Basic protein aside, the world of supplements represents a new level in a fitness regimen that might seem intimidating. You want to know what you're putting in your body, so there's a pile of research that goes along with it, and if you're like me, you're into keeping things natural. But after reading this guide, I'm a little bit sold on creatine.
Over at the Art of Manliness blog, there's a primer on all things creatine, that muscle fluid that makes up 1% of our bodies. The long and short of it is, it's safe, it's cheap, and muscles function better on it. Our bodies naturally create about 2 grams of it per day, but our muscles can handle and use more than that. It'd be possible to consume as much as our muscles could handle by eating an unreasonable, expensive amount of meat every day, but it's a lot easier to throw in a few grams of creatine into a morning shake.
Though it doesn't actually matter when you take it. As the guide implies, viewing supplements as something you take only during a "magic window" for best effect can lead to not taking it at all because you missed the window. There might be a small window after a workout that's slightly more beneficial, but it's not enough to devote much thought to.
I also had no idea the "loading phase" was a thing:
With that in mind, companies that sell creatine powder recommend that when you first start taking it, you begin with a “loading phase” that involves taking a high dosage of 20 grams per day (taken 4X a day in 5 g doses) for a week or two. Once your muscles have become “super saturated” with creatine, you move into a “maintenance phase” where you take the usual 5 g a day. While it’s true that a loading phase will saturate your muscles with creatine quickly, it might not be necessary. Research has shown that taking 3-5 g a day from the get-go will eventually result in creatine saturation. It just takes longer for the saturation to occur.
If you're still keen to do your own research, that's commendable and absolutely do that. The article has plenty of links to scientific studies that you can use as a starting point.