Water, towels and creatine. Those are the must haves of any professional weightlifter and athlete. If you want to lift heavier, run more, jump higher and last longer, then creatine is there for you as one of the most popular and commonly used performance enhancing supplements.
What is creatine?
To put it very simply, creatine is a natural substance that when ingested triggers the production of adenosine triphosphate, often referred, ATP which provides the body with energy to contract muscle. This naturally occurring compound plays a huge part in how and when the body stores and releases cellular energy.
The body naturally produces creatine in small amounts, and just like humans, animals do too, which is why many people increase their intake of animal protein in order to increase intake of creatine.
The International Journal of Sport and Nutrition and Exercise metabolism developed a couple of studies that proved a creatine deficiency in people who did not consume meat, fish and dairy products, 30 percent lower to those who did consume such foods. In 2017 Rogerson developed research that consequently encourages vegetarians and vegans to be diligent about their creatine supplementation.
As you can see from the table below, creatine levels vary dramatically depending on the source. Meat and fish contain the highest amount of creatine per kilogram, however, fruit and veggies which are the foundation of a healthy diet contain only trace amounts. Also something to take into consideration is the fact that creatine levels are affected when heated therefore making it even harder to gauge post cooking. Clearly we are hardly getting enough through diet.
Unknown benefits (cognition, muscle fatigue, endurance, strength, heart & bone health, testosterone)
Sure, creatine intake has some major surface level effects, like making you look bigger with a fuller musculature but it goes much deeper than that. It is globally known as a performing enhancing physical supplement but it also supports the body in many other aspects.
Improve your brain functionIt is scientifically proven that creatine has major impacts on cognitive function. In one specific study , mental fatigue dramatically decreased in young adults that supplemented for about 5 days in comparison to the placebo group. Another one even demonstrated its efficacy to combat the symptoms of sleep deprivation.
Source: Rae C, et al. Oral creatine monohydrate supplementation improves brain performance: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over trial. Trusted SourceJournal of Biological Sciences, 2003.
Speed up your muscle recovery
Back in 2010, 8 Ironman athletes were submitted to a randomised trial where half of the group was given creatine supplementation and the other half a placebo. Unsurprisingly, the group supplementing with creatine monohydrate had significantly lower markers of muscle damage in comparison to the placebo group.
A sports nutrition journal published a paper that followed 14 men and divided them into two groups , group 1 supplementing with creatine and carbohydrates group 2 just with carbohydrates. Group 1 recovered muscularly notoriously faster.
Furthermore, it's no secret that as we age muscle wastes away, however, creatine seems to have our backs. It can slow down age-related muscle loss, as proven in several studies through its ability to increase strength, improve muscle mass, enhance endurance and increase bone density.
Perform better and last longer
Creatine deficiency is linked to muscle fatigue during exercise whereas good levels will help you excel in your workout by boosting endurance, strength and power.
Soccer players who supplemented with creatine had better performance during the game because their speed and ability to react quickly was optimized, not only were they able to run faster and reaction time decreased but also had more stamina.
Supplementation of this compound is very popular in the weight room as a result of amplified muscle strength and weightlifting performance.
Lead your heart and bones to better health
I’m sure pretty much everyone on the planet would agree that heart and bone health are of major importance. Who has never jumped on a treadmill for the sake of their cardiovascular system or increased their calcium intake cause weak bones are no bueno.
Major reductions in high cholesterol concentrations were seen in study participants with elevated levels supplementing on 5g of creatine daily.
It has also been proven that adding it to your daily multivitamin can be of extreme benefit rather than just taking them alone.
Personally, as a female who exercises regularly maintaining and improving my bone health is of major importance. Increasing my bone mineral density has been one of my main goals this year because certain hormonal fluctuations can result in low bone mass.
As suggested by my GP and based on research, I started supplementing w creatine after experiencing a stress fracture.
Its apparently very common amongst postmenopausal women with bone issues to supplement on creatine as a way of strengthening their osteology aka skeleton. Even though this study was done on rats it makes it evident its potential to repair and grow bone.
