As you work on building muscle you will receive many recommendations from various friends, family or gym buddies. One supplement that will be recommended to you is creatine. So what is creatine? How can it fuel your workouts and help you grow muscle? More importantly, do you really need it? Let’s look at everything you need to know about creatine.
What is creatine?
Why is creatine important?
Who should take creatine?
Are there different types of creatine?
When should you take creatine?
How should you take creatine?
Whether you are just starting on your fitness journey or you are a pro looking to up your game, creatine is a great suggestion to supplement. Looking at all of the different options out there can be overwhelming, but you can rest easy knowing that creatine is one of the most widely researched supplements on the market. But before we dive into exactly how it can help you crush your goals, let’s answer the question, “What is Creatine.”
Creatine is a substance that is found naturally in muscle cells, but at various levels depending on your diet and nutrition. Think of it as the spark to a fire that helps your muscles produce energy during heavy lifting or high-intensity exercise. Creatine is similar to an amino acid and is stored in the muscles. It is converted into energy in the body. Therefore, many people will supplement with creatine to boost energy and increase muscle mass in a workout. Be sure to speak with your medical professional before supplementing to make sure this is the best option for your body.
Amino acids are compounds that combine to form proteins...the building blocks. When a protein is broken down and digested amino acids are left behind. Amino acids help break down food, grow, repair body tissue, and much more. There are three types of amino acids, essential, nonessential, and conditional. You can read more about all types of essential amino acids here in an article According to an article from the US National Library of Medicine.
Creatine actually isn’t a single amino acid. Creatine is actually a combination of a few amino acids. L-arginine, glycine, and L-methionine make up creatine. Creatine combines with phosphates to create energy within the body. This is why many people will add a creatine supplement to their workout routine. Used correctly, creatine can add more energy and explosiveness to a workout to help you lift more, thereby promoting muscle growth.
According to an article by Men’s Health creatine is actively made by your body after you consume most food-based protein. Your muscles convert creatine into creatine phosphate which is then generated into adenosine triphosphate or ATP for short, which your body uses for exercising. Creatine can be found in higher concentrations in red meat and seafood. Some people will also suggest pairing creatine rich proteins with carbohydrates in order to boost their effects. It is important to note that a creatine supplement is not a substitute for vital protein-rich foods. Drink lots of water and of course, consult your physician to find out what is best for your personal health goals.
The bottom line is that creatine is one of the most widely researched supplements in the world. Numerous studies have shown that it can improve strength, increase lean muscle mass, and help muscles recover quicker during and after exercise. Many athletes will add in creatine as part of a weight lifting or sprinting routine to offer an extra boost of energy or get that one last rep in the gym. While creatine can be linked to muscular endurance, it is not intended for endurance sports. Instead, it offers a quick burst of energy for shorter-term endeavors. Looking at some of the key features of creatine can help you to decide if you should add it to your workout routine, so let’s take a look at using creatine to build strength, increase muscle mass and helping you recover.
We like referring to this article by PubMed, which shows that creatine can result in strength gains. The article highlights: “Of the 22 studies reviewed, the average increase in muscle strength (1, 3, or 10 repetition maximum [RM]) following creatine supplementation plus resistance training was 8% greater than the average increase in muscle strength following placebo ingestion during resistance training.” Current research does show an increase in strength for those who supplement with creatine. There have been many studies that looked into its effects on the body. If you still have questions after looking at the research, take some time to speak to medical professionals about the benefits of creatine and how they relate to your situation or send us a note or a direct message and one of our certified team members or coaches will be glad to help!
Lean muscle mass is simply a less fatty body mass with more lean muscle. You might think of a lean body as a shredded body in some cases. Although creatine is primarily thought of as a bulking supplement and can help the muscles retain water, don’t skimp on it’s leaning out capabilities. Used in combination with a great resistance training routine, lean muscle mass, and overall strength can be achieved with creatine, especially in older adults. Results will vary based on the way that you combine creatine with your workout routine. However, many studies do suggest that supplementing with creatine can increase overall lean muscle mass.
Some research suggests that creatine helps muscles recover after a workout. According to an article by Healthline creatine improves multiple factors such as strength, sprint ability, muscle endurance, resistance to fatigue, and recovery. Some opinions on this matter will vary. Take some time to read through some of the research done by the Journal of International Society of Sports Medicine. In this article, you can read through many of these studies and formulate your own opinions. However, the common theme is that it does improve muscle recovery.
Growing muscle is important to many when working out. When considering creatine you might ask whether it really helps with muscle growth. When looking at creatine in regards to muscle growth Brad Schoenfeld, Ph.D. shares the following, “Muscle growth may be further enhanced by creatine's volumizing effect. You see, creatine acts as an osmolyte, pulling water into the muscle. Not only does this enhance muscle size, but it also has been theorized that the associated cellular swelling contributes to hypertrophy.” Based on this as additional research, creatine can be a fantastic help for muscle growth when combined with a workout routine.
You don’t have to look far to find a variety of creatine supplements. The question you might ask is whether creatine is safe for your situation. Not all people are created equally and adding creatine may or may not work for you. Please always consult your medical professional before adding anything to your supplement routine.
Many athletes will look for safe and legal ways to boost their performance. Creatine is perfect because it is not a steroid and is approved by most sports as safe. According to an article on Sports Health 14% of athletes take creatine. An article in NY Daily News says, “Creatine, a legal dietary supplement that is not banned by MLB, NFL, NBA or NCAA.” This means creatine is considered safe with many sports that ban steroids.
Creatine can be beneficial for women. One of the biggest reasons it appeals to women is the ability to build lean muscle. If as a woman, you are working out at least 2-3 days a week, there could be significant benefits to supplementing your healthy exercise regiment with creatine. Many women will avoid creatine because it is known for helping people bulk up. However, it is also building lean muscle which is beneficial to women as part of an exercise regiment, so rethink that supplementation ladies!
