spend £60

How:

All of the gifts will be added to the basket automatically so the gifts will work with any code or promotion. All you need to do is use the discount code FRIDAY.

Valid:

Friday 22nd April 2016 only.

Where to shop:

MyProtein Bestsellers*

Basically, if you spend £75 on site you can use the code FRIDAY to get 25% off, making it £60, and you get a free Smartshake, Impact Whey Protein 250g, and BCAA+ pills!

Hurry and get shopping!

Photos taken using my Olympus PEN E-PL7* and M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 45mm 1:1.8 Lens*

* Affiliate link. Affiliate links do not affect the price that you pay, but any commission earned helps me to pay the costs of running this site. To find out more about my policy on this and other matters, see my Disclosure page.