- Creatine is naturally produced in the body, but you can add it through certain supplements.
- Supplementation with just 2-5 grams of creatine per day can improve strength and muscle mass.
- Creatine is considered safe to consume, but short-term water retention and weight gain are common.
The list of supplements you think you need to take is probably as long and overwhelming as your Hinge match queue.
While we can’t help you navigate the latter, we can suggest one supplement worth considering adding to your supplement stack: creatine.
Creatine is a well-studied supplement, and researchers have found that it can help build muscle mass, strength, and more.
In front, exercise physiologist Dr. Stacy T. Sims, founder of the online Creatine Microlearning Course and author of “ROAR: How to Match Your Food and Fitness to Your Unique Female Physiology for Optimum Performance, Great Health, and a Strong, Lean Body”. for Life” answers all your creatine questions like: What is creatine, exactly? What are the benefits of supplementing with it? And are there any downsides?
What is creatine?
Creatine is a molecule in the body made up of amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. The vast majority is stored in skeletal muscle, according to Sims. However, a small amount is also stored in the intestines, heart, brain and other tissues.
So what exactly does creatine do? Its main job is to give muscles quick energy to move, contract and relax, Sims says. Basically, it works the same way as fuel for a car.
Additionally, preliminary studies are exploring creatine as a potential way to help relieve symptoms of depression and lessen the effects of traumatic brain injury, Sims says.
Together, your liver, pancreas, and kidneys naturally produce 1 gram of creatine per day. However, the body uses about 2 grams per day, according to Sims. “The rest of the creatine your body uses every day must be ingested through animal protein like red meat and seafood, or through supplements,” she says.
As it goes, creatine supplementation is big business. Creatine supplements are thought to bring in over $400 million a year. Moreover, Global Market Insights predicts that the Creatine Supplements Market will witness a meteoric growth between 2022 and 2027.
Health Benefits of Creatine
Curious if creatine deserves a place in your supplement pile? Ahead, we dive into the research-backed benefits of creatine supplementation.
1. Increase energy during workouts
Getting enough creatine can help you expend more energy during your workouts. To understand How? ‘Or’ What you need a little biology lesson. Ready?
Sims explains: Your body stores creatine in your muscles in a form of creatine known as creatine phosphate. When you need the extra oomph, such as during intense exercise, your body naturally kicks in by splitting the phosphate molecule from the rest of the compound, which it can then use as an ingredient to create a known energy molecule. as adenosine triphosphate (ATP).
So through this series of events, creatine helps increase the amount of energy available to your muscles so you can bring a little more voom va va to your high-intensity workouts, Sims says.
2. Supports Muscle Strength
What you’ve heard is true: creatine can really help you get stronger when paired with regular strength training, according to Sims.
But unlike a supplement like coffee or beta-alanine that provides immediate benefits for the body and face after just one dose, the results won’t be immediate.
For example, you might be able to lift an extra rep at a given weight, says Sims, but you’re definitely not going to start lifting ten or twenty pounds more instantly.
While one extra rep might not seem like a lot, over time it will help you build more muscle and tone than you otherwise would without that extra rep. How long does it take to see results?
A small study of athletes found noticeable results after four weeks. Athletes who took 20 grams of creatine per day for 6 days, then 2 grams for three more weeks – while also performing a series of resistance exercises – were stronger and faster after four weeks compared to athletes who took performed the same exercises but took a placebo instead.
3. Increases muscle size
Creatine not only increases muscle strength when combined with a proper strength training routine, it can also increase muscle size to some extent. “It modestly increases lean muscle mass,” says Sims.
One study, for example, found that those who took creatine for eight weeks developed bigger, more toned upper body muscles compared to those who followed the same lifting regimen and did not take the supplement.
What’s more, a 2022 review found that creatine supplementation is “effective” at increasing muscle size, even in those who don’t exercise regularly.
Creatine Side Effects
A common complaint of creatine is that it can make you — especially your face — appear bloated for the first few days of supplementation.
In fact, the phenomenon is so common that it’s earned a nickname, “creatine bloat.” But while creatine supplementation can lead to a slightly puffy appearance, it doesn’t always. — and if you dose the supplement correctly, you can completely avoid this unwanted symptom, says Sims.
Typically, when people start taking creatine, they go through what’s called a “loading phase.” This involves taking 20-25 grams daily for 7 days. Although research suggests it can increase creatine stores in your muscles, it can also create bloating because creatine draws water into your muscles, leading to extra water mass and subsequent water weight. .
A small study found that when 13 football players took 0.01 grams of creatine per body weight for one week, they gained an average of 2.3 pounds each.
While a little bloating and extra weight aren’t a big deal, you can avoid these unwanted symptoms by skipping the bulking phase altogether and just starting to take the recommended 2-5 mg per day, says Sims. .
A little bloat aside, creatine is generally considered safe to consume any time of the day, with or without food in small doses. When taken regularly in high doses, creatine supplementation can damage the kidneys – although the exact amount of creatine you should take in the event of an overdose is unclear.
Overall, creatine can help some people looking to build strength and muscle tone, but it’s not a magic bullet for everyone.
Talk to your personal trainer and healthcare provider to determine if a creatine blend is right for you and the correct dose to avoid bloating and kidney damage.