In the gym, you’ve undoubtedly heard others talking about how they got swole. A lot of what people talk about in the gym is just BS (bro science). But what about creatine? There’s tons of misinformation about creatine, and you might be having trouble deciding whether or not you should give creatine a try. It’s time to demystify the facts and theories about the substance known as creatine and what it can do.
What Is Creatine?
Scientifically speaking, creatine is produced from amino acids like arginine and glycine and is created naturally within our muscle cells that gives the body its ability to produce energy. Everyone has different levels of creatine in their bodies, because production is affected by factors like how much you exercise, whether or not you eat meat, and your level of testosterone and IGF-9.
95% of your bodies creatine supply is found in the muscles as phosphocreatine. Another 5% is found in the kidneys, liver, and brain.
How Does Creatine Work?
When you use a creatine supplement, you are increasing the stores of phosphocreatine. As noted above, this substance is stored within muscle cells and a few other places around the body where the body can produce ATP.
ATP is basically energy in its purest form within the body. When the body has enough ATP stored up, your exercise performance improves, namely when weight lifting and doing high intensity interval training (HIIT).
- Boost your workload – you can add more work and volume to your training sessions, enhancing muscular growth.
- Improve cell signaling – helps cells communicate for fast muscle repair and muscle growth.
- Raise anabolic hormones – some studies have found that IGF-1 and a few other hormones rise after supplementing with creatine.
- Lower myostatin levels – high levels of myostatin inhibit muscle growth potential.
- Reduce protein catabolism – by reducing the breakdown of proteins, muscle mass can increase faster.
- Increase cell hydration – by hydrating cells, cell volume with increase and aid in muscle growth.
Other benefits that connect with overall health and wellness, especially impacts on brain health. We’ll touch more on that later.
Effects On Muscle Gains
Creatine is best known for its effects on muscle gains. The substance has been proven in multiple studies to assist many different people of all ages groups and fitness levels, from the elderly to the sedentary, with improving their quality of life. One 14-week study in particular found that when older individuals over the age of 65 added creatine monohydrate (CrM) to their weight training program, they significantly increased their overall fat-free mass and gains in isometric muscle strength.
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In another study that lasted for 12 weeks, weightlifters who supplemented with creatine saw 2-3 times more muscle fiber growth than those who used no supplementation. The other benefit that was found was doubling of the one-rep max.
Effects on Strength and Exercise Performance
If you find yourself struggling with HIIT, consider giving creatine a try. There was a study that found adding creatine to a program increased muscular strength by 8%, weightlifting performance by 14%, and a bench press 1RM by 43%.
Furthermore, a similar review found that 28 days of creatine supplementation enhanced bike-sprinting performance by 15% and bench presses by 6%.
The reason for this amazing effect on strength and exercise performance has to do with the increased levels of ATP. The more energy your muscles have, the better you can use them. ATP usually depletes within 8-10 seconds of intense activity, but the more you have the longer than span becomes.
Impact On The Brain
As mentioned above, the greater the stores of phosphocreatine and ATP, the better the mind and body will function. This includes reduced risk of Parkinson’s disease and helps individuals with the disease to increase their muscle mass and strength. Creatine also helps with lowering the chances of developing brain and spinal cord injuries, Alzheimer’s disease, ischemic stroke, and epilepsy; and improved brain function, reduced fatigue, and more alertness due to increased levels of ATP in the brain.
Creatine Dosage Instructions
Supplementing with creatine is all about mastering the “when.” You want to begin with a loading phase, which means taking 20 grams of creatine a day for about 5-7 days. Split the 20 grams into 4 servings, 5 grams each.
You can increase absorption slightly by pairing the creatine with a carb- or protein-rich meal.
Once you have completed the loading phase, take 3-5 grams a day to maintain the levels in your muscles. You don’t have to worry about cycling creatine. Just stick with this dosage.
Optionally, you can skip the loading phase by just taking 3-5 grams from the start, but it will take about a month to see any benefit.
Creatine Side Effects
Creatine has gotten a cloudy reputation. Many people speak ill of it because of side effects that impact the kidneys and other organs.
Creatine is one of the most researched supplements. There have been 4-year long studies that proved creatine has no negative side effects on the body; and one comprehensive study took 52 blood markers over 21 months of supplementation, finding no adverse effect on the kidneys or anything else.
If you dose normally, creatine won’t effect your liver and kidneys. The only people who should be weary about creatine are those with pre-existing liver and kidney conditions. Consult with your doctor before trying creatine.
Wrapping It Up
If you want massive gains and better workout performance, creatine might be the answer for you. Not only is creatine one of the cheapest supplements on the market, it is also one of the most well researched. Everyone, regardless of their age or fitness level, can benefit from creatine supplementation, so give it a try!
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