Creatine is one of the most popular supplements among bodybuilders and athletes. Creatine supplementation has been shown to improve strength, power, speed, endurance and lean mass gains in many studies. However it seems that creatine supplementation may have some negative side effects such as increased risk of kidney stones or heart problems (1).
So what are the benefits of taking creatine?
Creatine increases energy levels which makes you feel less tired during long training sessions. Creatine also improves reaction time and concentration. Creatine can increase muscle mass (2) and reduce fatigue during exercise (3).
The Benefits Of Taking Creatine:
Increased Energy Levels – Creatine helps you stay alert throughout the day. Studies show that creatine supplementation can boost mental focus, improve memory function, decrease fatigue and even prevent cognitive decline (4).
Increased Strength – Research shows that creatine supplementation can enhance physical performance in both resistance trained individuals and untrained controls. Creatine supplementation has been shown to increase strength in both untrained and trained individuals (5). Improved Reaction Time – Creatine supplementation has been found to improve reaction time in several studies. Some of these studies were performed with healthy subjects while others involved older adults, children and young adolescents (6). Improved Concentration & Memory – Creatine supplementation has been shown to improve short term memory function, attention span and working memory in healthy adults (7). However, more research is needed in this area.
Does Creatine Make You Fat?
There has been a lot of debate on whether creatine actually causes weight gain. Some people complain that taking creatine makes them gain weight and puff up like a “water balloon”. The reason why this may occur is because creatine causes water retention within the muscles. This may lead to a minor increase in weight but does not cause any significant fat gain. The weight gain from creatine is almost entirely water. You can avoid this by taking diuretics and/or drinking plenty of water.
Dosage For Maximum Muscle Gains:
The typical dosage for creatine monohydrate is around 0.03 grams per kg of bodyweight per day.
Many studies have used a dosage of 0.07 grams per kg of bodyweight per day but it is not really known if this is better than the lower dosage. More isn’t always better!
High Dose Creatine
There is no evidence that “high dose” creatine is more beneficial than conventional dosing. Some people recommend loading or cycling creatine but these methods have not been proven to be any more effective than conventional dosing.
When And What Should You Take It With?
Some experts recommend taking creatine with simple sugars such as a fruit juice for better absorption. There has been some concern that the acid within the stomach may degrade the creatine. It is recommended to either crush the pill and dissolve it in water or just simply take it with a drink (8).
No Negative Effect On Hormone Levels
Creatine does not appear to have any negative effects on either male or female hormone levels (9). In particular, there is no evidence that creatine has any effect on testosterone or estrogen levels in men or women.
Which Types Of Creatine Are Best?
Creatine monohydrate is the original and most researched form of creatine. There are several “newer” forms of creatine such as micronized creatine, creatine phosphate, magnesium creatine chelate and liquid creatine. These newer types of creatine appear to be equally as effective as monohydrate, however they tend to be more expensive. It is recommended that you use a “blend” of different types of creatine instead of just using one type.
Is “Buffered” Creatine Better?
There is some evidence that “buffered” creatine may be better than regular creatine monohydrate. However, there have not been many studies comparing the two in a head to head fashion. The only advantage of buffered creatine is it minimizes the gastric distress (stomach pain) that can sometimes be caused by creatine monohydrate.
Who Should Not Take Creatine?
People with the following conditions should not take creatine:
People who are allergic to creatine
Those with a kidney disorder
How Long Does It Take To Start Working?
It usually takes around 5-7 days for creatine to start “working”. You may experience heavier weights and short term increases in endurance, however after a weeklong period you should experience the longer effects such as increased muscle mass and strength.
What Are The Top Creatine Rich Foods?
The best way to take in creatine is through supplementation. Your diet can however play a small role in how fast creatine builds up in your muscle. Meat and fish are relatively good sources of creatine. The following is a list of foods that contain significant amounts of creatine:
Although creatine is not found in plants or vegetables, meat and fish are good sources of other amino acids which are used to synthesize creatine. The richest sources of these amino acids include:
Is There Anything Else I Should Know?
Here are a few final facts about creatine:
The main areas of the body which creatine is concentrated are the muscles (particularly muscle fiber) and the brain.
Creatine aids in the strengthening of the skeletal system, particularly bone. In addition, it helps to form the growth platelets in children.
Creatine is not made by the body but is found in foods containing animal flesh or fish.
It is also made commercially in a lab.
Creatine has no effect on women because they do not have testosterone to convert into it.
You should not take creatine if you have any medical conditions including but not limited to: hypertension, diabetes and heart disease. If you are on any medications then consult your doctor before taking creatine.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding then do not take creatine.
It is perfectly safe for children and teenagers to take creatine, however, it is not mandatory that they take it because their bodies naturally develop high levels of it.
There is no evidence that creatine is effective when taken for less than four weeks, as with anything you need to persevere and see the results for yourself!
Creatine can also be found in many pre-workout supplements which are growing popular. Whilst it is definitely effective when taken in this way, it is not necessary.
You can stick to the basics and just have a meat-eating meal an hour before or immediately before your work out.
Some other sources of creatine include: beef, herring, salmon, tuna, and cod. People who do not wish to eat meat can also get creatine from: beets, brown rice, egg yolks, and peanuts.
To avoid stomach pain and diarrhea, it is recommended that you do not take creatine with calcium, protein powders or other dietary supplements.
You can “load” creatine by taking 20 grams per day for 5-7 days. There is no need to load it if you are following a strict workout plan.
You should always take creatine with dextrose (sugar) or maltodextrin.
When stored in lower temperatures, creatine’s shelf life increases to 2-3 years.
At least 4-5 months must pass before you should “cycle” creatine again.
You can gain more water weight by taking creatine with sugar. The water is stored in your muscles which causes them to look larger.
Sources & references used in this article:
Creatine Dosage by A Franco-Obregón, M Phase – healthystealthy.wordpress.com
A Scientific Introduction to Creatine by HDC Work – ibestcreatine.com
Is Creatine Safe and Effective For Females? by T Venuto – A+ A, 2013 – ironmagazine.com
Women And Creatine: Is The World’s… by RB Kreider – … www. sportsci. org/traintech/creatine/rbk. html>. Acesso …, 1998
All About Creatine by T Venuto – beta.burnthefatinnercircle.com
The Ultimate Guide To Creatine Supplementation Part 3 by H does it Work – themusclephd.com
Everything You Need to Know About Creatine by AS as Possible, BN Simpler – athlete.io