A Complete Guide to Creatine Supplements
Whether you are an athlete, a bodybuilder, or fitness enthusiast, you’ve probably heard about creatine monohydrate. It’s one of the most studied and most popular supplements today and considered a “secret weapon” for athletes. It helps deliver better training results and faster recovery in between sessions. However, don’t mistake it for a quick fix or shortcut.
What Is Creatine?
Creatine is a naturally occurring compound that provides energy to muscles, allowing them to move and contract. It’s made up of three amino acids: L-arginine, L-methionine, and glycine. Half of the body’s creatine supply is produced in the liver and kidneys and then transported to the skeletal muscles for use. When you ingest creatine supplements, they turn into phosphocreatine and help the body produce more adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is a high-energy molecule that provides energy to skeletal muscles and the brain.
Creatine is found in small amounts in protein-rich foods such as milk, fish, red meat and seafood. Its main job is to maintain a continuous supply of energy to working muscles and body parts that have high energy demands.
What Does Creatine Do?
Back in the 1970s, a scientific study discovered that supplementing with creatine might enhance physical performance. During the 90s, it started gaining popularity as a sports supplement. Today, creatine supplements are considered the king of all athletic performance supplements. Although it’s mostly popular among competitive athletes in high school, college, and professional sports, those who lift weights and bodybuild also use it for improved stamina.
The primary role of supplements is to increase overall creatine levels in your body, which allows you to go that extra mile and push yourself for longer periods of time. This effective supplement helps boost athletic performance in several ways.
- Improves cell signaling
- Increases cell hydration
- Enables more workload
- Reduces protein breakdown in the muscles
- Raises anabolic hormones
Plus, creatine supplements help increase the phosphocreatine supply in your brain, which may promote mental health and inhibit neurological disease.
Health Benefits of Creatine
Due to its immense popularity, the health benefits of creatine supplements have been studied quite extensively. According to research, adequate intake is essential for maintaining a strong and healthy physique. Some of the scientifically proven health benefits are:
1. Improves strength and athletic performance
The reason behind the enormous popularity of creatine is that it enhances high-intensity exercise performance by increasing physical strength. The idea is that it enables the body to produce extra energy so athletes can push themselves harder and achieve more. According to research, creatine effectively improves upper body and lower body strength in both younger and older adults.
2. Prevents muscle damage and helps accelerate the recovery process
When an athlete experiences an injury, creatine supplements may help prevent muscle damage and in some cases speed up the recovery process. Its antioxidant effect may also help reduce cramping after an intense resistance training session. Creatine supplements work as a lactic acid buffer in the body, which delays muscle fatigue, allowing you to work longer on the playing field.
3. Helps improve brain function
Creatine plays a significant role in improving brain health and cognitive performance. Research shows that like the body your brain also requires a certain amount of ATP when performing challenging tasks. Supplements increase phosphocreatine supplies to your brain and help it produce more ATP. For older adults, creatine supplements may boost brain function, recall ability, and protect against neurological diseases.
4. Boosts muscle growth
Creatine is the first choice among athletes when it comes to building muscle mass. It has been shown to significantly increase muscle mass and lean body weight. Initially, it pulls more water into your muscles, which allows you to handle more workload and makes your muscles bigger and fuller.
5. Relieves health conditions
Besides its effects on exercise performance and muscle building, creatine is essential for a wide range of body functions. Thus, creatine deficiency can be the cause of various health conditions.
- Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)
- Depressive Disorder
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Muscle Atrophy
- Parkinson’s Disease
There is no strong evidence to prove that creatine supplements are an effective treatment for all of them, but taking oral supplements may relieve these conditions.
Different Types of Supplements
Normal creatine levels in the blood may vary by gender and age. However, to increase energy and muscle mass the most commonly used supplement form is called creatine monohydrate. It is supported by hundreds of studies and widely available at an affordable price.
Supplements are made and sold in the following forms:
Powder is more popular among users than liquid or capsule form. According to your preference and recommended dose, you can get 100% pure creatine or blended versions with other vitamins, minerals, and herbal extracts.
Safety and Side Effects
Creatine is considered “likely safe” when you consume it at a recommended dose. Although people associate it with some kidney issues, there is no scientific evidence that it harms the liver and kidneys of healthy people. That being said, the safety of creatine supplements during pregnancy or breastfeeding has not yet been established. However, it is advised to consult with your dietitian or health care provider before using any supplement.
Similar to other supplements, it is best to opt for moderate use. Health authorities recommend getting nutrients from natural sources, before taking supplements. Some natural sources include:
- Egg Yolks
All in all, creatine is considered one of the safest and most effective supplements for athletes. So far, more than 500 studies have confirmed its safety and effectiveness. While it helps improve exercise performance significantly, it also improves markers of health in adults. Today, creatine supplements are being used in medical settings and helping many people without any notable side effects. Give it a try and see if it works for you as well.
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