Benefits Of Creatine: How This Supplement Works for More Than Muscle?
For years, the strength training and fitness communities have spoken openly about the benefits of creatine for gaining body mass and building muscle. Meanwhile, many people have used creatine in an effort to boost their athletic performance. Yet despite being one of the most commonly used nutritional supplements, there are still some misconceptions about creatine.
However, there’s plenty of research that supports the idea of adding it to your stack. In fact, although it’s often associated with muscle building, creatine offers potential benefits that don’t involve weight lifting or high-intensity exercise.
We’ll explore the science behind this supplement, including how it can support both your body and your brain. And while we can’t make any guarantees about your future gains, we can promise you’ll pump up your creatine knowledge to a whole other level.
What is Creatine?
Before we delve into the benefits of creatine, it’s important to understand exactly what it is. While many associate creatine with sports supplements, it’s actually a naturally occurring compound made of three amino acids: arginine, glycine and methionine.
Produced predominantly in the liver and kidneys, creatine synthesis also occurs in the pancreas. There are actually two forms of creatine found in the human body, with the phosphorylated form comprising 60% and free form making up the other 40%. Your skeletal muscle contains 95% of your creatine stores, where it can be harnessed for energy.
Our creatine phosphate system plays a major role when it comes to energy, especially during physical activity. And while consuming red meat is a sound way to increase your muscle creatine stores (uncooked muscle meat contains between 3-6 grams of creatine per kilogram), supplementing can also help unlock several science-backed benefits.
Benefits of Creatine
Creatine is one of the most researched and utilized dietary supplements around. But as much as weightlifters and bodybuilders may benefit from it, you don’t need to have a body composition or muscle size goal in mind to make it a part of your routine.
Actually, as much as creatine supplementation can help your body, it can help your mind, too.
1. How do I increase my creatine intake?
Your body makes creatine, so you always have some at the ready. For a boost, eat grass-fed beef, lamb and pork. Wild-caught fish also contains creatine, but it has less than red meat and pork. In addition to or instead of those food sources, you can supplement with 5 grams of creatine monohydrate per day.
2. What is a creatine loading phase and is it necessary?
A creatine loading phase typically involves taking 10-20 grams per day for the first week. Whether you load or not, your muscles will saturate at the 3-4 week mark, which means they will have taken in all they can hold. A creatine loading phase isn’t necessary, but it can be a useful way to speed up the process so you can potentially reap the rewards sooner.
3. What’s the best time to take creatine?
There is no one-size-fits-all-approach when it comes to creatine timing. You can certainly take it before your workout, but you can also incorporate it into your post-workout shake or smoothie. However, one study on the effects of pre- vs. post-workout supplementation of creatine monohydrate on body composition and strength suggested the post-workout route could be more beneficial.
4. Are there negative side effects of creatine supplementation?
According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, there is no compelling scientific evidence that the short- or long-term use of creatine monohydrate has any detrimental effects on otherwise healthy individuals or among clinical populations who may benefit from creatine supplementation.
5. Will increasing my levels of creatine cause me to gain weight?
In the short-term, yes. Creatine draws extra water into the muscle, causing weight gain and muscle swelling from water retention alone. After a few weeks, your gains come from those extra sets you were able to rep out, and those extra weight plates you were able to throw on. You get real strength increases from the extra ATP you’re pushing into your muscle fibers.
6. Does creatine affect your kidney function?
Although it’s one of the most common concerns, your kidney function is not negatively impacted by creatine supplementation. A study on five healthy men showed that short-term use did not have a detrimental effect on their renal responses. And if you’re worried about the impact of long-term creatine supplementation, another study confirmed it did not negatively impact kidney function, either.
7. Will taking creatine cause muscle cramping?
Per the International Society of Sports Nutrition, clinical trials show creatine usage does not increase the incidence of muscle cramping. However, there is some conflicting information on this issue. The Natural Medicines Database lists muscle cramping as one of the most common adverse effects of oral creatine supplementation. In general, it’s a good idea to pay attention to your hydration and electrolyte levels, as deficiencies in either may lead to cramping issues.