What is Creatine?
We have the ultimate guide right here including creatine benefits and examining any possible creatine side effects
Creatine is a natural compound produced by the kidneys, pancreas, and liver that plays an important role in releasing energy when the body moves quickly or powerfully.
How Does Creatine Work?
This video explains how creatine works.
( Source: Axis Labs )
The most basic unit of cellular energy is a molecule known as adenosine triphosphate (ATP). When an ATP molecule is used up by a cell, it’s broken down into smaller molecules that are then, through various processes, recycled back into ATP for re-use. The more ATP your cells can store and the faster your body can regenerate ATP, the more work it can do. This applies to all body systems, including the functions of skeletal muscle. Creatine acts as an energy reserve for your cells.
It does this by accelerating a process whereby ATP is formed from one of its precursors known as adenosine disphosphate (ADP). Creatine donates a molecule to ADP which allows it to be rapidly changed into ATP. Creatine allows for fast ATP replenishment but its stores are very limited. Once they have been exhausted, the body must turn to glucose (or fatty acids) to continue producing ATP. Your liver produces the majority of your body’s creatine. You can get some from the food you eat, but what happens when you supplement with it directly? Your total body creatine stores increase, with the vast majority located in your muscle cells. When you’re training and your muscle cells have considerably higher levels of readily available energy, your performance is enhanced.
Creatine Facts – What You Need To Know
- Creatine is a nonessential dietary protein-like compound found in high abundance in eggs, meat and fish.
- Creatine is naturally produced in your body from three amino acids, arginine, glycine, and methionine, for your muscles to use.
- Most of your body's creatine is in your skeletal muscle - it is found in the form of creatine phosphate.
- Muscle tissue does not produce creatine, therefore it must take up creatine from the bloodstream.
- Creatine increases the body's ability to produce energy rapidly.
- With more energy, you can train harder and more often, producing faster results.
- You can buy creatine as a diet supplement in powder or tablet form.
- These are used by body builders and athletes to provide energy to muscles for movement.
- Creatine supplementation also appears to have neuroprotective properties and may act as a cognitive enhancer (for vegetarians) or antidepressant (currently only shown in females).
Is Creatine Safe?
Creatine is one of the most systematically researched compounds on the market. No adverse side effects have been noted through supplementation.
Is Creatine a Steroid?
Creatine is not a steroid. Made up of three amino acids, creatine is found naturally in muscle. Creatine does not possess "the steroid backbone" and does not fall into the scientific definition. It does not influence hormones nearly as much as steroid compounds.
Is Creatine Suitable For Women?
Yes. Creatine helps both genders equally. Many women shy away from creatine as they fear they may get too bulky or bloated. Weightlifting and creatine do not make women bulky and with the right hydration levels, being bloated will not be an issue.
Is Creatine Natural?
Creatine is a molecule that the body makes in the form of creatine phosphate. To replenish the creatine phosphate we use, creatine is found in foods, mostly eggs, fish and meat. Good sources of creatine include:
Benefits of Creatine
- Creatine increases the rate of muscle growth and power output.
- It improves performance and muscle mass.
- Creatine increases the number of satellite cells in muscle fibres.
- The mechanisms of creatine supplementation can promote cellular longevity and preserve cellular integrity (reducing apoptosis rates).
- Creatine also improves anaerobic capacity.
- Research shows that creatine supplementation increases the water content in muscle cells – makes them bigger.
- Reduces muscle damage and soreness from exercise.
- It improves sprint performance.
- Creatine reduces fatigue.
- It can enhance your brain function.
- Improves bone healing and enhances recovery.
- May reduce sarcopenia. (age related muscle loss)
- Improves glucose tolerance.
- Could help fight depression.
Creatine Side Effects
- Unless you have a specific concern, it's not a medical issue.
- If you’re worried about looking bloated, the water retention occurs in your muscles – makes you look larger.
- This is why some bodybuilders cut out creatine near the end of their contest prep.
- This can happen when you take too much creatine at once with an empty stomach.
- Usually, the remedy is simple: either increase your water and food intake when you take creatine.
- Or take smaller doses of creatine throughout the day.
- This also can happen when you simply take too much creatine in a single dose.
- Since it cannot be absorbed in high quantities, this can cause osmotic diarrhoea, a condition where water gets drawn into the bowels.
