Creatine 101: Maximising Your Muscle Gains with Creatine
Creatine is one of the most popular supplements among fitness enthusiasts and athletes looking to maximise their muscle gains. While there is a lot of information out there about creatine, it can be overwhelming to sift through it all.
This comprehensive review will cover everything you need to know about creatine, including its uses, benefits, forms, studies, and how to take it. Whether you’re a seasoned gym-goer or just starting out, this article will provide you with the information you need to decide whether creatine is the right supplement for you.
What is Creatine?
Creatine is a naturally occurring substance found in our muscles, but it can also be obtained through supplementation. It is a popular supplement among bodybuilders, and fitness enthusiasts.
A recent study found Creatine to increase muscle mass and strength, improve endurance, and enhance overall performance. It may also be most effective when combined with resistance training.
Creatine comes in various forms, including Creatine Monohydrate Powder, capsule, and liquid, which can be taken before or after workouts for optimal results. With accurate use and dosage, creatine can be a safe and effective supplement for maximising muscle gains and acheive fitness goals more efficiently.
1. Creatine increases physical performance in successive bursts of short-term, high intensity exercise. The beneficial effect is obtained with a daily intake of 3g of creatine.
Is Creatine Safe?
Yes, creatine is considered safe. Creatine is one of the most researched supplements in the sports nutrition industry. It is safe and effective for improving muscle strength and size, especially when combined with resistance training. However, as with any supplement, it is important to follow the recommended dosage and consult a healthcare professional before use.
Where Can I Find Creatine?
Creatine is a naturally occurring compound found in meat and fish, with the highest levels found in red meat. There are alternatives for plant based food lovers such as plant proteins (tofu, lentils, peas) but aren’t as high in creatine and not as effective in increasing muscle creatine levels.
For optimal results, supplementing with creatine monohydrate is recommended. Always speak with a healthcare professional before taking any supplementation.
Animal Sources of Creatine:
1. Beef: Beef is a rich source of creatine. Red meat, such as steak or ground beef, is particularly high in creatine content.
2. Pork: Pork, including cuts like pork chops and pork tenderloin, also contains creatine, although in slightly lower amounts compared to beef.
3. Fish: Certain types of fish, such as salmon, tuna, and herring, are good sources of creatine. Canned tuna is also a convenient option.
4. Poultry: Chicken and turkey contain smaller amounts of creatine compared to red meats and fish, but they still contribute to the overall dietary intake.
5. Seafood: Besides fish, shellfish like crab, lobster, and shrimp also contain trace amounts of creatine.
6. Game Meat: Wild game meats like deer, elk, and bison can be sources of creatine, similar to beef.
7. Organ Meats: Organs like liver and heart are known to have higher concentrations of creatine compared to other parts of the animal.
Vegan Sources of Creatine:
1. Spirulina: Spirulina is a type of blue-green algae that is rich in various nutrients, including small amounts of creatine. While the creatine content in spirulina is relatively low, it can still contribute to your overall intake.
2. Seaweed: Certain types of seaweed, such as nori, dulse, and wakame, contain small amounts of creatine. Incorporating seaweed into your diet can provide some additional creatine along with other beneficial nutrients.
3. Plant Protein Sources: Some plant-based protein sources, such as peas, lentils, and quinoa, contain small amounts of creatine. While the levels may not be as significant as in animal sources, they can still contribute to your overall creatine intake.
Forms of Creatine Supplements:
Creatine is a popular supplement that is widely used in the fitness community. It is a naturally occurring compound found in the muscles and helps provide energy for high-intensity activities. Creatine supplements are available in various forms, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. In this article, we will explore the different forms of creatine supplements and their uses.
1. Creatine Monohydrate
Creatine Monohydrate is the most commonly used form of creatine supplement. It is a white, odourless powder that is easily mixed with water or other liquids. Creatine monohydrate has been extensively studied and has been shown for its effects in increasing muscle mass, strength, and endurance. It may also be most effective when combined with resistance training.
