Questions and Answers About Creatine
Creatine is without question the most proven supplement in the fitness nutrition industry. Creatine is a nitrogenous organic acid is naturally produced the body from the amino acids L-arginine, glycine, and L-methionine. Its efficiency has been proven in hundreds of scientific studies that have been done on the compound over the years as it relates specifically to fitness nutrition.
Creatine Benefits: What Does Creatine Do For the Body?
Creatine increases muscular energy by assisting the body in producing ATP (adenosine triphosphate). Adenosine triphosphate is the chemical compound that allows your muscles to contract and the more ATP you have available to your muscles, the more contractions (repetitions) you can perform in a given movement or exercise.
Creatine and the Brain:
Some of the more recent studies involving creatine have shown that it can also be very beneficial the brain. Researches started studying the effects of creatine and the brain since 2003 and every year the evidence on the positive effects on the brain become more and more prevalent.
Creatine has been shown to enhance the brain’s cognition and also reduce mental fatigue.
Even more research need to be done, but perhaps by taking creatine and increasing our brain’s performance could slow down terrible diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia
How Effective is Creatine?
Creatine has been so effective in increasing strength and muscle mass gains that many outside of the fitness industry tried to start a myth that it was a steroid. By definition something that is produced naturally in the body cannot be a steroid.
Types of Creatine:
There are many different types of creatine on the market today. The most commonly used (and cheapest available) is creatine monohydrate. Creatine Monohydrate is the golden standard of creatine and the one all other creatine is measured against. Other types of creatine include:
- Creatine Anhydrous – creatine with the water molecule removed. This provides more creatine per gram and also helps reduce the boating side effect that can be accompanied by creatine.
- Creatine Citrate – creatine combined with a citrate molecule. The citrate molecule helps the creatine dissolve better in water.
- Creatine Ethyl Ester – converts back to usable creatine in the body (the creatine the body produces naturally using the amino acids L-arginine, glycine, and L-methionine.
- Creatine HCL (Hydrochloride) – creatine combine with a hydrochloride molecule can also make creatine more water-soluble.
- Creatine Magnesium Chelate – creatine bound with a magnesium molecule. Magnesium aids in creatine metabolism (the breakdown of creatine) so it may make creatine more effective by breaking it down faster. This also aids in reducing the water retention caused by creatine consumption.
- Creatine Malate – creatine combined with Malic acid. Malic acid is an organic acid (made by the body) that helps turn carbohydrates into energy.
- Creatine Nitrate – creatine combined with a group on nitrate molecules. Nitrate molecules, like citrate and hydrochloride help make the creatine more water soluble.
- Creatine Pyruvate – Creatine combined with pyruvic acid. Pyruvic acid my help provide higher plasma levels in the bloodstream.
- Buffered Creatine – creatine with a higher pH level. It thought that creatine with a higher pH level will break down less in water. (See How to take Creatine).
Natural Creatine Sources:
Creatine is made naturally in the body by the pancreas, kidneys and liver. Creatine is also found in whole food protein sources like:
When you are eating red meat, chicken, turkey, pork or any other type of animal, you are actually eating the muscle of the animal (where creatine is stored).
If Creatine is Made Naturally, Why Do We Need to Supplement It?
Many athletes and general fitness enthusiasts look to supplement creatine because for many of them it is hard to get the recommended 5 grams per day by diet alone. Only about 2g of creatine are found in a 16 ounce steak. I don’t know about you, but I know I can’t afford to eat at least 40 ounces of steak everyday (nor could I even eat that much). Creatine is one of the cheapest and readily available supplements on the market, and one of the cheapest for how effective it is. You can get as many as 80 days worth of creatine right here on JMFN for only $11.99 or other wildly popular creatine products like this one.
Who Should Take Creatine and When to Use Creatine?
Creatine should be consumed by everyone, and if you eat any type of animal protein you are consuming creatine. Even if you’re a vegan or a vegetarian your body still creates creatine on its own. The real question should be who should supplement with creatine?
That answer is also just as broad, creatine helps the body in so many ways (this is why your body can also produce it naturally). Creatine is not just for professional athletes looking to gain an edge on the playing field, if you are a recreational athlete involved in any kind of strength or “short burst” movements – creatine is for you.