- The solution? Take smaller doses.
Creatine Myths Debunked
Creatine has been the topic of much debate in recent times, despite being one of the most researched supplements out there. Let’s dispel some of the myths about creatine.
Myth #1 Creatine Can Cause Muscle Cramps Fact: Numerous studies discredit this claim. A 2003 study by Arkansas State University researchers concluded that NCAA football athletes taking creatine over 3 years experienced no increase in muscle cramps or muscle injuries. In fact, another 2003 study performed at Baylor University found that NCAA football players taking creatine for one full season actually had a significant reduction in muscle cramps and muscle injuries.
Myth #2 Creatine Can Lead To Impaired Liver and Kidney Function Fact: Over the years, many researchers have concluded that creatine has no adverse effects on the liver and kidneys in healthy adults. A recent study found that players taking creatine for 6 years experienced no long-term detrimental effects on overall health or kidney or liver functions. One study even looked at a man with only one kidney. He took 20g of creatine a day (4 times the recommended dosage) and no problems were found.
Myth #3 Creatine Causes Muscle Cramps or Dehydration Fact: One of the most common concerns about creatine supplementation is that it can cause dehydration or cramping, particularly in hot and humid environments. This is simply not the case. There is no data that shows creatine causes dehydration or muscle cramps.
Myth #4 Creatine Supplementation Promotes Rhabdomyolysis Fact: The suggestion that creatine supplementation induces rhabdomyolysis has no backing in scientific literature. This myth became a media favourite shortly after an article published in the New York Times claimed creatine supplementation was possibly linked to rhabdomyolysis in high school football players. However, there is no direct evidence that creatine supplementation promotes rhabdomyolysis.
Creatine Supplements – Which Type Should I Buy?
The main forms of creatine products are:
No form of creatine has shown to be more powerful or potent than creatine monohydrate. It is the most popular form of creatine and is considered the best value as the others tend to be more expensive. However, other forms have benefits that are not related to the creatine molecule itself but due to their solubility. Those with stomach cramping with creatine (which may be due to creatine monohydrate forming an insoluble precipitate in the stomach) should consider a more water-soluble form of creatine. Micronized creatine monohydrate dissolves in water more easily, which can be more practical.
This is why it’s extremely important that you keep hydrated while you’re supplementing. It’s recommended that you drink at least 30 to 60 millilitres (1-2 ounces) of water daily per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of body weight while supplementing.
The Best Creatine Supplements For Your Workout
There are no substantial differences between powders, tablets, or capsules. Tablets and capsules are merely vessels for the powder. The type of creatine you use will determine the results you get. With more brands hitting the market every year, it can difficult to find the very best product for you. Supplement Mart offers creatine in the following products:
When Should I Take Creatine? – The Best Time To Take It
Before or after exercise?
Although the vast majority of weight lifters take creatine pre workout, studies show that post workout is the best time to take creatine. However, taking creatine after your workout won’t be possible for everyone. If you cannot get your creatine down in your post workout window, take it with your next meal.
As long as it’s not directly before bed, you will be good taking creatine. If you are a night lifter, then there isn’t a solution for your problem yet. For you, breakfast or lunch will be the best time. Make sure you are actually eating a solid meal and getting enough liquids down. It has been proven that coffee negatively affects your creatine uptake so make sure you meet your water and carb needs.
Creatine Loading: How Much Creatine Should I Take?
Loading 20 grams of creatine per day and maintaining with 5 grams is the most common recommended protocol. It has also been deemed safe through long-term studies. In fact, most supplement manufacturers recommend taking 20 grams of creatine in 5 gram servings for five to seven days. This is followed by 5 grams per day the first week. In contrast to this, Dr. Eric Serrano bases his method on the body weight of the individual taking the creatine:
Week 1.35g of creatine per kg of bodyweight
Week 2-4.15g of creatine per kg of bodyweight
Week 6.35g of creatine per kg of bodyweight
Week 7.15g of creatine per kg of bodyweight
Looking at the current body of research, it's safe to say:
- It’s wise to avoid creatine supplementation if you have polycystic kidney disease, focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, or another kidney disorder characterized by tissue swelling.
- Creatine does not cause damage to skeletal muscle or the liver, heart or kidneys.
- Creatine, at this moment in time, it is okay for kidney disorders that are not characterised by oedema and tissue swelling.