If you’re eating all the carbs and proteins, drinking plenty of water, and hitting the gym hard but want to boost your strength and endurance, it’s time to bring creatine into the picture.
It is the most popular supplement among bodybuilders and gym enthusiasts who want to build strength. No other product can boost high-intensity exercise performance and lean muscle mass during training as effectively as creatine. Yet, don’t worry; supplements won’t turn you into a muscular beast overnight. Instead, they will help you realize all the hard work you put in the gym.
This article will discuss the benefits and side effects of using creatine and its different types. We’ll also teach you how to choose the best product for optimal results and give you a list of the top ten choices.
- Creatine is a naturally occurring amino acid produced and stored in our muscle cells
- It is safe for everyday consumption and offers many benefits, especially for bodybuilders and people who do high-intensity workouts
- You can find it in a few forms; monohydrate being the most popular and most effective
What Is Creatine?
Creatine is a naturally occurring union of three amino acids: arginine, glycine, and methionine. Our muscle cells produce and store around 95% of creatine, while our brain, liver, and kidney are responsible for the remaining 5%. More precisely, the liver, pancreas, and kidneys can make about 1g of creatine daily.
Furthermore, you can also find the amino acid in animal proteins like red meat, fatty fish like salmon and tuna, and milk and seafood.
You cannot find creatine in any plant food, so we recommend vegetarians and vegans consume it through supplements.
The primary role of creatine is to produce more ATP, also known as adenosine triphosphate stores. ATP is the energy source for muscular contractions and explosive movements, such as heavy lifting and high-intensity exercises.
How Does Creatine Work?
Creatine can help you enhance your strength, improve your exercise performance and gain muscle mass. Here’s how it works:
- Improves cell signaling: by increasing satellite cell signaling, it aids muscle repair and new muscle growth
- Boosts your workload: it increases your volume in a single training session
- Increases cell hydration: and promotes cell volumization by lifting water content within your muscle cells
- Reduces protein breakdown: by reducing muscle breakdown, it increases total muscle mass
When you consume creatine, you boost the amount in the muscles, which helps create muscle mass and improve performance.
Types of Creatine
The supplement market is filled with many types of creatine. Here are the most common performance-enhancing ones used by bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts worldwide:
- Creatine Monohydrate: it’s the most popular and studied type. It’s 100% safe for consumption, with no adverse effects documented. Furthermore, it is the most affordable and easiest one to find. It can help you build muscle strength and new muscles and keep your muscles hydrated.
- Creatine Ethyl Ester: it’s an advanced form of esterified creatine with better stability. It’s recommended for speed, endurance, and strength-speed sports such as basketball, climbing, handball, or ice hockey. Studies have shown that this type is better absorbed than monohydrate, but the ethyl ester form can worsen blood levels and muscles.
- Creatine Hydrochloride: commonly known as HCL, is molecularly bound with hydrochloric acid to enhance its solubility and absorption rates. The body can break down this type more quickly, and the muscle cells can easily absorb it. In addition, this form is the least likely to give you an upset stomach upon consumption.
- Buffered Creatine: it’s mixed with alkaline powder for better absorption to help you enhance creatine uptake in muscles without causing bloating.
Creatine Benefits and Uses
Creatine has been studied extensively, and it’s safe for consumption for everyone.
Here are some of the benefits you can get from consuming it:
- Increases energy: it provides power that will enable you to train longer without experiencing fatigue.
- Increases muscle size and volume: it holds water in muscle cells and keeps them hydrated. It also causes the cells to get more volume and thus increase muscle size.
- Improves high-intensity exercise performance: creatine improves strength, sprint ability, ballistic power, and muscle endurance. Studies show that it can improve your high-intensity performance by up to 15%.
- Promotes muscle synthesis: promotes the synthesis of new muscle fibers and boosts the levels of IGF-1, an insulin-like growth factor, a hormone promoting mass muscle gain.
- Manages blood sugar levels: keeps blood sugar levels in control.
- Supports brain health: inadequate energy levels can increase the risk of neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Creatine can repair damaged brain cells, prevent muscle loss, improve motor function and reduce disease progression.
- It reduces fatigue and tiredness: it provides the brain with additional energy and increases dopamine levels, reducing fatigue and tiredness symptoms.
- It can improve bone health: supplements can help counteract age-related declines in skeletal muscle and bone mineral density.
Consult your physician before consuming supplements, especially if you take any medication.
Who Should Use Creatine?
While everyone can benefit from consumption, the supplement can be particularly beneficial for certain people, including:
- Bodybuilders: the supplement is famous for improving athletic performance by increasing energy for high-intensity training. It is also ideal for athletes participating in wrestling, football, baseball, and powerlifting because it gives an incredible power boost.