That could be football, baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer, wresting, Olympic weightlifting strong man training, martial arts, basically with any physical activity you can benefit from creatine supplementation. Even endurance runners are now seeing the benefits of using creatine supplements.
It was originally thought that endurance trainers and athletes wouldn’t see the benefits from creatine because it was thought that creatine only enhanced short muscle movements and contractions but adding creatine to an endurance athlete’s diet will also improve his or her glycogen stores (energy stored) in the muscle. Creatine also has a few non fitness related benefits.
- Increase Bone Mineral Density
- Improve Glucose Metabolism
- Improve Brain Performance
How to Take Creatine (Creatine Cycling):
When creatine was first introduced to the fitness nutrition industry in 1993 by EAS, it was originally thought that creatine needed to be “loaded” with 20-25g of creatine for the first 5 days of supplementing with creatine.
The idea of loading creatine stems from making sure that your muscles are fully saturated with creatine.
By taking four or five separate servings of 5 grams per day for the first 5 days you overload your muscles with creatine, and the remainder of your cycle would simply be a continuous 5 grams a day for maintenance.
Some years later (after more research) it was noted that creatine did not need to be loaded at all and that the body can only absorb so much creatine in a given time (remembering that creatine is also naturally produced in the body), if you were loading your creatine you were essentially making your liver and kidneys work harder while creating expensive urine.
The optimal daily serving on creatine is between 3 and 5 grams and can be taken pre- or post-workout; either way will allow you to receive all of its glorious benefits. Taking creatine pre-workout will assist you with the upcoming workout or physical activity whereas a post-workout creatine would replenish your muscles depleted glycogen stores and assist in a faster muscle recovery.
For this reason I like to split up my 5g serving of creatine into (2) 2.5g portions and take it both pre- and post-workout.
Creatine is highly unstable once it interacts with liquid and starts to breakdown in to creatinine (a by-product of creatine that doesn’t yield any benefits) so when you are putting it in your shaker cup or mixing it into your glass it is best to consume right away.
A more unconventional way can even be to put the creatine directly from the spoon into your mouth to prevent as much of the breakdown as possible.
How and whenever you decide to take your creatine, simply take 3-5g daily on a consistent basis and you’ll be sure to reap all of its benefits.
Side Effects of Creatine:
If up to this point it seems like creatine is a “too good to be true” supplement, it might be because it really is the best discovery in modern fitness nutrition to date. As with anything, there are some side effects to creatine supplementation and anything in excess can be harmful as well.
According to WebMD.com creatine can be safe when taken by mouth for up to (5) five years. The most known side effect of creatine is bloating. Creatine stores water in the muscles making them bigger and full over time. In extremely high doses creatine can cause harm to the heart, liver and kidneys.
This is in part because these organs are also producing its own creatine organically in the body, by adding high amounts of creatine in single doses you are causing these organs to work harder and in the long run can cause damage.
The Creatine Myths... That Just Don't Seem to go Away!
Creatine supplementation must start with a loading phase: Back when I first supplementing with creatinine in the late 90’s I was instructed that I needed to take 20-25 grams of creatine a day to help fully saturate my muscles and allow the creatine to work fully in my muscles. After the first 5 days I then only needed to take 3-5g a day to keep up “creatine maintenance”. This is simply not true. Unless you are an elite athlete and training is your job you would be better to stick with the lower dose of creatine, as it can be just as effective. At some point (more than .025g per pound of bodyweight) we simply reach the point of diminishing returns and end up wasting the remaining creatine.
I don’t know if this was a sales tactic back in the day or advances in creatine research through the years have debunked this all-time creatine myth, but I have feeling it was a little bit of both.
Creatine causes acne: The creatine itself does not cause acne. But research has shown that the hormonal changes that your body endure while exercising, combined with taking the creatine may be what’s causing new acne outbreaks. Basically, if you just took creatine and didn’t workout you wouldn’t see an uptick in acne. But why would you do that?
Creatine has been shown to increase testosterone production and testosterone can cause increased acne (think teenage boys going through puberty). Every person’s body is different, in both composition and chemical makeup and every person that experiences this side effect needs to determine if the detriment of acne outweighs that of creatine supplementation. Remember, if you’re getting new acne your test levels are probably increasing and the gains that you are after are on the horizon!
