In order to achieve their best performance, many athletes have started opting for a variety of supplements that can enhance their performance. From protein shakes to energy bars, several products promise more effective performance.
One of the most popular substances used in these products is Creatine. Read on to learn everything you need to know about this popular supplement.
What is Creatine?
If you’ve ever tried to look into foods and drinks that may help enhance your physical activity, the chances are that you may have likely come across Creatine. Creatine powder, energy bars, drinks mixes, and tablets are commonly available at drug stores, nutrition stores, supermarkets, and the internet. Almost all of these can be bought without a doctor’s prescription.
Creatine is a natural substance. When consumed, the body turns Creatine into phosphate, which then helps make another substance known as adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP provides energy for muscle contraction. Chemically speaking, Creatine shares many similarities with amino acids glycerin and arginine.
Some of the Creatine you need is naturally produced by the body. Protein-rich foods, such as meat and fish, are also a good source of Creatine. However, these may not be enough for people who participate in high-intensity workouts.
Although Creatine is a natural substance, there is a lack of long term studies to determine its effects. Researchers are still debating about its long term effects on the body. However, there is evidence that it is safe for high-intensity resistance training in the short term.
How Safe is Creatine?
Many people tend to believe that if an ingredient is natural, it is safe to consume as much as you want. However, that isn’t always the case. Even ingredients that are beneficial for you need to be consumed in a moderate amount to ensure the best benefits.
While Creatine is naturally produced in your body and obtained from food isn’t harmful, the same may not be true about creatine supplements.
The issue, however, isn’t Creatine itself. The FDA does not hold supplements to the same standard as medications. Therefore, it can be impossible to determine what exactly goes into your supplements and in what amounts.
Most people – especially adolescents – take these supplements without consulting a doctor. This can result in them taking more than the recommended dose. While most healthy people won’t face any immediate issues with creatine supplements, there can be some adverse effects in rare cases – especially when taken in excess. These side effects include:
- Weight gain
- Breathing difficulty
- Stomach upset
- Kidney problems
The risk of these issues further increases when stimulants such as caffeine and ephedra are taken along with Creatine.
Who Shouldn’t Take Creatine?
While Creatine is mostly safe for healthy adults, there are some people who should steer clear of this supplement. These include:
- People who suffer from liver disease.
- People who have diabetes or are at risk of it.
- Women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or trying to get pregnant.
- Children under the age of 18.
- If you’re taking any other medication or supplement, do not take creatine supplements without consulting your doctor.
How to Use Creatine?
It was discovered in the 1970s that Creatine taken in supplement form might enhance physical performance. By the 1990s, athletes caught onto the trend, causing Creatine to become the most popular sports supplement eventually. It is particularly popular among high school and college athletes, especially football and hockey players, gymnasts, and wrestlers.
If you’ve never used Creatine before, it is recommended to start with a loading phase. This leads to a rapid increase in muscles stores of Creatine.
To do this, take 20 grams of Creatine per day for about a week. This should be split into four 5-grams servings throughout the day. Consuming protein or carb-based meal along with the supplement may help improve absorption.
After the loading period, cut down your intake to 3-5 grams per day in a single dose. This is enough to maintain high levels of Creatine within your muscles. There are no noticeable benefits of cycling creatine, so it is best to stick with this dosage for the long term.
You can choose to skip the loading phase and directly start with 3-5 grams per day. However, it will take 3 to 4 weeks to maximize the creatine storage in your muscles.
It is also recommended to stay hydrated throughout the day. It would help if you also took a glass of water with Creatine, as it pulls water into your muscle cells.
Benefits of Taking Creatine
Creatine can prove to be extremely beneficial in improving your physical performance. In addition to that, it can also help gain muscles in the following ways:
- Boosted Workload
It enables you to work out more in a single training session, which can help you gain more muscle in the long term.
- Increases Cell Hydration
It helps increase the water content within your muscles. This may result in a cell volumization effect and play a role in muscle growth.
- Improves Cell Signaling
Creatine can also increase cell signalling, which helps muscles repair and aids the growth of new muscles.
Overall, Creatine is beneficial for healthy adults who want to improve their athletic performance. Just make sure not to take it in excess.