- Vegans and vegetarians: you cannot find it in plants, so vegans and vegetarians tend to have lower creatine built-up. Supplementing is incredibly beneficial, especially if you want to improve your endurance, muscle strength, and muscle mass.
- People with cognitive decline: it improves cognitive response, making it the perfect supplement for people with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Studies show that creatine can help ward off mental fatigue in people with Parkinson’s. Similarly, people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s promote ATP production in the brain by supplementation.
- Older people: older adults experience muscle degeneration, which leads to decreased strength and mobility. Top creatine supplements can increase stores in muscles and promote greater lean muscle mass retention.
Creatine supplements can be used even if you’re not a heavy lifter or a gym enthusiast. The supplement can be an excellent addition to your routine if you do any physical activity.
Who May Not Benefit From Creatine?
Most healthy people can consume it with no problem, but some people should completely avoid consumption because it can cause them problems.
People who shouldn’t consume creatine supplements include:
- People with kidney disease
- People with liver disease
- People with diabetes
- Children under the age of 18
- Pregnant women
- Breastfeeding mothers
Potential Risks and Side Effects of Creatine
Although it’s pretty rare, supplements can cause allergic reactions in some people. If you experience any difficulties breathing, swelling on your face, lips, tongue, or throat, or hives, get emergency medical help.
The most common side effects that creatine supplements can cause include the following:
- Stomach pain
- Muscle cramps
- Weight gain
Stop using supplements if you experience some of these more serious side effects:
- Trouble breathing
- Pounding heartbeats
- Dehydration symptoms such as feeling very thirsty, heavy sweating, hot and dry skin, and being unable to urinate
- Signs of electrolyte imbalance such as drowsiness, dry mouth, restless feeling, confusion, muscle pain, and feeling light-headed
Excessive consumption can lead to intoxication. This can cause serious health problems such as kidney damage and stop your body from producing creatine.
How To Choose A Creatine Supplement?
Choosing the right product can get tricky since supplements aren’t FDA-approved. It would be best to follow certain criteria to choose the most effective one that fits your needs perfectly.
Get a third-party tested supplement, indicating the product had been sent to a lab where it had been properly tested and checked whether it contains high-risk contaminants.
The most famous third-party certifications include NSF, ConsumerLab, and USP. If the product you’ve purchased has a certificate from any of these companies, it means that the product is top-quality.
Creatine supplements that don’t have a certificate aren’t bad products. There are many excellent formulas on the market, so check the reputability of the manufacturer and its testing lab before you decide to purchase. Also, be aware that certified supplements cost more.
Creatine supplements are sold in pill, powder, capsules, liquid, and chewable form.
The most popular form to purchase is the powder, especially the unflavored one, because you can easily mix it with all types of beverages. On the other hand, the least popular one is the liquid form.
Creatine is unstable in liquid and less effective than the remaining forms.
Creatine monohydrate, ethyl, hydrochloride, and buffered creatine are all safe for consumption. Yet, they demonstrate some differences.
Monohydrate is the most researched and well-known type. Therefore, it’s the most common choice among supplement consumers.
We recommend taking 5 grams of creatine, or 0.3 grams per kilogram of body weight.
Larger individuals should consume 5-10 grams daily to maintain their creatine storage. Some athletes and bodybuilders even do a loading phase, consuming 20-25 grams, split into four or five doses for 5-7 days. After the loading period, they consume around 5 grams daily to maintain their storage.
You must drink lots of water when consuming creatine supplements to promote greater retention.
Ingredients and Potential Interactions
Before you purchase any supplement, read the ingredient list to see what you’re exactly getting. Some supplements contain added ingredients such as glutamine, taurine, and amino acids that enhance strength. Other formulas contain caffeine.
Although short-term caffeine supplementation can improve exercise performance, some products might interfere with the effect of creatine.
Main Considerations Before Buying Creatine
Here are some of the key things you need to know before you purchase creatine supplements:
- Some people don’t respond to it: 20% of people’s bodies don’t uptake creatine as other people do.
- You don’t need to “load” it: some heavy lifters tend to load creatine for a few weeks. Although this method increases muscle storage quickly, it’s not necessary. If you’re consistent with consumption, you’ll build up naturally over time, so you won’t need to rush everything with loading.
- You can consume it with your morning coffee: depending on the product, you might be able to drink it in the morning along with your coffee.
Creatine is a 100% safe supplement and can be the best addition to your daily routine if you want a boost in power, strength, and endurance. The supplement reached popularity years ago because it has helped many bodybuilders and heavy lifters improve their results. So, if you need that extra boost, don’t hesitate to try it.
Still, remember that it doesn’t work overnight, but you will feel the kick in 2-4 weeks. So, stay persistent in your consumption and see what it can do for your body!