If there’s a supplement out there that has the backing of years of scientific research and proven benefits both in and out of the weight room it’s creatine. Creatine supplements have been linked to numerous benefits from brain function to athletic performance. Whether you’re an endurance athlete or Olympic power lifter more than likely you will benefit from taking a creatine supplement. This article will cover what creatine is, where it’s found in nature, research proven benefits, how to take it, and some of the best sources to get your hands on some.
What is it and where does it come from?
Creatine is a non-protein nitrogenous compound formed naturally in animal meats. Some of the highest natural sources in grams per kg are from herring (6.5-10), pork (5), beef (4.5), salmon (4.5), and tuna (4). Trace amounts are found in vegetables. This mean vegetarians looking reap the benefits of creatine should look into supplementing their diet. That being said, creatine is not an essential nutrient and is not naturally produced in the human body.
Creatine is utilized in tissues with high energy demands such as the brain and muscle tissue. Creatine is utilized in the ATP cycle during short bouts of increased energy demands. This is important in helping professional sprinters and powerlifters during short strenuous bouts of exercise. What’s more is creatine has been shown to help exercisers recover more efficiently through replenishing ATP stores at a faster rate. This mean requiring shorter rest times between sets or sprints.
Research Studies and Benefits of Creatine
The studies conducted on creatine are far beyond the scope of what I can cover in this article. I will do my best to highlight the most important ones and how they can affect your performance in and out of the weight room.
Creatine is an essential part of high-intensity exercise due to its role in ATP production in the Phosphocreatine system. ATP is used as energy withing the body. Having more creatine readily available in the body makes it possible for muscles to produce ATP at a higher rate. This is why supplementing with creatine is a great idea for people who exercise at higher intensities.
What’s more is it targets the specific muscle fiber types responsible for the high-intensity exercise. As an added bonus, these are the muscle fiber types with the most potential for growth. If you’re want to lift heavy and lift hard then I highly recommend reaching for the creatine supplements.
Improve muscle volume and anaerobic capacity
A study published in The Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition strongly advocates the use of creatine as a supplement to improve athletic performance. In the study, they looked at creatine’s long-term and short-term effects of on all types of training. On average they found a 10-15% improvement in athletic performance across the board.
Short-term effects have shown a 5-15% increase in maximal muscular effort muscle contractions, up to a 5% increase in single-effort sprint performance, and up to a 15% increase in repeated effort sprint performance.
Long-term effects have shown a 5-15% greater increase in strength and performance gains.
What’s more, nearly all the studies looked at have shown an average 1-2 kg (2.2-4.4 lbs) increase in body mass within the first week of loading! Some people have even reported up to a 3 kg (6.6 lbs) increase during the first week of loading.
After exercise, your blood is full of key indicators showing stress has been placed on your body. It’s important for these indicators to return to a normal level before exercising again.
In a 2004 study conducted by Santos and colleagues for the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition has shown that endurance athletes taking creatine supplements significantly lowered their stress indicators at a much faster rate compared to those who did not take a creatine supplement.
Creatine for proper brain function
You read that right, creatine may help with some neurological disorders, more specifically Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. A decrease in the amount of free creatine within the body has been indicated as a risk factor for these diseases.
These finding, published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information link the body’s use of creatine in conjunction with proper brain function. As stated earlier, one of the biggest energy drains in our body is our brain. It requires creatine to ensure the energy is being delivered properly and at the right time. These findings, although interesting, are preliminary and require more research.
Creatine and safety concerns
As with all supplements, it’s important to talk to your doctor about all your prescription and non-prescription medicines before taking creatine.
Overall, every study conducted on creatine has shown it to be safe whether taking it short-term or long-term. That being said there have been some concerns for people with kidney and/or liver disease. As stated above talk with your doctor and make sure it’s safe before proceeding.
Best way to consume creatine
Typical methods for taking creatine involve a week long “loading phase” followed by a maintenance phase. Creatine has been shown to be best absorbed by the body when taken in conjunction with a high-glycemic carbohydrate such as apple juice. For reference, creatine is typically taken in 5-gram doses. As a powder, 5 grams is equal to one heaping teaspoon.
The average amount of creatine taken during the week long loading phase is 20 grams. It’s best to take small amounts throughout the day to prevent the body merely passing it without processing it. Typically 3-5 grams spread out through the day is sufficient. Some people experience water retention, slight dehydration, and bloating. Be sure to increase you water intake during this time to prevent dehydration.
During this phase, you can decrease your intake to 3-5 grams per day. The exact amount utilized by your body will vary from person to person. 3-5 grams is a safe average. Continue this for two months and then it’s recommended to take one month off. Then repeat the whole process starting with the loading phase again.
Where to get creatine
The majority of all the studies that has shown creatine to be effective have used creatine monohydrate. You can find many, many different types of creatine available today all claiming to be the best. My advice? skip all the fancy bells and whistles and stick with what works. Creatine monohydrate is cheap and we know it works. The best thing about it is you can find it at nearly all nutrition and supplement stores.
That being said there is one exception that I look for when I purchase my creatine which I will state in my review below.
Dymatize Nutrition Micronized Creatine Monohydrate
Dymatize offer’s many great products and this is certainly no exception. With a 4.5-stars at 168 reviews they have certainly done a good job. The creatine is derived from non-animal based sources meaning it’s safe for vegans.
When it comes to creatine you don’t have to get anything too fancy. That being said Dymatize’s creatine monohydrate has been Micronized. What does that mean? It is more easily absorbed by the body, but more importantly it can cause less gastrointestinal discomfort. This is a common issue with regular creatine monohydrate.
Be sure to check out all of jeffsmithfitness.com’s Supplement Reviews. Find out which ones are right for you and your fitness goals.
Did you enjoy this article?
Sign up for my weekly newsletter and get a new tip to your inbox every week.