Creatine Quickie: The Dirt on One of the Most Effective Supplements on the Market
I’ve written a number of times – such as here, here, and here – about supplements, what they are, what they aren’t, and how they might help you reach your goals.
I’m not one of those coaches who has a full-on boner for supplements. Yes, every one of my coaching clients gets a customized supplement plan just for their plan, but I always make it know that none of the supplements are necessary to reach their goals.
Now, while there are a lot of crappy supplements out there, there are also a number of awesome ones that, when used correctly, can help you reach your goals a more efficiently, and perhaps a bit quicker.
One such supplement, is creatine…
Creatine: What The Hell Is It?
If you’ve any sort of foot in the fitness or supplement arena, you’ve undoubtedly heard of creatine before. It’s been around for over twenty years, and is the most popular and researched supplement ever.
Despite this, there’s a lot of bad information out there surrounding this wildly popular supplement, and its use. My goal here today is to set the record straight, and show you why this very effective supplement should be in your stack.
So what is it exactly?
Creatine is a naturally occurring amino acid, and is found in certain foods like red meat, while also is produced by our kidneys, liver, and pancreas. The amount of it we get from food and produced by our bodies is relatively small, which is why supplementing it is usually a good idea.
In the body, creatine is used to help fuel the phosphagen system. This is the energy system we use during high-intensity activities such as strength training, sprints, jumps, and other sport performance. These activities are short, powerful bursts, usually lasting ten seconds or less.
The muscles can only store a small amount of energy for these activities. Without getting too sciencey, basically, creatine helps increase this store by providing the muscles with more energy. This lets you perform these high-intensity activities for longer periods of time.
Another one of its benefits is that it increases muscle protein synthesis, or your muscle’s ability to grow and recover. It does this by drawing water into your muscle cells, thus increasing their size. When the cell gets bigger, muscle protein synthesis increases.
But Joe Know-Nothing Told Me Creatine Is A Steroid?
This is a common belief by those who know nothing about don’t know what the hell they’re talking about, so let’s get one thing straight…creatine is, and never has been a steroid.
(For more info about steroids, check out this article)
In fact, not only is it not a steroid, it’s also one of the most researched supplements on the market, with zero findings of any negative long-term side effects. The only issue found with taking creatine is dehydration; which can be easily remedied by, you know, drinking more water.
There are a number of creatine supplements on the market, including monohydrate, liquid, ethyl-ester, dicreatine malate, micronized, kre-alkalyn, and effervescent.
A majority of these are nothing more than marketing ploys to get you to pay more than you need to, and none have been proven to be more effective than basic creatine monohydrate. Many companies make a basic creatine supplement, but this is the one I use.
When it comes to supplementing creatine, many people go through what’s called the “loading phase”. This is basically when you oversaturate your muscles by dosing with 5 grams of it 4-5 times per day. Since the muscles can only store a limited amount at one time however, loading is probably not necessary.
The recommended dose for supplementing creatine is 5-10 grams per day. It really doesn’t matter when you take it, but pre or post-workout may be most optimal. Taking it with a protein or carb beverage can increase absorption due to the increased insulin response. This means more creatine will be pulled into the muscles.
On non-workout days, creatine can really be taken whenever. Some people will cycle it, meaning they will take it for a certain period of time, followed by a period of time where they don’t take it. This, however, hasn’t been shown to provide any additional benefits.
Hopefully, today’s lesson has helped you understand more about what creatine is, what it isn’t, and how it can help almost everyone increase performance in the gym.
Creatine is a safe and effective supplement, and should be in anyone’s stack when weight lifting, sports, or other high-intensity activities are part of the plan. Stick with the monohydrate version, but remember it’s is still a supplement, and isn’t a replacement for a good diet or training program. It can only compliment it.