Creatine Can Boost Your Athletic Performance
Creatine was discovered by scientists to enhance physical performance in the 1970’s. Creatine supplementation caught on for building lean body mass as well as enhancing athletic performance in the 1990’s.
Creatine is one of the few supplements allowed by the International Olympic Committee since it has not been medically proven to be harmful. And it’s not just for men. Women can see lean muscle mass gains as well.
What is creatine
Creatine is naturally made in our bodies in the kidney and liver. It’s mainly stored in muscles. It is also found in protein-rich foods such as meat and fish.
Creatine comes in in many forms such as powders, tablets, capsules, and liquids. The most popular being powder form.
How it works
What’s happening in your body: the liver excretes creatinine from creatine. It’s then turned into creatine phosphate in the body. The body uses creatine phosphate to make adenosine triphosphate (ATP). It is ATP that provides the energy the muscles need to contract.
ATP is broken down into adenosine diphosphate (ADP) when you’re training. Creatine then adds a phosphate molecule to ADP so that your muscles have ATP again. What that means for you is that you’ll be able to complete more reps and train longer.
Basically, creatine helps muscles get the needed nutrients to perform, recover, and grow.
Benefits of creatine
Creatine is known to increase lean muscle mass, improve strength, and help muscles recover quicker during exercise. This boost to the muscles is what helps you achieve bursts of speed and energy. A list of other benefits are:
- Increased ATP (availability of muscle energy)
- Increased power output so you can do more sets and reps
- Enhanced recovery after your workout
How to take creatine
Taking creatine pre or post workout is still debatable. There is no conclusive evidence that points to one time being better than the other. So it’s up to you to find what works best.
The dosage, on the other hand, is important. You don’t want to take too much. Like everything else, more is not necessarily better.
For women, 3-5g a day is recommended. For men, 5-10g a day is recommended. The most popular time creatine is taken by athletes is post-workout. But you don’t have to restrict yourself to that time. Creatine can be taken either first thing in the morning, pre-workout, or post-workout.
Creatine should not be taken indefinitely, though. For it to work properly, it needs to be cycled. Taking a two to four week break is highly recommended. So an example of how you can cycle is taking creatine for eight weeks, then taking a break for 4 weeks.
One thing you should know about taking creatine is that it does not work well with caffeine. Caffeine can negate what you’re trying to achieve. So if you decide to start taking creatine, don’t take anything that has caffeine for the time that you’re taking the supplement.
Another thing to keep in mind is that creatine makes muscle hold water by taking it from the rest of your body. Because of this, you need to drink more water than you normally would as it will help prevent dehydration. And since creatine has the potential of dehydrating you, it shouldn’t be taken when you’re going to exercise in the heat.
Different forms of creatine
There are also different forms of creatine. Some forms includes:
This form was the original version. And it’s still the best form to take. Keep in mind that this form needs to be taken along with sugar so it can be properly absorbed by the body. That’s why you’ll see most people take it with fruit juice.
During the loading phase, take 5 grams 4-5 times per day from day 1 to 5. After that, you can take monohydrate once a day.
This form mixes easily with liquid and the powder doesn’t settle at the bottom as quickly as the other forms do. The serving size is 5 grams mixed with 8oz of juice or water. It needs to be drunk right away. When taking this form, it’s recommended you drink plenty of water every day to maximize your results.
During the loading phase, take 5 grams 4 -6 times per day from day 1 to 5. From day 6 to 21, take 1 heaping teaspoon twice a day. Don’t take it for three days and then repeat the cycle from the loading phase.
3. Ethyl Ester
This form is a newer form which eliminates the monohydrate effects. When taking this form, you don’t need to take as much grams. You also don’t need to take it with sugar and there’s no loading either. This form is available in powder or pill. You only need to take 2-3 grams twice per day. It is also less effective than the monohydrate form so you may want to do some of your own research to see if it’s right for you.
4. Hydrochloride (HCI)
This form is available in powder or capsule. This form is water soluble so you take it in doses based on your body weight and the intensity level of your workout. It is also digested more easily by the body which results in better absorption.
