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Creatine

Creatine is one of the most studied supplements available. The research on creatine consistently shows that it can benefit people trying to get stronger, run faster, or build muscle. It is also one of the cheapest and most widely available supplements. Should you take creatine? If your goal is to gain muscle or increase athletic performance, it's worth trying. 

Creatine Benefits

By taking a creatine supplement, you saturate the amount of phosphocreatine your muscles store and allow your body to produce energy longer without switching to burning chains of sugar stored in your muscles called glycogen. Burning glycogen is a slower, less efficient way of creating energy.  

Creatine's Effect on Mental Health

Research on creatine supplementation has shown that it may have the potential to improve symptoms of depression. Creatine's effect on depression may be because of creatine's interaction with the neurotransmitter serotonin.

Food Sources

You find it in Animal products like Beef, Pork, Chicken and Fish. The Recommended Daily Intake of Creatine is 5 grams for the average adult which is equivalent to eating over 3lbs of Chicken or 2lbs of Beef. You could also take one 5 g scoop of Creatine Monohydrate instead.

Before Taking Any Supplement

There are so many supplements available that it's difficult to decipher which ones have benefits and which ones are snake oils. Before adding any supplement to your diet, it's best to check the research to make sure that the benefits listed on the bottle or company's website have research to prove them. Examine.com is a website that lists the consistency of results and magnitude of effect for various supplements. Examine also provides links to studies. Using Google Scholar to search for the supplement is also a quick way to check the research.

The Science Behind Creatine 

There are different types of creatine supplements available, but the cheapest and most common type is called creatine monohydrate. There is no evidence to suggest that more expensive forms of creatine are more beneficial than creatine monohydrate

Your body naturally produces creatine in small amounts, but most of your creatine comes from animal products you consume. Your muscles store creatine as a high-energy phosphate compound called phosphocreatine. Phosphocreatine is broken down to produce energy during activities that last for less than 10 seconds. 


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Does Creatine Make you Stronger and Help You Build Muscle?

Although having higher amounts of creatine in your muscles doesn't directly make you stronger, it has an indirect effect. Because creatine allows you to perform a lift or sprint for longer, you can train with more volume before fatigue. This higher volume of training is what leads to power and strength increases. 

For example, if you are lifting weights in the gym, taking creatine could be the difference between completing three reps successfully and completing five reps. 

Creatine Dosage

Creatine monohydrate can be ingested as a capsule or powder and can be taken either with or without a loading phase. If you use a loading period, take 0.3g/kg of bodyweight (0.136g/lb) for five to seven days. For example, a 75kg (165lb) person would take 22.5g. After the loading phase, transition to a maintenance phase where you consume between 0.03g/kg and 0.06g/kg

If you decide to take creatine without loading, you can skip directly to the maintenance phase. Both the loaded and unloaded methods of taking creatine are equally effective, but including a loading phase is beneficial if you want to saturate your creatine stores quickly. There has been no research to prove that the timing of creatine matters, so you can take it before or after your workout. 

Side Effects

Creatine causes water retention. Depending on your body weight and how much creatine you ingest, your water retention can exceed 5lbs. You gain water weight because your body stores creatine with water in your muscles. Creatine may also cause gastric distress in some people and may increase the risk of muscle cramping. 

Some people are non-responders to creatine. Non-response is likely mostly due to diet. Research published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise by Burke and his colleagues found that vegetarians are more likely to respond to creatine than non-vegetarians due to not eating the high creatine sources fish and meat.

Conclusion

Research on creatine consistently shows benefits for athletes or individuals looking to build muscle. If your dietary creatine is already high, you may not respond, so try taking creatine for a month and see if you notice a difference. If you compete in a sport where body weight is a concern, you may want to cycle off creatine up to six weeks in advance of a peak competition to drop water weight. 

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Disclaimer: Articles not intended to Diagnose, Treat, Cure or Prevent Diseases.