Creatine Crash Course
Creatine is one of the most popular and widely researched natural supplements--but how much do you know about it?
Perhaps a lot...
Perhaps a little...
Perhaps you think you know about it already, but have misconceptions!
With all the great, scientific studies out there on this sports supplement, I’d be a fool not to share some key information with you all!
So, with that, here comes your crash course on one of the most sought-after supplements on the market: creatine!
What is creatine?
Creatine is a non-essential amino acid made by the body, naturally occurring in red meats and fish, and a key player in the phosphagen energy system-- the system which most rapidly produces ATP (the body’s main energy source).
That being said, creatine is used to supply energy to parts of the body where it is needed. About 95 percent of it stays stored in the skeletal muscle, and 5 percent in the brain (parts of the body which have high energy demands).
Who needs it?
The average person needs between 1-3 grams of creatine a day. About half of this comes via diet (for example: raw beef or salmon provide 1-2 g), and the rest is synthesized by the body.
Being that creatine is necessary for supplying the body with energy, it is obvious why athletes like to, and SHOULD, utilize more than the standard amount (often consumed via supplementation).
According the the International Society of Sports Nutrition, athletes who train intensely may need to consume between 5-10 grams of creatine a day to maintain their stores.
What does it do?
As just mentioned, one of the best things it does is it provides energy (amongst many other beneficial outcomes to be mentioned…). A helpful thing to have when performing high-intensity workouts and other anaerobic activities!
Is it any surprise why it is one of the most popular sports supplements among athletes and exercise-enthusiasts?
Creatine as a supplement…
Creatine as a sports supplement is widely used by athletes/weightlifters/those on an exercise regimen to increase energy production, improve athletic performance, and allow them to train harder.
Some of the areas for which creatine is most beneficial include: during high intensity work, during recovery, and for increasing anaerobic capacity and strength.
In regards to high intensity work, creatine enhances the body’s ability to perform such activity. It is used to supply fast-twitch muscle fibers with immediate energy-- perfect for quick, explosive and powerful movements. The strong muscular contraction of these fibers is ideal for athletes looking to crank out more reps, sprint at a faster rate, or engage more forcefully in any type of exercise.
When it comes to recovery, studies have shown that creatine supplementation reduced muscle cell damage and inflammation following exercise. It also has an antioxidant effect after an intense session of resistance training, and may help reduce cramping. Overall, creatine seems to promote complete recovery from exhaustive exercise.
With more energy/power and faster recovering muscles, it should be obvious why creatine has also resulted in anaerobic/strength gains and improved muscle volume! Jumping back to its importance in producing and regenerating ATP, creatine is an essential element in providing you the energy to complete additional reps, heavier reps, and faster reps-- all which enhance the overall quality of training and further develop the muscles and muscle strength!
As for muscle volume, creatine has a property that causes muscle cells to pull water and “inflate”. The process of water moving rapidly from the bloodstream to the muscle produces a more “muscled” appearance, and serves as a stimulus for protein synthesis (the process which allows your muscles to grow and develop so they will continue looking more ‘muscled’ even when not pulling water).
Now, that last point...pulling water…
I’ve heard many-a-girl flat out say (and I’ve been guilty of it thinking/saying it as well…) they will not use creatine because it causes you to hold water and bloat.
Other popular belief out there turning females away from the super-supplement?
“It’s just for guys, I don’t want to bulk up.”
But! Time to throw those misconceptions out the window because It turns out that creatine is actually immensely beneficial for us ladies, too!
In regards to that first concern, the water that creatine causes you to hold is hardly noticeable. If anything, it will just make those muscles of yours ‘pop’ a little more (as in enhance them-- not actually make them pop!) when you’re rocking a tank in the gym!
It should be noted that the side effect of water retention may or may not take place. It seems that only those on a ‘loading’ protocol (taking in 20g of creatine a day) experience some bloating, and even that diminishes with continued use. In fact, research has shown that men tend to experience water retention more than women!
The bottom line on bloat: Ladies, chances are you won’t even experience it! And if you do, give it time as it will go away as your body adjusts. As with anything new, you need to give your body time to see results-- so, trust the process and weight (get it??) it out before you decide to stop using it!
Also note that you do not need to “load” creatine (as I mentioned above) in order for it to work! You can consistently keep at a low-dose (3-5g daily), and still reap the benefits of this good stuff-- and with a highly unlikely chance of seeing any water weight gain!
“But, still, it will make me bulky!”
Again, fake news! Ask any gym-rat actively following a bulking regimen, and they will be the first to tell you that “bulking up” is NOT easy-- I'm sure they wish it were as simple as just taking a scoop a creatine a day!
The common association of “creatine” with “guys only” and “bulky” comes from seeing images of swole dudes scooping the white powder into their shakers and then throwing massive amounts of weight around. In reality, there is no reason to believe supplementing with creatine will cause you to spontaneously sprout ginormous muscles.
Also (in case you were not already aware) as females, we do not have the same levels of testosterone as men, and testosterone is the hormone most responsible for muscle growth.
Final take-aways from all this girl talk:
Creatine is just as safe for females as it is for males
All of the wonderful effects of creatine (increased strength and performance, better recovery…) are noticed the same in females as in males
Men tend to hold more water as a result of the creatine than women
Any water retention will diminish after your body normalizes
Extra creatine does not mean extra testosterone, you will not get “manly” muscles from using it
There is no need to load creatine if you do not want to. Instead, aim for small doses of around 3-5g a day and don’t worry about having to cycle on and off of it
And, final take-aways from just plain ole creatine talk:
Creatine can enhance resistance/strength training, as well as high-intensity speed training by replenishing ATP stores and allowing athletes to work harder and achieve more.
Creatine reduces muscle soreness and improves recovery by replenishing what is lost in the skeletal muscle.
The use of creatine can allow consumers to increase lean muscle mass as a result of being able to push harder in the gym, lift more weight, and train longer.
As if all of that wasn’t good enough, creatine has multiple OTHER health benefits such as improved bone healing, reduction of age-related muscle loss, and improved glucose tolerance, to name a few.
One of my favorites? Improved brain function! (Remember, the brain stores creatine and requires it as it has a high energy demand!)
Have I sold any of you non-believers yet? Well, good, because creatine is one of the most inexpensive sports supplements on the market-- talk about a good bang for your buck!
It is also tasteless and mixes well into any drink or protein shake. I suggest taking it with a source of simple, quick-digesting carbs such as fruit or juice as this will increase blood insulin levels, and insulin can enhance creatine accumulation in muscle. Ideally, consume with your pre/post workout meals as those are naturally high in carbs!
...but, I digress. What I was getting at is…
take your creatine, enhance your workouts, better your overall health.
(and ordering your new, favorite supplement off of Philly Gainz and entering code MARIA10 at checkout will save you some money, too. Get creatine, get gains, save money-- win-win-win.)