What is Creatine?
Creatine is a naturally occurring amino acid found abundantly in the human body. Yes, The body can itself produce creatine and the majority of it (90-95%) is stored inside our muscles in the form of phosphates.
Rest is stored in our organs like the brain, kidney, liver, etc. for their optimal function. It’s made up of 3 amino acids L-arginine, glycine, and methionine.
The body makes creatine from the food items we eat. A high protein and non-vegetarian diet produce more creatine comparatively. Out of which Fish, Beef, and Red Meat have the highest amounts of it.
The amounts of creatine made from food sources aren’t ample enough. We would also need to eat them in pretty large quantities to get the desired amounts of creatine.
To get around 3-5g of creatine naturally, one would need to eat around a kilogram of chicken. 1 pound of fish or beef would just provide us around 1 to 2g of creatine.
Also the big question – How will vegans and vegetarians fulfill these needs?
This is where the role of creatine supplementation comes in. Studies have found that creatine supplementation increases the creatine stores in the body by up to 40%. Also, the muscles get saturated with enough creatine stores in them.
Better creatine stores = Better energy performance and workouts. This makes creatine supplement a perfect ergogenic aid that actually works!
How Does Creatine Work? What Creatine Does?
The job of creatine is to produce “Adenosine Tri-Phosphate”.
In simple terms, ATP = Energy used by the muscles and the body. Working out breaks down and reduces ATP into ADP i.e Adenosine Di-Phosphate. Creatine supplementation again helps to turn ADP into ATP for more energy and strength.
It helps in increasing strength and power. Creatine also helps your muscles to generate greater force, and produce more energy while heavy-lifting and high-intensity exercises.
Be it losing fat, gaining strength, and building muscles – this amazing supplement does its job well. This makes creatine the top bodybuilding supplement that you should put your money on.
Creatine monohydrate is the most effective supplement available to fitness enthusiasts to improve high-intensity exercises, performance, increase muscle mass and power.
Benefits of Creatine Supplement
(1) Makes Muscles Look Big & Fuller
Creatine is a cell volumizer. It gets stored in the muscles and pulls water inside the muscle cells making them appear larger & tighter. The drawing of the fluids inside the muscle cells also indirectly promotes vascularity.
(2) Increases Strength, Power, and Your LIFTS!!
Creatine is a blessing if you’re into heavy weight lifting, high-intensity workouts, and looking for strength gains. It increases your ability to lift more weight and for greater reps.
It can improve sprint performance, overall strength, and anyone who’s into weight training and train at a higher intensity can reap its benefits. Vegan or vegetarian athletes may especially benefit a lot from creatine supplementation.
(3) Increases Lean Body Mass
Higher ATP = More Total Output of the Work = More calories burnt and Increase in the Lean Muscle Mass.
It’s the most effective and most researched ergogenic nutritional supplement for athletes when it comes to increasing intense exercise capacity and lean muscle mass in conjunction with weight training. (1) (2)
Creatine treatment comes to be muscle-sparing amongst bodybuilders & gym-goers. Creatine even helps older adults who are having strength & muscle wasting issues.
A review of 14 studies published in 2013 found that people with muscular dystrophy who took creatine supplements experienced an increase in muscle strength of up to 85 percent compared to those who did not take creatine.
(4) Increases Recovery
Several studies have shown that creatine helps with muscle soreness and muscle inflammation caused by workouts.
Creatine buffers the lactic acid produced during exercise, delaying muscle fatigue and soreness. Creatine working as a buffer helps big time between the sets and increases post-workout recovery (3) (4)
This faster recovery can also help you to put in more work and workout volume leading to greater muscle growth. (5)
(5) Increases Endurance
While most of us think that creatine supplementation is only beneficial for the ones looking for strength gains. But it has also been shown to increase muscular endurance & performance along with strength & recovery.
Though it would have very little to no benefit for low-intensity exercises like walking and jogging.
(6) Greater Brain Function & Energy
Creatine also plays a great role in mental health. The brain requires ATP to perform various tasks. Creatine being an ATP producer gives more energy to the brain, increases dopamine levels, clarity of thoughts, and mental focus.
In studies, supplementing creatine in sleep-deprived people also led to reduced fatigue and higher energy levels. (6)
Oral creatine administration may also improve the short-term memory and intelligence of healthy individuals. (7)
(7) Injury Prevention
Creatine can prevent muscle cramping and injuries to bones, tendons, and ligaments. Creatine supplementation may enhance the post-injury rehabilitation process.
(8) Helps in Progressive Overload
More energy obviously will lead to better strength and performance.
Creatine supplementation in conjunction with weight training helps you to make better progress over time. This is what progressive overload is all about – getting better with your lifts over time.
You can personally see the difference by supplementing creatine for 2-4weeks along with consistent training. This progress and change are very significant when you’re lifting heavy, pushing yourself to the maximum, or powerlifting. This is because of the energy systems what our bodies work on!
