Creatine: The Definitive Guide for Fitness Freaks

Creatine: The Definitive Guide for Fitness Freaks

What are an athlete’s biggest priorities?

If you ask around, you will get many answers. But some answers will be common for everyone-

  • I need more power during workouts
  • I want to boost my performance
  • I have to build muscles

We would all related to the above. These are really some of the biggest priorities of anyone who wants to stay fit! We know exercise can get us there, but do we have something to speed up the process?

Don’t get us wrong! We are not going to just prescribe some magic formula to turn you into a superhuman overnight!

We have something that can build muscle mass, give you more energy, and enhance your performance– something called creatine.

With proper exercise, this substance can help you achieve your priorities in a safe way. It’s one of the most researched supplements, so there’s plenty of information available.

Today, we will tell you everything you need to know about creatine in this guide!

What is Creatine?

Creatine is a molecule that exists naturally in our bodies. Our muscles use the molecule to produce energy during strenuous physical exercises. The skeletal muscles are the biggest storehouse of the molecule (95%), while the brain stores only 5%.

The molecules move through the blood and supply energy to different body parts.

A human needs around 1 to 3 grams of creatine each day. Athletes who are into intensive training need 5 to10 grams daily,

says the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN).

People who have problems synthesizing the molecule need 10 to 30 grams per day. Our body makes some part of the required creatine while the rest comes from diet.

Supplements are available to help you boost your creatine levels. As a result, the energy in your body increases, allowing you to train harder. Your muscles also gain lean mass and get stronger.

How is Creatine made?

Our bodies make a part of the required molecule. The rest comes from diet and is present in fish and meat. You can also buy supplements that use creatine monohydrate.

In our Bodies

Our bodies make the energy molecule out of three amino acids-

  • L-methionine
  • Glycine
  • L-arginine

The kidneys and livers turn the amino acids into creatine phosphate and phosphocreatine. Finally, they are stored in the skeletal muscles to produce energy.

In the Lab

Labs generally use sarcosine and cyanamide to make creatine supplements. The ingredients go into a reactor with catalyst compounds to make creatine crystals. The final product comes out in a powdered form for better dissolvability.

Many sports drinks also contain the same substance we are talking about!

How does Creatine work?

How-does-creatine-work

Creatine is like a dietary protein compound.

Our muscles take in the compound from our bloodstream, which attaches itself to high-energy phosphate.

Then it goes on to generate ATP and provides the energy for muscles to contract, like during weightlifting. That’s why many people take it as a supplement for energy during resistance training.

When you have more ATP in your muscle cells-

  • You gain strength
  • Your power and tenacity increases
  • You develop muscle fiber and body mass (Some of it may be due to water retention)

Benefits of Creatine

Wondering about the effect of creatine on your body? Let’ see what benefits it can lead to-

Muscle Gain

According to Healthline, creatine helps in short-term and long-term muscle gain. Let’s see if there s any scientific evidence behind it!

A meta-analysis of current literature found that creatine, coupled with resistance training led to net lean mass gain. Subjects also recorded strength gains.

In another study, weightlifters experienced 2 to 3 times muscle growth, which even training couldn’t achieve.

Creatine also helps you gain muscle by-

  • Helping you work out harder
  • Facilitating cell repair by improving cell signaling
  • Reducing muscle breakdown
  • Lowering myostatin levels which hinder new muscle growth

Boosts Athletic Performance

The compound we are talking about helps you generate more energy. As a result, you can perform better and achieve more!

Now comes the part of backing the claim with evidence. According to a review, creatine can-

  • Boost the impact of resistance training on body mass and strength
  • Help you get more out of your speed and high-intensity training
  • Increase endurance performance for aerobic exercises

If we dig into specific exercises, a study notes an increase of-

  • 8% in strength
  • Weightlifting performance by 14%
  • One-rep bench press max by 43%

With more ATP in your blood, you can obviously train and perform better!

Effects on the Brain

Your brain also needs energy in the form of ATP to function. But does it have any benefits?

Creatine does have a beneficial effect on many diseases and disorders. It can be helpful in Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Epilepsy, and memory problems.

You can also find relief from spinal cord and brain injuries. Research shows that children with traumatic brain injuries experienced 70% less fatigue and 50% less dizziness. Even vegetarians, who have lower creatine levels, showed a 50% improvement in a memory test. They also scored 20% better in intelligence tests.

Taking creatine supplements can lead to better cognition, memory, and a healthy brain.

A Healthy Body

Creatine deficiency causes a number of diseases like-

  • COPD
  • Heart failure
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Osteoarthritis

That means you do need to keep your creatine levels sufficient to stay healthy and disease-free. The compound can also be beneficial in many conditions-

  • Improves the strength of patients with muscle dystrophy
  • Reduced symptoms of depression
  • Improves cognition in the elderly

Research in this area is limited, and we need more evidence to confirm the results. If you want to find out about the health benefits of creatine in detail, click here.

Types of Creatine

Interestingly, you can find different types of creatine from different manufacturers. Each claims its product to be superior, but is that the truth?

First, let’s take a look at some of the common forms of creatine found in supplements-

  • Creatine monohydrate
  • Creatine hydrochloride
  • pH-buffered creatine
  • Creatine citrate
  • Creatine malate
  • Creatine gluconate
  • Creatine pyruvate
  • Creatine alpha-ketoglutarate
  • Creatine ethyl ester

Now, we can go into a long discussion about each type, but we won’t! Why?

Because, out of all types, only creatine monohydrate is the safest and most recommended. By having 5 grams each day, you can reap all the benefits we discussed above.

So if you are considering nutrition supplements, the monohydrate form is most beneficial. It also doesn’t have issues like water retention associated with other types, such as hydrochloride.

Safety

Studies have concluded that creatine has no health risks when taken in recommended doses.

The International Society Of Sports Nutrition has also described the substance as safe and effective.

It also doesn’t harm the liver or kidneys, as some people claim. Read this article does creatine damage the kidneys?– for scientific evidence. You may only face a few adverse effects like stomach pain or cramping if taken in high doses.

But it’s always wise to get medical advice before you take any supplement.

Dosage

You can consume 3 to 5 grams per day. During the starting period, you can take 20 grams (4×5 grams) per day for a week. Then shift to a maximum of 5 grams each day.

You should also drink enough water along with your dose.

To know more about dosage for athletes and other considerations, read this helpful article. When is the best time to take Creatine and how to take it?

Final Thoughts

Creatine is a safe, ethical, and effective way of gaining muscles, strength, and energy. You can push yourself harder and maximize your results by taking a creatine supplement.

It’s safe and free of side effects and can also help older adults. You will also find a lot of resources online, so you can do your own research easily.

Anit Kumar Das

I am Anit, a certified fitness trainer, nutritionist and also a passionate blogger. In the 15th year's fitness journey I have a lot of experience which I am writing down in my blog.

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