Your body naturally produces creatine from amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein.
There are several different sources from which you can take creatine. It occurs naturally in animal proteins, particularly those of beef and fish. Additionally, it is offered as a dietary supplement, giving you a simple and reasonably priced way to increase your intake.
Creatine has been shown to have a number of advantages for both health and athletic performance, making it one of the most researched supplements. However, there are a number of issues with its use.
This article explains how to safely consume creatine supplements and discusses their advantages and potential disadvantages.
Table of Contents
What is Creatine?
As an endogenous amino acid (a component of proteins), creatine is made by your liver and kidneys in a normal process. Although it can also be found in the heart, brain, and central nervous system, its main location is in muscle cells. This small but powerful amino acid is quickly converted to phosphocreatine, which is then usable as a fuel source for quick, strong movements lasting between 4 and 15 seconds (think short sprints, power lifting, jumping, etc.).).
Creatine is typically used by athletes or people who work out at very high intensities due to its benefits for quick and explosive movements. However, as more of its therapeutic advantages (particularly in vascular disease, brain health improvement, and muscle wasting diseases) become clear, more people are beginning to use it.
Creatine is a molecule that your body can make on its own, but it can also be obtained exogenously from foods like meat and supplements. You need not include it in your diet because it is produced endogenously, so you need not worry if you are a vegetarian or vegan. Exogenous sources, according to research, increase the amount of creatine that is stored in your muscles and other tissues, making it more readily usable when required.
In essence, it increases the efficiency of your body during intense exercise. When taking creatine supplements, the goal is to boost muscle creatine levels by 20–40% because in a diet high in meat, muscle creatine stores are approximately 60–80% full. As a result, one factor that might indicate whether you should think about taking a creatine supplement is your dietary preferences.
Pros of Creatine Monohydrate
According to scientific research, creatine monohydrate:
- Increases ATP Production
- Supports Muscle Health and Performance
- Improves Endurance
- Improves Brain Function
Let’s examine each advantage more closely.
Increases ATP Production
The main function of creatine is to provide muscles with instant energy when their demand for it increases. By raising intramuscular phosphocreatine stores, it achieves this. In fact, according to some specialists, it may boost your phosphocreatine reserves by as much as 40%.
Adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, is the preferred energy source for muscles, and phosphocreatine aids in its production.
The need to regenerate ATP is critical during intense, heavy-hitting workouts because your body uses ATP for energy faster than it can do so.
Your body can produce more ATP when you take creatine because it can increase phosphocreatine stores. This increases your capacity to produce energy quickly.
Supports Muscle Health and Performance
There is a position statement on creatine monohydrate supplements from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN). In order to increase lean body mass and increase the capacity for high-intensity exercise during training, it is claimed that creatine is the most efficient dietary supplement available to athletes.
According to studies, regular creatine supplementation can enhance workouts and lead to up to 15% greater gains in strength and performance.
More specifically, creatine can encourage the development of new muscle fibers and boost muscle mass by promoting the production of the proteins that do so.
Additionally, there is proof in favor of creatine’s capacity to assist in raising levels of IGF-1, a hormone that promotes the development of muscle tissue.
When used in conjunction with resistance training, creatine can increase muscular strength and lessen training-related muscle damage. It can also raise the general health of the muscles.
Creatine can play a significant role in enhancing overall performance by increasing phosphocreatine stores and overall ATP energy production.
For short bursts of explosive movements like jumping, sprinting, or heavy squatting, our muscles depend on a quick ATP synthesis.
The benefits of creatine for endurance athletes have been shown by research.
Taking creatine and carbohydrates together, for instance, can boost the rate of muscle glycogen synthesis. In periods of physical exertion, high muscle glycogen storage can prolong the time until fatigue.
Creatine can also increase strength, which significantly increases your capacity to continue exercising for a prolonged period of time.
Improved Brain Functions
The levels of creatine in the brain may rise as a result of creatine supplements. By boosting oxygen delivery and energy supply to the brain, this may aid in enhancing overall brain function.
A systemic review from 2019 found that creatine might have neuroprotective properties. In particular, researchers found that higher resting creatine levels could boost general intelligence and recognition memory.
Additionally, age-related illnesses like Parkinson’s and memory loss may be warded off by creatine, including cognitive decline.
Cons of Creatine Monohydrate
Kidney Damage, Hair Loss, & Dehydration
There has been some discussion about how creatine can lead to dehydration, hair loss, kidney damage, and water retention. However, a number of scientific studies have largely refuted these assertions. There isn’t much solid evidence to back these claims as long as it’s taken as prescribed. However, be sure to speak with your doctor before beginning supplementation if you have a pre-existing medical condition, particularly if you have a kidney disorder.
Avoid GI Distress
How much creatine you consume is another thing to think about. If you know you are prone to GI distress, skip the loading phase and take the lowest dosage advised. Some people who take it in large doses may experience GI distress, bloat, or weight gain. Scale up as necessary once you are confident and comfortable with the dosage you are taking.
What daily dosage of creatine is safe? Do I need to take creatine every day?
- When just beginning to use this supplement, most experts recommend that if you’re “creatine loading,” you take about 0.3 grams per kilogram of bodyweight (or about 0.136 per pound) for the first five to seven days.
- You will consume significantly more medication during this loading phase than you will in the weeks that follow. An illustration would be a man who weighs 175 pounds (79.4 kilograms), who would take about 25 grams daily when loading.
- Take a lower dose of five to 10 grams per day for about three weeks after the first five to seven days. Aim for 0.03 grams per kilogram of bodyweight for about three weeks, to be more precise.
- After the three weeks are up, you have the option of continuing the lower dosage for however long you’d like or returning to loading. You might decide to rotate your intake roughly every three weeks.
Make sure not to take too much creatine at once if you’re going to use oral supplements to lessen the possibility of experiencing side effects. Due to the fact that each product is slightly different, avoid using extremely high doses and always read the directions for recommended dosage and serving sizes.
Popular sports nutrition supplement creatine helps athletes recover more quickly after workouts and perform better overall. It has also been demonstrated to support healthy muscle aging and enhance cognitive function.
Bloating and stomach discomfort are the side effects of this supplement that are most frequently reported. By keeping your dose to 10 grams or less in a single serving, you can avoid these side effects.
What is the Best Time for When to Creatine?
All through the day, space out servings. Divide the doses if you use it more than once per day; for example, take one in the morning and another at least a few hours or more later. For the best absorption, try to divide your daily intake of 20–30 grams during the initial five–seven-day loading phase into four–five equal doses.
Can You Take Creatine Without Working Out? Should I Take Creatine on Off Days?
There is some evidence to suggest that taking creatine after exercise rather than before may be more effective at enhancing muscle growth and strength. It may be a matter of personal preference, but athletes have claimed to use it successfully at all times of the day. People who are active but not bodybuilders can use creatine, but the benefits are greatest when exercise is added to the regimen.