Creatine is an amino acid derivative that is found naturally in the body. Creatine is primarily located in the muscles (95%) and small amounts are stored in other places such as the brain and heart (5%). It is synthesized mainly in the liver. Everyday 1-2% of intramuscular creatine is naturally degraded into creatinine (byproduct) and is excreted through urine. Thus, people should supplement creatine into their diet. Creatine can be obtained through red meat and seafood, however, only by small amounts. Therefore, supplemental creatine in the form of pill or powder is recommended.
Creatine acts as a buffer and can delay hydrogen ions from accumulating in the blood during high intensity exercise. When hydrogen ions accumulate in the blood due to excess lactate, fatigue begins to set in and performance starts to decline. By supplementing with creatine, an individual can push themselves harder for a longer duration before exhaustion begins to set in.
What are the benefits of supplementing with creatine?
There are many performance benefits from supplementing with creatine, which include:
- Increased muscular hypertrophy
- Improved muscular strength & muscular endurance
- Improved power output
- Improved sprint performance
- Improved glycogen synthesis
- Greater training tolerance (mental toughness)
- Reduced muscle acidosis
- Enhanced post-exercise recovery
New research has shown creatine supplementation can also be beneficial for clinical populations and other health aspects not related to exercise. These benefits include:
- Improved cognitive function and reduced mental fatigue
- May reduce heart arrhythmias and may enhance heart function during ischemia
- May reduce the size of scar tissue after spinal cord injury
- Improved brain bioenergetics
- Enhanced recovery from injury
- May enhance fetal growth and development during pregnancy
- May help lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels
- Reduce fat accumulation in the liver
- Minimize bone loss
- Enhance glycemic control in diabetics
How to dose creatine:
- It is recommended to start with a creatine loading phase which consists of ~5g taken 4x spread out throughout the day (20 grams a day total).
- After completing a loading phase, it is recommended to take ~3-5g a day. Larger athletes may need 5-10g a day.
- The most recommended and studied form of creatine is creatine monohydrate.
- Adding creatine to a carb source (for example mixing with orange juice) is recommended as it can increase the uptake of creatine into the muscle cells – more efficiently used by the body.
- The timing of creatine does not matter and can be taken before or after a workout. Creatine should also be taken on rest days.
What are the side effects of creatine?
The only consistent side effect reported has been acute weight gain. This is not weight gain in the form of fat forming, but rather just water retention in the cells. Research has shown creatine does not increase the likelihood of injury, dehydration, muscle cramping, nor GI distress. However, it should be noted that consuming creatine in large quantities may cause some GI distress if not taken properly. Current literature does not support the claim creatine can lead to renal dysfunction. Research has shown creatine supplementation is not harmful for younger individuals (<18 years of age). Some critics say not to consume if less than 18 as a legal precaution. If unsure, consult with a physician before use! Creatine is not banned by any sport organization and is safe for athletes to use!
With that said, here is our first ever video of “Elite Wellness Academy” discussing creatine as a supplement.