Creatine Harms Kidneys and Liver: Science has yet to show a connection between high doses of creatine and kidney or liver damage. I personally don’t think that a substance made naturally by the body (in the liver, kidney’s and pancreas) would ultimately do harm to those same organs, that seems to be extremely counterproductive human biology. (Exemption - Extremely high does of creatine can cause these organs to work harder and can cause harm over time.)
The original source of this myth may have come from an excess amount of creatinine (a byproduct that is created when creatine is broken down) in the bloodstream and urine. This used to be a major indicator for the potential of kidney disease. Quite simply if you are supplementing with creatine you are taking more in, so more need to be broken down (and more creatinine created), and thus a false positive for kidney disease is created. Just stick to the 5-10g of creatine a day and it won’t have any adverse effects on your kidneys or liver.
Women should not take creatine: This is another terrible myth. I’m not even sure how one like this would get started. Its not like creatine will only produced naturally in a man’s body, or women shouldn’t eat meat or fish. If a woman is looking to get stronger or put on muscle, she has every right to the same creatine supplementation as a man.
A lot of women shy away from creatine because of the potential for water retention and weight gain, although most of those claims are over blown as well. It is possible that you may retain a little water but if you let your body adjust that tends to diminish over time. If you are gaining a little weight it is more likely do to adding muscle.
Most women can get by with an effective dose of about 3 grams per day. Also, if you are wanting to supplement with creatine but are still concerned with the water retention, try a creatine anhydrous – which is a form of creatine with the water molecule removed. PEScince makes a great product called TruCreatine (and its already in a 3g scoop).
Creatine can cause a failed drug test: Because I am an American and am striving to one day reach the Paralympic, I will eventually be drug tested by USADA or WADA. So, should I be worried that my creatine supplementation may cause a positive drug test because of the increased hormone production (see the Creatine Causes Acne myth above). Absolutely not! Creatine is produced naturally in the body and is found in everyday common foods like red meat and fish.
Although I have heard stories of failed drug tests, they are indeed jus that…stories. If an athlete is on creatine and failed a drug test they either have poor quality creatine that maybe tainted with other substances or he or she is also taking other supplements along with creatine that they aren’t disclosing. It is very important to know where your supplements are coming from, and that they are high quality (see all creatines are the same myth below) This is why I use brans like P4P Muscle and RivalUs who are tested by a 3rd party to ensure the highest quality! Someday I will be throwing Shot Put for a medal and I don’t want to lose out on it because of a tainted supplement!
All creatines are the same: All creatines are not created equal. Just like with any type of product you can find different qualities of creatine. In the industry for the most part German creatine tends to be a better-quality creatine then of Chinese creatine. Chinese creatine is often less pure and has different contaminates in it. I sell the brands on my site that I do because I trust the quality of the products. You cab be assured that any creatine you buy from this site is of some of the best quality.
Conversely just because there is a new type of creatine with a fancy name (Creatine HCL and Creatine Piruvate come to mind (see types of creatine above)) doesn’t mean that it is better than the tried and true creatine monohydrate. Some have shown promising results but for more testing is needed to prove that these forms of creatine are in fact superior to monohydrate.
The one exception to that rule may be a creatine anhydrous (see types of creatine above) like TruCreatine from PES. Creatine Anhydrous removes the water molecule, offering a purer creatine while helping to minimize the effects of water retention.
My Experiences with Creatine:
I began using creatine around 1996 or 1997. I remember the first create product I ever bought was EAS Betagen. - Now called Myoplex Muscle Armour. I liked that particular product because it had creatine, glutamine, taurine, and HMB in it.
Back then I thought the orange flavor was one of the best tasting products on the market. And even 20 years later, it is still a great supplement!
I have tested every thing from creatine powder, capsules, and even the liquid serum. I no longer use creatine year round, I do remove it from my cycle when I am cutting weight for a powerlifting competition or when I feel I am getting to heavy. For someone confined to a wheelchair where cardio is already difficult, it makes it that much harder to cut the additional water wait, so I cut it out 2-3 times a year for 6-8 weeks at a time.
Overall, I recommend that anyone involved in any type of strenuous activity (physical or mental), supplement with creatine and reap its benefits.
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Let me know your experiences (good or bad) with creatine in the Facebook comment section below. Have you felt the benefits of cycling creatine in your workout regimen?