Creatine is a very popular supplement and its used by a lot of people. So I am going to go through a few common questions related to it. By the end of this blog you will know what creatine is and if it’s worth taking it based on your goals.
What is it and how does Creatine work in our body?
This was one of the biggest questions I used to have when I started my weight loss journey, the thought of these miracle supplements that have the power to transform your body is like tin foil to a magpie.
When we are trying to change our bodies we look for anything that can make it a little easier. knew it was supposed to give you big muscles so i used to take it.
Creatine is a very well-studied supplement and on the whole is safe and has some good uses, particularly around athletic performance and power. Supplementing with Creatine just increases the bodies Creatine stores which are held in the muscles.
On a cellular level, our muscles use creatine to regenerate adenosine triphosphate (ATP). In simple terms ATP is our energy currency we use to perform any physical task.
Think of it as throwing coal into a the furnace of a steam train. The more you throw in the hotter is gets the faster the train goes.
Creatine helps restore the energy (coal) to be used in the furnace (muscles) to keep them working a little longer.
With that in mind, it simply helps your body perform better when working hard. It simply allows you to push out a few extra reps in the gym or sprint a few extra steps.
Where do you get Creatine?
Well you can supplement with it, and I’ll go in to that soon.
But our bodies actually manufacture it. It uses the amino acids arginine, glycine and methionine to do so. You can also get it from your food, in particular animal protein.
Experts seem to agree that the best source of creatine comes from wild game, including venison, elk, buffalo, and bison. The next best source is lean, free-range meats which include turkey breast, chicken breast, Cornish hens, lamb and veal.
Last is wild-caught fish, which has an average of 1-2 grams of creatine per three-ounce serving. Farm-raised fish and animals fed a poor diet have lower levels of creatine.
There are apparently no vegetarian sources of creating so when on a vegetarian diet, you must eat foods rich in the above amino acids to help produce it.
Can Creatine help you to build muscle and or lose weight?
This is where it gets interesting.
Creatine does enhance the energy production in the muscle which does help you push out some extra reps, meaning by forcing the muscles to work harder than normal, and incorporating sufficient progressive overload, you can get a very good muscle building effect.
This is of course providing your nutrition is on point.
With regard to losing weight, you can only lose weight through being in a calorie deficit, so you may well build muscle, but if you aren’t burning excess calories then you won’t necessarily lose weight, in particular fat.
Here are a few studies I’ve found that you can read in full to learn about it in more details.
Study 1 –
The Effect of creatine supplementation on body composition and performance.
This 2003 meta-analysis of 100 studies found a large body of evidence that creatine monohydrate increases both power output and lean mass, but little to no evidence that it benefits aerobic and submaximal-endurance activities. No significant differences were noted between genders or between trained and untrained individuals.
Essentially when training hard anaerobically (without oxygen availability such as HIIT) , the use of creatine has some good benefits.
But if you are performing sub maximal activities like walking or jogging, or even lifting weights and stopping far below the failure point, you wont get any kind of benefit from creatine.
Study 2 –
Effect Of Different Frequencies Of Creatine Supplementation On Muscle Size And Strength In Young Adults.
This study showed that the effects were noted in both men and women, but men more responsive. (I would guess this was due to higher testosterone levels in men)
In those given a new workout regimen, there was no significant difference in the gains in power and strength over 6 weeks when working out twice a week relative to thrice a week.
So in essence training more even with creatine didn’t have any extra benefits.
Study 3 –
Creatine Monohydrate And Resistance Training Increase Bone Mineral Content And Density In Older Men.
Men aged 71 were studied. Dosages used was a loading period of 0.3g/kg bodyweight for 5 days and 0.07g/kg afterwards as maintenance Improvements in lean mass and bone mineral density over 12 weeks, when combined with resistance training, as measured by DEXA.
I love this study, because regardless of how old you are strength training has huge benefits, and it seems creatine supplementation can really help improve your body beyond bigger muscles. Your bones actually get stronger. This is a common trait of weight training, regardless of creating supplementation. SO start lifting weights 😉
Can Creatine help you to lose weight?
Now weight loss is slightly different:
The Effect Of In-season Creatine Supplementation On Body Composition And Performance In Rugby Union Football Players.
There were no changes in either group for aerobic (Jogging etc) endurance. Creatine supplementation during a rugby union football season is effective for increasing muscular endurance, but has no effect on body composition or aerobic endurance.
The evidence seems to point to the benefits of muscle performance over weight loss specifically, which is still a very good thing. If body composition is your goal, which I believe it should be, (Muscle to Fat ratio) Then to build extra muscle has very good advantages. However to lose weight, you really need to consider energy balance, calories in vs calories out.
Is Creatine Safe?
Everything seems to point to the fact it is. according to this Study on the safety of creating supplementation its it is. However it states that
‘Creatine should not be used by individuals with pre-existing renal disease or those with a potential risk for renal dysfunction (diabetes, hypertension, reduced glomerular filtration rate).
My Advice would be seek the advice of a Dr before any kind of supplementation.
There are a lot of claims that supplementing with Creatine does, sometimes have side effects such as bloating and stomach cramps, but personally I never had any of these. I have used it for a long time on and off and I do perform better in the gym, upon initially using it, but the results tend to wear off. Its probably because you cannot keep improving quickly indefinitely.
How do you take Creatine?
There are again lots of articles and advice on this but the more you read you tend to get a feel for dosages aren’t that different.
According to Examine.com this is a good guide:
It isn’t necessary to load as people suggest, because your muscles are like a sponge, once they are saturated they are saturated. Loading just does this faster. So you can just go for a straight 5g per day and you’ll get the results regardless.
Is it worth taking Creatine?
Well in my humble opinion, it is yes, providing you use it as a supplement to a very good training programme and nutritional strategy based on your gaols.
If you aren’t lifting hard enough in the gym, or you like to jog and walk without weight training, Creatine will have little to no effect on your results.
But if you are training to failure, or incorporate HIT and you goals are improved muscle gain, power and athletic performance then go for it.
I hope you found this information useful, it was fun researching it and it answered a few questions for me.
If you you want to learn how to how to structure your workouts to get the best results you can then download my workout builder.
It will allow you to build the perfect workout every time, regardless of your goals.
If you don’t make a change today, how will tomorrow be any different?