As a bodybuilder or athlete, you are filled with a super competitive spirit and constantly seek ways to improve your performance. These performance-enhancing measures may include using certain drugs and supplements that enhance focus, promote muscle growth, etc. These supplements are often derived from substances that occur naturally in the body. One of such is creatine.
Creatine is famed for its performance-enhancing properties and is taken by virtually every bodybuilder. But what actually is it, and why is it so important? Here, we’ll look at what creatine is, its benefits, and possible side effects.
What is Creatine?
Creatine is an amino acid naturally found in muscle and brain cells. Creatine is also found in the liver, pancreas, and kidney; muscle cells contain about 95% of the body’s total creatine stores. Creatine is responsible for supplying energy for cells to carry out biological processes. In the muscles, creatine is stored as phosphocreatine which is directly used for energy production.
Creatine supplements have become popular among athletes and bodybuilders who use them to enhance muscle mass and cognitive abilities and improve exercise performance. Besides, creatine helps enhance recovery from muscle cramps, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, depression, fatigue, and several other conditions. Creatine is also used to help treat brain disorders, neuromuscular conditions, aging skin, congestive heart failure, etc.
Although creatine is naturally produced in the human body, it can be obtained externally from red meat, seafood, and supplements. Creatine is a common chemical or ingredient in sport-drinks and muscle-building supplements.
According to research, creatine is known to be effective for some conditions, including:
- Skin Aging: Creatine combined with certain other ingredients produces a formulation that is effective for reducing wrinkles, sagging, and sun damage when applied to the skin
- Cognition and Brain Health: Creatine supplements helps to improve attention and alertness and improve performance task that requires cognition, especially in older adults.
- Sarcopenia and Bone Health: Creatine helps in reducing age-related symptoms such as reduction in the skeletal muscle and bone mineral density. It can help to counteract the effect of aging in adults.
- Strength, Muscle Size, and Performance: Creatine supplements help increase bodybuilders’ and athletes’ performance. It helps to increase endurance and improve strength, muscle mass, and performance.
- Rare Creatine-Metabolizing Syndrome: Using creatine supplements helps children with creatine deficiency syndrome to help reduce the symptoms to avoid further complications in the body. It can help increase creatine levels in the brain in children and adults with AGAT or GAMT deficiency.
- Injury Prevention: Creatine helps to reduce muscle cramping and water loss in the body and prevents injuries to the nerves, ligaments, bones, tendons, and muscles.
Generally, creatine can help vegetarians increase the level of creatine in the body.
Benefits of Creatine
Creatine is one of the most common supplements used by athletes and bodybuilders. Creatine is also a major ingredient found in sports drinks. There are several claimed benefits of creatine; some are backed by research. They include;
It Helps in Improving Athletic Performance
Athletes and bodybuilders use creatine supplements because they are effective in boosting endurance, especially in high-intensity training. This is because creatine allows the body to make more energy; once there is more energy, athletes train harder, helping to boost their performance during competition. According to research, creatine is more effective in short-duration, intermittent, high-intensity exercises. In helping to boost athletic performance, creatine helps to do the following:
- It increases the quality of high-intensity intermittent speed training.
- It improves strength, fat-free mass, power, neurological function, and performance for day-to-day activities.
- It increases and boosts endurance, helping you perform better in aerobic exercises that last more than 2 mins 30 seconds.
- It boosts the benefits and effects of resistance training on body mass and strength.
It Increases Body Mass
Studies show that creatine intake combined with strength exercises effectively increases lean muscle mass. Creatine achieves this by enhancing exercise performance leading to improved muscle gains. Creatine also enhances water retention in muscles and prevents post-workout muscle breakdown, thus enhancing muscle gains.
It Repairs Damage After Injury
Creatine supplements help to prevent muscle damage and also help for quick recovery after sustaining an injury. Creatine has antioxidant properties and effectively stimulates immune cells to begin wound healing following an injury. Creatine is effective for post-workout cramps and other more severe sports injuries, effectively repairing the damage so that the athlete is ready to go again.
It Helps to Reduce Creatine-Metabolizing Syndrome and Creatine Deficiency Syndrome
Creatine supplements help in treating and reducing creatine-metabolizing and creatine deficiency syndrome. Creatine deficiency (GAMT) is the inability of the transporter protein to transport creatine into the cells. This can be treated by taking oral creatine monohydrate, arginine, and glycine supplements.
