What is Creatine?
Creatine is a substance that is readily produced in the body. It is a blend of three amino acids – arginine, methionine and glycine. Creatine is one of the natural sources of our body to derive energy, particularly muscle cells.
Approximately 95% of creatine is concentrated in our skeletal muscle and used during high-intensity exercise to produce energy and better muscle contraction. The remaining 5% is found in the brain, kidney, liver and other tissues.
We can also obtain creatine through diet. Some creatine rich foods are red meat, fish and milk. Due to its potential to amplify energy levels, creatine supplements are prevalent among bodybuilders, powerlifters and athletes.
Creatine is one of the most prominent and widely researched nutritional ergogenic aids for athletes. It gets converted to phosphocreatine which acts as energy or ATP source. The body’s creatine stores further increase on supplementation resulting in more energy for heavy lifting and high-intensity exercise.
This section will discuss some common effects of creatine supplementation and how it promotes our health and athletic performance.
- Explosive energy source: This is the most common reason fitness lovers opt for creatine supplements. It gives more energy, strength for workouts and does not make you feel drained or lethargic. Combine creatine with carbohydrate-rich diets to heighten your muscle glycogen stores if you prefer to train for a long duration.
- Boost physical performance: Several studies have clearly demonstrated a positive relationship between muscle creatine uptake and exercise performance. It has been noted that when combined with heavy resistance training, oral creatine supplementation leads to enhanced athletic performance, fat loss, and lean muscle gain.
- Provide endurance: Researches say that creatine supplementation may cause a change in how our body utilizes multiple energy sources during aerobic exercise leading to an improvement in endurance performance.
- Skeletal muscle growth: With creatine supplementation, you can expect to see an improvement in muscle size and volume as well. Findings say that creatine intake with heavy resistance training stimulated the production of muscle insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), leading to increased muscle fibre growth.
- Aid in recovery: Creatine intake post-exercise encourages muscle recovery rate, reduces severe muscle breakdown and exercise-induced oxidative stress. In addition, studies also suggest creatine as an effective strategy to recover from injury.
- Support brain health: Creatine supplements are also given to older adults for medicinal purposes in clinical settings. Cognitive processing altered due to sleep deprivation and natural impairment due to ageing exhibit positive signs of improvement on creatine supplementation.
Is creatine safe?
Multiple studies have been conducted to study the efficacy and safety of creatine usage. It has been found that it is absolutely safe, and there are no side effects of creatine.
It is a misconception that creatine can harm your liver or kidney. Some people might experience mild symptoms like stomachache when taken on an empty stomach, but there are no adverse effects.
A meta-analysis found that creatine can increase total body water by decreasing the risk of dehydration, reducing sweat rate, lowering core body temperature, and exercising heart rate.
For a detailed understanding of common creatine myths and misconceptions, you can refer to this blog.
Pregnant and lactating women, people on medications, and those with pre-existing liver disease must check with their healthcare provider before using creatine supplements. Always consult your doctor if you have kidney disease, as the use of creatine supplements could affect your kidney function.
A very common issue faced, especially by beginners, is how much creatine per day. Is it necessary to load creatine?
Loading creatine is not mandatory, but it can help with faster results. Usually, bodybuilders prefer to take 15-25 grams of creatine per day for the first five days during the loading phase, followed by a maintenance dosage of 3-5 grams per day.
Now coming to the second important question – when to take creatine?
Although one can take creatine at any time, before or after the workout, some studies support that creatine is more fruitful post-workout.
When taken along with a post-workout meal, insulin increases creatine uptake into muscle cells. In addition, the absorption of nutrients is better after a workout.
If you prefer flavoured creatine supplements, you can take creatine with water, juice. Else one can choose unflavoured creatine to add to your post-workout protein shake or beverage of your choice.
Which is the best creatine supplement?
Creatine supplements are available in various forms like powder, liquid and capsules. The liquid form of creatine is considered the least effective of all. You may find different types of creatine like monohydrate, hydrochloride, phosphate, ethyl ester, etc., but creatine monohydrate is the most examined and science-backed best creatine type.
These are some of the best creatine supplements you can buy.
Nutrabay Pure Creatine Monohydrate: It contains pure creatine monohydrate in micronized form. There are no fillers or damaging additives, and each scoop will serve you with pure and unadulterated creatine. Being unflavoured, you can add it to any shake, juice or smoothie of your liking.
MuscleBlaze Creatine Monohydrate: It provides micronized creatine monohydrate in an unflavoured form. The product helps improve strength, power and support muscle volumization.
MuscleTech Platinum 100% Creatine: This supplement includes a 5g dose of creatine to help you increase strength and regenerate energy stores during resistance training. It is recommended to everyone, from active men and women to high-performance endurance athletes, powerlifters, crossfitters and bodybuilders.