Updated: Mar 1, 2019
What’s up everyone!
I am back with another post about supplements, and on today’s episode of “UNDERSTANDING SUPPLEMENTS” we are going to talk about one of the most criticized and controversial supplements of all time: creatine
WHAT IS CREATINE?
Creatine is an organic acid present in your muscle cells that it is produced as a consequence of the synthesis of 3 amino acids: arginine, glycine and methionine. That means creatine is a nonessential amino acid, your body can produce it from other amino acids.
The majority of your body’s creatine is stored in your muscles, in the form of phosphocreatine, which helps creating ATP (Adenosine triphosphate), the first source of energy of your muscles.
Once creatine is released, it transfers its phosphate to the ADP (adenosine diphosphate) to start producing ATP.
This way, it helps increasing your body’s ATP and provides you with more energy during your workouts which, ultimately, leads to an overall better performance.
It also has been proven that creatine affects several cellular processes, ultimately leading to increased muscle mass, strength and recovery (more here).
WHY PEOPLE CONSUME CREATINE?
One of the main reasons people consume creatine supplements is for bodybuilding purposes. Again, it helps producing more ATP and, as a consequence, more energy, while it also delays muscle fatigue.
What’s more, if you are training at your maximal capacity your body can’t produce enough ATP to keep up with you. Supplementing yourself with creatine will help you to increase the amount of phosphocreatine in your muscle stores which, as we have already said, will help creating more ATP and will allow your body to actually keep up with the intensity of your trainings.
Also, as I’ve already said, creatine can promote muscle fibers growth, strength, recovery and performance in the gym, with all the benefits the these imply. Also, it has been proven that it can improve your cognitive response (more here).
WHERE DO I GET MY CREATINE FROM AND HOW MUCH DO I NEED?
You can find it naturally in several foods, specifically in animal-based products (read meat and seafood specially). So, if you are consuming plenty of those foods, your body is probably already producing enough creatine to cover your standard/minimal needs.
The problem is that an average person with an average meat/seafood intake, is getting just enough creatine to cover their minimal needs. In general, a 4-ounce serving of meat has around 0,5 gr of creatine (depending on the food).
4 servings like that a day and you will consume just around 2 gr of creatine, which it may cover your minimal needs, but it is definitely not enough quantity to experience any improved benefits.
So, if you want to consume enough creatine to experience its benefits, you should start supplementing with creatine.
HOW TO TAKE CREATINE
There are 2 different approaches when it comes to how much creatine you shouldconsume.
The first one has two phases: a loading phase and a maintenance phase. During the loading phase you would take around 20gr of creatine a day for 5 days to make sure you saturate your muscle’s creatine stores.
Then, you move into the maintenance phase, consuming 3 – 5 gr a day.
The second one consists in directly consuming 3 - 5gr of creatine since day 1, without a loading phase first. Different studies have compared the two methods and have found the differences are minimal. A loading phase may help saturating your muscles with creatine at a faster rate but the overall results after one month are practically the same.
Besides, your muscles have a limited capacity to store creatine and after consuming 20gr a day for 2 – 3 days your stores will be pretty much full. Yes, sure you use creatine as your energy source while training, but still you will be consuming enough creatine to fill your creatine stores completely in less than 5 days, meaning that all the creatine you consume once your stores are full will be eliminated in your urine.
So, what should you do then? It is completely up to you. If you want to reap the benefits faster, do a loading phase first. But there is no need if you don’t want to. Personally, I’ve never done a loading phase, I just stick to my 5gr every day. Besides, the International Society of Sports and Nutrition recommends staying in the 3 – 5 gr/day range, since there isn’t sufficient evidence to determine long-term safety of higher ranges.
IS IT SAFE TO TAKE? SIDE EFFECTS
After all the controversy that has been in the past about creatine and its safety, it has been more than proven that creatine is safe to take when taken properly. Sure, an excess of creatine can cause different issues, but so can an excess of alcohol, of high saturated fats foods or sugary foods. It is all about consuming the right amount.
The potential benefits of creatine: it can help you increase your muscle mass, your strength, promote a better recovery and, most of all, provide you with more energy during your workouts.
However, there are some side effects that have been associated with creatine: muscle cramps, dehydration, diarrhea, nausea, and seizures. The main side effect associated with creatine is water retention. However, is the “good water retention”, since what creatine does it makes your body pull more water into your cells (that’s what is called intracellular water retention. The other type of water retention is extracellular).
The truth is that I have been taking creatine every day for quite some time now and I have never experienced those side effects. Not saying that you won’t either, I just want you to know that I haven’t nor do I know anyone that has. Of course, everyone is different, and each body can respond differently to it.
Honestly, if you train at a high intensity you should really consider on start taking it. Again, it is a supplement, and supplements are not needed. However, if your diet and your training are on point, they can really add some extra benefits.
Creatine is one of the actual few supplements that I recommend consuming since I have experienced his benefits in first-hand and I know it can be that little extra help you need to push yourself even harder!!
However, you should talk to your doctor or dietitian before taking it to make sure it is right for your goals and health history.
This is it for today!! If you have any doubt, question, suggestion, constructive critic or are not agree with something you read, please do not hesitate to let me know in the comments section or let me know by using my social media.
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See you in the next one :)