First of all, why would you want to supplement with creatine?
If you want to build muscle strength, have more powerful muscles, recover faster from workouts, become more resistant to both physical and mental fatigue, then you may want to consider creatine.
If you are vegan or vegetarian, you may want to consider creatine.
What can you mix creatine with?
Creatine can be mixed with pretty much anything. Some studies suggest that taking a little carbohydrate with creatine can increase uptake into muscles but over the long term this doesn’t seem to make a performance difference.
If you mix it in cold water, it will take longer to dissolve, but this doesn’t affect the absorption or effectiveness of creatine. I personally like mixing with the fruit punch flavor of Optimal Amino Acids or just putting a scoop on my tongue and washing it back with water.
Pure creatine doesn't have the best flavor but thankfully it's mild, so it can be easily masked. Some patients will put it in their smoothie, in their Goat Whey, or in their yogurt. All of which are great options for taking creatine.
How much should you take?
Generally, a good starting point is 3-5 grams per day depending on your muscle mass.
Some people may see added benefit with 7-10 grams per day but the more you get into supraphysiological range (meaning far beyond what the body would ever encounter naturally) you greatly increase the risk for side effects and creating nutrient or resource imbalances in the body. With supplementation we want to maximize performance benefit while having zero side effects.
Do you need to do a loading dose of creatine?
Doing a loading dose of Creapure creatine in unnecessary. In fact doing a loading dose is simply applying unnecessary stress to your body. I would recommend against loading doses of creatine.
We want health + performance gains.
Should you cycle off creatine?
There isn’t a study suggesting you should or should not. I recommend taking 2 weeks off every 12 weeks or like for my own body, I will use creatine 5x per week when I workout and then I don’t ever take a break because I am already taking 8 days off a month.
What time of day should you take it?
Over the long run, studies have not found a definitive time of the day to take creatine for performance effects. If you are working out, which ideally we all would be, then I would aim to take creatine before or shortly after your workout.
It can be mixed with Essential Amino acids, which is my go to for the 40+ athlete as the combo really heightens all things muscle growth, protein synthesis and muscle repair. This could be done before or after a workout.
I personally will do this within about 30 minutes of my workout. I am often still sipping on it while I am warming up. But you could also take it with your protein post workout.
I would be careful taking it right before bed as for some people it can have a mild effect on their total sleep and deep sleep duration. If you are using creatine for its well-being effects or on non-workout days then I would consume it in the morning.
How often should I take creatine for greatest benefit?
Studies show that taking creatine for about 4 weeks at 3 grams per day leads to full muscle saturation. Being consistent about dosing makes all the difference in gaining the strength and performance benefits. So, ideally I would take it most days of the week for the greatest mental and physical benefit.
Other considerations to maximize the benefits of creatine.
One of the ways creatine supports a faster recovery from workouts is by pulling fluids into the muscle cells. However, if there isn't sufficient fluid because a person is dehydrated, creatine will not be able to accomplish this action.
It goes without saying that it is important to make sure you are staying hydrated as well as being watchful for dehydrating agents like alcohol and excess caffeine that can cause you to lose significant amounts of fluid.
You can still hold to the general rule of 1/3-1/2 your body weight in ounces of water per day, to receive all the benefits of creatine supplementation.
There are no studies showing that drinking excess water does anything to help creatine utilization. It will however keep you in the bathroom more often.