What is Creatine? – Benefits, Side Effects, Is it for you?

Widely-used among many athletes and individuals interested in health management, creatine is a natural substance that is popularly known for its ability to improve your body’s muscle strength, endurance and overall health.

Mostly everyone has at least heard of creatine and what the substance is used for. But for those that aren’t as familiar with creatine, it can difficult to try and understand the whole scope of the supplement and what exactly it is.

This guide can help you to better understand what creatine is and how it can improve your life. Whether you’re an aspiring athlete or someone simply interested in acquiring the benefits of the substance, this guide will provide you with a wide range of information regarding creatine.

More specifically, here you’ll find out what creatine is, where it’s found, what forms it takes, its benefits, and much more.

What is Creatine?

Occurring naturally in the body in various locations, creatine is classified as a substance that produces ATP. ATP, also known as adenosine triphosphate, is essentially the currency for energy throughout your body. ATP is most known for its ability to provide your muscle cells with the energy that they need to work, maintain, and grow.

Your body is responsible for naturally producing creatine on its own, but it can only produce a limited amount. That being said, your body is likely never at its ATP capacity, and that’s why many people take creatine supplements.

Creatine is one of the most common supplements that are taken by people that go to the gym or that engage in regular exercise. This is because creatine supplements are able to increase your overall performance at the gym. But these supplements are not only taken by gym-goers since there are many other benefits as well that we will discuss later.

Ultimately, creatine is similar to the amino acids your body produces with regards to the chemical compound that they contain. And your body may even produce creatine from amino acids present in your body.

When you consume creatine supplements, your body stores this creatine into your muscle cells, which then use the creatine phosphate to produce energy. Other than in your muscle cells, you can also find creatine in your kidneys, liver, and even your brain.

What does it do?

In its natural state, your body produces creatine to store in your muscles and uses this stored creatine for energy. In its stored form, the substance that your body converts into energy is called creatine phosphate, or phosphocreatine.

Essentially, creatine phosphate is responsible for producing ATP in your body. And ATP is a high-energy molecule. But because ATP is unstable, your body’s supply of it is limited and only allows you to have so much energy while working out and exercising.

Overall, creatine is capable of increasing your body’s production of ATP, which is then responsible for giving your body energy. That being said, increasing your creatine intake can increase your energy, thus improving your muscle mass, strength, and overall exercise performance.

Aside from contributing to ATP production in your muscles, creatine is also capable of protecting against many neurological disorders as well as altering the processes that cells endure in order to improve the recovery time after a workout or exercise session.

Foods Containing Creatine

Creatine occurs naturally inside your body since it’s produced from amino acids in your liver, brain, kidneys, and muscle cells. But there are other methods that you can take in order to increase your creatine levels. Most individuals improve the performance of creatine by taking supplements, but you can also increase your levels through your diet.

More specifically, many people find that consuming a diet rich in protein and carbs helps to improve the effectiveness of their creatine supplements. Diets high in protein tend to consist of meats such as herring fillet, beef patties, salmon, lamb, pork, cod, tuna, hot dogs, and other meat products.

Aside from the meat, some other foods that seem to have high creatine content are milk, cranberries, cheese, eggs, and various nuts. Tofu and quinoa also have higher amounts of creatine in them, so these may be suitable options for vegetarians that want to increase the effectiveness of creatine supplements within their body.

What is Creatine Supplementation?

Perhaps the most popular method of consuming creatine is through supplementation. Supplements are increasingly used by both gym-goers and those interested in muscle health because of the convenience, the effectiveness, and the versatility of the supplements.

Consuming creatine supplements is effective because it helps to not only increase the body’s production of creatine in muscle cells, but the supplements also encourage your body to store more creatine within your muscle cells to use for energy in the future.

There are different types of creatine supplements, but the most commonly-used and effective form is the creatine monohydrate supplements. This is because they’re cheaper, more accessible and studies have shown that they’re more effective as well.

When you’re taking creatine supplements, you’ll have to engage in regular exercise as well as having a healthy diet to increase the effectiveness of the supplements. That being said, you can’t just consume the supplements and expect your muscles to grow and your body to automatically have more energy.

Instead, you’ll have to engage in regular exercise, whether that’s consistently going to the gym, lifting weights, running walking, or some other form of physical activity. Additionally, you’ll need to make sure that your diet is accommodating for the increase in creatine intake, so it’s important that you have enough water in conjunction with a diet high in carbs or protein.

Benefits of Creatine

There are many scientifically-backed benefits to consuming creatine supplements along with a high-protein and high-carb diet. The benefits are different for those that take the supplements in conjunction with their consistent exercises at the gym and those that are simply looking to improve their muscle strength and health.

That being said, you can benefit from the positive effects of creatine supplements without having a gym membership or consistently working out.

Benefits For Everyone:

Easily accessible

Creatine supplements are the most easily accessible form of supplementation on the market, and this is mostly because of their cheap prices as well as the variability in methods of consumption. More specifically, creatine supplements can be found in practically any grocery store, a fitness company, or even online. They come in a variety of different forms, ranging from powders to capsules, drinks, granola bars, and other methods of consumption.

Prevents neurological disorders

Given that smaller amounts of creatine are found in the brain, consuming creatine supplements can increase the amount of phosphocreatine that’s stored in your brain. From that, this aids in improving your brain health and preventing any neurological diseases from developing in the future.

Not only can it prevent brain disorders from occurring at all, but creatine also helps to improve the conditions that many neurological diseases have. Creatine ups the production of ATP in the brain, essentially improving Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, and other disorders. Even more, creatine also decreases the effects of epilepsy and brain and spinal cord injuries.