(9) Regulates Blood Sugar Levels
Though more long-term human researches are needed to support this claim and the effects of creatine on diabetes and blood sugar levels.
(10) Cheapest Supplement
By cheapest over here I mean “Inexpensive”. You heard that right. Creatine monohydrate is the cheapest and the most effective supplement you can buy.
If you’re a gym-goer and ever consider adding a supplement to get that extra edge, creatine monohydrate is the answer.
A 100servings box of micronized creatine monohydrate can cost you as low as Rs.499 in India. Amazingly this would last you for 3 months. In US, it would cost you just between $15-20.
Creatine Side Effects?
Creatine supplementation is completely safe and it’s the most thoroughly researched supplement. No adverse side effects have been found.
Though I would personally suggest you to increase your water intake than usual while supplementing it. Creatine draws water into the muscles.
So generally it would be a good idea to stay well hydrated to avoid any dehydration, stomach discomfort, or stress on the kidneys (Check FAQs #11 at the end).
FAQs related to Creatine Supplementation
FAQ #1: Best type of Creatine? The Best form of Creatine?
Though there are many forms of creatine available in the market, creatine monohydrate comes out to be the cheapest and as effective form of creatine than any. It has the maximum bioavailability and absorption rate.
Considering the above factors, you can buy the micronized form of creatine monohydrate.
FAQ #2: How to take Creatine?
There are 2 methods to take creatine: i) Loading Method ii) No Loading Method
I) Creatine Loading Explained
Usually, in the loading phase, many bodybuilders and athletes daily load around 20-25g of creatine throughout for 6-7days. This is done to rapidly develop those creatine stores and saturation in the body.
Later this is followed by 3-5g of creatine supplementation to maintain those creatine stores. This is called the maintenance phase post-loading.
Note: If you’re following the loading approach, splitting your 20g of creatine into 4 servings throughout the day would be wise.
II) No-Loading Method
If you’re following this approach, there is no need to load up on 20g of creatine in the initial week. All you need is 3 to 5g of creatine a day and you’re all set to go.
Which method to go with?
Well, both the methods sooner or later will yield you same results. My personal suggestion would be to just go with the non-loading method. You can just start with 3-5g of creatine supplementation and use it till you want.
FAQ #3: When to take Creatine for Best Results?
The concept of pre and post doesn’t apply. It’s the creatine stores that provide you results, not the timings. Think of it like the glycogen stores.
You can just take it at any time of the day. Your body would still absorb creatine and develop the creatine stores.
Consuming it around your workouts and stacking it with your protein shake would be ideal.
FAQ #4: Who should take Creatine? Who Creatine would Benefit the most?
1) Vegans and vegetarians their food sources don’t produce that many amounts of creatine compared to non-veg foods. They also usually have fewer creatine stores in their bodies.
2) If you’re into weight training and sprinting and have been training consistently for some months.
FAQ #5: Who should not take Creatine?
1) Only If you’re the one who’s just obsessed with the weighing scale & the weight, irrespective of whether it is fat or muscle;) Creatine draws water into the muscles which will increase your weight.
Note: This weight is a good weight which you want, it’s not fat.
2) If you’re just a lazy couch potato and doesn’t believe in working out and staying fit:) Now don’t hate me for this, rather stop wishing and start working NOW!!
FAQ #6: Should I take Creatine while Trying to Lose Weight?
Yes, you can take creatine while cutting. In fact, creatine while cutting will preserve your strength and energy levels when you’re low on calories and eating a calorie deficit diet. It will allow you to push more, burn more calories, and also preserve your muscle mass.
If your goal is to lose fat (not just weight), go ahead. And if you’re only concerned about your weight and weighing scale, you can avoid it. Matter of personal preference.
FAQ #7: Do I need to cycle Creatine?
You don’t need to cycle creatine. Creatine is a natural supplement and not a steroid. You can consume it year-round. In case you need to stop it, you surely can, or cycle it every 3 to 6 months on and off. Matter of personal preference.
FAQ#8: So will I Lose all Gains if I stop using Creatine?
No, you won’t lose muscle, but you would see a noticeable change in your muscle fullness and body weight when the creatine stores start depleting after few weeks. Creatine stores can be decently maintained with a high protein diet. As discussed earlier, creatine is a cell-volumizer that makes your muscles retain water.
But the ergogenic benefits of creatine that you’ve reaped fueling your workouts & performance would surely not go into vain.
FAQ #9: Can Women take Creatine?
The benefits of creatine are not gender-specific. It works the same way on both, men and women.
FAQ #10: Is Creatine Supplementation only for the Gym-Goers and Athletes?
No. Anyone can supplement it. Though creatine in conjunction with training would provide maximum benefits.
FAQ #11: Is Creatine Safe for Kidneys?
In healthy individuals, long-term creatine supplementation is totally safe as per all the studies done. There is no evidence found reporting any harm to the kidneys.