Let me just start by saying that creatine supplementation is effective and there are numerous benefits of creatine in addition to not being harmful. Creatine is a naturally occuring substance in our body and not only causes a muscle to be physically bigger but also increases your strength through ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate). Popularly studied, there are many tests done on creatine to study its effects, side effects if any, and most importantly the results it gives. Our detailed guide breaks down everything you need to know about creatine and how it can help you make some serious gains!
Table of Contents
|What is creatine?|
|How does it work?|
|Benefits of creatine|
|Side effects debunked|
|Different forms of creatine|
|How do I use creatine?|
What is creatine?
Creatine is a compound that supplies energy to your muscles or simply put it allows you to lift more. Best used with explosive movements like weightlifting and sprinting, it is produced naturally in the liver, pancreas and kidneys and transported to the muscles via the bloodstream. This isn’t some magical elixer created in a lab. It is naturally occuring in fish, mutton and beef although in negligible quantities.
How does it work?
What does creatine supplementation do? is a popular question. Creatine is firstly converted into creatine phosphate and then furthermore is then used to replenishing ATP, the primary energy source for the muscle. When you workout, your ATP decreases. Creatine helps in restoring ATP levels. Beyond this the other reason why creatine is so popular is that it acts as a cognitive enhancer, meaning it will make you sharper and more focused in the gym and this is especially true for vegetarians. For females only though, creatine has also been shown to act as an antidepressent although this research is anecdotal at best. In essence one of the main benefits of creatine is that it provides cells with energy and thus allow these cells to work better.
Benefits of Creatine
Creatine benefits are numerous and that statement is a serious understatement. Because this is the most researched supplement of all time, it is common knowledge that creatine will support the increase of lean muscle mass and because it allows you to train harder and for longer, your body will adapt to the new volume and thus grow more muscle. A diet that limits meat intake, is ill suited for muscular development and thus creatine helps keep the cells strong and healthy. How does creatine affect fat loss? It doesn’t. Although technically speaking if it leads to more muscle, that will lead to less fat.
Coming back to the anabolic properties, creatine can and will increase your muscles because it makes you work harder and thus your strength will also increase because a bigger muscle is a stronger muscle.
Side effects debunked
Because there are numerous studies on creatine, there are annecdotal side effects that everyone experiences. Is creatine safe? Truthfully speaking there are NO clinically relevant side effects of creatine. Loading with creatine (which is explained below) might lead to cramping but that is only due to dehydration as one rule is absolute when you take creatine for it to be effective– You need to be properly hydrated. Drink plenty of water because creatine has water drawing properties which might lead to stomach problems as a possible side effects of creatine. Another thing to note is that creatine does not make you fat even though it will increase your weight. The initial amount would be water being pulled in to the muscle tissue and the rest would be increased muscle mass due to the extra work you put into the gym.
Different forms of creatine
Creatine supplements come in all forms and what’s the best form of creatine is something for you to decide. Some of the popular supplements include:
- Creatine Monohydrate
- Creatine Ethyl Ester
- Creatine HydroChloride
- Creatine Blends
Is the most researched form of creatine. This here is the king of all creatine supplements. Effective and inexpensive, this is what causes an increase in muscle mass but also in water retention. A tip to remember with creatine monohydrate is that you need to drink a lot of water for it to be effective because of it’s water drawing properties.
Creatine Ethyl Ester
This form of creatine is similar to monohydrate in it’s effect but because the creatine molecule is paired with an ester, it is easily digesting and thus is easier on the stomach. Creatine ethyl ester will leave you less bloated although it does taste extremely bitter.
Creatine Hydrochloride (Creatine HCl)
Like Ethyl Ester, Creatine Hydrochloride is basically creatine bonded with a hydrochloride molecule thus making it easier to absorb in the acidic lining of our stomach. It is easily dissolving unlike monohydrate and does not require loading or constant hydration. The downside? It’s pretty expensive.
Creatine blends as the name suggests uses a variety of creatine blends like monohydrate, hydrochloride, and other innovative blends to give the body multiple routes to absorb creatine. This is basically a double edged sword as it depends on what form of creatine is used because many other creatine compounds are just not as effective as others.
How do I use creatine?
The timing to creatine has been a debatable topic as numerous people ask when should I take creatine? Scientifically speaking, take it at your convenience though many people take 5g of monohydrate post workout with at least 70g of simple sugars like glucose and/or dextrose to assist in shuttling the creatine to the muscles. For creatine hydrochloride, take 1.5g post workout and/or as dictated. However for monohydrate we must also discuss the art of loading.
Creatine loading is done to saturate your muscles faster. There is no evidence stating the benefits of creatine loading as opposed to you not having to load. But for those who want to load with creatine instead of taking 5g everyday post workout, you would take 20g of creatine for one week and then take 5g per day. It is important to state to hydrate yourself during this but it is not advised to do this because there’s only so much creatine your body can absorb. Personally, I’d suggest you stick with monohydrate and take 5g post workout. You do not need to cycle off creatine supplements as they do not mimic the effects of stimulants.
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