What is Creatine?
For people who frequent gyms and are interested in improving their overall performance, creatine is an excellent supplement to incorporate into your diet.
Creatine is an amino acid found in meat and fish. It is also produced by the body in small amounts. Despite being linked to numerous health benefits, many gym-goers have often shied away from taking creatine, wondering if doing so is in their best interest.
While creatine is probably one of the most misunderstood sports supplements on the market, research continues to show that offers incredible benefits to men and women.
How Does it Work?
Creatine promotes a strong and healthy body and helps people meet their fitness goals by improving muscle performance and growth. This is important for people aiming for increased muscle mass.
Some people are apprehensive about taking creatine because there are a lot of myths about how creatine works and how it affects the body. Creatine is released by our muscles during vigorous exercise and turns into creatine phosphate, which helps produce a substance called adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is what fuels muscles and aids in muscle contraction.
The amount of creatine produced in your body is not sufficient enough to gain significant benefit from, neither is the amount you ingest when eating meat and fish. However, when taken as a supplement, creatine gives muscles more endurance by continuing to fuel your muscles as you work out. Post-work out, it promotes speedy muscle recovery.
Benefits of Creatine
Strength – for years, people have always linked creatine to male bodybuilders since one of their top goals is building muscle mass. But it isn’t just male athletes who want to build muscle. Women can also benefit from creatine because it helps strengthen their muscles.
Since women do not gain muscle as easily as men do, they don’t have to fear bulking up. Creatine for women aids in building lean muscle without making them look bulky.
Ballistic power/ muscle endurance – one of the advantages of taking creatine is that it increases blood flow to your muscles. This is important particularly during intense workouts that include weightlifting. Taking creatine can help build up muscle and give you a boost of energy while you exercise.
Sprint ability – sprinters need to perform at a high level of intensity for short periods of time. Used by various types of athletes to enhance performance, creatine is known to give bursts of energy particularly during high-intensity activities like sprinting.
Mental clarity – research shows that taking creatine as a supplement can also improvement mental clarity doing workout sessions by increasing the amount of oxygen absorbed by the brain. This is particularly beneficial in sports or activities where strategy is important, like boxing or dance routines.
Healthy bones and muscle mass – according to the Journal of the international Society of Sports Nutrition, creatine can uniquely benefit women who are above 50 in that it promotes and supports healthy bones, which is often an issue for women as they age. Many women over the age of 50 experience muscle mass loss as they grow older. Creatinine can help reduce these effects.
Recovery – creatine has been linked to recovery that extends beyond muscles. It is commonly used to prevent disuse atrophy in injured athletes and is also noted as a significant agent in recovery from concussions.
Blood sugar – another benefit of creatine is that it can improve blood sugar management. While this is good, if creatine will be taken along with medication known to affect your blood sugar, you will need to discuss the possible side effects with your doctor before beginning to take it.
Is Creatine Safe and Does it Have Side effect?
According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, creatine is regarded as extremely safe and listed as one of the most beneficial sports supplements on the market today. Creatine also has medicinal purposes and is often used to treat certain diseases and health issues like neuromuscular disorders, concussions, diabetes and muscle loss.
Creatine, on its own, does not cause health problems. Taking creatine will slightly elevate the level of creatinine in your blood. A common measure used to diagnose kidney and liver problems is by measuring the amount of creatinine in the body. It’s important to note that an increased creatinine level does not mean that creatine is posing a risk to your kidneys or liver. Long-term studies have shown that there are no side effects related to liver or kidney function due to creatinine.
As with other supplements, taking an excess of creatine may cause digestive issues. The recommended serving is 3 to 5 grams of creatine.
How Does Creatine Affect Women’s Bodies?
There is a misconception that creatine is responsible for weight gain in women. If this were true, it would be problematic because one of the primary reasons why women exercise is weight loss or weight management. Creatine does not actually increase fat levels in a woman’s body, it is actually a calorie-free substance. It does, however, make muscles store more water, which can lead to water weight gain.
Any weight gain that is linked to creatine is increased muscle mass. This is usually very insignificant and estimated to be between 1-3 kgs, which can be offset by increased exercising. While creatine is most often used to improve athletic performance, women who are not actively exercising can still enjoy the benefits of taking creatine on regular basis.
Since creatine is a natural compound found in meat and fish, people who do not consume meat should consider taking creatine supplements.
How to Use Creatine?
Depending on your individual needs, the amount of creatine you should take will very. There recommended dosage is 3-5 grams a day. However, even a small amount of creatine can go a long way in improving the muscles in your body.
Creatine should be taken on the days you exercise and there are several ways that you can take it. You can take it just before you begin exercising, just after you finish your exercise routine or at another time or altogether during the day. You can also choose to split up the dose and take at different intervals throughout the day. What’s important is that you form a habit around taking it to help you be consistent with your intake. For example. putting it in your morning smoothie, juice or protein shake can ensure that you take it daily at the same time.
Researchers have looked into when the best time to take creatine supplement is. Some have found that it is more effective for men when taken before or after the exercise, while others suggested there is no difference in efficacy based on the time that you take it. However, many do recommend that you take it before exercise. On the days that you do not work out, the supplement is less important to take since the goal of taking creatine is to improve your muscle performance while you exercise.
