I’ve been fielding a few questions about creatine recently from clients “Does creatine work? When do I take this stuff? I heard it can make me dehydrated and hurt my kidneys? There’s so many kinds – which one do I take? So I thought I’d share some of my answers with you here.
What is creatine?
Creatine is found in muscle, heart, and nerve cells. Any cell that relies on anaerobic (without oxygen) functioning, needs creatine. The main energy currency in your body is adenosine triphosphate (ATP). When you use energy, your body converts ATP into ADP by dropping one of the three phosphates. When you need to use energy quickly (like a sprint or hard exercise set), creatine donates phosphate to keep the pool of ATP high, allowing you to do more work. Instead of getting 10 reps on your benchpress set, you might get 11. Doesn't sound like a big deal perhaps, but a 10% improvement in your performance will bring about definite results.
The average person has about 1.7 grams of creatine per kilogram of body mass. So a 90 kg guy will have about 150 grams of creatine. But his body has the capacity to hold about 40% more creatine than that
If there was an easy way to increase your performance in the gym or in your favorite sports, why wouldn't you do it?
That sounds a lot like steroids to me……
Creatine is the most highly researched supplement in the world and to this day there is nothing to suggest that it is even remotely harmful when taken as directed. Most of the worries revolved around dehydration, cramping and kidney function, but no study was able to find any issues with this. In fact creatine has been shown to have a health benefit!
It is being used to treat a form of muscular dystrophy and Lou Gehrig's disease. Creatine has been found to have positive effects on glucose tolerance when combined with resistance training and protein supplementation, which has potential in the treatment of type II diabetes, and it also has a beneficial effect on cardiovascular health. So the two fastest growing diseases in the Western world can be cured by eating meat, working out and good supplements……... go figure…….
Creatine has also been shown to reduce mental fatigue and enhance brain oxygen uptake, so it’s not just the athletes benefiting here, it’s great for the desk jockey too!
Okay I’m sold, what type should I buy?
Monohydrate, ethyl ester, liquid creatine, effervescent creatine, the choices are endless these days. When creatine first came out it cost $100 bucks for a little container. Now it’s more like $25. So supplement companies needed to reinvent the wheel so as to charge more. None of them work any better, in fact some of the new formulations don’t work at all, or are mostly sugar. Stick with creatine monohydrate in a powder form, and look for some sort of quality control label on the container.
How do I take it?
Most brands recommend a loading phase of up to 20 grams per day, followed by a maintenance phase of 5 grams per day. This is fine, but if you find that you have to use the bathroom a lot, try ditching the loading phase and stick with 5 grams. It will still raise you muscle creatine levels, but simply take a week longer, and you wont be pissing half of it away.
Take it whenever is convenient, but if I was going to recommend an optimal time, I’d say post exercise with a carbohydrate containing meal, as the resultant insulin spike will help drive more of the creatine into your muscles.
Look in any bodybuilding magazine and you’ll see adverts for a ton of different supplements. Yet to this day there are only three things that LEGALLY increase performance. They are caffeine, creatine and baking soda. That’s right baking soda, but that’s another story. If you’re interested in safely increasing your output in the gym or on the field, as well as bumping up your brain power in the office, give creatine a try.
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