Creatine and Creatine Supplements
Creatine supplies energy to your muscles. About half comes from your diet, the rest is produced in your liver and kidneys. Many athletes take creatine supplements to increase strength and improve performance. Supplements are relatively safe in healthy people. However, always talk to your healthcare provider before taking creatine supplements.
What is creatine?
Creatine is one of your body's natural sources of energy for muscle contraction. Its name comes from the Greek word for meat. About half of the body’s supply comes from a carnivorous diet and about half is produced in the liver, kidneys and then delivered to the skeletal muscles for use. About 95% of creatine is stored in the skeletal muscle of your body and is used during physical activity. Creatine helps to maintain a continuous supply of energy to working muscles by keep production up in working muscles. Small amounts are also found in your heart, brain and other tissues.
Creatine is also found in foods such as milk, red meat and seafood. In a normal omnivorous /carnivorous diet, you consume one to two grams/day of creatine. Vegetarians may have lower amounts of creatine in their bodies.
Why do people take creatine supplements?
Professional and amateur athletes at all levels have been known to take creatine supplements to aid their workout routines and improve workout recovery. Creatine creates “quick burst” energy and increased strength, which improves performance but has little effect on aerobic endurance. Most people who use creatine supplements are male athletes and are mostly involved in power sports, such as football, wrestling, hockey and bodybuilding.
No matter your age or health condition, talk to your doctor or healthcare provider before taking creatine supplements.
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.
- Improve your exercise performance.
- Help your recovery after intense exercise.
- Prevent and/or reduce the severity of the injury.
- Help athletes tolerate heavy training loads.
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.
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