When beginning your creatine regimen, experts recommend a “loading” phase. This is when you take a relatively high dose of about 20 grams a day for 5 days, and then scale back to the recommended daily dose of 3-5 grams for maintenance. Some research has shown that pairing carbs with creatine increases the absorption of the amino acid into muscles.
Some experts believe you should take creatine in cycles to create certain periods of time when you are not taking the supplement. The recommended cycle is “on” for 12 weeks, “off” for four. This helps ensure that your body is still able to create creatine on its own. Whether you take creatine in powder form or capsules does not seem to make a difference. It’s important to note, however, that the powder form is cheaper.
When Does Creatine Start Working?
Taking creatine for at least five to seven days has shown to significantly increase lean body muscle weight and muscle size. Initially this is due to want to water weight gain.
You can stop taking creatine at any time. It does not create a dependency in your body. However, your muscle’s creatinine levels will begin to deplete about two weeks after you stop taking the supplement. After about four to six weeks, any excess creatinine will be depleted from your body and your body will begin to produce its normal amounts of creatine, which is approximately 1-2 grams per day.
Which Creatine should I take?
There are several different types of creatine. There is creatine monohydrate, creating ethyl ester, magnesium creatine chelate. So, knowing your fitness goals fitness goals and how each one of these types of creatine can help you reach those goals is essential.
The best type of creatine to take is creatine monohydrate. It also happens to be the cheapest one on the market and has proven to work well in the digestive system.
There are many products on the market that claim to contain amounts of creatine. When choosing the right one for you, choose one with few ingredients and no fillers. This will eliminate any additional ingredients that may affect your body.
Who makes the best creatine?
With so many companies out there making creatine, it can be difficult to know which one you should choose. Based on reviews, the top five brands to go with are:
1. Transparent Labs
This company comes highly recommended and the name says it all. They disclosed every ingredient and dosage amounts they use in their supplements. They even disclose ingredients that they are not required to put on the label like stevia and blue raspberry flavor. They offer a high-quality product and have set a high standard for their competition. They produce the StrengthSeries Creatine HMB that has more than 400 five-star reviews. It comes in flavored and unflavored products options. Some of the highlights are:
- they offer a generous dose of creatine
- no artificial sweeteners
- gluten-free and non-GMO
- no preservatives
A disadvantage of this particular brand of creatine is that it is pricey.
2. Optimum Nutrition Micronized Creatine
This manufacturer offers pure creatine supplement powder that is unflavored. You can add this to your favorite beverage or protein shake and gives you 5 grams of pure creatinine. One of the great things about this particular brand is that there are no additional ingredients, and it is easy to take it because it comes in a micronized form. Other advantages include:
- comes in multiple serving sizes: 28, 60, 120, 240, 400 servings
- offers packages that include other Optimum Nutrition products
- creative is available in capsule form
- no artificial colors, flavors or sweeteners
- no additives
A drawback is that it only is comes in an unflavored option which can be problematic for some people who like to have flavor.
3. Universal Nutrition Creatine
This producer of creatine is among the best and offers both unflavored and flavored options. This brand is German-based and produces high-quality products using a process that increases bioavailability within the body. This is important because the bioavailability of a substance determines how easily the body can make use of it. So, the more bioavailable it is, the better. This specialized manufacturing process of this creatine is so unique and perfected that it is patented.
Their creatine comes in an easy to mix package which makes it convenient to take. Other highlights include:
- reputable brand in the sports supplement industry since 1977
- easy seal lid helps maintain freshness
- their creatine comes in three flavors: blue raspberry, fruit punch and green apple
- affordable (approximately $6 for 30 servings)
- creatine can be bundle with other Universal products
4. MuscleTech Platinum 100% Creatine
This is one of the top selling creatinine supplements on Amazon. It is 100 percent pure creatine and has no other ingredients. This creatine has been micronized to improve its ability to dissolve in liquid. That means it can pass through cell walls and into the bloodstream very quickly. It doesn’t contain any artificial colors or flavors. Highlights include:
- A website that educates consumers on creatine
- inexpensive (around $15 for 400 grams, which gives you ~80 servings)
- no artificial colors or flavors
- no additives
- offers 30-day no questions asked money-back guarantee
5. Cellucor COR-Performance Creatine
Rounding up the top five is Cellucor COR-Performance Creatine. They offer variety in size and flavor and comes at a low cost to consumers. Each jar contains 72 servings of pure micronized creatine and that goes for under $10. This brand is a trusted name and brand and has no artificial flavors, colors or additives, and is gluten-free. Other perks include:
- available in both 50 & 72 serving sizes
- comes in two flavors – Icy Blue Razz & Fruit Punch, and also an unflavored option
- comes in a micronized form which makes it easier to mix with other ingredients
- comes in recommended dosage of 5 grams per serving
- manufactured in the USA
- offers free shipping in the U.S.
- consumers receive $10 off purchases if they subscribe to the email list
- offers 20% off and free shipping when you purchase an auto-delivery subscription
As with any dietary supplement, consult your family physician before you begin any new supplement regimen. If you are taking medications that affect liver and kidney function, breastfeeding or pregnant, talk to your doctor before taking creatine.