Creatine and Deficiency Syndrome
Creatine serves an essential function in the human body. A low level of creatine or shortage of creatine in the body is caused by an inability to transport creatine to the body cells. The average amount of creatine in the human body is between 120g-140g, which varies depending on the type of muscle fiber mass and the muscle mass. Creatine deficiency affects the brain, causing autism, movement disorders, etc. However, creatine deficiency is linked to some other conditions like:
- Behavioral disorders, such as autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Muscle atrophy
- Congestive heart failure
- Parkinson’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
Taking creatine supplements can help reduce the symptoms of these conditions. These supplements help increase creatine in the brain and relieve seizures, autism, and movement disorder symptoms. It is important to know that creatine supplements are not natural substances; hence, you should do your research or consult your doctor before taking these supplements.
Side Effects of Creatine
Creatine may be taken orally. Creatine may be taken at doses between 4-25 g daily. Lower doses are safe enough to take for up to eighteen months without any side effects. However, higher doses of up to 25 g are safe for about two weeks and are generally unnecessary.
Side effects of a creatine overload include weight gain, muscle cramps, dehydration, nausea, diarrhea, etc. Creatine should not be applied to the skin as it may cause side effects like itching and redness.
Special Precautions and Warnings
Pregnant women and lactating mothers should avoid using creatine supplements as there is insufficient reliable information to support its use during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Creatine is also likely safe for children when taken orally for the short term. It is safe to use 3-5g daily for 2-6 months in children between 5-18, 2 g daily for 6 months in children between 2-5 years, and 0.1-0.4g/kg daily for 6 months in infants and children less than 2 years.
Creatine might worsen bipolar disorder symptoms and people with kidney disease. When creatine and caffeine are taken together, it can worsen the condition of Parkinson’s disease.
Possible Interaction with Other Drugs
Creatine interacts with caffeine. Combining creatine with caffeine can reduce the potency of creatine supplements. Hence, you should be careful when using caffeine substances during creatine supplementation. Combining creatine with an amount of caffeine greater than 300mg can worsen Parkinson’s disease. Using creatine with diuretics can cause dehydration. Also, creatine supplements should not be used with any kidney drugs, and probenecid- used for treating gout, can increase the risk of kidney damage.
Effects of Taking Creatine at High Doses
There are side effects of taking creatine in high doses. It affects the body’s functions and can cause more potential damage to the organs in the body. Taking an overdose of creatine can lower blood glucose, affecting people with hypoglycemia and diabetes, and raise blood pressure, affecting people with hypertension. However, people with certain medical conditions must avoid creatine or use creatine with caution while you consult your health care provider. Some of these conditions are:
- Bipolar disorder
- Gastrointestinal disorders
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Kidney stone or liver disease
- Electrolyte disorder or imbalances
- Irregular heartbeat
- Low blood pressure
Creatine Products to Try Out
If you’re an athlete looking for a good creatine product, there are several on the market you can try. However, some of the best creatine products obtainable include;
- 1up Nutrition Pure rebuild
- A1 Supplements Optimum Nutrition Micronized Creatine
- Lovate Creatine X3
- Naked Nutrition creatine Monohydrate
- Klean Athlete Klean Creatine
- Genius Creatine Power Mix
Creatine and Exercise
Creatine is a major energy source for muscles to use during contraction. Creatine enhances ATP supply to the muscles so they can work for considerably longer. Thus, creatine improves exercise performance considerably, helping an athlete increase muscle gains.
Creatine is best taken immediately before and after workouts, preferably with food. Post-workout creatine stimulates quicker muscle recovery, enabling an athlete to spend less time away from the gym due to stress and injury. Creatine revitalizes the body, providing a surge of energy for muscle activity. However, the effects of creatine are best observed in combination with food, especially protein and carbohydrate-rich foods.
Creatinine, combined with exercise, is super effective when you desire to hit your workout goals quicker. However, without working out, creatine is useless. However, you should ensure to consume creatine within limits. More creatinine rarely connotes better or faster effects and often leads to disastrous consequences.
Creatine is a super important substance in the body, and external supplementation eagles athletes and bodybuilders to improve exercise performance, cognitive capabilities, and muscle gains. Regardless of its benefits to athletes, creatine may be dangerous if taken in excess. Moreso, creatine should be combined with proper dieting and exercise regimens to achieve the best results.