What is creatine?
Creatine is a naturally occurring amino compound found in skeletal, cardiac, smooth muscle, and brain that plays an important role in energy metabolism. Creatine is found in small amounts in foods such as animal products like meat and fish. During exercise, our bodies naturally produce creatine in the liver, pancreas and kidneys, however this may not be enough for intense exercise and supplementation is usually necessary to support your goals.
The Benefits of Creatine Supplementation
Enhanced Exercise Performance: Creatine has been shown to optimise and improve exercise performance, by increasing ATP (adenosine triphosphate). ATP is our cell's main energy source, so increasing ATP allows you to push harder, train longer, and achieve greater workout intensity. This is especially beneficial for high intensity workouts such as HIIT and circuit training.
Increased Muscle Strength and Power: A widely known benefit of creatine is its potential to enhance muscle strength and power. Many studies have shown that supplementation with creatine results in notable gains in strength, leading to improved athletic performance and the ability to handle heavier weights.
Muscle Growth and Hypertrophy: Creatine not only strengthens muscles, but promotes muscle growth (hypertrophy). Creatine does this by stimulating a hormone called insulin-like growth factor, which is required for muscle development. Creatine can also increase muscle volume by increasing water content within muscle cells, which can make muscles appear fuller.
Brain Health: Creatine’s benefits extend beyond muscle growth and physical performance. Creatine supplementation can increase energy stored in brain cells, and has been shown to have a small effect on reducing the effects of sleep deprivation and mental fatigue.
Muscle Cramps and Hydration: Creatine supplementation has been found to have positive effects on muscle cramps and dehydration. In fact, research has shown that it can reduce muscle cramps by up to 60%. Additionally, creatine has been found to increase total body water, decrease sweat rate, lower core temperature, and reduce exercise heart rate. These effects contribute to improved hydration and thermoregulation, particularly beneficial for athletes exercising in hot conditions.
Injuries: Athletes who supplement with creatine have been found to experience fewer musculoskeletal injuries and a faster recovery time from injuries. The potential protective effects of creatine on muscles and tissues may contribute to this favourable outcome.
Safe and Well-Tolerated: Creatine is one of the most extensively studied and safe supplements available. When used within recommended dosages, it has been shown to have no adverse effects for healthy individuals. However, as with any supplement, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional, especially if you have pre-existing medical conditions or are taking medications.
When it comes to dosing creatine, there are different options that you may hear about.
Standard Approach: Take 3-5 grams each day, at any time, with or without food.
Loading Dose: Take 20 grams per day (in two 10-gram doses) for the first 5-6 days, then switch to 3-5 grams per day. While loading is not dangerous, it is not required as it doesn’t show increased results compared to non-loading, after taking creatine for 30 days.
Creatine supplementation offers a wide range of benefits for those aiming to maximise their exercise performance, increase muscle strength and size, and support overall health. Its efficacy and safety have been extensively researched, making it a worthwhile supplement to add to your routine.
While creatine can undoubtedly enhance your workout routine, it is crucial to remember that a holistic approach to nutrition is paramount. Alongside creatine supplementation, it is important to prioritise a wholefoods diet, adequate hydration, and enough rest to achieve your strength and muscle growth goals. And as always, consult your healthcare practitioner before starting any new supplements.