How much should I be taking?
Hopefully by now you have swapped the question of “should I be taking protein?” with “how much should I take”?
Perhaps, something you have also considered or heard of is a loading phase. This involves increasing your intake drastically by around 20g daily leading up to a maintenance phase. If you are considering a loading phase, 5 grams, taken 4 times a day for a week will increase its presence in muscle tissue by around 30 percent, and if you want to maintain those levels simply continue intaking from 3 to 5 grams on a daily basis.
While a loading phase is commonly deemed necessary, some studies have proven that a maintenance level supplementation of 3-5 grams daily brings muscular levels right up to optimal in about 28 days.
If you are looking for a quick way of increasing your stores and getting a quick fuller body composition then multiply your body weight in kilograms by 0.3 to determine your personal dosage.
When should I be taking it?
As one can understand from the information above the benefits of creatine go far beyond increasing muscle mass or giving your pecs a pump, but in order to optimize and enhance its benefits timing can play an important role on how your body will use and respond to it.
But the question is, pre-workout? Post-workout? Whenever?
There is quite a lot of evidence suggesting that creatine intake timed around a workout will help with muscle building, increase fat free mass and strength gains. Whether taken pre or post-workout it's muscle strength benefits were made obvious in this study. Yet, a 2013 paper proved that if improved body composition and lean tissue is the goal sticking to supplementing post-workout might be a better choice.
Creatine myths debunked
Creatine is an over the counter performance enhancing supplement, that is not only affordable but also safe for the average Joe. The International Society of Sports Nutrition defines creatine as a supplement that is well tolerated by its users. Perhaps, when talking to your spotting friend or around the gym lockers you heard that creatine might do more harm than good, that it might make you pile on the pounds or starve your body from water so let's look into it
“Creatine harms the kidneys”
I believe that what I have heard the most when it comes to creatine is how it affects the kidneys. Perhaps some people are already suffering from renal issues when they start taking it but there has never been any data or evidence that supports those claims. Independently of the weeks, months or years you have been supplementing you will not experience any collateral negative reactions due to it.
In one study, they analysed renal function in people that had been taking creatine from 10 months up to 5 years and neither short-term, medium-term, nor long-term showed any adverse effects.
“Creatine not advisable for women”
In the midst of all the things you have heard creatine being called perhaps a steroid has been one of them, which as well is not accurate. Independently of its accuracy many people, women included have been put off by creatine simply due to this bogus claim.
In order to prove its efficacy on females a study,of sixteen lacrosse players, consuming either creatine or a placebo for five weeks was conducted. Blood samples were taken, endurance tested and body composition checked.
Testing revealed that creatine supplementation improved endurance, muscle strength, decreased body-fat significantly over the placebo group. Therefore, concluding of great benefit towards a female crowd.
“Creatine causes weight gain”
It is important to remember that correlation does not mean causation. Perhaps at the beginning of your creatine journey you noticed that the scale went up a couple of pounds but that is most likely due to the fact that more water is being stored in your muscles, which will allow you to lift heavier, perform better and in consequence build more lean muscle mass.
The only weight that it might make you gain is muscle mass- that was the main goal in the first place. As proven in this study from 2017, muscle fiber growth is 2-3 times higher when supplementing with creatine than with placebo.
“Creatine causes dehydration”
First of all let's think logically. Assuming, you either just started or have been taking creatine for a while, when you take it you notice how it makes you go harder at the gym, you lift heavier, you run longer, both making you live a puddle of sweat behind but also forcing you to hydrate more and more cause your body is asking for lots of water.
Many studies have been done in order to delve deeper into the link between dehydration and creatine but all end up coming up inconclusive cause there is no correlation between the two. Even on athletes working out in the heat creatine supplementation had zero adverse effects in their bodies fluid balance.
A low risk supplement, strategically used as a means to enhance performance by everyone from a casual weightlifter to a professional athlete, an aid in several physiological functions and a compound that plays a critical role on cognition, heart and bone health.
Hopefully by now I have given you all the reasons why you should be adding some to your shopping cart.