2. Creatine Ethyl Ester
Creatine ethyl ester is a form of creatine that could have a fast absorption rate. However, there is limited research on the effectiveness of creatine ethyl ester compared to creatine monohydrate.
3. Buffered Creatine
Buffered creatine is a form of creatine that has been formulated to have a higher pH level, making it less acidic and easier on the stomach. This can be especially beneficial for individuals who experience stomach discomfort or digestive issues when taking traditional creatine monohydrate. Yet some studies suggest that it may not promote greater changes in muscle mass than creatine monohydrate.
How Creatine Works
Creatine is a popular supplement that may enhance anaerobic ATP stores in the body. It is a naturally occurring compound that is synthesised in the liver, kidneys, and pancreas from three amino acids: glycine, arginine, and methionine. Creatine can be stored in muscles and rapidly converted into ATP during physical activity, providing an additional source of energy for the body.
What are ATP Stores?
ATP stores are the energy currency of the body that allow cells to function properly. ATP (Adenosine triphosphate) is a molecule that is essential for various physiological processes such as muscle contraction, nerve conduction, and metabolic reactions. The human body produces ATP through various metabolic pathways, including glycolysis, the citric acid cycle, and oxidative phosphorylation.
However, ATP stores in the body are limited and can be depleted quickly during intense physical activities, such as weightlifting, sprinting, and high-intensity interval training, which leads to fatigue and decreased performance. The body needs to use metabolic pathways that require oxygen to replenish ATP stores, which is why aerobic exercises could be important for improving ATP production.
When creatine is taken as a supplement, it may increase muscle creatine stores, and this increase in creatine allows for greater energy production during exercise, which could lead to improved muscle strength and size. However, it is important to note that creatine supplementation should be combined with a thorough exercise routine and balanced diet for optimal results.
Benefits of Creatine
1. Enhanced Muscle Size and Strength
Creatine has been shown in a 2022 paper to increase muscle size and strength in various populations. It works by increasing the amount of energy available to muscles during exercise, allowing for more intense and longer-lasting workouts.
Research has shown that creatine supplementation may lead to significant increases in muscle mass and strength, which could make it a valuable tool for those looking to maximise their gains in the gym. This is likely due to creatine’s ability to enhance energy production during exercise, allowing for greater muscle work and growth in healthy populations. However, larger sample sizes are needed in older and muscular related populations to definitively determine these effects.
Additionally, it’s important to remember that results may vary based on individual factors such as diet, training regimen, and genetics.
2. Increased Physical Performance
In addition to encouraging muscle size and strength, creatine could also increase physical performance in successive bursts of short-term, high intensity exercise.
One study found that the primary ways in which creatine affects athletic performance is by increasing the production of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) in the body. ATP is the primary source of energy for muscle contractions, and by increasing its production, creatine could potentially help to improve muscle strength, power, and endurance. However, this study only examined the effects of creatine supplementation on a single type of exercise in a small sample size.
Overall, there are many potential benefits to supplementing with creatine, particularly for individuals looking to improve their muscle size and strength. It’s important to note that creatine supplementation should be combined with a balanced diet and appropriate exercise routine for optimal results.
3. Potentially Reducing Mental Fatigue
Creatine supplementation has also been shown in one study that it may reduce mental fatigue. This is particularly beneficial for endurance athletes, such as long-distance runners and cyclists. However, further research is needed to confirm these findings as it was based on one task so unclear if the results would generalise the other cognitive tasks.
How to Take Creatine
To take creatine, it would always be advisable looking at the product labelling to follow the suggested use and to follow locale laws. For our Creatine Monohydrate, we would recommend starting with a loading phase of 5 grams per day.
It should be taken with water or a carbohydrate-rich meal, preferably after a workout. This is because your muscles are more receptive to the nutrient uptake of creatine after exercise.
