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Creatine Explained - What is Creatine in Fitness and Bodybuilding

Creatine is a natural substance that our body produces from certain amino acids. It’s mostly found in our muscles and helps with energy metabolism. When we exercise, our muscles use up a molecule called ATP for energy. Creatine steps in by providing extra phosphate molecules to rebuild ATP, allowing our muscles to keep working during intense activities like weightlifting or sprinting.

Taking creatine as a supplement can increase the amount stored in our muscles, leading to improvements in strength, power, and muscle size. If taking it as a supplement, it’s important to combine creatine with a healthy diet and exercise routine for best results. So what exactly is creatine, and how does it work? 

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Key Takeaways

  1. Creatine is a naturally occurring substance synthesized in the body that plays a crucial role in energy metabolism, primarily in muscles.
  2. It helps replenish ATP stores, which is the energy source for muscles during exercise.
  3. Creatine supplements can enhance muscle’s ability to produce energy during high-intensity activities like weightlifting or sprinting.
  4. Creatine monohydrate is the most well-researched and effective form of creatine.
  5. Other forms of creatine may have some theoretical benefits, but more research is needed to determine their effectiveness.
  6. Creatine supplementation should be combined with a proper diet and exercise routine for optimal results.
  7. Recommended daily dosage ranges from 3-5 grams per day, taken with a carbohydrate source for enhanced absorption.
  8. It’s important to stay hydrated when taking creatine to prevent dehydration.
  9. Creatine can help in gaining muscle mass, but it should be used as a supplement, not a substitute for a healthy lifestyle.
  10. Consult with a healthcare professional before starting creatine supplementation to ensure safety and appropriate dosage for your individual needs.

What Is Creatine?

Creatine is a naturally occurring substance that is synthesized in the body from the amino acids arginine, glycine, and methionine. It is primarily found in the muscles, where it plays an important role in energy metabolism

When you exercise, your body uses energy stored in the form of a molecule called ATP (adenosine triphosphate) to fuel your muscles. As ATP is used up, it must be replenished in order to maintain muscle function. This is where creatine comes in.

Creatine helps to replenish ATP stores by providing phosphate molecules to help rebuild ATP from ADP (adenosine diphosphate). This means that creatine can help to improve your muscle’s ability to produce energy during high-intensity exercise, such as weight lifting or sprinting.

What is Creatine? Courtesy of Dr. Eric Berg DC

What Are Different Types Creatine?

There are several different types of creatine supplements available on the market. Here are some of the most common types:

  1. Creatine Monohydrate: This is the most widely used and researched form of creatine. It is made up of creatine bound to a single molecule of water. Creatine monohydrate is highly effective at increasing muscle creatine stores and improving athletic performance.
  2. Creatine Ethyl Ester: This form of creatine is created by attaching an ester molecule to creatine. The theory behind this is that the ester molecule will make the creatine more easily absorbed by the body. However, research has shown that this is not the case, and creatine ethyl ester may actually be less effective than creatine monohydrate.
  3. Creatine Hydrochloride: This form of creatine is made by combining creatine with hydrochloric acid. Proponents of creatine hydrochloride claim that it is more easily absorbed by the body and requires a lower dosage than creatine monohydrate. However, there is limited research to support these claims.
  4. Buffered Creatine: This type of creatine is made by combining creatine with alkaline compounds such as magnesium or sodium. The idea behind this is to create a pH-buffered form of creatine that is more easily absorbed by the body and less likely to cause gastrointestinal side effects. Some research has shown that buffered creatine may be more effective than creatine monohydrate, but more research is needed.
  5. Creatine Nitrate: This form of creatine is created by combining creatine with nitric acid. The idea behind this is to create a form of creatine that also provides the benefits of nitric oxide, which can improve blood flow and muscle pumps. However, research on creatine nitrate is limited, and it is unclear whether it is more effective than other forms of creatine.

Overall, creatine monohydrate is the most well-researched and effective form of creatine. Other forms of creatine may have some theoretical benefits, but more research is needed to determine their effectiveness.

Which Creatine Is Best?

Creatine monohydrate is the most widely studied and effective form of creatine supplement, and it is generally considered the best option for most people. It has been shown to increase muscle creatine stores and improve exercise performance in numerous studies. Additionally, creatine monohydrate is relatively inexpensive and widely available.

