Creatine is one of the oldest supplements on the market and the only one I continually use. There’s a reason for this – it works. Look at any pre-, post-, intra-workout supplement and one of the only ingredients that’s not hidden by the infamous “proprietary blend” label is creatine. Personally, I use unflavored, 99% pure, micronized creatine monohydrate. Over the years, I have stuck with two companies, Optimum Nutrition (O.N.) and Bulk Supplements; the former is what I’m reviewing today as it’s what I’m currently using. I will be posting a “Creatine 101” article soon, but for now, I’ll give you the basics.
Creatine comes in four forms:
- Micronized Monohydrate
- Ethyl Ester
Each form of creatine has its benefits – whether it be purity, water solubility, “pump” effect, etc., but micronized creatine is my favorite due to its purity and general effectiveness.
For weightlifting, powerlifting, and bodybuilding, creatine serves 4 purposes:
- Appearance: When taken properly, creatine loads muscles with water and makes the user appear larger.
- Protein Synthesis: Praise be to the almighty brotein; while creatine doesn’t directly synthesize protein, it spikes ATP levels which stimulates protein synthesis and helps with overall performance while exercising.
- Pump: Creatine helps create the drive to obtain a “pump” that most people associate with other workout supplements.
- Recovery: While creatine doesn’t decrease DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) it does help with energy production while working out and prevents lactic acid from building up in your muscles.
With that very, minimal, still-in-the-dark intro to creatine, read on below to see what I think about O.N.’s creatine. I’ve split this review into the four purposes above, solubility/flavor, and its price thrown in at the end.
There’s a lot of debate as to whether you should follow the “loading” and “maintaining” phases suggested by O.N. or simply to skip loading altogether; luckily for you, I’ve tried both loading and not loading.
Loading: As expect, my appearance was noticeably different between the two, and quite possibly, the only difference. In my last cycle, I loaded per O.N.’s directions and my physique definitely looked bloated/water-logged.
No Loading: I went straight into the maintenance phase during this cycle and while my muscles look slightly water-logged but nothing like when I underwent loading. This doesn’t mean that the creatine isn’t working, though. My body simply isn’t retaining the borderline excessive amount of creatine that’s taken during the loading phase.
In reality, protein synthesis and pump both come under the umbrella of performance – not performance of the supplement, that’d defeat the whole purpose of this article, but my performance in the gym.
As I said, creatine helps spike ATP which helps protein synthesis. For applicable purposes, this means that creatine helps maintain your energy levels while working out. O.N. is very successful in doing that; I used to use pre-workouts, post-workouts, BCAA’s, the works, in addition to micronized creatine. I’d end up jittery, unable to lift heavy, and would inevitably crash after the gym. That was as recent as six months ago; I decided to cut everything but creatine out of my regimen. I flushed everything out of my system and began loading on creating two weeks later; my pre-workout now consists of a cup of coffee with breakfast and creatine right before I workout. O.N. gives me steady, controlled energy that is extremely effective for heavy workouts – my hands aren’t shaking from an impending caffeine-OD while I’m trying to grip the bar but I also don’t get sluggish toward the end of my routine.
For non-lifters, it’s hard to describe what this is; so, I’m assuming you lift (do you really, though?). To answer the question, “does O.N. Micronized Creatine give you a pump?” in one word. Yes. Since I’m less defined because of the water being held in my muscles, when I’m lifting – especially during accessory work – veins start poking through the water-logged mass that I am at the moment, I look huge (by my standards) and I get in the mindset to “chase the pump.” Honestly, the pre-workouts that guarantee a pump aren’t worth it. For the most part (with the exception of companies like Old School Labs – I still use some of their products from time to time) they hide useless and potentially harmful ingredients behind the veil of a secret “proprietary blend” when most products are produced in the same facility. The propriety blends are shit and just make me crash after lifting; O.N.’s creatine doesn’t have that effect on me and if you suffer from the same thing, I’d suggest taking a break from pre-workouts and trying just O.N.’s micronized creatine.
Again, recovery should probably be considered under “Performance” but it straddles that line. The reason being is because creatine helps keep lactic acid levels low while exercising. Lactic acid is what causes you to not be able to push weight anymore – the energy is there but you physically can’t do it. Creatine doesn’t help with post-workout recovery in an identifiable way; it just prevents lactic acid from producing and breaking down your muscles while exercising.
O.N.’s creatine is fairly effective in this. I don’t know if it’s because I drink a lot of milk (I know that’s not the source of lactic acid; it’s a joke and a bad one at that), but once lactic acid starts building, I can’t seem to break through it. While taking O.N., I’ve noticed that I may be able to grind out a few extra reps on my last set, but it won’t give you the PR setting ability that some nose torque will give you.
You can take O.N.’s creatine one of two ways:
- Mix it with a bunch of water, drink that, and mix the rest of the creatine left at the bottom with even more water.
- Take a scoop, thrown it in your mouth and chug water.
I do the latter. I’ve filled my entire Nalgene bottle with water (32 oz) and have still had about 1/4 of a scoop left on the bottom of my bottle; for reference, O.N. suggests mixing it with 8-12 of water. I imagine if you used warm water that it’d mix easier, but even with room temperature water I still have trouble. That’s why I prefer option 2.
Coming in right around $35.00 on Amazon, you can’t go wrong. Its prices are pretty consistent on the internet, and extremely inflated at retail supplement stores. I prefer amazon because I have a Prime subscription and I like my free two-day shipping.
If you’re currently taking some form of pre-workout with proprietary blends, just stop. That shit is harmful, is over-concentrated in all the wrong places, and is ungodly expensive. Give plain, unflavored, micronized creatine monohydrate a try and return here to let me know what you think. If I didn’t go to law school and know the dangers of puffery language, I’d guarantee that you will prefer it.
If you’re interested in trying O.N.’s micronized creating yourself, you can buy it here.