What is Creatine?
Creatine is a chemical that is naturally produced by the body. For short bursts of bodily stresses, such as exercise, the ATP-PCr Pathway is recruited. In this case, “PCr” stands for phosphocreatine (creatine phosphate). More specifically, creatine is released to help aid cellular function. The more creatine available to the muscles, the more can be released to adapt to stressors.
How to Take Creatine
Food and Supplements
Creatine can be found in some foods, such as eggs, meat, and fish. However, the amount in these foods is not normally enough to make significant differences in our energy pathways. Instead, creatine can be supplemented into the diet in either powder or pill form.
There are also several different types of creatine available, but the cheapest and most abundant is creatine monohydrate. Creatine Monohydrate is normally sold in powder form and is mixed with water.
The body already makes enough creatine for the average person, so quickly doubling that amount can lead to bloating, diarrhea, or nausea. Instead, a loading phase is necessary. When first adding a creatine supplement to your diet, start with 0.3g/kg of body weight for 5-7 days. Then, slowly increase by 0.03g/kg per day for about three weeks. The prescribed amount is typically 5-10g per day, depending on your size.
The only difference for the amount of creatine to take depends on your gender. Because males typically hold more muscle mass than females, they can ingest closer to 10g per day. Women, on the other hand, stay closer to 5g per day.
But be Warned!
Creatine should also be taken with ample amounts of water. Creatine monohydrate is generally ingested by dissolving in water (don’t straight shoot it), but drinking enough water throughout the day is also imperative. Without, stomach cramping and bloating can occur.
If you take too much at one time, then diarrhea and nausea may occur. If this happens, spread out your 5-10g over the course of the whole day. The benefits will still occur, just without the nasty side effects.
There are plenty of benefits to taking creatine daily. These benefits also apply to both men and women and can happen while taking 5g, 10g, or any amount in between per day.
- Increase Muscle Creatine Content — This one is self-explanatory. As you take in more creatine, your muscles are capable of holding more creatine.
- Increase Power Output — Because the ATP-PCR Pathway is recruited for power movements, increasing the muscle’s creatine load will also increase its power output. This is most handy for “fight or flight” movements initiated by the sympathetic nervous system, or for intense exercise (sprinting, powerlifting, etc.)
- Increase Weight — This is mainly from water retention. However, overall weight can increase as muscle density and strength increase. Creatine is also linked to an increase in lean body mass. However, more studies show a weight gain due to water retention than lean mass.
- Increase Hydration — When you start to ingest more creatine monohydrate, you need to drink more water. By doing this, your daily water consumption will increase, and you will become more hydrated. Huzzah!
- Increase Anaerobic Capacity & VO2 Max — Daily creatine ingestion has been linked to minor increases in anaerobic capacity. The ATP-PCr Pathway is utilized without the aid of oxygen, so strengthening this system will help increase anaerobic capacity in most athletes. Increased creatine will also lead to more oxygen that can be taken up by the muscle. This leads to increased muscular capacity, which is beneficial for intense exercise.
- Decrease Fatigue / Increase Muscular Endurance — Creatine is linked to increased energy production in muscle cells. With an increase in creatine phosphate in the body, the muscles will have an increased energy store. Thus, the muscles are capable of completing more work and the time to fatigue increases.
- Decrease Muscular Damage — As the muscles increase anaerobic capacity, they also become more capable of doing work. They become more efficient, thus decreasing their chances of injury.
- Increase Testosterone — Muscles require testosterone to grow and function. An increase in muscular capacity will increase serum testosterone in the body.
- Increase Glycogen Resynthesis — Glycogen Resynthesis is the time required by the muscles to replenish glycogen stores. By increasing your daily creatine intake, your muscles become more efficient at replenishing their glycogen stores. This makes them fatigue more slowly and increases their capacity for work.
In all, creatine is a powerful and highly beneficial supplement to add to your daily regimen. Creatine monohydrate is one of the most cost-effective supplements available to date and has more than enough benefits to make up the price. However, remember to slowly increase your creatine intake and to drink plenty of fluids while supplementing with creatine. Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing!