The body produces a natural compound known as creatine using amino acids which are protein’s main building blocks.
Creatine is found in beef, fish and some other animal proteins. You can also get it as a dietary supplement which is perhaps the easiest way to get it.
There are benefits for health as well as sports performance when taking creatine but there are also a number of concerns.
Pros of Creatine
This popular and effective supplement is taken to boost exercise performance. In addition, it has been studied for better brain function, healthier aging and other potential benefits.
Let’s take a look at some of the potential benefits of creating:
1) Better Muscle Strength and Size
A creatine supplement can give additional fuel to your muscles, meaning you can exercise with more intensity and for longer periods.
This boost of energy can increase the strength and size of muscles as well as power and performance. It can also enhance recovery and limit muscle fatigue.
Creatine is effective for repetitive activities and sports as well as high-intensity training like combat sports, bodybuilding, track and field, powerlifting, football, hockey, swimming, and soccer.
2) Might Prevent Adult Muscle Loss
It is believed creatine might help to slow down the rate of sarcopenia which is the loss of muscle function and strength that happens with age.
Sarcopenia is believed to affect between 5 and 13% of over-60s and has also been linked to poor quality of life, physical disability and an increased risk of dying.
Taking creatine while also weight lifting might be beneficial to muscle health, according to several studies.
It is also believed creatine can boost resistance training effects more than simply training by itself.
3) Creatine Might Help with Brain Function
This supplement increases brain creatine levels anywhere from 5 to 15% which is thought to help with the way the brain functions because of better energy supply and oxygen delivery to the brain.
Various studies showed that taking between 5 and 20 grams of creatine a day for between 5 days and 6 weeks resulted in better reasoning and short-term memory.
It has also been suggested that taking creatine supplements might slow down cognitive decline caused by Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and other neurodegenerative illnesses.
Cons of Creatine
Although creatine has been used for years and is considered to be well studied as well as safe, there are still a few concerns about it, which we will consider ‘cons’ for now.
1) Can Cause Bloating
This supplement can cause bloating if taken in high doses. This type of stomach discomfort commonly happens when you begin to take creatine during the loading phase.
Since the loading phase of creatine involves taking a lot of creatine over not much time to saturate your muscles and you will take 20 to 25 grams for up to a week, it can pull water into your muscles.
This can result in gaining weight and bloating. Not everyone suffers from bloating when they take creatine.
If this is a concern you can keep your dose at or below 10 grams each serving or split doses throughout the day.
Some people have experienced an upset stomach or diarrhea when taking creatine.
Again, if this is a problem for you, limit your creatine intake and/or split the doses throughout the day.
2) Might Affect the Kidneys
Some media reports claim creatine isn’t safe for the kidneys, so you might be wondering about the accuracy of that.
Actually there is no solid scientific proof that this is true. Studies have not shown any link between creatine and kidney health.
These studies were conducted using creatine doses of between 5 and 50 grams a day for between 5 days and 5 years.
So how did this rumor come about? Well, creatine increases creatinine levels above what is considered the normal range.
Creatinine levels aren’t accurate for diagnosing kidney issues though. People with Type 2 diabetes were studied in one test.
They took 5 grams of creatine a day for 3 months and suffered no impairment to their kidneys.
It’s important to say here that there are limited studies into how creatine might or might not affect the kidneys.
If you have kidney disease or a problem with kidney function it’s recommended you check with your doctor before taking creatine supplements.
How Should I Take Creatine Supplements?
Creatine most commonly comes in powder form and you can combine it with juice or water.
The exact timing of this supplement doesn’t matter much so take it whenever is convenient. There are a couple of dosing options you can choose from:
1) Creatine Loading
This method involves taking between 20 and 25 grams of creatine split into 4 or 5 doses over between 5 and 7 days.
After that, take 3 to 5 grams every day to keep the creatine levels in your muscles.
2) Taking Creatine without Loading
Another option is to forget the loading phase described above and begin taking 3 to 5 grams a day immediately.
Both the above creatine options can work and are effective.
However, if you choose creating loading you can expect to enjoy the benefits of creative 4 times quicker.
If you have stomach issues though, it’s best to skip the loading phase.
Although there are different kinds of creatine available for purchase, it is recommended to choose creatine monohydrate instead of creatine hydrochloride, buffered creatine or creatine nitrate.
The reason behind this is creatine monohydrate is the most effective and best studied form of creatine.
Taking creatine supplements is considered healthy and safe for most people, whether they take a loading dose and then a maintenance dose or just begin with the maintenance dose. Either strategy can be effective.
This popular sports nutrition supplement can boost sports performance as well as speed up recovery.
It has also been shown to improve brain function and promote healthy aging of muscles.
Commonly reported side effects include stomachache and bloating although if you take a maximum of 10 grams at a time you can prevent this from happening.