Other forms of creatine, such as creatine ethyl ester, creatine hydrochloride, buffered creatine, and creatine nitrate, may have some theoretical benefits, but there is limited research to support their effectiveness. Some of these forms may also be more expensive than creatine monohydrate.

Ultimately, the best type of creatine for you will depend on your individual goals, preferences, and tolerance. However, for most people, creatine monohydrate is a safe and effective option for improving athletic performance and building muscle mass.

How Does Creatine Work?

When you take creatine as a supplement, it can increase the amount of creatine stored in your muscles, which can lead to improvements in strength, power, and muscle size. 

Creatine supplements are typically consumed in powder or pill form, and are often taken before or after a workout. It is recommended that you consume creatine with a carbohydrate source, as this can help to enhance its absorption.

It’s important to note that while creatine can be effective for improving athletic performance, it is not a magic bullet. It works best when combined with a proper diet and exercise routine. Additionally, not everyone will see the same benefits from creatine supplementation, and some people may experience side effects.

How Much Should I Take?

The amount of creatine you should take depends on several factors, including your body weight, muscle mass, and training goals. 

The most commonly recommended dose of creatine is 3-5 grams per day, taken at any time of the day. Some people may also choose to do a loading phase, which involves taking 20-25 grams of creatine per day for the first 5-7 days to quickly saturate the muscles with creatine.

It’s important to follow the recommended dosages on the product label and not exceed the recommended dose. Taking too much creatine can lead to gastrointestinal issues, dehydration, and other side effects.

If you are new to creatine supplementation, it may be best to start with a lower dose (around 3 grams per day) for the first week or two to allow your body to adjust. Additionally, it’s important to stay well-hydrated when taking creatine, as it can cause dehydration if you don’t drink enough water.

As with any supplement, it’s always best to consult with a healthcare professional before starting to take creatine to determine the appropriate dosage for your individual needs.

How Much Creatine Per Day?

The recommended daily dosage of creatine is typically 3-5 grams per day, taken at any time of the day. This dosage has been shown to be effective for increasing muscle creatine stores and improving athletic performance in numerous studies.

Some people may also choose to do a loading phase, which involves taking 20-25 grams of creatine per day for the first 5-7 days to quickly saturate the muscles with creatine. However, a loading phase is not necessary and may not provide additional benefits beyond the standard daily dosage.

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It’s important to follow the recommended dosages on the product label and not exceed the recommended dose. Taking too much creatine can lead to gastrointestinal issues, dehydration, and other side effects.

If you are new to creatine supplementation, it may be best to start with a lower dose (around 3 grams per day) for the first week or two to allow your body to adjust. Additionally, it’s important to stay well-hydrated when taking creatine, as it can cause dehydration if you don’t drink enough water.

As with any supplement, it’s always best to consult with a healthcare professional before starting to take creatine to determine the appropriate dosage for your individual needs.

Does Creatine Make You Gain Muscle?

Yes, creatine can help you gain muscle mass, but it is not a magic solution. Creatine works by increasing the amount of creatine stored in your muscles, which in turn helps to replenish ATP stores and provide more energy during high-intensity exercise. This increased energy can allow you to work harder and lift heavier weights, which can lead to improved muscle growth over time.

Several studies have shown that creatine supplementation can lead to significant gains in muscle mass and strength, particularly when combined with a proper diet and exercise routine. However, the amount of muscle gain may vary depending on factors such as your starting fitness level, the intensity of your workouts, and your diet.

It’s important to note that creatine supplementation is not a replacement for a healthy diet and exercise routine. It is best used as a supplement to support your fitness goals. Additionally, not everyone will see the same benefits from creatine supplementation, and some people may experience side effects. As with any supplement, it’s important to talk to a healthcare professional before starting to take creatine.

Courtesy of Jeremy Ethier

Side Effects and Risks of Creatine Supplementation

While creatine is generally considered safe when used as directed, it can cause side effects in some people. 

These may include gastrointestinal upset, muscle cramps, and dehydration. It is important to talk to a healthcare professional before starting to take any dietary supplement, including creatine. 

Conclusion

Creatine can be a useful supplement for athletes and bodybuilders looking to improve their performance and increase muscle mass. It works by helping to replenish ATP stores, which can improve your muscle’s ability to produce energy during high-intensity exercise. 

While creatine is generally considered safe when used as directed, it may not be appropriate for everyone and can cause side effects in some people. As with any supplement, it is important to talk to a healthcare professional before starting to take creatine.

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