Why is Creatine Important?
Michael Jeffrey, MS, CSCS
Supplementation and how to implement those supplements into a diet and training regimen are topics that I get asked about on a weekly basis. Specifically I am usually asked “Do I need supplements?” and “What supplements should I be taking?” These questions are usually asked because most people think that supplements are the only way to obtain your health, wellness, and athletic goals, which is far from the truth. Supplements are a good tool to help you reach your goals, but I will always tell you that real food should always be your main priority. For example, if you are having trouble meeting your daily protein intake, then a protein powder might be a useful supplement for you. There are just a lot of unregulated supplements, so you must do the research on everything that is going into your body.
With that being said the one supplement I will always suggest for athletes and the general fitness population is creatine. For increased performance during high intensity exercise and improved lean muscle mass creatine is hands down one of the best supplements you can take. It is not only a cheap (10-20$), but it is also a natural substance that is found in the beef, chicken, and fish that we eat. Even though creatine can be found in the meats we are eating, it is unlikely that you are getting enough creatine through your diet so supplementation is essential.
What is Creatine?
Creatine is a natural substance in our body that turns into creatine phosphate which helps to make ATP (energy source and fuel for our workouts).
How Does Creatine Work?
Once the creatine is in our body it will drive the muscle contractions to fuel the ATP which is what gives us our energy during exercise. Using creatine supplementation will increase our phosphocreatine stores helping our body to produce more ATP. With more ATP you will have more energy during those high intensity workouts.
The Benefits of Using Creatine
• Your muscles will recover faster and you will see increases in lean muscle mass and overall strength. This is attributed to the new proteins in your body and an increase in muscle building hormones.
• Your energy will be increased during those high intensity workouts due to a larger number of ATP.
• Your body will see less cellular damage and an overall reduction in inflammation to help reduce the duration of your muscle soreness.
• Your cardiovascular system will be more efficient during exercise, thus improving power, endurance, and performance.
• Some studies have shown improved brain function because creatine will help the brain utilize ATP for energy helping with memory and overall daily function.
• Creatine can help to stop brain cell death to help fight against Alzheimer’s disease and strokes.
• Supplementing creatine daily can stop the reduction of Dopamine in the brain to help protect against Parkionson’s disease.
How Should I Take Creatine?
As I stated earlier creatine is a substance that can be found in food, but it would be very difficult to get the sufficient amount of creatine you would need just from your diet. The daily recommended dose of creatine is about 5 grams per day which would be the equivalent of 3 pounds of chicken. This does not mean you need to cut back on your protein intake, but you should be taking 5 grams every single day to see the benefits.
If you do choose to take creatine you have to make sure that you are drinking 8 to 10 cups of water per day, or you may see some adverse side effects. Creatine will cause the muscles to draw water from the rest of your body so you want to stay hydrated to avoid dehydration and to help the body process the creatine. Your muscles will hold on to this water possibly causing weight gain which is completely normal when taking this supplement.
Do I Need to Load Creatine?
Over the years there have been mixed results when it comes to studies on a loading phase with creatine. Basically when you perform a loading phase with creatine you will take 20-25 grams per day for a week before maintaining with 5 grams per day. The idea behind this is to saturate the muscles with creatine so only a small dosage is needed after a week. This loading phase can be performed if you choose, but the research is still mixed if the loading phase is really necessary.
After reading this blog hopefully many of you can see how beneficial this supplement really is. I can personally tell you that after using creatine I not only saw an improved performance in the gym, but increased strength levels as well. With all the expensive supplements that the fitness industry is trying to sell why not try something that is inexpensive and proven to work. I am not saying that this is the key to reaching all of your goals whether that be athletic performance or general fitness, but it is a great tool to add to the tool box.
With all of this being said creatine is a substance that should not be abused. It should be taken as prescribed above or you will see some adverse side effects.