There is no water retention with this form of creatine. There is also no bloating or GI issues. You don’t have to worry about loading and cycling either.
This form is made from three creatine molecules attached to one malic acid molecule. The malic acid is used to utilize the Krebs energy cycle. It serves as an intermediate substance and provides energy. This form is also more water-soluble than regular monohydrate which helps with gastric discomfort.
6. Magnesium Creatine Chelate (MCC)
This form chemically bonds the creatine to magnesium. It was created this way so that the creatine is absorbed through a different pathway than monohydrate. The reasoning behind this form is that by using a different pathway to get the creatine to the muscle, less is lost in transport. There’s also less bloating and side effects with this form.
In general, there aren’t any adverse side effects unless you overdose and/or don’t cycle. If you’re one of the few who do experience side effects, they can include:
- Weight gain (from water not muscle)
- Kidney problems (if you already have problems to begin with)
- Stomach upset
Also certain drugs can have unwanted interactions with creatine. You want to check with your doctor if you’re taking medication.
Best Creatine Reviews
Optimum Nutrition Micronized
According to the manufacturer, “one teaspoon of ON’s Micronized Creatine Powder provides five grams of 99.9 Percent pure creapure creatine monohydrate. This unflavored powder mixes easily into water, juice or your post-workout protein shake.” This powder is micronized because it’s supposed to help your body digest it easily. It also keeps you feeling full without the normal bloat and stomach discomfort.
Beast Sports Nutrition Creatine
According to the product description:
“Creature powder is a professional strength creatine complex that uses four of the most advanced forms available to fuel muscle growth, increase strength, and accelerate recovery.
Creapure brand creatine is imported from Germany utilizing a patented manufacturing process, creatine magnapower is made up of creatine and magnesium bound to form magnesium creatine chelate. Creatine AKG is creatine bound to alpha-keto-glutaric acid, and creatine anhydrous is creatine with the water molecule removed.”
Custom picked, these ingredients are a higher purity and will get absorbed into the body quicker to prevent bloating and intestinal discomfort. Creature also includes vanadium citrate to assure maximum uptake directly to the muscle cells.
One reviewer on amazon.com says “Strength has increased, muscle mass has grown, my recovery time has improved too. Where I used to be in pain for a few days after the first day of my lifting, I’m actually fully recovered one day to the next. Not only does the creatine work great, it tastes pretty good too. There’s no chalky after taste like with so many others.”
Arnold Series Iron Cre3
There is no loading required with this creatine. According to Arnold.com, “Iron CRE3, as the world’s first molecularly modified creatine, is more powerful than “regular creatine”. An effective dose is just 1/10th the size of a standard dose of creatine monohydrate. Iron CRE3 swells the levels of your intramuscular creatine, which supports muscle growth without leaving your body looking smooth, soft, and bloated.”
Muscle Pharm Creatine
According to the product description:
Rapidly Absorbed Creatine Complex. 5 Superior Creatine Blends. No Loading Required. Pharmaceutical Quality.
MusclePharm’s Creatine increases Creatine status by enhancing uptake and bioavailability. Clinically-proven Cinnulin heightens absorption, so our five pure and diverse Creatine complexes delivering a range of benefits will launch directly into muscles.
BSN Creatine DNA
This one is new from BSN. The company claims that this creatine can be mixed with other products such as PWO, amino acids, and proteins.
According to gobsn.com, “Creatine DNA™ provides 5 grams of pure, micronized Creatine Monohydrate, which supports strength, power, and lean body mass without any fillers or additives. Creatine helps fuel your muscles during periods of high-intensity exercise. Supplementing with Creatine Monohydrate can help replenish your body’s own creatine stores. And since Creatine DNA™ is unflavored, you can add it to your post-workout recovery shake or favorite beverage.”
Supplementing with creatine has many benefits. Always do your research on the different brands to see which one would be best for you. Buy the best you can afford. You’ll know if the powder you get is of poor quality if it’s hard to dissolve in liquid. Trying one of the ones reviewed above is a great place to start.