The Importance of Creatine
It’s the grandfather of muscle-building supplements. Everyone involved in the exercise industry has heard of or used creatine, or at least known other men who used it. Why has everyone gone berserk over creatine? Because it’s the real deal. It’s one of the few supplements that has been rigorously tested and proven to work.
Studies show that men who take creatine gain weight and increase strength more readily than those who don’t take it. It has also been shown to speed recovery time and give men more energy during workouts. Creatine allows lifters to accomplish more work. If you can normally complete 8 reps while benching 225 pounds, for example, you might be able to increase the reps to 10 when taking creatine.
Creatine is a natural compound the body produces in the pancreas, kidneys and liver. The bloodstream carries the creatine to your muscles, where it converts into phosphocreatine. This substance helps to increase the amount of Adenosine TriPhosphate (ATP) available in your system. ATP is an energy source for muscles. The goal when adding a creatine supplement to your diet is primarily to prevent premature muscle fatigue, so you can work out harder for longer.
One of the main goals of weight training is progressive overload. Creatine helps with this in a number of ways. It helps to build muscle, which allows the use of heavier weights. It provides prolonged energy, so you can lengthen the time you spend under tension. It enhances recovery, so you can exercise more often.
Creatine may also act as a cell volumizer, meaning that your muscle cells retain more water. This can generate increased protein synthesis and minimize protein degradation. At the same time, it increases glycogen synthesis. Glycogen is essentially muscle fuel. More glycogen means a higher capacity for workouts, which in turn means more muscle growth.
Small amounts of creatine are present in meats; you’d have to eat about 10 pounds of raw steak to get the weight-training benefits of supplementation. The recommend dose is typically 2 to 5 grams daily. Trainers usually advise men to start with a “loading dose” of 15 to 30 grams, divided into two or three daily doses. Take this dose for several days, then drop down to the maintenance dose.
The benefits of creatine
Creatine helps the body function better in several ways, including:
- Boosting energy and extending training capacity;
- Increasing muscle mass;
- Working as an antioxidant to assist with muscle repair;
- Regulating calcium levels;
- Improving sporting performance;
Because creatine helps boost strength, build muscle mass, and increase endurance, it is of particular use to bodybuilders, powerlifters, and endurance athletes. But it can also be beneficial to anybody who is physically active and looking to improve their performance.
Other important points about creatine
Take it with high-carb meals. The combination may increase creatine’s effectiveness by up to 60 percent. A recent study found that athletes who took creatine with carbohydrates ran faster, jumped higher, and gained more muscle mass and strength than those who took creatine alone. The carb-creatine combo also appears to improve anaerobic (weight lifting) performance by 30 percent.
Drink a lot. Creatine draws water into your muscle cells. This is good because it makes muscles larger. Get a few extra glasses of water or sports drink daily.
Choose a supplement that contains sodium. New research shows that creatine is more efficiently absorbed when it’s combined with sodium. The combination is also less likely to cause an upset stomach, a common side effect of creatine supplementation. Don’t bother with creatine supplements that include sugar. They’re not as well absorbed as the sodium-combo supplements.
Take creatine breaks. Studies show that the body adapts rapidly to creatine. The benefits slow or stop after about 6 to 8 weeks. Plan to take it for 8 weeks, stop for 6 to 8 weeks, then start taking it again.