Increases muscle function in everyday life

Muscle function isn’t only catered to by athletes since we use our muscles every day. Even just walking around the house requires that we use our muscles. As we grow older, not only does our muscle cell production stop increasing naturally due to our lack of using them, but our muscles may decrease with time as well.

That being said, taking creatine can help to prevent the natural decline of muscle growth over time and it can help to increase our muscle function over the years. Creatine is capable of supporting our muscle mass and raising the levels of insulin in our bodies. This is beneficial because it can promote muscle mass growth and prevent degradation over time.

Lowers blood sugar levels

Lastly, creatine is also capable of decreasing the blood sugar levels throughout your body, thus fighting off diabetes in certain individuals. Studies show that consuming creatine supplements aids in glucose transporter type 4’s performance to spread blood sugar into your muscles. This helps to increase your body’s use of blood sugar and decreases the negative effects of diabetes.

For Athletes:

Increased energy levels

Many studies have shown that athletes who have consumed creatine supplements have more bursts of energy throughout their workouts for longer periods. Science backs these claims because creatine is proven to increase your body’s production of its energy molecule ATP, thus increasing the amount of energy that your body has stored.

Creatine is specifically beneficial for increasing the amount of energy for sports that require energy from the muscle cells, like heavy lifting or high-intensity exercises.

Encourages production of anabolic hormones

Science has shown that creatine increases your body’s production of anabolic hormones that are used in the muscle-building process. Anabolic hormones are those that can build new tissues throughout your body, and anabolic metabolism is directly related to the strengthening of your muscles.

By increasing your body’s level of anabolic hormones, you can build muscle more effectively and in shorter periods of time. Additionally, anabolic products are capable of encouraging your muscles to absorb proteins and carbs quicker, essentially aiding in the muscle-building process overall.

Increases muscle growth and muscle mass

Perhaps the most commonly-known benefit to creatine is its ability to support muscle fiber growth and increase muscle mass. When you supply your body with high amounts of creatine, your muscles will increase their intake of water that’s supplied by your body. That being said, your muscles are hydrated and filled with energy, providing the right conditions for growth.

Creatine is also directly responsible for signaling certain biological pathways that are capable of improving your body’s exercise performance. Overall, creatine encourages you to withstand optimal performance for longer than your body would be able to withstand its natural supply of ATP in your muscle cells. The supplements can assist you in maintaining your strength and endurance performance.

Side Effects of Creatine

The creatine substance has been tested and examined in large numbers of studies for almost 50 years, contributing to the claims that it’s a safe and well-tested substance. Throughout the years, there have been minimal negative side effects. But given that the substance affects individuals differently, you should be aware of some side effects that may offer, both short-term and long-term.

Short-Term Side Effects:

Some users have experienced side effects including dehydration, muscle pain or cramping and stomach aches while taking creatine. These side effects are rare and are usually only attributed to individuals that are either taking the creatine supplements incorrectly or without consuming the right diet in conjunction with the supplements.

More specifically, dehydration may be caused by individuals not consuming enough water while taking the supplements since creatine causes your body’s muscle cells to retain more water. Because of that, you’ll need to make sure that you consume plenty of water while taking the supplements.

Additionally, individuals who experience stomach aches or cramps may have not consumed the right diet in conjunction with the supplements. You’ll need to consume a diet high in protein or carbs to increase the effectiveness of the substance. And those who experience muscle aches or pain may not be engaging in the right exercise rhetoric while consuming creatine supplements.

Long-Term Side Effects:

It’s extremely rare that users experience any long-term side effects from consuming creatine supplements. This is because healthy individuals aren’t likely to have negative effects on the substance if they consume it properly.

The few individuals that may possibly experience long-term side effects are those that aren’t healthy when they start taking creatine supplements. Overall, if you have kidney or liver problems, you should refrain from taking the supplements until after you’ve spoken to your doctor.

Should I Use It?

This depends on your everyday lifestyle.

Since your body naturally produces creatine, you don’t have to consume supplements unless you’re frequently using up a large source of your body’s natural supply of creatine.

That being said, if you engage in high-intensity workouts, lift heavy weights, consume a diet low in protein or simply use your muscles frequently during the day, then you don’t necessarily have to consume creatine supplements.

But if you are using much of your body’s natural creatine, then you may want to consider incorporating the supplements into your daily routine.

You can do so with supplements or consuming foods high in protein. Furthermore, it’s also worth mentioning that our muscles will naturally become smaller over time as we grow older. That being said, consuming creatine supplements may help to decrease natural muscle loss and even give our muscles extra strength with age.

How to Take It

There are many ways that you can consume creatine, including through the incorporation of foods high in protein or even through other methods of supplementation like drinks, pills, or powders. Usually, when you purchase certain creatine products on the market, the product label will recommend an exact dosage for your body type and your fitness activity level.

Typically, you should expect to consume no more than five grams of creatine a day. But when you first begin the supplement, it works better when you front-load the dosage. That means that you’ll want to take up to 20 grams of creatine for the first seven days. These 20 grams should be divided into four, evenly-spaced doses throughout your first week on the supplement.

After the first seven days, you should adopt a routine of consuming three to five grams of creatine every day. Don’t forget to follow these recommendations while consuming eight cups of water a day as well as consuming a high-protein or high-carb diet.

Take-Away

Overall, creatine is one of the most highly-researched, consumed, and used forms of supplementation on the market. Highly-regarded for its wide range of benefits for those engaging in high-intensity workout routines, creatine supplements can air in your muscle energy levels throughout the day.

Depending on your certain lifestyle and the amount of physical activity that you engage in every day, you’ll want to take the supplements with caution and always adhere to the recommended doses from the specific product that you’re taking. When you’re consuming the correct doses while engaging in the proper lifestyle activities, creatine has the ability to benefit your body’s health and overall strength.

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