In high school, there was one gym bro who took creatine. At the time we all 'gave him crap' for being on steroids (we thought creatine a steroid at the time).
Turns out creatine firstly isn't an illegal substance, but it's actually the most well studied and confirmed effective sports supplement there is.
Fundamentally the powerhouse of the body is ATP. Intramuscular stores of creatine help fuel the re-creation of more ATP during high-intensity bouts of activity to maintain the presence of ATP. However, creatine supplies are limited and do run-out as we use them up. While we can get some creatine from our diet, supplementation is required to ensure levels stay 'topped-up'.
We know creatine helps you perform better in sport and exercise, which obviously matters if you're an athlete wanting to beat everyone else. But this increased performance also means a more appropriate stimulus to enhance the adaptive response to training. Creatine can also help recovery which allows more 'quality' training stimulus to be provided over time again leading to greater adaptations.
What might surprise you is that creatine does more than just 'get you jacked'. The benefits of creatine are not exclusively sports related, with evidence showing use in lessening the development of chronic illness and disease.
So we know it works. Now down to the practical stuff.
Is creatine safe?
Studies have shown a needlessly high dose of more than 10 times optimal requirements for 5 years to be safe in multiple population types and ages.
Will I gain weight and get bloated?
You'll almost certainly gain weight. The key word being 'weight' and not fat. Creatines mechanism of action is increased intramuscular phosphocreatine, glycogen and hydration which all contribute to mass but not fat mass. The weight gain is a by-product of the means by which creatine is effective and don't worry this won't make you look 'puffy'.
What type of creatine is best?
Just good old cheap monohydrate does the job, there is no need to purchase any more expensive, 'fancy-named' ones. Monohydrate is most commonly used in creatine research with other forms being no better or potentially ineffective.
How much/ whats the dose?
You can load it to saturate stores faster, but for the sake of simplicity 3-5g a day does the job, but it might take several weeks to see any notable improvements/ effects. Timing across the day also doesn't matter.
How do I take it?
Add a scoop to your morning water, pre or post workout shake, in a smoothie or even in your oats or yogurt.
Creatine, it's good for sports performance, it's good for getting jacked, it's good for recovery, it's good for health and it's damn cheap. Cheap enough that if new research came out drinking all existing creatine research proving it to be ineffective it wouldn't matter a great deal, and the placebo would be worth it anyway.
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[reference] International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine