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Understanding Creatine

Creatine (CR) is a natural substance manufactured in the kidney, pancreas and liver which is stored (98%) in the skeletal muscles. Creatine is found mainly in meat, fish and to a lesser extent in milk. It aids recovery, slows down the rate of muscle fatigue and is an immediate alactic energy source (7 to 10 seconds only) which donates energy in the form of phosphorous to help maintain and lengthen muscle contraction as follows: CR + P = CP (stored energy) ----- ADP + P = ATP (energy).

The body will produce 1 to 2 grams of creatine per day naturally. However, the body will stop producing its own natural CR if too much CR is being ingested into the system. For creatine to be best absorbed, it must be taken with food (balance 40-30-30 intake) to stimulate a slow insulin release. This can be done at meal time to ensure a even distribution of CR during the day. Mix CR with water or fruit juice. Since CR stays in the blood stream for about 1.5 hours and must be used by the muscle in that time, other possible options to take advantage of the ‘window of opportunity’ for CR supplementation are: (i) take CR within one hour of a workout to provide an increased level of energy to increase the quality of the workout and to take advantage of the increased blood flow to muscles during training ; (ii) take CR immediately after training to replace the muscle CR loss as soon as possible and to accelerate recovery. There are no known long term side affects of CR use. CR monohydrate is 88% CR while CR citrate is only 44% CR.

Outstanding and renowned, University of Texas at Austin, track and field coach, Dan Pfaff states that: “hydration becomes a major concern when taking creatine. For the elite athlete, blood or urine analysis will tell you which trace minerals are needed to prevent possible injury. A good massage therapist will be able to read an athlete’s body and detect muscle changes and potential problems. A calcium and magnesium imbalance tends to occur if creatine is abused or overused. Basically, the muscle stays in a contracted state, resulting in fatigue, cramping and eventually, the muscle blowing up. Because of a change in muscle dynamics and an increased demand on many other body systems & elements, dehydration & a sound knowledge of what micro nutrients are needed to prevent major muscle problems.”


  • Loading Phase (1 week)
    2 grams 3x day for 7 days. Taken at breakfast, lunch and for slow build up). Note: The high loading dose (20-40 gms /day) normally associate with creatine use is no longer recommended because of possible risk of muscle cramping, rapid weight gain and side affects to coordination and balance.
  • Maintenance Phase (3 weeks)
    2 grams 2x day for 21 days. Taken in the morning at breakfast & within 1 hour after workout with a balanced of food or drink: carbo (40%), protein (30%), fat (30%). 1 gram 2x day for 7 days. Taken at lunch and within 1 hour after the workout with a balance of food or drink (40-30-30)
  • Unloading Phase (1-2 weeks)
    No creatine. Meet individual athlete’s needs to balance all bodies’ systems.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of Victoria and Brent Mc Farlane. Many of the ideas may be considered revolutionary and controversial but supported by research and observation of Canada’s top track and field athletes over the past 15 years. Brent Mc Farlane was the Head Coach of Canada’s 2000 Olympic Track & Field Team in Sydney with 32 years of coaching experience. He has published 5 books and 500 articles on training for athletics. Vicki Mc Farlane is a registered nurse and consultant to the 2000 Canadian Olympic Team on nutrition.

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