Last updated on November 3rd, 2022 at 05:26 pm
It’s a question that gets asked fairly often, “Should Beginners Take Creatine?”
If you’re new to training in the gym I’m sure you’ve wondered about taking supplements.
On one hand it probably scares the living daylights out of you, and is best avoided.
However, you’d like to know if there’s a safe supplement you can take that can potentially boost your performance.
I’m sure you’ve heard about creatine over-and-over again, plus it seems as though just about everyone’s taking it.
Allow me to explain whether you should be taking creatine as an absolute newbie to lifting.
Should Beginners Take Creatine?
It is absolutely fine for beginners to take creatine. There is no need to train for a specific period first before you start taking creatine, as it is one of the safest and most studied supplements there is. The side-effects most commonly associated with creatine are typically caused by not drinking enough water or taking too much. However, you can avoid these by staying well-hydrated and sticking to 3-5g of creatine a day.
1. Creatine is Perfectly Safe to Take
I totally understand that you may be wary of taking creatine as a novice lifter.
I mean, you hear so many horror stories about certain supplements.
There’s people who’ve ended up in hospital because of consuming various supplements.
You’ve probably heard of lifters getting heart disease, or numerous other serious illnesses.
And of course, there are even people who have died from taking supplements.
However, when it comes to creatine, it is probably the safest, and most well-studied, supplement there is.
There are certain side-effects associated with creatine consumption, and I’ll get to these in a moment.
But, in truth, most of the side-effects are mainly caused by improper use or not adhering to certain protocols.
For a start creatine is naturally found in the body anyway.
So, in effect, by supplementing with creatine you are merely topping up your natural resources.
Plus, creatine is found in various foods, especially red meat and seafood.
Therefore, your body already has stores of creatine and you’re probably consuming it regularly in the foods that you eat.
This in itself should tell you that creatine is perfectly safe.
2. You Can Start Taking Creatine Straight Away
I would hazard a guess that as a novice lifter you’re probably worried about getting into supplements straight away.
There’s almost a view that perhaps you should build muscle first and then start supplementing to increase your gains.
I believe the reason many people think like this is that they liken creatine to some type of anabolic steroid.
It’s as though you’re worried about the unknown and how your body will react if you haven’t been regularly training for a few months or years.
However, as I’ve already mentioned, creatine is a substance that is already naturally found in the body and various foods.
In truth, the main reason to take creatine is that it helps in the process of topping up the body’s stores of adenosine triphosphate (ATP).
ATP is the body’s main source of energy, which helps to power the movement and contraction of the muscles.
And unfortunately, the body can only store so much ATP at any one time.
So, in effect, by taking creatine you’re topping up these stores in order to provide the energy for your workouts.
I will say that creatine isn’t some type of miracle supplement and you won’t add lean muscle mass by simply taking it.
Creatine’s purpose is to provide just that little bit extra energy.
It’s often said that creatine enables you to get those last couple of reps.
So, let’s say that you typically perform 10 reps of bicep curls with a particular weight.
In essence, creatine may allow you to get to 12 reps.
You perform bicep curls twice a week, so over the period of a year creatine has allowed you to get an extra 208 reps.
That is how you build “extra” muscle.
So, it’s fine to start taking creatine as soon as you start lifting.
3. The “Problems” With Creatine
You’ll typically hear about certain side-effects from taking creatine.
However, in truth, most of these are self-inflicted.
The main side-effects associated with creatine are:
- Upset stomach
- Kidney Damage
So, let’s look at each of these.
I will say that there is some evidence that creatine can cause gastrointestinal problems in certain individuals.
However, this is extremely rare and constitutes a tiny percentage of the population.
In the main, if you’re having stomach issues from creatine it generally comes down to not drinking enough water, taking too much creatine, or even what you’re mixing it with.
Next, creatine draws water from the body into the muscle cells.
The aim is to flood the muscle cells with both creatine and water.
This is often why people will say that they either feel bloated or that their muscles look slightly fuller and bigger.
I will say that this is slightly different from water retention.
Creatine draws water into the muscles, whereas water retention means that there’s water on top of the muscles, but under the skin.
However, one thing is for sure, and that is you must increase your water intake while taking creatine.
As creatine is drawing water from the body this means that there is less water for the vital organs to function.
So, if you’re not drinking additional water this can lead to dehydration.
Okay, so I’ve spoken about the potential dehydration, and it is this that may cause kidney issues.
So, basically as long as you stay well hydrated and drink plenty of water you should never experience kidney problems.
Plus, of the thousands of studies conducted on creatine not a single one has ever been able to verify organ damage from supplementation.
With that being said, if you have a history of kidney problems I would suggest that you speak to your Doctor before you start taking creatine.
How to Best Use Creatine For Muscle Growth (No Side Effects)
4. There’s No Need to Load Creatine
I’ve mentioned creatine dosage a couple of times without really going into detail.
The main reason for this is that you’ll typically hear that creatine requires a loading phase before you drop back to a maintenance dosage.
Basically, the aim here is to flood the muscles with creatine as quickly as possible and then keep them topped up.
So, in effect, your muscles can draw on creatine more or less straight away to produce ATP in order to fuel your workouts.
The loading phase is generally 20g a day for a week followed by a maintenance phase of 5g a day.
However, in reality, you don’t need a loading phase, and you perhaps don’t even need to take as much as 5g a day.
The vast majority of lifters can take 3-5g of creatine daily.
It’s just a case of finding what works for you.
Plus, without a loading phase, this simply means it may take up to 3-4 weeks for the muscles to become flooded with creatine.
However, don’t forget that building muscle is a long-term goal, and not something that happens overnight.
Plus, by sticking to a lower dosage of creatine you’re unlikely to experience any of the gastrointestinal issues that some people do.
Creatine Load Phase – Is it Necessary?
5. An Alternative Beginner’s View to Creatine
There is another point of view when it comes to beginners and creatine.
There are those who believe you should hold off on creatine supplementation for at least the first 2-3 months of training.
The main reason for this is to allow your muscles to first adapt to lifting weights.
I guess the thought process is that then you can really see how much of an impact creatine has on you.
In all honesty, I don’t really agree with this.
Sure, I can see the potential benefits to this, but it’s almost like saying that creatine supplementation will catapult your training into a completely different stratosphere.
Basically, yes creatine is a great supplement, but it won’t make that much of a difference to your training.
In fact, there are many lifters who claim they are “non-responders” and don’t find additional benefits from taking creatine.
Whether this allows them to lift a couple more reps or recover quicker in time for their next workout.
I think it should be a personal choice as to when you decide to supplement with creatine, if at all.
However, the whole crux of this article is whether beginners should take creatine, and that gets a thumbs up from me.
So, as you can see, it’s perfectly fine for beginners to take creatine.
Whether you should or shouldn’t is down to personal choice.
However, creatine is definitely one of the safest and most well-studied supplements there is.
As long as you stick to the recommended dosage and drink plenty of water then you won’t suffer any adverse effects.
Remember, creatine is not some miraculous anabolic steroid, but simply a natural product found in the body and many foods.
The main aim of creatine supplementation is to literally give you that extra rep or two during a workout and potentially speed up recovery.
Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.