The time it takes for creatine to work varies from person to person, and depends on a number of factors such as the dosage, the form of creatine, and the individual’s metabolism.
It’s important to note that creatine supplementation should be used in conjunction with a healthy diet and regular exercise routine.
Additionally, it’s important to stay hydrated while taking creatine, as it can cause dehydration if not consumed with an adequate amount of water.
What Are The Best Ways To Take Creatine?
Here are some of the best ways to take creatine:
1. Creatine Loading Phase
A loading phase is the initial period of time when creatine is first introduced to the body. This phase could typically last 5-7 days and involves taking a higher dose of creatine to saturate the muscles with the supplement. After the loading phase, a maintenance phase can be started at a lower dosage to maintain the muscle saturation.
2. Maintenance Phase
After the loading phase, you can continue to take creatine at a lower dose to maintain your muscle creatine levels. A typical maintenance dose is 3-5 grams per day (depending on local laws).
It is important to take creatine at the right time to maximise its potential effectiveness. However, it may also be effective to take creatine at other times of day, such as before bed or with meals.
Creatine can be mixed with water or any other beverage of your choice. However, avoid mixing it with acidic drinks like orange juice or lemonade, as this can break down the creatine and reduce its potential effectiveness.
5. Creatine Cycling
Some athletes and bodybuilders cycle their creatine use, taking it for a certain period of time and then taking a break before starting again. This is known as “creatine cycling”. The idea behind cycling is to prevent the body from becoming dependent on creatine and to avoid any negative side effects that may come with long-term use. This could help to maintain the effectiveness of the supplement.
Risks and Side Effects
It’s important to note that creatine is not without its risks and side effects. Some individuals may experience gastrointestinal discomfort, muscle cramping, or dehydration. Additionally, creatine may interact with certain medications or medical conditions, so it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting a creatine supplement regimen. As with any supplement, it’s important to approach its use with caution and awareness of potential risks.
When using creatine, it is important to stay hydrated and to not exceed the recommended dosage. Creatine can cause dehydration if not consumed with plenty of water. It is also important to cycle on and off creatine to avoid any negative side effects. Consulting with a healthcare professional before using creatine is recommended.
Are There Any Long-Term Risks of Taking Creatine?
Creatine has been extensively researched and studied for its short-term and long-term safety. It is considered safe when taken within the recommended dosage and duration. However, there are some potential risks associated with long-term use of creatine.
One of the concerns is the potential impact of creatine on kidney function. A 2018 Study has shown that creatine supplementation does not cause any significant harm to healthy individuals with normal kidney function. However, individuals with pre-existing kidney disease should avoid taking creatine as it may worsen their condition.
Another potential risk of long-term creatine use is the possibility of gastrointestinal distress. Some individuals may experience bloating, diarrhoea, and stomach cramps when taking creatine. These symptoms typically subside within a few days of taking the supplement.
Finally, there is a concern that long-term creatine use may have adverse effects on the cardiovascular system. However, there are limited studies that have not found any conclusive evidence to support this. In fact, one study in 2021 has suggested that creatine supplementation may even have a possible positive impact on cardiovascular health. Although additional research is needed to explore other health benefits of creatine supplementation.
Overall, creatine is considered safe when taken within the recommended dosage and duration. If you have any pre-existing medical condition(s), it is important to consult with your doctor before taking creatine. Additionally, it is crucial to purchase high-quality creatine supplements from reputable brands to ensure safety and efficacy.
In conclusion, creatine is usually considered a safe and effective supplement for those looking to improve their muscle gains and overall athletic performance. It is important to follow recommended dosages and stay hydrated while taking creatine. For optimal effects, creatine increases physical performance in successive bursts of short-term, high intensity training (1).
While there may be some minor potential side effects, such as bloating or gastrointestinal issues, the benefits of creatine may outweigh these concerns for most individuals. As with any supplement, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting a regimen.