Lots of kids in middle and high school use creatine to supplement their fitness routines, but does this mean it’s safe for our kids? According to an article by Arnold Palmer 35% of middle and high school boys use creatine. There have not been many studies on the effects of creatine on minors. This means that making this decision could have implications science is unaware of at this time. Make sure to speak to a medical professional before adding in a creatine supplement for your child or teen. This will help you to make sure you have all of the information before making a decision.
The general makeup of creatine supplementing can impact your body in different ways depending on your activity level. Creatine helps muscles to retain water. If you are not regularly exercising you might find that there is more water retention in your body and give you that “swoll” feeling that some people love. This could contribute to weight gain initially, but only from the water weight, so keep that in mind. Creatine can lead to bloating and weight gain when not combined with exercise, so be sure to combine your creatine supplementation to a healthy diet and fitness routine to get all the crazy benefits. While there are no studies showing negative implications of taking creatine without a regular exercise routine, you will want to ask whether taking creatine is beneficial for your overall health. It may be wise to spend some time researching the overall benefits of creatine and see if they fit your situation.
Once you’ve done the research on creatine and decided it works for you, it’s time to decide which version to take. As with anything on the market, there are many varieties and companies out there. When choosing your creatine it doesn’t have to be hard to pick the right one. Let’s look at three of the most effective types of creatine. Our Three-atine creatine product uses these three.
The most researched type of creatine is creatine monohydrate. This type of creatine is primarily responsible for accelerating muscle growth to build bulk mass by providing more explosive power. It can also boost your ability to recover post-workout from high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Creatine monohydrate can serve as an excellent pre-workout and stacks perfectly with BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids).
Creatine Pyruvate is responsible for instant effectiveness, allowing your body to absorb 100% of the creatine you put in your body. In addition to helping support creatine monohydrate, pyruvate can also help contribute to size, strength and performance gains across the board.
If you are looking to have rapid gains, but still keep your muscle definition, Alphaketoglutarate is the creatine for you. This strength booster will replenish cells quickly and help increase your active exercise performance in addition to helping to extend your endurance.
You’ve taken the time to do the research on creatine. Not only do you know how it will impact you specifically but you’ve also learned which format is best to reach your fitness goals. Now it’s time to start taking your creatine as part of your fitness routine. Having the right timing for supplementing can be helpful.
On days when you exercise you might want to try taking creatine right before or after you exercise. This study mentions that it might be more effective to take the supplement right before you workout rather than taking it in the morning or evening. Creatine can be most helpful directly before or after as it loads up or restores your stores of ATP, so the short answer to this is to make sure you experiment with usage before for a few weeks and then after for a few weeks and track your results.
Rest days are important for your physical health as part of a fitness routine. How does creatine fit into this though? Supplementing on rest days is generally meant to maintain creatine levels. If you have done a loading phase, where you take up to 20g of creatine per day for 3-5 days when you start your supplementation routine, or whether you are taking a 5g dose per day to have a slow build, your rest days are important. Once you are in your normal daily routine, resting is going to be important to allow your muscles the proper time to grow and repair. Keep in mind that the timing of when you take the supplement won’t matter as much since you are not exercising...it’s more of a maintenance thing on rest days.
Not all supplements are created equal. Some are best on a full stomach. While others are most effective when taken with a drink. When it comes to creatine, is it best to take it with food, water, or on an empty stomach? We turn to this study from PubMed that suggests that taking creatine with carbohydrates increases the extent to which it is taken up by the muscles. However, using extra carbs can also add extra calories, so that might be something to keep in mind for your goals. If you are adding in carbohydrates you could put yourself at risk of consuming too many calories. Spend some time researching how creatine combined with carbohydrates works for your specific situation and decide if the extra calories are worth it for you.
With many supplements on the market, it can be hard to figure out not only which to take but how to take each one. With creatine, the time of day is important, but we also need to look at how to actually take it. Knowing how to properly take creatine can help you to get the most out of your workout.
Creatine loading is a phase in which you rapidly maximize your muscle stores. You will consume a relatively large amount of creatine in a small period to more quickly saturate your muscles. It’s common to take 20 grams of creatine daily for 5-7 days. This dose is typically divided into four 5 gram servings throughout the day. This may speed up the overall effects of creatine supplementation, but it’s not the only way to go (as you will see below).
Another option for creatine dosing to it consistently start at the 3-5 grams from the start. Some studies show that there is not much difference between the efficacy of creatine loading and a consistent creatine dose over time in building muscle. The only difference appears to be that with creatine loading the ergogenic effects are faster. If you are after that faster effect you may want to opt for creatine loading.
With some supplements on the market, it can be suggested to cycle them to get the best results. However, most research into creatine suggests that this is not necessary.
At the end of the day, it is important to look at your personal fitness goals. Will creatine supplementation help you to reach them effectively and in a way that is healthy for you? Take some time to look at the benefits and small side effects to decide. It is always important to speak to your medical professional before starting a new supplement to make sure that it is safe and healthy for your body. We can give you the information above but hope that you will follow up with your provider and do what is best for your situation.
This is a total myth. Your muscles may look smaller because creatine adds water volume, so naturally when you stop taking it, there will be less water in the muscle, giving you a bit more ripped look rather than the full look creatine provides. For more on this subject though, we like to refer to Gordon Purser, Ph.D., a professor of chemistry at the University of Tulsa who studies creatine and has used it himself for the past decade. He said: “The real question is, ‘Will you maintain your strength and muscle mass, dry muscle mass, when you discontinue the use of creatine?” says Purser. “The answer to that is absolutely yes. Once you have built the muscle, as long as you continue to lift, you will maintain it.”